Nvidia's latest line of graphics cards gets official today: The GeForce GTX 260 and GTX 280 mark the debut of the next-gen 200 series, a completely overhauled and badass line of GPUs. The GTX 280 rocks 240 processing cores and 1GB of RAM, while the 260 comes with 192 cores and 896MB of memory, making them equally adept at generating eye-popping graphics or serious parallel computing and physics crunching. Nvidia demoed for me some of the stuff these puppies can do in SLI-and it's pretty incredible. Check out some of Nvidia's ass-beating benchmarks for yourself. Update: Benchmarks and reviews are rolling in, and they're not looking as hot.
Of course, there is a cost to being maybe the best performing GPU on the planet: besides running $650 and $399, respectively (making three-way SLI nearly two grand with the GTX 280), they both require two PCI-E power connections to run and a massive power supply (like 1000w) if you're even thinking about SLI. Yet somehow it actually draws less idle power than the last gen of their ultra high-performance cards. To show you how adept they are at parallel processing here's one more benchmark shot, this time comparing its Foldering@Home performance. Yep, they've got a client coming soon.
We should see mid-range cards in the line before too long, for those looking for more affordable next-gen goodness.
Update: Tom's Hardware has a massive novella of a review going over everything in complete, insane detail, but here are the highlights. It never hands down beats the 9800 GX2 in game performance (which is really two cards in one), and in fact, loses more than once, though that might be 'cause the drivers are less optimized. ATI's Radeon HD 3870 X2 gets in its licks too, like on World in Conflict. In the all-important (or maybe overblown) Crysis test, the 9800 GX2 prevails, with the 8800 Ultra not too far behind the GTX 260:
Still, the overall raw processing power has doubled from the last gen and is way more efficient than the two-in-one cards. If you're going on price-to-performance, the GTX 260 is the better bet, with only an 18 percent performance lag, despite being nearly 40 percent cheaper. [Nvidia, Tom's Hardware]