Buying PC components is all about choosing the right weapon for the job at hand. Exactly what PNY's GeForce GTX 295 is best suited for is a tricky question. If beating pensioners to death is your bag, you could do a lot worse. A cheap gag, perhaps. But as blunt instruments go, this old bruiser really is an intimidating physical specimen. What really matters, however, is whether it still have what it takes to pummel the competition into submission.
The upside to the elephantine proportions and hefty build is that the 295 feels reassuringly expensive. Just as well given the wallet-cecimating £438 sticker. On the other hand, you'll struggle to fit it into many PC's thanks to its girth. Even if it does slide in, the power requirements may trip you up. PNY decrees that a minimum 680 Watt power supply is a must. Oh, and that power supply must have at least one six-pin and one eight-pin PCI Express power rail.
It also gets pretty hot during heavy use and isn't exactly the quietest board in Christendom. Put it all together and in the GeForce GTX 295 you get the impression of a graphics chipset created to prove a point rather because it actually makes any sense or there's any real need for it. At least, that's what we thought when the 295 originally launched back in early 2009.
Fast forward to summer 2010 and if anything the 295 looks even more irrelevant. Part of the problem is graphics memory. 1,792MB may sound ample. But don't forget, this is a dual-GPU board. Each chip only has access to 896MB. The result is stuttery performance at really high resolutions in Crysis. Moreover, it only just beats the latest single-GPU boards in less demanding titles.
If you like heavy engineering for the sake of it, the PNY GeForce GTX 295 doesn't disappoint. With two GPUs and 1.8GB of memory, it certainly still packs a punch in the pub bragging stakes.
There's no doubting its raw performance, either. In many benchmarks, the 295 remains Nvidia's quickest chipset, even outpacing the new Fermi-based GTX 480 and 470 boards. What's more, if you have to go with a dual-GPU card and therefore expose yourself to the inherent vagaries and relative unreliability that come with the territory, Nvidia's SLI multi-GPU platform is definitely our pick. Scaling issues are mercifully infrequent compared to AMD's typically slightly buggier Crossfire tech.
Without a doubt, the biggest bummer is the lack of DirectX 11 support. For owners of this painfully pricey pixel pumper, it must be thoroughly galling to know there are £85 cards out there with a more advanced feature set.
Probably the biggest downside in that regard is missing out on hardware tessellation. As we keep on saying, it's hard to predict exactly how widely the new DX11 tessellator will be used by game developers. But it's certainly the most exciting new DX11 feature in terms of image quality and realism in games.
As for performance, the 295 is mostly awesome. But just occasionally its modest per-GPU memory buffer does catch up with it. Unfortunately, it tends to happen precisely when this card is supposed to come into own: running rendering beasts like Crysis at super-high settings.
Finally, while Nvidia's SLI has always been that little bit more reliable than AMD's competing Crossfire multi-GPU platform we still prefer single-GPU rendering solutions. There's nothing more irritating than firing up a new game and finding that your multi-GPU scaling is borked.
Dual-GPU boards are tough to justify at the best of times. If they are to make sense at all, they need to be bang up to date. Unfortunately, the 295's dated DX10 underpinnings and limited graphics memory make for a pretty undesirable combination at this price point. It's probably time Nvidia put the GTX 295 chipset out to pasture.
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