Nvidia GeForce GTX 260: A Classic Gaming Graphics Card
If you have been contemplating firing up some gaming classics such as World of Warcraft or League of Legends, you may be overcome with nostalgia. These classic games may have made up a large part of our childhood, and rebooting them years later can bring back happy memories.
But playing them on a newly built PC just doesn’t feel the same. Furthermore, the graphics on newer hardware is so good, that older games lose some of the charms that made them special to begin with. If you want to get the full experience, you either need to look for an old PC, or build a vintage gaming computer from scratch.
In today’s article, we’re going to take it back to a different era in gaming graphics history. We’re going to discuss one of the classic graphics cards that all modern cards stem from, the Nvidia Geforce GTX 260. Although GPU technology has come a long way from the days when this card was in its prime, there is something special about vintage GPUs that can’t be replicated. We’re going to find out what makes this card special with a full review, and find out: is it worth it?
Nvidia Geforce GTX 260: A Brief History
The GTX 260 was launched on June 16th, 2008, and was based on the “Tesla” GT200 graphics processor. Additionally, this card is one of the first graphics cards that hinted at DirectX 11 capability, although it officially only ran DirectX 10, making it incompatible with a large majority of newer games.
Based on the 65 nm process, the GTX 260 was designed as a middle ground between the GTS 250 and the GTX 280. Basically, the GTX 260 is just a GTX 280 with two texture processing units and ROP blocks disabled. Furthermore, the GTX 200 series cards in general were designed as an upgraded addition to the GeForce family, adding a notable increase in performance over the GTX 100 series cards.
Although the GTX 260 would eventually be replaced when the Geforce GTX 300 series cards came on the scene a little over a year later, this GPU was responsible for adding some powerful features to the lineup. With full support for Coverage Sample Anti-Aliasing, originally seen on Nvidia’s cards as far back as 2006, the GTX 260 showed what was capable with anti-aliasing technology of the time.
Although newer technology has since been released, the GTX 260 was a pioneer in many respects. This period saw many games become “smoother” all while offering better frame rates and more detailed textures. Anti-aliasing allowed jagged edges in polygons to be toned down to smooth and fluid curves. Overall, this made for a more immersive and enjoyable gaming experience that was unrivaled by less expensive GPUs of the time.
AMD brought their competition to Nvidia as usual, and the most similar card to the GTX 260 was the Radeon HD 4870. Although it depends strongly on the particular setup being used, the HD 4870 did provide some stiff competition to the GTX 260, beating it in several benchmarks.
Nvidia Geforce GTX 260: What Are the Specs?
Although we may laugh at the specifications present on this card when comparing them to the modern-day GPUs, it is important to know what was powering this card. Additionally, we’ve broken down the specs to give you an idea of what is under the hood. Have a look at the table below to see for yourself.
|Process Size:||65 nm|
|L2 Cache:||224 kb|
|VRAM Capacity:||896 MB|
|Graphics Clock:||576 MHz|
|Shader Clock:||1242 MHz|
|Memory Clock:||999 MHz|
|Pixel Rate:||16.13 Gpixels|
|Texture Fill Rate:||36.86 GTexel/s|
|FP-32 Performance:||476.9 GFLOPS|
As you can see, compared to newer graphics cards, the specs offered by the GTX 260 are utterly abysmal. Furthermore, we have come so far in graphics processing technology that hardware like this is not even capable of launching most modern games. But looking past the low specs, we can see that theoretical performance is still impressive for the period. Additionally, gamers of this time were very happy with performances on older games such as League of Legends or World of Warcraft.
If you aren’t playing games at all, you don’t need to worry so much about specs, since the card only needs to fulfill its display function. Sadly, most of the GTX 260s out there in the world today are not being used for gaming or graphics-intensive tasks because they simply aren’t powerful enough.
Power, Cooling, and Connections
Despite its age, the GTX 260 is surprisingly compatible with a wide range of newer power supplies. As long as you have two 6-pin PCI power connectors and at least a 450-watt power supply, you will be able to install this card on your PC. Additionally, the GTX 260 is not even a massive power hog; it only uses 182 watts under full load. If you are comparing it to entry-level modern graphics cards, you’ll be disappointed. Vastly superior cards such as the 1060-6GB and GTX 970 use under 120 watts of power, all while offering much better performance.
Besides that, the GTX 260 does a good job of cooling itself with an average thermal design. Running noticeably cooler than the GTX 280 in a range of tests, the GTX 260 remains silent while not under load. When pushed to the limit, the fans will spin up and get rather loud. The large plastic shroud does an excellent job of funneling hot air out through the back of your PC case as opposed to letting it build up.
Additionally, you get the standard DVI connections found on most graphics cards of the time. There is also an S-Video connection, something which has been lost to the sands of time and is no longer used on modern GPUs. You will still be able to use most gaming monitors thanks to the dual DVI connections found on the back.
Nvidia Geforce GTX 260: How is Pricing?
When the GTX 260 first launched, it was not the most expensive GPU in Nvidia’s lineup. It was released with an MSRP of just $449. In contrast, newer graphics cards are often seen for over $1,000, so this is a sign of the times and how far GPU technology has come. The good news is that you can find a GTX 260 for much less if you are really searching.
Furthermore, it is still possible to find this GPU new at certain retailers, although there might not be many of them left. In contrast, the used market is going to be a much more cost-effective option for finding this card. The only thing to be careful of is thermal degradation. In other words, you may need to replace the thermal paste and give the card a general tune-up if you want to use it reliably.
Nvidia Geforce GTX 260: Can it Game?
We kept our expectations low when testing this card, as it is 14 years old as of this writing. The good news, however, is that it is still a great gaming graphics card for playing vintage games. If you like classic titles like World of Warcraft, Call of Duty 4, and League of Legends, then this GPU is going to be everything you need.
In contrast, newer titles like GTA V and Assassin’s Creed are simply out of the question. You may be able to play some less demanding new titles like Fortnite or PUBG, as long as you keep the settings turned all the way down.
To give the GTX 260 a fair benchmark, we stuck to running classic games in 720p resolution. Although it may be capable of 1080p gaming, frame rates would suffer and it would not be an enjoyable experience. On lower resolutions, the GTX 260 showed some decent results, even when running titles on the highest settings. Have a look at the benchmarks to get an idea of the results.
|Average Frame Rates|
|Counter-Strike Global Offensive||61+ FPS|
|World of Warcraft||31+ FPS|
|Race Driver: GRID||98+ FPS|
|Enemy Territory: Quake Wars||123+ FPS|
|Call of Duty 4||102+ FPS|
|League of Legends||104+ FPS|
The Final Verdict
Overall, the GTX 260 makes a decent graphics card if all you want to do is play classic games. Besides that, the truth of the matter is that newer GPUs are going to offer far superior performance, lower power consumption, and wider game compatibility. Furthermore, GPUs like the 1050-Ti and GTX 1650 offer entry-level performance that is still many times better than the GTX 260.
If you have your heart set on building a vintage gaming machine and can find a GTX 260 at a reasonable price, then there is no reason not to get it. Additionally, the GTX 260 plays classic games just as well as newer cards, so if that’s all you want to do, then you have nothing to lose.