Gigabyte GeForce GTS 250 1GB GDDR3 Manufacturer: Gigabyte
UK Price (as reviewed): £100.56 (inc. VAT)
US Price (as reviewed): $140.99 (ex. Tax)
Upon its announcement, Nvidia’s GeForce GTS 250 came in for more than a little bit of stick
when it emerged that the card would be, initially at least, little more than a rebadged GeForce 9800 GTX+ - a card that was only mild overclocked over the original GeForce 9800 GTX, which was originally known as the GeForce 8800 GTS 512MB.
While there’s been a die-shrink from 65nm to 55nm, support for Hybrid SLI
added and ever incrementally higher clock speeds along the way, Nvidia’s name changing shenanigans for this card have bordered on the comical and it’s certainly easy to get confused between the four different iterations of what is effectively the same graphics card.
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Happily, we’re now finally seeing stock of the GeForce GTS 250 announced back in March, toting the promised smaller 9in PCB and single six pin PCI-E to bring the card more in line with the original 8800 GTS 512MB
released back in December 2007. At the GTS 250’s core is still a G92 GPU with 128 stream processors (albeit the G92b 55nm part) now running with a 738MHz core clock and a 1,836MHz shader clock. Architecturally the card’s design remains unchanged, with the same 256-bit memory interface.
Gigabyte has looked to improve things a little more than the requisite smaller PCB and fewer PCI-E power connector though, and have doubled the card’s memory to 1GB of GDDR3, running at the stock speed of 1,100MHz (2,200MHz effective). While traditionally adding large amounts of memory to less powerful cards rarely has much of an impact on performance, the Radeon HD 4870 gained dramatically from an extra 512MB of GDDR5, so we’re hopeful the same might be true here.
The Nvidia designed reference cooler has been replaced with a Zalman VF1050 aftermarket cooler to handle the job of keeping the 145W TDP GPU cool. The cooler uses four nickel coated copper heat pipes running though a well machined base to conduct heat away from the GPU and out to the array of cooling fins, within which is sunk a 70mm cooling fan.
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This fan blows air both down onto the GPU and out through the cooler’s array of cooling fins, providing second hand cooling to the eight exposed 128MB GDDR3 DRAM chips fitted below and the card’s power delivery circuitry. This design does mean however that all of the card’s heat is exhausted into your PC’s case and not out the rear of the machine as a reference card would do, despite the Gigabyte being a dual slot card. We’re disappointed to note however that the Zalman cooler only sports a 2-pin power connector, meaning there’s no support for variable RPMs dependant on the GPU's temperature.
Gigabyte has also significantly upgraded the quality of components used in the card, a nice change from the more common process of board partners of removing as many unnecessary parts as possible to cut costs. The PCB has been replaced with a higher quality one with more copper, while all the card’s capacitors are solid state and the chokes have been swapped out for sealed ferrite core versions. Gigabyte claims that the improved component quality not only reduces the card’s thermal output, but also reduces power consumption too, something we’ll be looking for in our testing suite.
There are also upgrades to the card's outputs, with the reference design's dual DVI ports replaced with a single DVI, VGA and HDMI. While this improved array of connectivity will be fine for some, those with dual DVI monitors will be frustrated and we feel that dual DVI ports with included DVI to VGA/HDMI adapters offers a better trade off. In addition to the reworked ports Gigabyte also includes an S/PDIF cable and dual Molex to 6-pin PCI-E cable with the card to get you up and running.
The Gigabyte ships with a two-year warranty that includes cover for parts and labour. In the first year, you'll need to talk directly to the retailer if you have any issues and in the second year your direct point of contact will be Gigabyte's support team. It’s a little tight compared to the longer warranties available from some Nvidia board partners. For example, both EVGA and BFG offer up to ten years warranty in Europe and lifetime warranties in the USA and Canada.