Packaging, Design, Specifications
Gigabyte GeForce 210
The Gigabyte GV-N210OC-512I was the first new GeForce to come to our labs, so we will discuss it first, too.
The card comes in a small white-and-green box and, as usual, Gigabyte could not but mention the gold-plated HDMI connector.
This connector works exactly like an ordinary one, though. The graphics memory type is indicated incorrectly: although GDDR2 memory indeed existed and was even installed on the GeForce FX 5800, it was but a variation of ordinary DDR SDRAM. The GV-N210OC-512I is equipped with DDR2.
The accessories are up to the product’s pricing including a user manual, a disc with drivers, and a low-profile mounting bracket.
The graphics card looks like that:
Designed in the low-profile form-factor, it is very small and can be easily installed into most compact system cases. The only prerequisite is that the computer had a PCI Express x16 slot. If your system case does not allow installing cards with full-size mounting brackets, you can just turn the VGA cable off, remove the default bracket and install the low-profile one included with the card. You will still be able to connect two displays then, for example a PC monitor and a plasma panel, using HDMI. The use of a cable for the VGA connector may have a negative effect on image quality but this problem is hardly a great concern in our age of digital interfaces. Besides, you can connect a monitor with analog input to the DVI-I port using an appropriate adapter.
The card’s reverse side is populated sparsely. Besides a number of smaller details, there are power circuit components, an SST25VF512A flash memory chip, and a couple of graphics memory chips there. The power circuit consists of two simple single-phase voltage regulators controlled by uPI Semiconductor’s uP6161 and uP6101 chips. The former seems to be responsible for the GPU whereas the latter can often be found in graphics memory power circuits.
The card does not have a connector for additional power supply. It is quite satisfied with what it can get from the power section of the PCI Express slot.
Despite the low power consumption of the 40nm Nvidia GT218 core, the card is equipped with an active cooling system. There is a 40mm fan installed on a small heatsink. The fan uses a 3-pin connection with a tachometer. The heatsink is fastened to the PCB with two spring-loaded plastic clips. It can be easily removed if necessary. So, we took it off and saw this:
As you see, the card is very simple and could be made even shorter. The memory subsystem consists of DDR2 chips manufactured by Hynix and marked as HY5PS1G1631C-FP25. Four such chips make up a local graphics memory bank with a capacity of 512 megabytes and a 64-bit memory bus. According to the manufacturer’s specifications, these chips have a capacity of 1Gb (64Mb x 16), a voltage of 1.8V, and a rated frequency of 400 (800) MHz. Nvidia specifies a memory frequency of 500 (1000) MHz for the GeForce 210, so the Gigabyte card is down-clocked. Considering the 64-bit memory bus, the memory bandwidth is reduced from 8 to 6.4GBps. There is no talking about running modern 3D games on the GeForce 210, but this card is not actually designed for such work. It is meant for non-gaming HTPC platforms.
The GT218 die is small at only 57 square millimeters. Its parameters are far from impressive, too. It has only 16 unified shader processors, 8 texture processors and 4 raster back-ends. With such modest hardware resources the GT218 could hardly serve as a fast PhysX accelerator, so it is not declared to support the latter technology. The best that this Nvidia product can do is to offer hardware acceleration of HD video decoding, especially as Nvidia’s PureVideo engine in its fourth generation has finally caught up with AMD’s UVD 2.2. It must be noted that Nvidia’s new entry-level GPUs still lack a full-featured audio core. They receive an audio stream from an audio card installed in the system via PCI Express. This implementation is better than the S/PDIF connection that was utilized earlier, though.
The reference GeForce 210 has a main domain frequency of 589MHz and a shader domain frequency of 1402MHz and the letters OC in the Gigabyte card’s name show up here: the GV-N210OC-512I has clock rates of 650 and 1547MHz, respectively. The practical purpose of this pre-overclocking is unclear because the gaming performance of the GeForce 210 will anyway be too low. These parameters are also unimportant for video decoding.
Display devices are connected to the GV-N210OC-512I via three connectors: DVI-I, HDMI and D-Sub. The latter is connected to the card via a short cable and can only be used together with the full-size mounting bracket. Theoretically, this graphics card can make a good buy for an HTPC which is not going to run heavy 3D games.