New Life of the Old Architecture: Nvidia GeForce GTS 250 Review

Just a little while back Nvidia refreshed their GeForce 200 lineup with a new affordable model. But is this newcomer really new? Let’s try answering this question today!

by Alexey Stepin , Yaroslav Lyssenko
03/18/2009 | 03:27 PM

The launch of Nvidia’s GeForce 200 architecture was far from successful. Having focused on developing the world’s most complex and highest-performing monolithic graphics core, Nvidia seemed to lose when ATI responded to the G200 with its simpler and much cheaper RV770 processor. G200-based solutions, already expensive due to their complexity, proved to be totally unprofitable when Nvidia had to cut their prices in order to make them competitive. In fact, even that price cut didn’t affect the appeal of those products much. A chip consisting of about 1.5 billion transistors and manufactured on 65nm tech process just could not work at high frequencies. The senior model of the new series barely reached GPU clock rates of 600/1300MHz. The junior model was even slower and could not compete with the Radeon HD 4870 in terms of performance as well as price.

 

But as time went by, Nvidia was steadily correcting its errors. First of all, the company increased the performance of the junior GeForce GTX 260 by unlocking some of the GPU’s functional subunits. As a result, the card got a longer name by adding “Core 216” and got competitive against the ATI Radeon HD 4870. Later on, this very model became the first to use the new 55nm version of the G200 core together with a new, greatly simplified and cheaper-to-make design of the PCB. That was most important for G200-based solutions that had been under high pressure from ATI. The GeForce GTX 285 was simplified, too. Thanks to the improved tech process, the G200b chip boasted increased overclocking potential, making the successor to the GeForce GTX 280 competitive to the ATI Radeon HD 4850 X2 across many applications. Besides, the 55nm G200 chip helped Nvidia strike back in the sector of premium dual-processor solutions. Announced on January 8, 2009, the GeForce GTX 295 dethroned the ATI Radeon HD 4870 X2 indeed.

However, Nvidia does not look that fine in the sector of less expensive solutions. The monstrous G200, even in its new 55nm incarnation, is no good for such products due to its complexity and high manufacturing cost, but the company doesn’t have a new entry-level core as yet. It only has the 55nm version of the G92 chip. Therefore this chip has been chosen for the new mainstream graphics card that complements the GeForce 200 series from below. The new product is not just a renamed GeForce 9800 GTX+ as we will explain now.

First of all, we want to remind you that the G200 chip itself is not a truly innovative solution because it only differs from the G92 in the number of functional subunits and the ALU design (see our review for details). And the G92 in its turn traces its origin back to the G80 which was announced in November 2006. The key difference between them is the architecture of texture processors.

Thus, Nvidia’s current graphics architecture is old by the standards of the IT industry. This may be viewed as either lack of progress or maturity of the architecture itself. In fact, G92-based solutions can be counted among the GeForce 200 family. It wouldn’t be a big mistake since there are no fundamental differences between the G92 and G200. What Nvidia’s development department has been busy with all this time is beyond the scope of this review, but we do know a few things about the next generation of Nvidia’s graphics cores.

So, based on the 55nm G92b core, the GeForce 9800 GTX+ proved to be a worthy rival to the highly popular Radeon HD 4850, but there were pitfalls besides the confusion in Nvidia’s product nomenclature. The card’s PCB design was inherited from the GeForce 9800 GTX which had been developed as the flagship of the GeForce 9 series to replace the GeForce 8800 GTX/Ultra. Such a complex and expensive PCB wouldn’t do for products with recommended prices of $129 and $149. Something had to be done about that.

Nvidia GeForce GTX 250: Its Origin and Technical Parameters

Nvidia had an appropriate PCB design since late 2007, actually. We mean the GeForce 8800 GT/GTS 512 series. But they did not use it for some reason, choosing to develop a new PCB for the GeForce GTS 250 from scratch. The point of this decision is unclear for us because developing a new PCB is costly and the company might avoid the expense.

Perhaps Nvidia wanted to avoid critical remarks from its opponents, but even the new PCB does not make the GeForce GTX 250 a unique product. It is in fact a GeForce 8800 GTS 512 with increased clock rates and a double amount of memory (in one version)! Nvidia hasn’t offered anything new. It is just an old thing in a new wrapper. We won’t criticize this fact because the GeForce 8/9 architecture copes well enough, but the GTS suffix provokes some confusion. We guess Nvidia should go ATI’s way and abandon alphabetic suffixes altogether, but perhaps they just serve the purpose of separating G200- and G92-based solutions: GTX for the former and GTS for the latter. We won’t be surprised to see a GeForce 9800 GT coming out under the name of GeForce GTS 240 or 230.

So, how does the GeForce GTS 250 stand against its opponents from the “red” camp?

Click to enlarge

Click to enlarge

As we have said above, the GeForce GTS 250 is not a new solution save for the increased amount of memory (from 512 to 1024MB) in one of its versions. We can’t expect any performance breakthroughs from it although the more expensive version may get faster due to its 1GB of onboard memory. Nvidia’s innovations like CUDA or PhysX support are implemented on the software level, i.e. in the driver.

However, having the same technical parameters as the GeForce 9800 GTX+, the GeForce GTS 250 is not inferior to the Radeon HD 4850 except in non-gaming aspects (it has a less advanced video-processor which does not offer full hardware acceleration for VC-1 format and also lacks an integrated HDMI audio core).

The new card was announced to come out at a recommended price of $149 for the 1GB version and $129 for the 512MB version. Besides, a $169 version is mentioned as having 2 gigabytes of onboard memory. We don’t think the latter will be popular because modern games cannot utilize so much memory, especially in an entry-level mainstream solution. Theoretically, such a card might be installed into an inexpensive GPGPU system but Nvidia’s current architecture has problems with double-precision floating point (FP64) performance whereas single-precision (FP32) computing is often not enough for serious applications.

We will introduce the GeForce GTS 250 to you in an unusual version provided by Palit Microsystems.

Palit GeForce GTS 250 1GB Graphics Card

Package and Accessories

The graphics card comes in a standard cardboard box of questionable design, at least in our opinion.

The black-and-yellow color scheme doesn’t look pretty to us, especially combined with the picture of the armored frog we have seen before on the packages of Palit’s GeForce 9800 GTX+ products.

The box is informative, though. The sticker in the bottom right corner does not tell you the card’s frequencies but mentions the type and amount of graphics memory. It also says that the card is equipped with 0.8ns GDDR3 chips. Coupled with the slogan “Play It, Tweak It, Get More Out of It” and low price, this indicates that the product is a kind of an anti-crisis solution targeted at thrifty overclockers.

The accessories are scanty but include everything necessary to use the card:

People who buy products in this price category won’t mind the lack of additional accessories that would make the card more expensive. Note that Palit has provided the necessary adapters and cables for owners of two monitors with DVI interfaces as well as those who want to use the card to output audio over HDMI to an external receiver. The HDMI-to-DVI-I adapter looks somewhat odd but it is included because the described GeForce GTS 250 has only one native DVI-I port. The other is replaced with a HDMI connector.

Thus, the packaging and accessories of the Palit GeForce GTS 250 1GB are up to the price category of the product. But we do think that the box might have been designed prettier.

PCB Design and Specifications

This version of the GeForce GTS 250 uses a nonstandard PCB design that has nothing to do with the PCB developed by Nvidia specifically for its new mainstream product. The PCB of the Palit GeForce GTS 250 1GB resembles the one we described in our report Brothers in Arms: Two Palit GeForce 9800 GTX+ Graphics Cards Reviewed, but there are a number of small discrepancies, especially in the left part of the PCB due to the configuration of the card’s connectors.

Palit’s design has one advantage over the reference GeForce 9800 GTX+. Its PCB is shorter. But it has one drawback in comparison with the reference GeForce GTS 250 because it has two power connectors rather than one. Considering that the power consumption of the G92b chip is about 80 watts, it seems unnecessary for the card to have two 6-pin PCIe 1.0 connectors.

The GPU power circuit is identical to that of one version of Palit GeForce 9800 GTX+. It is a four-phase regulator with three power transistors in each phase controlled by ON Semiconductor NCP3488 drivers. The regulator is based on an NCP5388 controller.

 

The memory voltage regulator is based on an Anpec APW7068 PWM-controller operating at 300kHz.

The card carries 16 chips of GDDR3 memory (Samsung K4J52324QH-HJ08, 512Mb, 16MB x 32, 2.05V). Half of the chips are located on the reverse side of the PCB and covered by an aluminum heat-spreader. The total amount of memory is 1024 megabytes and it is access across a 256-bit bus.

The suffix of the chips’ marking indicates an access time of 0.83 nanoseconds which means that they are capable of working at a clock rate of 1200 (2400) MHz. According to Nvidia’s specs, the GeForce GTS 250 has a memory frequency of 1100 (2200) MHz, but CPU-Z reports that Palit’s version has a memory frequency of only 1000 (2000) MHz. Therefore we can expect the Palit card to be somewhat slower than the reference sample, even though the latter is equipped with only half the memory, in some tests.

The GPU is marked as G92-428-B1, which differs from the GPU of the Palit GeForce 9800 GTX+ (G92-420-B1), but the revision number is the same, indicating that it is a 55nm G92b chip. The die size indicates the same thing. This GPU was manufactured on the second week of this year, i.e. in early January. Interestingly, the marking itself is made in larger print than on older samples of G92/G92b processors.

Like the memory frequency, the GPU clock rates – 745 and 1848MHz for the main and shader domains, respectively – differ from the reference card’s 738/1826MHz. This may make up for the lower memory frequency. The GPU has a standard configuration with 128 universal shader processors, 64 texture processors and 16 raster back-ends.

The Palit GeForce GTS 250 1GB also has a nonstandard configuration of the interface connectors. Instead of two DVI-I ports with a universal analog video output, it has one DVI-I port, one analog D-Sub connector, and one HDMI. That’s quite an odd solution because there is no particular demand for an individual D-Sub connector. An appropriate connection may be established with a cheap DVI-I-to-D-Sub adapter. With the available connectors, you have to attach a second monitor with DVI interface via the HDMI-to-DVI-I adapter whose reliability raises our apprehensions. We guess two DVI-I and one HDMI would be an optimal combination since HDMI is more required today than D-Sub.

Then, the card has two MIO connectors on board for joining two or three such cards into SLI or Triple-SLI subsystems. The onboard S/PDIF header is necessary for audio-over-HDMI.

Frankly speaking, we are suspicious about Palit’s nonstandard PCB design for GeForce GTS 250. Perhaps it is no costlier to make than Nvidia’s reference design, but its two power connectors instead of one are not handy.

Cooling System

The reference GeForce GTS 250 is equipped with a cooler that represents another variation of the GeForce 8800 GTX’s cooler. It offers an acceptable combination of cooling performance and low noise level. However, Palit goes its own way and equips its version of GeForce GTS 250 with a nonstandard cooler.

There is nothing extraordinary about it, though. Moreover, its design is very questionable. The cooler has of a low-profile heatsink consisting of thin aluminum plates. The heatsink is connected to the copper base with two heat pipes and is topped with a fan.

Two drawbacks of this cooler design are obvious at once. The heatsink is rather small, and the axial fan cannot cool the latter efficiently because the air flow must turn by 90 degrees at a distance of 1.5 centimeters for that. A large portion of the air flow from the fan goes sideways and is actually wasted. As opposed to the GeForce 7900 GTX’s cooler, there are no additional heatsink sections here to use that air. The slits in the card’s mounting brackets have little practical value with this cooler design.

The cooler uses an Everflow R128015BH fan (80mm diameter, 15mm height, 3.84W output power). The fan is rather noisy at maximum speed.

Like on the Gainward HD 4850 1024MB GS, there is a layer of very dry light-gray thermal interface on the copper sole of the heat-exchanger. It actually glues the cooler with the GPU die. The heatsink is fastened to the PCB with four screws, which is quite safe due to its light weight. The GPU is also equipped with a protective metallic frame that prevents the cooler from misaligning. The memory chips on the face side of the PCB are covered with an L-shaped aluminum plate. The chips on the reverse side are cooled with a larger such plate. These plates are fastened together with six screws. Elastic thermal pads are used as thermal interface.

So, this cooler claims to deliver high cooling performance at low amount of noise, but it has a number of obvious defects. Anyway, we will check this out in the next section of our review.

Power Consumption, Noise, Temperature, Overclockability

Although the Palit GeForce GTS 250 1GB has a nonstandard design of the PCB and power circuit, we measured its power consumption on our special testbed:

The 3D load was created by means of the first SM3.0/HDR test from 3DMark06 running in a loop at 1600x1200 with 4x FSAA and 16x AF. The Peak 2D mode was emulated by means of the 2D Transparent Windows test from PCMark05, which is important since Windows Vista’s Aero interface uses 3D features. We got the following results:

As we said above, it is a shame that this graphics card has two power connectors: its power consumption is never higher than 81W even in 3D mode. Having a load capacity of 75W, these connectors work at a load of only 28-29W. So, this solution only makes the life more difficult for people who have inexpensive PSUs equipped with only one 6-pin graphics card connector.

Notwithstanding its questionable design, the cooler delivers good performance:

The GPU temperature is no higher than 65°C under load, which is 5°C lower than the GPU temperature of the reference GeForce 9800 GTX+ cooler. The cooler is also good in idle mode, even though the card’s core temperature is higher then than the core temperature of the more advanced GeForce GTX 260 Core 216. So, our apprehensions about the cooler’s performance have not come true. Let’s check out its noise characteristics now.

Against our expectations, Palit’s cooler is quite good here, too. The level of noise at a distance of 1 meter from the working testbed is comparable to the results of the reference cooler of GeForce 9800 GTX+ and but slightly higher than the ambient noise of 43dBA. Unfortunately, there is one drawback about this cooler: its fan is working at its highest speed before the OS and driver are loaded up, producing a lot of noise. After that the fan slows down and the card becomes almost noiseless (but our testbed is quite noisy by itself because of its Enermax Galaxy DXX EGX1000EWL power supply).

Our attempt to overclock the Palit GeForce GTS 250 1GB was successful enough.

We increased the GPU clock rates to 800/1984MHz and memory clock rate to 1150 (2300) MHz and the card was perfectly stable. It passed the full cycle of our tests, so we will publish its results at both default and increased clock rates.

Testbed and Methods

We are going to investigate the performance of Palit GeForce GTS 250 1GB graphics card using the following testbed:

The graphics card drivers were configured in the same way as before: to provide the highest possible quality of texture filtering and to minimize the effect of default software optimizations. We enabled transparent texture filtering, and we used multisampling mode for both graphics architectures, because ATI solutions do not support supersampling for this function. As a result, our ATI and Nvidia driver settings looked as follows:

ATI Catalyst:

Nvidia GeForce:

The list of benchmarks includes the following gaming titles and synthetic tests:

First-Person 3D Shooters

Third-Person 3D Shooters

RPG

Simulators

Strategies

Semi-synthetic Benchmarks

We selected the highest possible level of detail in each game using standard tools provided by the game itself from the gaming menu. The games configuration files weren’t modified in any way, because the ordinary user doesn’t have to know how to do it. We made a few exceptions for selected games if that was necessary. We are going to specifically dwell on each exception like that later on in our article.

Besides Palit GeForce GTS 250 1GB we have also included the following graphics accelerators to participate in our test session:

We ran our tests in the following resolutions: 1280x1024, 1680x1050 and 1920x1200. Everywhere, where it was possible we added MSAA 4x antialiasing to the standard anisotropic filtering 16x. We enabled antialiasing from the game’s menu. If this was not possible, we forced them using the appropriate driver settings of ATI Catalyst and Nvidia GeForce drivers.

Performance was measured with the games’ own tools and the original demos were recorded if possible. We measured not only the average speed, but also the minimum speed of the cards where possible. Otherwise, the performance was measured manually with Fraps utility version 2.9.8. In the latter case we ran the test three times and took the average of the three for the performance charts.

Performance in First-Person 3D Shooters

Call of Duty: World at War

As we have expected, GeForce GTS 250 didn’t demonstrate any noticeable advantage over GeForce 9800 GTX+, because it in fact is GeForce 9800 GTX+ and 1GB of video memory is way too much for World at War anyway. A slight lag in 1920x1200 is determined by lower memory frequency. The newcomer looks good compared against Radeon HD 4850 revealing almost the same average and minimal performance.

Crysis Warhead

The games based on Crysis engine are, on the contrary, very sensitive to the amount of available graphics memory, especially in high resolutions. However, even in 1280x1024 Palit GeForce GTS 250 1GB is considerably faster than a model with only 512MB of video memory onboard. It competes successfully against Radeon HD 4850 and even outperforms it in 1920x1200 resolution. Please remember that these numbers are quite theoretical, because the general level of average and especially minimal performance is way too low to be of any practical value for the graphics cards of this type.

Enemy Territory: Quake Wars

We disabled the integrated frame rate limiter in the Quake Wars game console for the sake of comparing the cards. The game’s built-in benchmarking options do not provide information about the minimal speed, so there is no such info in the diagrams.

Although this game uses ultra-high-resolution textures (MegaTexture technology), Palit GeForce GTS 250 1GB has no advantage over GeForce 9800 GTX+ and GeForce GTS 250 512MB. Moreover, in 1920x1200 the proprietary Palit modification yields to the reference one because of lower memory frequency. Overall, the new solution is no revelation to us, as it continues to perform equally fast with its primary competitor – Radeon HD 4850.

Far Cry 2

With maximum graphics quality settings, Far Cry 2 is less resource-hungry than Crysis Warhead, so having 1GB of video memory brings not only theoretical advantages to Palit GeForce GTS 250 1GB card: it manages to demonstrate higher minimal and average performance than is required for comfortable gaming experience.  Strange as it might seem, we didn’t see anything like that with Radeon HD 4850 equipped with the same amount of local graphics memory. Maybe the launch of Catalyst 9.3 changes the situation.

F.E.A.R. 2: Project Origin

The effect from having twice as much video memory does reveal itself in F.E.A.R.2, but here it is most noticeable in low resolutions. For example, the average performance in 1280x1024 increases by about 18%, while in 1920x1200 it in fact drops 4-5%. The minimal performance also increases significantly, and even though it doesn’t provide any new gaming opportunities, the results of the new mainstream graphics card from Nvidia priced at only $149 look very impressive especially against the modest performance of Radeon HD 4850.

Left 4 Dead

The game runs on the Source engine and has an integrated benchmark, but unfortunately, the latter does not report the minimal speed.

Since this engine is relatively old, the game is not very sensitive to the amount of onboard video memory, so Palit GeForce GTS 250 1GB runs neck and neck with GeForce 9800 GTX+ that is now known as GeForce GTS 250 512MB. So, the Source-based games fans don’t have to spend extra $40 for the additional 512MB of memory. In fact, Radeon HD 4850 as well as both GeForce GTS 250 models is equally good choice here.

S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Clear Sky

To achieve a playable speed in this game we disabled FSAA and such resource-consuming options as Sun rays, Wet surfaces and Volumetric Smoke. We used the Enhanced full dynamic lighting (DX10) mode for our test and additionally enabled the DirectX 10.1 mode for the ATI cards.

Although this game is very demanding, 1GB of video memory doesn’t have a serious effect on performance and can only pay off in 1920x1200, where the average performance gain makes only 10%. Not bad, but not enough to ensure comfortable gaming. However, even in 1280x1024 Palit GeForce GTS 250 1GB lacks a little bit of speed, unlike Radeon HD 4850 that takes advantage of DirectX 10.1 support implemented in Clear Sky.

Performance in Third-Person 3D Shooters

Devil May Cry 4

Looks like the video memory frequency and therefore its bandwidth matter more for the GeForce GTS 250 performance than the memory capacity of GPU speed. Palit GeForce GTS 250 1GB yields very noticeably to the reference card equipped with 512MB of local video memory. It is not a big deal because the overall performance level remains pretty high; however, we do see the negative effect from the “less overclocked” memory on Palit card.

Prince of Persia

Just like with two Radeon HD 4850 models that differed only in the amount of onboard video memory, twice the memory size doesn’t have any effect on the performance. Palit GeForce GTS 250 1GB is even a little behind the reference board equipped with 512MB of memory because of lower memory frequency. Our hero outperforms Radeon HD 4850 quite tangibly in minimal performance readings in all resolutions up to 1680x1050.

Performance in RPG

Fallout 3

GeForce GTS 250 model equipped with 1GB of memory outperforms a solutions with only 512MB onboard, although the difference is really small – 2.5-6%. Only when we overclocked the GPU to 800MHz and the memory to 1150 (2300) MHz, the newcomer managed to catch up with Radeon HD 4850.

Mass Effect

Palit solution performs almost the same in Mass Effect game. But even maximum overclocking doesn’t provide stable minimal readings over 24 fps. Of all the graphics cards participating in our today’s test session, only GeForce GTX 260 Core 216 can do that.

Performance in Simulators

Race Driver: GRID

Both GeForce GTS 250 models perform almost equally and compete successfully against Radeon HD 4850. However, when we overclocked our Palit GeForce GTS 250 1GB, we managed to get a significant average performance boost of 16-18%, which brings this card to the level of a more expensive GeForce GTX 260 Core 216.

X³: Terran Conflict

This is another case when there is very tiny performance difference between two almost identical graphics accelerators that differ only by the amount of video memory. However, do not forget that Palit GeForce GTS 250 1GB has its memory working at a lower frequency, which may have lowered its chances of a more convincing victory. Although, I doubt that it could help Palit card to catch up with Radeon HD 4850, because the game evidently favours ATI Radeon HD architecture.

Performance in Strategies

Red Alert 3

The game has a built-in average frame rate limiter set at 30 fps that cannot be disabled.

Nvidia solutions still have serious performance issues in this game with enabled FSAA 4x, and even maximum overclocking didn’t help solve this problem for Palit GeForce GTS 250 1GB. Note that more graphics memory onboard does boost the average performance quite noticeably, but lower memory frequency compared to the reference does in fact affect the minimal performance readings.

World in Conflict

The amount of onboard graphics memory doesn’t have a serious effect on the performance of different GeForce GTS 250 modifications in World in Conflict game. It is also evident that their minimal performance is below the acceptable level at nominal frequencies. Therefore, overclocking helps to eliminate this issue and ensure comfortable gaming experience in 1280x1024.

Performance in Semi-Synthetic Benchmarks

Futuremark 3DMark06

Despite 1280x1024 resolution, Palit GeForce GTS 250 1GB outperformed GeForce GTS 250 512MB by far more than a simple measuring error margin. The results of individual tests showed that the highest performance boost can be seen in SM2.0, while there was almost none in SM3.0/HDR tests. We could even see a slight lag caused by slightly lower memory frequency.

Futuremark 3DMark Vantage

We minimize the CPU influence during 3DMark Vantage tests by using the Extreme profile (1920x1200, 4x FSAA and anisotropic filtering). We also publish the results of the individual tests across all display resolutions to provide a complete picture.

3DMark Vantage creates testing conditions that are the closest to the current realities, so we see the benefits of larger memory capacity as well as of additional overclocking. In the latter case Palit GeForce GTS 250 1GB manages to outperform Radeon HD 4850 significantly, at least the model equipped with 512MB of memory.

Although we could see practically linear performance increase in the total score charts, the results of individual benchmarks show that complex GPU and memory overclocking have a much great effect on performance than the increase of the memory capacity from 512MB to 1GB. This is true at least in resolutions up to 1920x1200.

Performance Summary

As we have expected, GeForce GTS 250 didn’t cause any revolution: and what could we expect from a graphics accelerator that is in fact none other but a renamed GeForce 9800 GTX+? Of course, we could talk about moral and aesthetic aspects of Nvidia’s actions, as they have once again offered the users old architecture under a new name. However, from a pragmatic standpoint, we can conclude that this architecture still has some fire in it, as it copes well with what it is supposed to: it ensures acceptable gaming performance in contemporary titles. And the 55nm process is certainly of great help as it improved the frequency potential of G92.

Unfortunately, since ATI has recently slashed the prices, things are not so rosy for Nvidia anymore: $149 for GeForce GTS 250 is hardly competitive against Radeon HD 4870. However, let’s take a look at the detailed performance results first:

In 1280x1024 GeForce GTS 250 doesn’t really benefit from having 1GB of video memory onboard: the average performance gain is only 4% and in some cases it even falls behind. The latter, however, is the problem of this particular Palit graphics card model, which video memory works at a lower than nominal frequency.

If we compare Palit GeForce GTS 250 1GB with Radeon HD 4850, we can state that there is parity between them. However, everything actually depends on a particular game you are running: while in F.E.A.R. 2: Project Origin or Prince of Persia the advantage is on Nvidia’s side, then in X3: Terran Conflict, for instance, ATI offspring is far ahead of the competitors.

As for Radeon HD 4870, things are not as good here: Palit GeForce GTS 250 1GB lost to the former almost in all tests with the average lag about 22%. We are talking about Radeon HD 4870 1GB here, but I doubt that things would have got any better even if it had been Radeon HD 4870 512MB that has recently been priced down to $149. Nvidia will have to drop the prices for their new family of graphics cards to ensure that they are compatible in the today’s market.

As for the benefit from overclocking, it varies between 4% and 29% with an average of 12%. It is a very good gain achieved at minimal expense.

In 1680x1050 resolution things remain practically the same: the performance boost compared with GeForce GTS 250 512MB/GeForce 9800 GTX+ is about 4-5%; situation with Radeon HD 4850 should be considered individually for each particular game, and average lag behind Radeon HD 4870 1GB increases to 24%. Overclocking helps Palit GeForce GTS 250 1GB a little more here: its performance increases by 13.5% on average.

When we have 1920x1200 resolution with enabled FSAA 4x, the memory subsystem is loaded quite extensively and its size starts to have more noticeable effect on performance. On average, Palit GeForce GTS 250 1GB is about 6.5% ahead of the GeForce GTS 250 512MB, and in some cases, such as Crysis Warhead and Far Cry 2, it is way beyond 20 %. Nevertheless, in some other games, like Enemy Territory: Quake Wars and Devil May Cry 4, lower memory frequency of the Palit solution made it yield to the reference Nvidia card with half the local video memory onboard.

The opposition between Palit GeForce GTS 250 1GB and Radeon HD 4850 remained the same: in some games (Crysis Warhead, F.E.A.R. 2: Project Origin) the Nvidia solution took the lead, while in a few other titles (Enemy Territory: Quake Wars or Fallout 3) the ATi solution will be more preferable.

You can’t compete against Radeon HD 4870 in this resolution, because it is equipped with super-fact GDDR5 memory providing 115.2GB/s bandwidth against only 70.4GB/s by GeForce GTS 250. The Nvidia newcomer fell about 30% behind on average in this case.

Conclusion

Nvidia GeForce GTS 250 family looks pretty good at first glance and even though it is based on not very new architecture, it can very well compete against an extremely popular “people’s solution” – ATI Radeon HD 4850. However, to do so, it need to be selling at a comparable retail price that is way below $149, because this is where the official price of a much faster ATI Radeon HD 4870 1GB cards is right now. And this solution is already beyond the depth of GeForce GTS 250. Everything depends on Nvidia’s strategy now, and if they lower GeForce GTS 250 prices quickly enough, these solutions may become pretty popular among gamers with limited budget. Otherwise, ATI will have a serious advantage.

Palit GeForce GTS 250 1GB Summary

As for the specific graphics accelerator we discussed today, Palit GeForce GTS 250 1GB, it seems to be a pretty attractive purchase with good performance, low noise and very efficient cooling solution. It does have a few drawbacks, such as the need for two power connectors, for instance. But the crucial factor that will determine the future of this product is definitely its retail price. If it is comparable with that of Radeon HD 4850, then Palit GeForce GTS 250 1GB may become a very good choice. Otherwise, you might want to wait for the Radeon HD 4870 512MB to start retailing for less than $150.

Highs:

 Lows: