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GeForce GTS 250 Roundup (ASUS, Gigabyte, Sparkle, EVGA)

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SKYMTL

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GeForce GTS 250 Roundup


Featuring: ASUS, GIGABYTE, Sparkle & EVGA





It seems that everywhere we look these days someone is trying to save a few dollars when it comes to upgrading or building a new system. Over the past 6 months both Nvidia and ATI have released plenty of cards that will appeal to those of you who are on a budget but don’t want to sacrifice much in the way of performance. ATI cards like the HD 4830, HD 4850 and the new HD 4770 fit the bill while Nvidia has the 9800 GT, the GTS 250 and to a lesser extent, the 9600 GT. This particular roundup will look a bit closer at the GTS 250 with products from Gigabyte, ASUS Sparkle and EVGA. Granted, this isn’t a blockbuster roundup with a ton of cards but it will show you the tip of the very large iceberg that is the GTS 250 product range.

To be completely honest with you, during the course of requesting and receiving samples for this roundup we were quite surprised with the reaction we received from quite a few manufacturers. Comments ranged from “why would you want to do a GTS 250 roundup?” to “we are not actively marketing that product at this time” to a general lack of enthusiasm for anything GTS 250 related. Considering the amazing response (no fewer than 6 cards) we received for an upcoming roundup of a different Nvidia card, this was curious to be sure. Unperturbed, we pressed on since we feel that at its current price the GTS 250 can offer a perfect cure for the recession-inspired doldrums.

Believe it or not, this is our first review of the GTS 250 since we decided to sit back and wait for the initial fury of yet another rebadged card release to die down. Now that the GTS 250 has settled into the market (and quite well at that), we felt it was time to take a look at what a few different manufacturers had to offer. We have also recently seen a number of sales which have really piqued people’s interest in this card. Just remember, the GTS 250 seems like nothing more than a gussied up 9800 GTX+ on paper but as we will see, Nvidia’s board partners have added their own unique spin to things.

GIGABYTE, ASUS and EVGA have all been featured prominently here on Hardware Canucks in the past and they are all well known in the enthusiast marketplace. Sparkle on the other hand is making their debut here but they are no less recognizable everywhere from Canada to Taiwan. Each of these board partners has taken a bit different approach to the way they are presenting their GTS 250 with some having custom coolers while others are slightly overclocked. This large variance from one model to the next is what makes the GTS 250 lineup so interesting; there is some real variety on the market if you bother to look for it.

While this may be called a “Round Up”, we do things a bit differently when it comes to reviewing multiple cards within the same article. Basically, we will be treating this almost like 4 separate reviews since it is our opinion that each product deserves its time to shine. Knowing that, let’s get on with this thing.

 

SKYMTL

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A Shootout at the GTS 250 Corral

A Shootout at the GTS 250 Corral


Looking through various retailer listings for the GTS 250, it quickly becomes apparent that Nvidia’s board partners have been quick to release a stunning variety of cards. Unfortunately, this wide variety has also led to a situation where the buyer must be well informed regarding the advertised clock speeds of the card he / she is looking at. When the thought of this roundup first taking shape, situations in which GTS 250 clock speeds were below reference specifications came to our attention. While the vast majority of these cards run at stock speeds or higher, we weren’t at all surprised when we received one card that claimed to be overclocked but was instead running at reference speeds and another that had memory clocks significantly below what Nvidia specified.


Above we have the general specifications of the four competitors which will be represented in this roundup. Notice anything a bit odd? To us it seems that some of Nvidia’s board partners are a bit hazy regarding the reference memory clocks of the GTS 250. First of all, the ASUS Dark Knight uses a memory speed which is reminiscent of the older 9800 GTX+ 1GB cards instead of the 200Mhz higher reference speed of the GTS 250. Gigabyte seems to be on this same track since their GTS 250 is billed as an “overclocked memory” edition but in the end, the overclocked memory just brings its speed up to reference specs. Remember this throughout the roundup: even though Gigabyte markets this card as being overclocked, it runs at stock speeds.

We asked Bryan Del Rizzo, marketing manager at Nvidia for a comment about the memory speed discrepancy: “…stock memory clocks (on the 1GB card) should be 2200Mhz (DDR), or 2.2Ghz.” End of story.


As you can see, the cards from both Sparkle and EVGA are truly overclocked and will definitely have a slight advantage over some of the other competitors. From quickly looking at the chart it seems that even though EVGA’s Superclocked model has the edge in core speeds, Sparkle’s 512MB Calibre X250 has the highest shader and memory clocks. The battle between these two cards in particular will be very interesting to witness as will the overclocking potential of every one of these products. One of the most interesting aspects will certainly be that ages old question that has been brought up so many times: will 1GB of memory really mean higher performance?
 
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Meet the Manufacturers and their Warranties

Meet the Manufacturers and their Warranties


Note that in order to compile the warranty information below, we sent each manufacturer a questionnaire to fill out regarding their Customer / RMA support in Canada and in USA. Remember, anything written in the warranty sections comes directly from the manufacturers and your experiences may vary.



GIGABYTE: Movin’ on Up


We all know GIGABYTE for their motherboards and graphics cards but there are few that realize this is a company which is also trying to get their feet wet in many other areas as well. From cases to power supplies to gaming mice and netbooks, it seems like they are into nearly every aspect of the computing world. They also have a worldwide presence which means excellent availability of their products wherever you look. While they haven’t made the jump to the big-box retailers like Best Buy and Future Shop here in Canada, their cards can be found at smaller brick and mortar shops as well as from nearly every online retailer.

The card they sent us today is their GV-N250OC-1GI which is a stock-clocked (don’t be fooled by its “OC” designation), custom cooled 1GB version of the GTS 250.


Warranty and Support Information

GIGABYTE offers a warranty length of 3 years on all of their cards with or without registration on their website. However, unlike other manufacturers their warranty goes into effect from the date the card is manufactured which means if the retailer you buy from has had a card in stock for a year, that card will have 2 years left on its warranty when it is sold. All RMAs from the USA and Canada are shipped to their facility in California with the customer playing shipping to GIGABYTE while GIGABYTE will pay for return shipping. If you want expedited shipping, an extra charge will be added but the option is there for those of you who want your card back fast. In addition, we Canadians are responsible for any and all customs charges.

Customer Support URL: rma_index
Customer Support Tel. #: 626-854-9336 (Option 3)
Customer Support hours of operation: 8:30am – 5:30pm PST (Mon – Fri)



Sparkle: The New Kid on the Block


To those of you who are reading this review and live anywhere else other than North America, Sparkle isn’t the new kid on the block at all. Indeed, they have been OEMing cards for several of Nvidia’s board partners for some time now. Even though this Taiwan-based company is one of top selling GPU brands in other parts of the world, their presence here is relatively minor. With only a few select retailers offering their cards in North America, Sparkle is looking to take things to the next level with widespread availability soon.

While Sparkle has a ton of cards under their name, it is actually their performance-oriented Calibre brand we will be looking at today with their GTS 250 X250. There is also a 1GB version of this card dubbed the X250G boasting the same clocks speeds as this model which we hope to review in the coming weeks.


Warranty and Support Information

As of last week, Sparkle now backs all of their cards with the new A+SAP 3-year warranty. For RMA purposes, both Canadian and US residents will have to pay shipping to Sparkle’s offices in California but return shipping is paid by Sparkle themselves but turn-around time is guaranteed to be under 72 hours. No other repair or handling fees will be charged. In addition, Canadian residents won’t have to worry about duties for the return shipment as they will be paid in full by Sparkle.

Customer Support URL: Sparkle Computer
Customer Support Tel. #: 626-333-3311
Customer Support hours of operation: 9:30am – 5:00pm PST (Mon – Fri)
 

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Meet the Manufacturers and their Warranties cont.

Meet the Manufacturers and their Warranties cont.


Note, that in order to compile the warranty information below, we sent each manufacturer a questionnaire to fill out regarding their Customer / RMA support in Canada and in USA. Remember, anything written in the warranty sections comes direct from the manufacturers and your experiences may vary.



ASUS: Old Faithful


Literally everyone knows ASUS and their products; from hard-core overclockers to those of you who are just starting out in the wide world of DIY computer systems. While these days the general public’s perception of ASUS may be limited to the diminutive Eee PC, we DIYers know them for their wide selection of motherboards and graphics cards. Much like Gigabyte, ASUS has massive distribution chains and their products can be found everywhere; from the smallest mom and pop shop to giant online retailers like Newegg and NCIX. Their attention to quality and reasonable pricing means they are usually at the forefront of people’s minds when upgrading components.

In this roundup we will be looking at their GTS 250 1GB Dark Knight which features a completely custom heatsink but is clocked slightly below reference speeds.


Warranty and Support Info

Like almost all of the other companies in this roundup, ASUS guarantees their GPUs for a period of 3 years with or without registration. Shipping to their facility in California is paid by the person RMAing the card but luckily return shipping is covered by ASUS. Customers returning a physically damaged card will be charged for the repair but standard returns (manufacturer defects) will not normally be charged any additional fees. ASUS also ensures that any cards being shipped back into Canada will have the necessary customs documents detailing the shipment as an in-warranty replacement.

Customer Support URL: ASUS - North American Live Support
Customer Support Tel. #: 510-739-3777
Customer Support hours of operation: 7AM – 7PM PST (Mon – Fri)



EVGA: Always There When You Need ‘em


EVGA. This is the company we have come to know and love here in North America for having some of the most competitively-priced products while offering some of the best customer support service around. They also have their famous Step Up program which allows you to trade in your card (plus cash) for a better product within the 90 days after the original purchase date. The Step Up program, their lifetime warranty, the way they personally manage their online community and the widespread availability of their products have made EVGA a household name among enthusiasts for years now. This Nvidia-exclusive company also has their fair share of overclocked cards in the Superclocked, SSC and FTW product ranges.

EVGA has sent us an overclocked GTS 250 1GB Superclocked Edition for this review.


Warranty and Support Info

By a long shot, EVGA has the best warranty out of all the manufacturers represented here today. If you register within 30 days of your purchase date you will receive their Lifetime Warranty on certain products and without registration this diminishes to one year. Edit: This card in particular has a 1+1 year warranty if you register within 30 days.

In addition, EVGA has begun offering what they call the EAR or EVGA Advanced RMA that can be purchased upon registration to accelerate any RMA you send by providing cross-shipping for your new card. Both Canadian and US RMAs are processed through EVGA’s California facility with the customer being responsible for paying shipping to EVGA but return shipping is covered. Since EVGA labels all RMA shipments as such, customs charges for Canadians should be minimal but one way or another, they not paid by EVGA.

Customer Support URL: EVGA | Support | Home
Customer Support Tel. #: 888-880-3842
Customer Support hours of operation: 24/7 365 days a year
 
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SKYMTL

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Gigabyte GTS 250 1GB OC

A Closer Look at the GIGABYTE GTS 250 1GB OC



Manufacturer Product Page: GIGABYTE GTS 250 1GB OC
Product Number: GV-N250OC-1GI
Warranty: 3 Years
Price: Click here to compare prices


GIGABYTE's packaging is quite a bit different from what we have seen in the past with the move being made away from anime-inspired women towards Transformer-like creatures. One way or another, the predominantly-black box looks great. Unfortunately, this box has the one thing which bothers me the most out of all the cards represented here: it claims that the memory is “overclocked to 1.1Ghz”. If you have been paying attention at all, you should know by now that 1.1Ghz (2.2Ghz DDR) is the reference memory speed on all stock GTS 250 cards.

Most of GIGABYTE’s recent graphics cards have featured their Ultra Durable VGA technology which combines 2oz of copper in the PCB and other advances for decreased power consumption and heat production.


The card itself is packaged extremely well in a bed of foam which should protect it from any mishandling it could suffer on its way to you. When it comes to accessories, GIGABYTE really went to town and has included everything you could possibly want. That includes an S/PDIF cable and a HDMI to DVI dongle along with the usual Molex to 6-pin adaptor, manuals and the driver CD.


Decked out in a GIGABYTE Blue PCB and a Zalman VF1050 cooler, this GTS 250 1GB definitely has the looks of a serious performer. GIGABYTE has been using Zalman coolers on their performance cards for some time now and this one should provide excellent cooling at relatively low noise levels. It should also be noted that at the time of us writing this article, the GIGABYTE GTS 250 1GB is the least expensive of all the cards tested here.


While the cooler may be the star of the show, GIGABYTE has also taken the opportunity to completely redesign the PCB of the GTS. Not only are they using a robust 4+1 phase power distribution but they have also succeeded in substantially reducing its length when compared to the 9800 GTX+ and it proves to be even more compact than the EVGA GTS 250. According to GIGABYTE, they haven’t installed any additional heatsinks over the VRMs due to the fact that the high-end components they are using produce less heat than those installed on the reference card. All in all, it is a compact 8 ¼” in length which means it will have absolutely no problems fitting into tight HTPC cases.


Ok, back to this beast of a heatsink. This OEM Zalman VF1050 is loosely based off of their successful VF1000 series which retail for a good $50 to $60 here in Canada. It uses a quartet of independent heatpipes to move heat away from the 55nm core so it can be dispersed by the chrome plated aluminum cooling assembly. The fan is the same 80mm twin ball bearing affair that Zalman has been using on their coolers for the last few years. Additionally, Gigabyte has decided to let the air circulation from the fan to cool the memory ICs instead of using ramsinks.


Out of all the cards in this roundup, GIGABYTE’s provides one of the best selections of output connectors. Basically, they have something for everyone with DVI, VGA and a single gold-plated HDMI connector along with the possibility of using the included adaptor for an additional DVI connector. There is also an S/PDIF header on the PCB which can be used for audio pass-through for the HDMI connector and a single SLI connector. All in all, GIGABYTE seems to have made all the right decisions when it comes to output options but the use of a single SLI connector is odd to say the least. Perhaps the loss of the second SLI connector is due to the overall length of this card.
 

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Sparkle Calibre GTS 250 512MB X250

Sparkle Calibre GTS 250 512MB X250



Manufacturer Product Page: CalibreStyle
Product Number: X250
Warranty: 3 Years
Price: Pricing at Newegg (official Sparkle Retailer in Canada)


Not many of you who are reading this roundup will be familiar with neither Sparkle nor their performance-oriented Calibre lineup but let me tell you: their box design is inspiring. Instead of using the usual (and somewhat boring) rectangular box with a glossy surface, Sparkle decided to bevel the box’s side and then add a textured checkerboard pattern to the finish. There is also a small tag clipped onto the box’s handle giving actual specifications (finally!!) and some performance figures. All in all, this has the look of an extremely high-end product.


While the luscious design of the exterior gives way to a drab interior packaging scheme, but that doesn’t take away any of our initial great impressions of this product. Why? Because along with the more than adequate protection afforded the card itself, the list of accessories is excellent. You get a pair of Molex to 6-pin adaptors, an S/PDIF cable and a card which describes the warranty along with the Calibre division’s commitment to customer service excellence. I know that it might sound a bit corny, but this warranty card is a welcome addition considering the hoops customers have to jump through to simply determine the length of some manufacturers’ warranties.


Even though custom cards seem to be one of the themes of this roundup, I have to say that the Calibre X250 impressed me the most when I first removed it from the box. First of all, it is quite heavy due to the design of the cooler in addition to the copious amounts of aluminum used for the memory and VRM heatsinks (more on these later). The PCB is a wonderful black that works perfectly with well with the packaging design and acts as the perfect compliment to the copper heatsink.


The heatsink Sparkle used on this card can be taken as a lesson in design and engineering excellence. It features a pair of long and thick continuous heatpipes which run underneath the core contact plate and move the core’s heat to a series of individual copper fins. For those of you wondering; yes, the fins are pure copper instead of the usual plated aluminum we are used to seeing. The fins are alternately cooled by a pair of fans which have their speed controlled based on the temperature of the core. There is also a battle-axe looking affair with the Calibre name and logo which may look like plastic on the picture but it is in fact a piece of laser-cut aluminum. High quality stuff indeed.

The only thing that bothers me about this setup is that the copper fins are so small. More surface area means better cooling and these things are just small slivers when compared to some other setups in this roundup. It will be interesting to see how this impacts cooling performance.


The heatsink on the X250 has one more unique feature: the ability to pivot its two sections to form a “V” shape. Getting this to happen is a simple matter of pushing together a pair of tabs located at the end of each fan and gradually lifting until the supports move into the upper hole of the main retention bracket. It then locks into place.

Is there any point to all of this? According to Calibre, propping up the cooler like this allows the fans to move more air due to an elimination of obstructions below the fins and the VRM heatsink will also benefit from additional airflow. What do we think about it? Calibre’s claims do hold some merit and it is great to see people without space to spare can use the cooler in its compact position while others can take advantage of additional cooling by lifting the fin assemblies. We will test both configurations in the Temperature Testing section.


Unlike the other manufacturers in this roundup, Sparkle decided to install heatsinks on all of the memory modules. Even though the benefit of ramsinks is debatable, it is great to see them going this extra mile. In the background of the picture on the left you can also see that the cast aluminum contact plate has some additional round “fins” in order to disperse any heat not taken care of by the heatpipes.

The back end of the X250 features some seriously massive solid state capacitors as well as a large heatsink over the VRM modules. This card looks like it was built for overclocking.


This card comes with a full compliment of two PCI-E 6-pin connectors which is more fitting with the outgoing 9800 GTX+ rather than the GTS 250. The additional power connector may have been installed to improve overclocking stability but the more likely explanation is that this card is simply a 9800 GTX+ with a flashed BIOS. There is also an S/PDIF header for audio pass-through.

The backplate offers a great selection output options with a HDMI connector, a VGA output and finally a DVI connector.


The overall length of the Sparkle Calibre X250 is 9.5” which makes it slightly shorter than a reference 9800 GTX+.
 

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ASUS GTS 250 1GB Dark Knight

ASUS GTS 250 1GB Dark Knight



Manufacturer Product Page: ASUSTeK Computer Inc.
Product Number: ENGTS250DK/HTDI/1GD3
Warranty: 3 Years
Price: Click here to compare prices


The Dark Knight’s box isn’t designed much differently from countless other ASUS cards we have seen in the past few months. It includes some mention of the included software as well as a small advertisement that ASUS has included a 10% off coupon for various Nvidia-sponsored games.


The card is packaged extremely well to protect it against damage with a thick foam insert as well as a cardboard divider to make sure the foam doesn’t play bumper cars with the side of the box.

Accessories-wise I would have to call this a mixed bag. While the 10% off coupon is definitely welcome, the cable and connector selection is nothing to write home about since the S/PDIF cable and DVI to HDMI cable is MIA. This card does not have a built-in S/PDIF audio header on the PCB so including the HDMI connector would be pointless anyways.


If anything, the ASUS GTS 250 Dark Knight can’t be blamed for following the rest of the card when designing a heatsink for their card. It is interesting that both Gigabyte and ASUS have gone with shroud-less heatsinks but while Gigabyte’s has sleekness typical of Zalman-designed units, ASUS went with a raw, unfinished and altogether more utilitarian look. Which one do we prefer? We’ll tell you when the cooling results are in.


The length of the Dark Knight is identical to that of the EVGA Superclocked Edition yet a bit shorter than the reference 9800 GTX+ at 9.5 inches. ASUS seems to have decided to go with a reference GTS 250 1GB board but has added a few modifications such as changing the PCB color from the typical black or green to a dark blue color. Personally, I think this card would have looked downright sexy with a black PCB (and would have fit better with the “Dark Knight” theme) but to each his own I guess.


If anything, I am interested to see how this heatsink performs against the other competitors in this roundup. It’s relatively tiny 70mm fan seems to be positioned in such a way that it blows downwards without much airflow going to either side of it. The potential problem is that the heatpipes contact the heatsink’s fins in locations which are a bit far away from the fan’s direct airflow. Either the fan will have to work at very fast speeds to compensate or ASUS has some engineering marvel on their hands. That being said, this heatsink looks extremely well fabricated with perfect spacing between the aluminum fins and nicely capped heatpipes.


ASUS didn’t cut any corners on this card and the power distribution section really shows this with solid state caps aplenty and digital chokes. As with many GTS 250 cards, this one uses a single PCI-E 6-pin connector and the backplate uses the usual two DVI connectors along with a single HDTV-Out port.
 

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EVGA GTS 250 1GB Superclocked

EVGA GTS 250 1GB Superclocked



Manufacturer Product Page: EVGA | Products
Product Number: 01G-P3-1156-TR
Warranty: 1+1 Year
Price: Click here to compare prices


The packaging for the EVGA GTS 250 1GB Superclocked is basically identical to nearly every other EVGA card we have looked at…and there isn’t anything wrong with that. We happen to like the understated civility of a black box with a small dash of color. The protection around the card is well done with the GTS 250 being suspended in a plastic clamshell.


The accessories included with this card are a bit disappointing but the basics are there. You get a driver CD, a single DVI to VGA dongle and a Molex to 6-pin adaptor. MIA is the HDTV Out cable, a DVI to HDMI adaptor and the S/PDIF cable we saw with some other cards.


You may remember that when the initial reviews of the GTS 250 were published, reviewers received cards with plain green PCBs. That has changed with the EVGA Superclocked edition sporting a black PCB and a heatsink which looks a lot like those seen on older 8800 GTS 512MB cards. It also seems that EVGA has begun widespread implementation of their new heatsink sticker design which interjects a bit of red onto a plain black design. All in all, we love this understated approach to heatsink design.


Cooling is done by way of a single 80mm fan which draws in cool air, forces it over an internal fin assembly and then pushes it out the end of the card. As such, the EVGA Superclocked is the only card in this roundup that doesn’t dump all of the core’s heat right back into the interior of your case.

This card uses a single PCI-E 6-pin connector which is par for the course with most 55nm-equipped GTS 250 products. On the other hand, there isn’t any sign of the S/PDIF header we have seen on some competitors. Personally, I think the omission of audio pass-through is a great step towards lowering the overall cost of this card especially considering very few people will use it (sorry to the few of you who actually use Nvidia’s somewhat lame method of transferring audio signals to an HDMI connector).


The selection of output connectors on the Superclocked Edition are what we have come to expect with a pair of DVI connectors and a single TV-out port.


The actual PCB of EVGA’s entry is the exact same length as the ASUS Dark Knight at 9.5” but due to a slight bevel in the back of the heatsink shroud, it becomes about ¼” longer than the non-reference ASUS card. One way or another, the Superclocked Edition still shorter than the somewhat oversized 9800 GTX+ 512MB.
 
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Included Software

Included Software


Yes, we know that there are plenty of free programs out there which will help you overclock and monitor your graphics card. From Rivatuner to GPU-Z, they can be downloaded in a few clicks of the mouse and are regularly updated to support the latest and greatest hardware. In order to try and break into the GPU tuning scene, graphics card manufacturers are turning to their own proprietary software. We haven’t really focused much on what manufacturers offer but in this roundup we decided to take a look at the programs each of these companies distributes with their cards.

Gigabyte GamerHUD Lite
System Resource Usage: ~4.8MB


Click on image to zoom

Gigabyte’s GamerHUD is a straightforward program that offers basic overclocking functions as well as a temperature and usage logger. There are also areas in which you can see the specifications of the GPU and control whether the card downclocks itself in a 2D environment. This is all presented in a highly stylized pop-up box that is actually more confusing than it is functional.

Unfortunately, the issues with this interface are everywhere. There is no way to drag the sliders so you have to endlessly click away on the tiny arrows in order to increase your clock speeds. Want a 50Mhz bump in core speeds? That’ll be 50 clicks, sir. In other overclocking programs it is possible to link and unlink the Core and Shader clocks; not here. Temperature “monitoring” isn’t monitoring at all considering the program doesn’t keep a record of past temperatures or GPU load. In addition, the GTS 250 1GB OC came with the Lite version of GamerHUD so it was missing the voltage tweaking section (which never worked to begin with) that comes with the full version.

Stick with Rivatuner, you’ll be happier for it.


Sparkle SpaTune
System Resource Usage: ~2.4MB


Click on image to zoom

Sparkle’s approach to the whole monitoring and overclocking craze is streamlined and simple program called SpaTune. It is perfectly sized to fit right into the Vista Sidebar and carries with it a straightforward design with all of its limited functions at your fingertips. There are five buttons clustered in the middle of the display that control what the top information bar displays –everything from clock speeds to temperatures- in real time.

Meawhile, at the bottom there are three additional buttons used to control the clock speed of your graphics card. The OC button brought the Calibre GTS 250 to its pre-overclocked speeds and Standard Mode brings the speeds down to reference GTS 250 values. Finally, Green Mode will further decrease the clocks to reference 2D speeds. I personally don’t think these adjustments were really necessary since the card should downclock itself when used in 2D mode.

All in all, SpaTune is user friendly, light on system resources and well designed but it doesn’t really offer much in terms of functionality. My only real beef with it is that there is no way to control whether it loads or not when Windows starts.


ASUS GamerOSD / SmartDoctor
System Resource Usage (GamerOSD): ~4.8MB
System Resource Usage (SmartDoc.): ~8.1MB


Click on image to zoom

GamerOSD mainly consists of the functions you would normally find within a game monitoring program like FRAPS. It is exactly what the name suggests: an on-screen display for frames per second, GPU temperature and other information while you are gaming. You even have the option to record movies and take screenshots. All in all, this is a pretty interesting little program.


Click on image to zoom​

When you first start SmartDoctor, you are greeted with cluttered interface with all of the important settings compacted down at the bottom of the screen. The left side shows a pointless animation of a magnifying glass passing over your graphics card while the upper right hand portion of the screen gives you the fan speed setting (without the option to change it) and temperatures. The clock speed sliders are straightforward and you can easily set the core and memory speeds but we wish this section was given prominence.


Click on image to zoom

The real meat to this program lies in the Advanced Settings pop-up. Here you can easily control a massive amount of options from fan speeds to temperature alarms to monitor settings. We wish the whole program would have been set up in this format instead of having the overclocking relegated to the bottom quarter of a convoluted interface.

Regardless of how much we hate the interface on this program, it does offer a good amount of options for overclocking and monitoring the health status of your graphics card.


EVGA Precision
System Resource Usage: ~6MB


Click on image to zoom

Even though EVGA’s Precision isn’t bundled with their GTS 250 1GB, it is readily available on their website. We decided to include it here because it is simply one of the best manufacturer-released overclocking and GPU monitoring tools in existence.

Above we have the main window which has every single feature you could possibly want right at your fingertips. Directly below the Precision logo are sliders to control the speed of the core and memory as well as simple buttons to link or unlink the core / shader speeds as well as fan speed control. Next to the fan speed control is a button to toggle on and off the automatic fan speed profiles. To the left of the sliders is an area to select individual GPUs if you are running more than one card in SLI as well as a button to sync or unsync the clock speeds of all GPUs.

To the left of the settings section is where all of the GPU health and clock speed monitors are located in a setup reminiscent of Rivatuner. Directly below this is a button to set the program to apply all your new settings when Windows boots as well as a box where you can save and select custom profiles.


Click on image to zoom

In the Properties dialog box, there are a stunning number of options for you to play around with. This includes compatibility with certain Logitech keyboards’ LCDs, setting on screen displays for your GPU temperature and other properties, screen shot capture options and countless other things. It is brilliant, well done and only available if you are running and EVGA card.
 

SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
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Test System & Setup

Test System & Setup

Processor: Intel Core i7 920(ES) @ 4.0Ghz (Turbo Mode Enabled)
Memory: Corsair 3x2GB Dominator DDR3 1600Mhz
Motherboard: Gigabyte EX58-UD5
Cooling: CoolIT Boreas mTEC + Scythe Fan Controller
Disk Drive: Pioneer DVD Writer
Hard Drive: Western Digital Caviar Black 640GB
Power Supply: Corsair HX1000W
Monitor: Samsung 305T 30” widescreen LCD
OS: Windows Vista Ultimate x64 SP1


Graphics Cards:

EVGA GTS 250 1GB Superclocked
ASUS GTS 250 1GB Dark Knight
Sparkle Calibre GTS 250 512MB X250
Gigabyte GTS 250 1GB OC
EVGA GTS 250 1GB (Stock)
EVGA 9800 GTX+ 512MB (Flashed to GTS 250 512MB)
Gigabyte HD 4850 1GB Passive (Stock)
Sapphire HD 4850 512MB (Stock)
Palit HD 4870 512MB (Stock)


Drivers:

ATI 9.4
Nvidia 185.66 Beta

Applications Used:

3DMark Vantage
Call of Duty: World at War
Crysis: Warhead
Fallout 3
Far Cry 2
Grand Theft Auto IV
Left 4 Dead
Tom Clancy’s Hawx


*Notes:

- All games tested have been patched to their latest version

- The OS has had all the latest hotfixes and updates installed

- All scores you see are the averages after 4 benchmark runs

- All game-specific methodologies are explained above the graphs for each game

- Unless otherwise specified, only in-game IQ settings were used.
 
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