Review: Dual slot cooling and a factory overclock
A few days ago, Nvidia added a new card to its line up – the Geforce GT 240. We of course pounced on the chance to test it and our today’s test sample comes under the name Gainward GT 240 1024MB D5 HDMI DVI Golden Sample. As we’ve come to expect from Gainward, Golden Sample models usually pack a little something extra, and today’s card is no exception. This card features dual slot cooling and 1GB of GDDR5 memory that will surely be useful for performance, and since it’s a Golden Sample edition, the clocks are slightly higher than reference.
Geforce GT 240 is based on the 40nm, DirectX 10.1 chip known as GT215. Geforce GT240 is intended to replace the already aged mainstream 9600GSO/GT cards.
GT215 packs 96 shader processors (CUDA cores) running at 1340MHz. Reference clocks on the GPU (32 texture filtering and 8 ROP units) are at 550MHz. Gainward on the other hand pushed the GPU to 585MHz and the shaders to 1424MHz. Although Nvidia launched this card priced at $99, the cheapest model in Europe stands at €70, but expect to see the prices drop in the following few days.
Core clocks and numbers of shader processors don’t quite promise top performance, but they should be enough for gaming at 1680x1050 with lower detail settings. Based on performance, GT 240 falls between GT 220 and the 9800 GT, but the variety of other cards in this price segment won’t make GT 240’s life any easier.
Geforce GT 240 comes in two flavors, with GDDR3 or GDDR5 memory depending on the partners, but the choice of 512MB or 1024MB of memory entirely up to the users. Although memory interface is only 128-bit, GDDR5 does well in compensating for that and we’d advise you to purchase a GDDR5 card if possible. The significance of memory is evident from the specs on Gainward GT 240 Golden Sample, as this card offers similar memory bandwidth to that of 256-bit interface cards with GDDR3 memory (in comparison, the Geforce 9600T packs 512MB of GDDR3 256-bit memory and a bandwidth of 57.6GB/s).
GDDR5 reference clocks on the GT240 are at 1700MHz, giving this card 54.4GB/s bandwidth, whereas the GDDR3 memory on the same card runs at 1000MHz and results in 32.0GB/s bandwidth. Thanks to Gainward, the GDDR5 memory on GT240 Golden Sample cards runs at 1890MHz and results in a bandwidth of 60.4GB/s. Of course, while 128-bit interface isn’t that great for performance, it is significantly cheaper allowing for lower pricetags.
Just like the recently announced GT210 and GT220 cards, the new GT 240 card features support for eight-channel LPCM audio and improved DivX, VC-1 and MPEG-2 reproduction. Unfortunately, just like the aforementioned cards, this sub-$100 also comes without a SLI connector.
Still, the lack of SLI connectors won’t get in the way of us putting the GT 240 in charge of PhysX, and Nvidia advises users to use one slower Geforce card, like the GT240, for physics processing, as it will take some load off of your primary graphics card.
Although GT240 doesn’t bring DirectX 11, but rather DX10.1, CUDA based applications are supported, among other things. Today we have more than one application which uses the GPU to improve performance, such as Photoshop CS4, the new Flash Player 10.1 and many video transcoding and post processing programs.
As you’re about to see on the example of Gainward GT 240 Golden Sample card, there’s no need for additional power connectors. The data we received from Nvidia says that this card will consume up to 70W under a load and only 9W when idle. Thermal threshold is 105° C, but everyday operation will never even come close to these temperatures.
The card features DVI, VGA and HDMI (version 1.3a) connectors by default, but the GPU features DisplayPort support as well.
Unlike the reference GT240, which comes with single slot cooling, Gainward used a larger and more efficient cooling on its GT 240 1024MB D5 HDMI DVI Golden Sample. The following picture shows that the card is not quite as long as its name:
The PCB has been changed from Nvidia’s reference design, and while Gainward kept the 2+1 phase PWM, the power components have been moved around a bit. The card doesn’t feature power connector, meaning it won’t draw over 75W, which is supplied via the PCIe connector.
Gainward kept the red color for the PCB, and the black cooling as well as the “G” letter are becoming a tradition.
The cooler is very quiet, and the dual-slot width is probably the only flaw. The fan is about 8cm in diameter and is placed within the plastic bracket. The cooler base and fins are made of aluminum, and the picture below shows the cooler and the thermal paste prints.
The fan is connected via two wires, but there’s no reason to panic as speed regulation is easy to do via ExpertTool 7.6 found on the CD. Still, the Dynamic operation mode worked great and the cooler was pretty quiet.
As we already mentioned, Gainward opted on GDDR5 memory. Note that graphics cards with 128-bit memory interface greatly benefit from GDDR5 as it provides superior bandwidth to that with GDDR3 memory. The memory in question is Samsung K4G10325FE–HC05, 0.50ns (4.0Gbps).
The card features a total of 8 memory modules, 4 on each side of the PCB. The memory didn’t require any additional cooling, although the memory on the front is cooled by the air coming from the fan.
The picture below shows the back of the card, where you’ll find 512MB of GDDR5 from the total 1024MB.
The card is almost 17cm long, which is still miniscule compared to the Radeon HD 5970’s 31cm. Gainward offers standard connectors found on most GT 240 cards – HDMI, DVI and VGA.
Just like the card, the packaging is pretty small as well. Within the box you’ll find the graphics card, driver CD with ExpertTool overclocking tool and a short installation manual.
Motherboard: MSI P45D3 Platinum ( Ustupio: MSI );
Processor: Intel Core 2 QX9770 Extreme edition at 3.6GHz ( Ustupio: Intel );
Memory: Corsair Dominator 12800 7-7-7-24 ( Ustupio: Corsair);
HDD: WD VelociRaptor 300G 10,000RPM ( Ustupio: SmoothCreation );
Driver: ForceWare 195.50, Catalyst CCC 9.10 Vista 32 SP1
3Dmark06 sees Gainward GT 240 lose to 9800GT and HD 4770 by 17% and 14%, respectively. We must admit that GDDR5 memory was a great move by Gainward, and it shows on the results. Geforce 9600GSO is about 7% slower.
Vantage tests rate Gainward GT 240 GS much better than Geforce 9600GSO, and it wins by as much as 40%. The same tests see Geforce 9800GT running almost on par with Gainward GT 240 GS, whereas Radeon HD 4770 is faster by about 30%.
Far Cry 2
Gainward GT 240 Golden Sample is off to a flying start in our first tested game as it scores over 25fps at 1680x1050 with AA and Ultra detail settings. Unfortunately, it couldn’t handle the Geforce 9800GT and it loses by about 15% at higher resolutions. Radeon HD 4770 ran about 20% better except at 1680x1050 with AA, where the performance difference was at 8%.
Left 4 Dead
Gainward GT 240 GS doesn’t fare very well in this game, and even the Geforce 9600GSO outscores it in a couple of scenarios. The GT 240 ran slower than Geforce 9800GT and Radeon HD 4770 by 30% and 42%, respectively.
We performed HAWX testing with DX10.1 support turned on. This helpled the GT 240 Golden Sample in almost matching the Geforce 9800GT scores, which lacks DX10.1 support. Radeon HD 4770 seems to take the cake in this test.
World in Conflict
This game confirms that Gainward GT 240 Golden Sample is playable at 1680x1050, but also that Geforce 9800GT is still a better card. Just like the Geforce 9800GT, Radeon HD 4770 shows weak points in scenarios when more memory is required, such as high resolutions with AA.
Nvidia Geforce GT 240 comes with a 40nm core, which can easily be overclocked. We of course wondered whether Gainward GT240 Golden Sample can be overclocked further, and we resorted to using the provided ExpertTool application. This tool will let you alter the clocks as well as control fan speed. Still, in order to prevent any damage to the GPU, maximum overclock with this tool is limited to 650MHz. Maximum shader speeds allowed by ExpertTool stand at 1590MHz and the memory at 2200MHz.
The following photo shows the user interface in the overclocking window. As we already mentioned, Gainward overclocked the card from 550MHz core to 585MHz, 1340MHz shaders to 1424MHz and the memory from 1700MHz to 1890MHz.
All you need to do for overclocking is choose a desired speed, test the stability via the option “Test” and if everything is fine, save the settings. We immediately pushed the card to the max and our Golden Sample card took it like a champ.
The speeds displayed above resulted in 10% better 3Dmark06 results, 14% better Vantage Performance results and up to 14% better results in FarCry2. At 1680x1050 and antialiasing on, the card scored over 30fps which is a great result for Gainward GT 240 Golden Sample.
As far as noise goes, the fan was quiet even after overclocking which is great. Running at 650MHz we measured core temperatures at 70 degrees Celsius but it can be even cooler if you choose to increase the fan RPM. When the fan ran at 100% speed, the GPU temperatures ducked to 61 degrees Celsius, whereas idle temperatures were around 30 degrees Celsius.
Our test-rig with Geforce GT 240 in 3D mode consumed up to 176W, whereas idle operation resulted in minimum 81W. Our recently tested Gainward GT 220 consumed minimum 71W, whereas maximum total system consumption was at about 158W.
A few days ago, Nvidia launched the GT 240 – a 40nm based card with DirectX 10.1 support. The card won’t consume much and will provide pretty good performance, but the price isn’t quite so good. The cheapest Gainward GT 240 is BLISS Geforce GT 240 512MB GDDR3 and it goes for €73, whereas our today’s sample is priced at over €94. The prices are pretty similar in partners’ offers, meaning that such high pricing comes from Nvidia. However, the prices should drop as soon as the GT 240 cards become more available.
Gainward did a great job with its GT 240 1024MB D5 HDMI DVI Golden Sample, and the card admirably handles gaming at 1680x1050.
Gainward decided to use GDDR5 memory, and the GT 240 Golden Sample comes with 1024MB. Thanks to the Gainward’s factory overclock, GT 240 GS scores nicely, and it even comes close to the results scored by Geforce 9800GT. Unfortunately, the 9800GT is still cheaper and better for gaming.
If you’re looking to buy a GT 240, you might want to wait a bit until the prices drop. If on the other hand you want CUDA app support, PhysX, Open CL or good video transcoding capabilities, HDMI 1.3a with audio support, which will definitely make cable management easier compared to the rest of Nvidia’s offer, then the GT 240 1024MB D5 HDMI DVI Golden Sampleis a good choice.