Review: Reference clocks with non-reference Arctic Cooling
After our sneek peek at AXLE's GT 240 and GT 220 offer, today we follow up with a full review on what these cards bring to the table. In case you've forgotten, these cards have been launched only recently and are particularly interesting for their GPU, which is built in 40nm. These are Nvidia's first 40nm based cards, although Nvidia's 40nm graphics isn't set to shine until 2010, when Fermi-based cards hit the market.
Another important and highly anticipated feature on Nvidia's cards is DirectX 11 support, although GT 240/220 cards are more of a transition towards the new API, as they support DX10.1, but not DX11.
Performance wise, the GT220 is set to replace the Geforce 9500 family whereas the GT240 should succeed the Geforce 9600. Both cards are lower end desktop cards, but they're more than enough for most average users who aren't quite keen on gaming at higher resolutions and more demanding effect settings. In case you're looking into buying these cards for multimedia purposes, rest assured that the cards will do the trick. In fact, on these cards Nvidia finally remedied the problem of required additional connections when bringing audio and video to your HDTV. Nvidia owners remember (or still perform) the routine where audio had to be routed separately from the soundcard's/motherboard's SPDIF out to the card's SPDIF in. Apart from the standard DVI and VGA ports, both AXLE cards have native HDMI out.
These cards have great consumption specs, thanks to the 40nm core. GT220 will consume only 7W when idle, whereas GT240 consumption is 9W. Maximum consumption for the GT220 and GT240 is 58W and 70W respectively, which means that PCI-Express power will be enough to spin these cards and no additional power is required.
AXLE Geforce GT220 features 48 shader processors (CUDA cores), the core runs at reference 625MHz, where the shaders run at 1360MHz. AXLE left the memory running at reference 790MHz and equipped the card with 1GB of GDDR3 with a 128-bit interface, which is a common feature in this price segment. The GT220 comes with 8 ROP units and 16 texture filter units. The card is priced at €50 and you can see it on the picture below.
The second card on our test, also coming from AXLE, is the GT 240 (on the picture above, left) and it performs significantly faster than the GT 220. The GT240 is based on the GT215 core and packs a total of 96 shader processors, meaning twice the number of shaders on the GT220. The AXLE GT240's GPU runs at reference 550MHz whereas the shaders are at 1340MHz. This card is priced between €70-80.
We've already said that GT240 offers much better performance compared to the GT220, and it's evident after looking at the bandwidth these cards offer. Thanks to the GDDR5 memory running at 1700MHz, GT240 has 54.4GB/s bandwidth, whereas the GT220's GDDR3 memory results in only 25.3GB/s.
Before we move on to gaming result, let's take a closer look at the cards.
AXLE GT240 512MB GDDR5 card comes in a large and sturdy package. You'll instantly recognize Arctic Cooling's logo, which means that AXLE has opted to work with one of the famous manufacturers of cooling solutions.
The box clearly states the card is named GT240, as well as the fact that it's a Gefoce 200 series card with PCI Express 2.0 and DirectX 10 support. As you already know, unlike the stronger part of the 200-series pack, this card features DX10.1 support.
The box also says that AXLE cards use Solid State capacitors and that the box-listed specs may vary depending on the actual product in the box, which explains why the box lists DX10 support and not DX10.1. AXLE simply took the old box and put the GT240 sticker, but almost every partner does these things as it certainly saves paper, time and money.
The back of the box is almost like a picture book, with pictures that don't say anything in particular, but those with vivid imagination will surely find it interesting.
AXLE also took the chance to explain a bit about the company and says that AXLE International Holding Ltd exists on the graphics card market for more than 20 years, but is also involved in PSU manufacturing.
Within the large box is a smaller box holding the graphics card, and the box-in-box design will surely nicely shield the card from potential damage.
Couple that with the protective foam and you can be sure that the card will be delivered without a scratch.
Since the card features standard outs including the HDMI, the box features nothing else but the driver CD and the user's manual.
AXLE uses Arctic Cooling L2 on its GT 240 512MB GDDR5 card.
The card is dual slot, which is easy to tell simply by looking at the I/O panel, which features air outlets above the connectors.
AXLE explained the reasoning behind the fan with two wires only, and it hides behind the fact that the company wanted to cater to users who want cards as cheap as they get. This is valid enough, but we don't like the fact that you'll hear the card during operation. It's not overly loud, but we'd still like it to be quieter.
The core hits only 53 degrees Celsius during operation, and we'd love the option to sacrifice a couple of degrees and get a quieter card. Idle operation renders the card inaudible and the temperatures linger around 30 degrees Celsius.
The card offers Dual-Link DVI out, VGA and HDMI. It doesn't come with additional SPDIF connector, which was a must on all of the previous Geforce models if you wanted to bring both audio and video to your HDTV via one cable. Furthermore, tha card supports HDMI 1.3a standard with 7.1 digital audio.
The card packs 512MB of GDDR5 memory.
The memory doesn't touch the cooler, but it's cooled by the air going through the cooling fins. AXLE uses Samsung K4G10325FE-HC05 modules, all of them located on the front so the other side of the card is pretty uninteresting.
The card has no SLI connectors, which Nvidia dismissed in the case of GT240 cards, as you can easily find GT2xx cards which would be cheaper but at the same time faster than two GT240 cards.
The GT240 won't require additional power connectors, which is a direct result of the new 40nm core. GT240's idle consumption is only at 9W, whereas specs rate maximum consumption at 70W.
AXLE GT220 1GB GDDR3 card comes in a box similar to that of the GT240, albeit a lot smaller. The box comes with a driver CD and a short user's manual.
Again we see Arctic Cooling logo, meaning that AXLE again decided against reference cooling. The following picture shows AXLE GT220 1GB card with dual slot cooling, which resembles one of the CPU coolers from Arctic Cooling's Alpine series.
The cooler is pretty small, but enough to cool the GT220's GPU. We were surpised by its silent operation and its only downside would be the dual-slot width.
The GPU hits up to 40 degrees Celsius during operation, whereas idle temperatures are only at 27 degrees Celsius.
Although GT220 can't be called a performance card, AXLE still opted on 1GB of memory. Unfortunately, most scenarios won't allow for gaming above 1280x1024, and even that requires some moderate detail settings to be playable. Still, this card isn't aimed at hardcore gaming, but rather some nice casual gaming and better Windows performance during surfing or office programs, for which it's more than capable of.
The following picture shows the card with reference cooling off, and it resembles the GT240. As we've already said, the card comes with 1024MB of GDDR3 memory. The memory interface is 128-bit and the memory runs at 790MHz (1580MHz effectively), which is enough for 25.2Gb/s bandwidth.
The card's GPU runs at reference 625MHz and the shaders at 1360MHz. The featured outs are identical to those on AXLE GT 240 512MB GDDR5, meaning one VGA, one Dual-Link DVI and one HDMI out.
This is a DirectX 10.1, PCI-Express 2.0 card which doesn’t require additional power connectors. The reason for this is that the card will consume only 58W under workload, whereas minimum consumption is in idle mode and ducks to as low as 7W.
Motherboard: MSI P45D3 Platinum ( Provided by: MSI );
Processor: Intel Core 2 QX9770 Extreme edition at 3.6GHz ( Provided by: Intel );
Memory: Corsair Dominator 12800 7-7-7-24 ( Provided by: Corsair);
HDD: WD VelociRaptor 300G 10,000RPM ( Provided by: SmoothCreation );
Driver: ForceWare 195.50, Catalyst CCC 9.11 Vista 32 SP1
Futuremark reports that the new cards don't bring significant performance difference compared to the cards they're supposed to succeed (9600/9500), but they consume less power, feature DX10.1 support and require no additional audio connectors.
Gainward's GT240, which we used for comparison with AXLE GT240, is overclocked, which is the reason for Gainward's better result. The same goes for comparing Gainward GT220 and AXLE GT220 cards.
Vantage tests rate GT240 and 9800GT cards similarly, but the 9800GT's power is evident in gaming tests where 9800GT clearly takes the cake.
Left 4 Dead
As we already noted in Futuremark test results, the 9800GT is much better in gaming tests despite the fact that they almost run on par in synthetic Vantage tests.
AXLE GT240/220 cards run similarly to Gainward's offer. The GT220 will provide pleasant gaming in Left 4 Dead, whereas the GT240 can spin this game at 1680x1050 with antialiasing and still churn out nice and playable framerate.
Again, Gainward has the upper hand due to its overclock.
AXLE GT240 scores about 60% better than AXLE GT220 card.
World in Conflict
World in Conflict is a tough nut to crack for the GT220, so you should try with lower detail settings. The GT240 however, shows that it can provide for some nice gaming. The Geforce 9600 features 384MB of memory, which is the main reason for the low results when antialiasing is turned on.
AXLE GT 240 512MB GDDR5 scores more than 70% better than AXLE GT 220 1020MB GDDR3 card.
Far Cry 2
Just like in the rest of the tested games, AXLE GT240 512MB GDDR5 is about 60% better than the GT220. In FarCry 2, Gainward's overclock on the GT240 helps the card score up to 12% better results than AXLE GT240, which runs at reference clocks. Still, no GT240 has what it takes to compete with Geforce 9800GT.
Today we had a chance to review two AXLE graphics cards – the GT240 and GT220. Nvidia only recently launched its GT240/220 offer, and these cards are particularly interesting for the fact that they're based on 40nm cores. So far, Nvidia's Geforce graphics cards were based on 55nm or older processes, and apart from these cards, that isn't set to change until Fermi hits the shelves.
Geforce GT240 and Geforce GT220 are not the cards that will send tremors through the market, but these are lower-end cards that are supposed to cater to users who aren't keen on hardcore gaming, but rather occasional, casual gaming scenarios. Besides, AXLE's offer includes all the Geforce and Radeon graphics cards, and if more muscle is your game, then feel free too indulge.
It's well worth noting that Nvidia announced the GT240 as the successor to the Geforce 9600 whereas the GT220 should replace Geforce 9500 cards. Compared to the older cards, GT240/220 cards are more power efficient and feature better multimedia capabilities, but as far as gaming performance goes, the results are only slightly better.
Both of our today's AXLE cards come with non-reference Arctic Cooling coolers. The cards also have HDMI outs, and if you compare the performance of AXLE GT 240 512MB GDDR5 with AXLE GT 220 1024MB GDDR3, you'll see that the former is about 60% faster. Regardless of the performance gap, both cards are ready for GPU-Accelerated video transcoding, photo editing, HD reproduction, DX10.1 support, etc.
AXLE GT240 would be a good choice for those looking for an entry-level graphics card with low consumption, that could also provide some decent gaming performance from time to time. If, on the other hand you're seeking for more serious gaming performance, then you might be better off waiting on DirectX 11 cards and better performance that Fermi is set to offer.
AXLE GT220 card is nice if you're not a demanding user and use your computer for surfing and office work, but it should do well in casual gaming scenarios such as 1280x1024. GT240 is naturally better for such tasks, but these are entry-level cards and should be judged accordingly.
AXLE GT 220 1024MB GDDR3 is priced at about €50, whereas AXLE GT 220 512MB GDDR5 will set you back between €70-80.