THROUGHOUT ALL Nvidia's trials and tribulations, Gainward remained one of the few vendors loyal to it, despite the hard times and tough business for most GPU card brands this past year or two. As Nvidia has finally turned out its first 40nm GPU entry, the low-end GT240, Gainward came out with a custom 'Golden Sample' edition, in its best tradition from high-end times. Here we take a quick look at it and assess the potential.
The small card, at just 175x112mm, comes in an equally compact box, as you can see - welcome news for those hand-carrying the hardware around. The red custom Gainward designed PCB card with an in-house designed cooling fan houses the GT240 GPU with its 96 mini-cores, a 128-bit 1GB GDDR5 graphics memory array and three outputs - a dual link DVI, an HDMI with an in-built audio codec, and an old VGA connector - all on the 2-slot bracket.
This being a high binned 'Golden Sample' GPU chip, the card comes factory overclocked compared to the standard Gainward edition. The GPU clock is set at 585MHz versus the usual 550MHz, the shaders are set at 1,420MHz instead of 1,340MHz, and the GDDR5 memory clock is at 1,890MHz or GDDR5-3780 compared to the normal 1,700MHz setting. As the card is up to 10 per cent faster than the Nvidia reference GT240 GDDR5 version, Gainward claims the card is 26 per cent faster than the 9600GT 1GB GDDR3 card that the GT240 replaces.
I ran the GT240 on my reference system, the Gigabyte X58A-UD7 high-end mainboard using the Core i7 975XE processor and 6GB of Kingston HyperX DDR3-2000 memory. Having tested the higher end GPUs on this setup, I focused on the GPU portion of 3Dmark Vantage and its results versus those of the high-end GPUs - a good example of how the CPU and GPU alone impact the score. Here are the results.
So, basically, it is a third of the GTX285 score, or a quarter of the HD5870 GPU results - not bad for a less than $100 class card, mind you. It ran quite cool during the benchmarks, does have sufficient performance at a low price to lure you away from integrated graphics, and has enough memory to handle pretty decent detail levels in games. The card also handles HD video well, and the built-in audio helps avoid HDMI audio cabling headaches.
Gainward also provides further expert overclocking and tune up utilities for Windows, which I didn't run this time as I believe further tight overclocking should be focused on the ultra high end cards where every bit of extra speed is important for the ego boosting records.
Now, the next major Nvidia 40nm chip to be released will be the "Fermi" GT300, of course. While there are still three months until its expected launch, I hope the improved power characteristics seen in the entry level GT240 will also apply to its upcoming bigger brother. The GT240 is also a 40nm part like Fermi, and some of the power efficiency would be applicable in the higher end part too, I believe. After all, the ATI HD5870 did improve a lot in the heat and power department versus its predecessor, so the Nvidia top entry should follow suit. We'll see if it does soon, maybe even before the end of next month.
Gainward GT240 is the pinnacle of the new entry-level 40nm Nvidia generation - good enough 3D for most games at standard WXGA resolution, full HD capability for Blu-ray and like media, and low power with a compact card form factor. µ
Decent speed, low price, good custom design.
Don't expect any freebies with a budget card.
I'd like to see such custom design on a higher end card.