GeForce GT 240 2-Way Roundup
One of the biggest misconceptions you’ll commonly hear about PC gaming is that it’s too expensive. For whatever reason, many people think you have to shell out thousands of dollars to build a competent gaming PC.
This couldn’t be further from the truth.
The truth is you have to spend your money on the right
components. Focus on the components that have the greatest impact on gaming performance like your graphics card; you don’t need to spend all your money on the CPU and RAM, as the GPU plays a bigger role on your frame rates.
You don’t have to spend a ton of money on your GPU either. If you’ve got a 20” or 21” LCD running at 1600x1200 or 1680x1050 – which is probably the most common configuration amongst most users – then you don’t need to shell out $300 or more for ATI or NVIDIA’s latest and greatest graphics card. In fact, thanks to the astounding number of price cuts we’ve witnessed over the last year, you can purchase a pretty capable graphics card for around $100. At one point, Radeon 4850s could easily be found for $100 or less, but supplies of these cards have dried up tremendously at the retail level, leaving NVIDIA’s GeForce 9800 GT to enjoy all the sales in this price range.
The GeForce 9800 GT, and its predecessor, the 8800 GT, will probably go down as NVIDIA’s best mainstream graphics card since the GeForce4 Ti 4200. In fact, you could make an argument that it’s one of the most significant two or three mainstream cards ever made. By mixing 112 stream processors with high clock speeds and a 256-bit memory interface, NVIDIA concocted an excellent 3D performer and priced it to move.
The 8800 GT delivered such an outrageous price/performance ratio the card was sold out for months after its release. The G92 GPU it’s based on has since been used in a variety of cards ranging from other budget cards like the GeForce 8800 GS to the (once) high-end 9800 GTX and GeForce GTS 250.
Four months later, NVIDIA followed with an even cheaper 8800 GT derivative, the GeForce 9600 GT. The 9600 GT utilized NVIDIA’s smaller, more affordable G94 GPU. G94 had half the number of shaders as G92, just 64, but NVIDIA offset this by cranking up the clock speeds even higher: topping out at 1650MHz, the 9600 GT’s shaders run 125MHz higher than the 8800 GT’s. Just as importantly, its memory subsystem carried over unchanged from the 8800 GT. NVIDIA implemented the same 256-bit memory interface and 900MHz memory.
Because of these tweaks, the 9600 GT was able to perform well. It blew away competing cards in its class and was even capable of giving the 8800 GT a run for its money in some cases.
But those days are now long gone. The 9600 GT is nearly two years old and as anyone who follows the PC hardware industry can tell you, that’s an eternity in this biz. A replacement for the 9600 GT was expected last Spring, but thanks in part to TSMC’s issues with 40-nm, that part, the GeForce GT 240, is just now seeing widespread release.
Replacing a card like the 9600 GT is never easy though, especially in today’s market where consumers expect to get more performance for the same, or less money. GeForce 9600 GT cards typically sell for anywhere from $80-$100 before rebates, so the GeForce GT 240’s $99 MSRP already misses that mark.
The GeForce GT 240 sports more stream processors than the 9600 GT though – 96 versus 64 – and boasts an onboard audio controller with support for uncompressed 7.1 LPCM HD audio. The 7.1 LPCM audio stream can be sent natively via HDMI, negating the need for a dedicated pass through audio cable. In terms of power consumption, the card draws just 9W of juice at idle. Max board power is 69W.
The clocks aren’t quite as high as the 9600 GT though, and the 256-bit GDDR3 memory interface is replaced with a narrower 128-bit interface using GDDR5 or GDDR3.
That’s just scratching the surface of the differences though. Let’s go over the specs in more detail…