MSI N250GTS-2D1G GeForce GTS 250 Review
NVIDIA’s got a problem. As powerful as their flagship GT200 GPU is, it just wasn’t built for today’s economy where graphics card prices are at an all-time low and demand is still weak. The GT200 chip is massive, sporting 1.4 billion transistors and a massive die size. It’s a throwback to the days when high-end cards sold for $300-$500. Today’s 192-shader GeForce GTX 260 cards can be found for less than $200.
As a result, it just isn’t economical for NVIDIA to produce cheaper mainstream derivatives based off of GT200 until NVIDIA hits smaller manufacturing process. Rumor has it that NVIDIA’s first 40-nm GPUs will be shipping later this year,
Until then, the more cost effective route for NVIDIA is to utilize their battle-tested G9x architecture. While G92 and G96 have been on the market for over a year now, these chips are still more than capable of handling most of today’s latest games and are pretty competitive with comparably-priced offerings from ATI. The G96-based GeForce 9600 GT starts just under $90, while G92 cards start just under $120.
Where things get a little controversial is when it comes to branding.
You see, NVIDIA has renamed cards based on these chips on more than one occasion. The GeForce 8800 GT was renamed to the 9800 GT back in August, while the 55-nm derivative of the GeForce 9800 GTX was named the 9800 GTX+. The latter case wasn’t as egregious as the former, as NVIDIA actually bumped up the clocks slightly on the 9800 GTX+, while the 9800 GT was literally a replica of the GeForce 8800 GT. This really irked quite a few 8800 GT owners, as the 9800 GT cards weren’t SLI compatible with the GeForce 8800 GT.
Now NVIDIA’s doing the same thing again in many ways. Their latest desktop graphics card, the GeForce GTS 250, is based off the same 55-nm G92b GPU already used in the GeForce 9800 GTX+. NVIDIA’s made a few changes to the board design of the GeForce GTS 250, but technically the chip at the heart of the card is being carried over unchanged.
So what’s new with the GeForce GTS 250’s reference board design? It turns out quite a bit…
Whereas the original GeForce 9800 GTX board design (and later, the 9800 GTX+) was focused on performance first and foremost, the emphasis of the new GTS 250 design is lower production cost and power efficiency. The GTS 250 has a shorter 9.0” PCB and reduced power circuitry; in fact the GTS 250 is able to get by with just one 6-pin PCIe power connector.
Fortunately the new GeForce GTS 250 retains the 9800 GTX’s second SLI connector, so the card will continue to support 3-Way SLI despite its lower price tag. NVIDIA and their board partners will be offering two GeForce GTS 250 SKUs: one board outfitted with 512MB of memory priced at $129.99, and a second card with 1GB of GDDR3 that sells for an MSRP of $149.99. Both cards ship at the same clocks, with the graphics core operating at 738MHz while the stream processors are clocked at 1836MHz. The GPU is then paired with 1100MHz GDDR3 memory.
These are the exact same speeds as the GeForce 9800 GTX+.
NVIDIA says the GeForce GTS 250 will run in SLI with the 9800 GTX+, but the two cards must
have the same amount of memory in order for SLI to function: you won’t be able to pair a 1GB GeForce GTS 250 with a 512MB GeForce 9800 GTX+.
For their N250GTS-2D1G GeForce GTS 250 card, MSI has adoped an all-copper cooler with quad heatpipes and a dual-slot heatsink/fan unit. But that’s not all, the card is also OC’ed for added performance. Let’s take a closer look at the card.