Page 2 of 2 - The GeForce GTS 250
The "new" GeForce GTS 250
Before we say anything else about this launch, we need to get this one out of the way - In essence, the GeForce GTS 250 is indeed a renaming of the GeForce 9800 GTX+ at its core, utilising the same G92 GPU via its 55 nanometre die shrink, and thus sporting the same basic core functionality and specifications as the aforementioned part. However, things aren't quite that simple, as NVIDIA are also taking this opportunity to both adjust pricing and introduce a new variant of this particular board under the new GeForce GTS 250 moniker.
As we can see above, the real news surrounding today's launch is the introduction of a 1GB variant of the GeForce GTS 250, positioned at the same $149 US price point as the original 512MB GeForce 9800 GTX+. This additional 512MB of frame buffer space isn't the only difference to be seen on this board however - The 1GB GeForce GTS 250 also gets a new, smaller PCB, reducing its size from the 10.5 inches of the GeForce 9800 GTX+ down to just 9 inches, thus causing less potential space issues for both consumers and system builders. The power requirements of this board has also been tweaked, leaving this new part requiring only a single six-pin PCI Express power connector rather than the two six-pin connectors currently needed by the GeForce 9800 GTX+.
Frame buffer size, PCB and power changes apart, this is very much the GeForce 9800 GTX+ that we've already seen as far as clock speeds go, featuring an otherwise identical configuration and the same dual-slot cooler solution as its predecessor.
However, it's worth noting that NVIDIA's AIB partners are, to some extent, free to do what they like with regard to memory clock speeds on these boards - This means that as well as standard GeForce GTS 250 1GB parts specified as noted above, we'll also soon be seeing boards with the same basic nomenclature but sporting lower memory clocks, and other cards which utilise slower memory clocked at 1100MHz. NVIDIA have been at pains to stress that they've told AIB partners to label such parts clearly (which most likely means they'll just get an "OC" tag of some description in the latter case), but this is definitely a case of buyer beware - If you're looking at these cards, please be sure to check and double check its exact specifications before you buy. This is true of pretty much any hardware purchase of course, but it's doubly important here.
Although it'll doubtless take time as old inventory is cleared, the good news is that this new PCB and power requirement should eventually trickle down to 512MB GeForce GTS 250 boards, with these particular cards also getting a $20 price cut to keep it in line with pricing of the 1GB boards.
As always with these things they should probably be taken with a grain of salt, but as we haven't gone looking for any GeForce GTS 250 samples for review to coincide with this launch, above you can see some of NVIDIA's projected performance figures for the GeForce GTS 250 1GB against AMD's 1GB Radeon HD 4850 in a few recently released titles. It's worth noting of course that the Mirror's Edge results above were no doubt obtained with hardware PhysX enabled, leaving NVIDIA's part to do this on the GPU while the Radeon HD 4850 was left with the CPU to take on that big workload. If you want some more comprehensive numbers, you can see the results of our last GeForce 9800 GTX+ review from back in November 2008 here.
Speaking of PhysX, NVIDIA were quick to remind us of their capabilities in this field, naturally making numerous mentions of the admittedly excellent Mirror's Edge PC conversion during the briefing for this launch, which makes probably the best use of hardware accelerated physics we've seen yet.
Finally, and apparently learning some valuable lessons from their relatively disastrous Windows Vista launch, NVIDIA have been working their socks off to be more than well prepared for the release later this year of Windows 7, to the extent of posting up some beta drivers on their web site yesterday for users of currently available betas of this new Operating System. With this knowledge in tow, they've been happily making mention of their current driver superiority over AMD in this field, as you can see above. Of course, ATI's Catalyst driver team are anything but standing still on the Windows 7 driver front, so come Windows 7 launch day I'd be surprised if we see anything but fast and stable drivers from both NVIDIA and AMD.
As we mentioned in our introduction, any enthusiast "in the know" hates nothing more than seeing graphics boards rebranded, yet on this occasion there is a modicum of sense behind it - Way back when the GeForce GTX 200 series launched NVIDIA set out their strategy for board nomenclature, and to be fair it made perfect sense, and with that in mind the GeForce GTS 250's launch is just another step towards following this nomenclature, setting the GTS name up as a marker for performance-centric NVIDIA cards while GTX parts service the enthusiast segment.
However, sensible though this new product name may be, this still begs the question - Why on God's green Earth did it take them so long?! The GeForce GTX 200 series was launched back in June last year, so there's absolutely no good reason for this particular name change to have taken nine months to come to fruition. It isn't a child, it's a graphics card, and this change could... no, should... have been enacted much, much faster, and that's all there is to it. This rankles even more considering that the GeForce 9800 series was itself largely a rename of the later GeForce 8800 boards, and the GeForce 9800 GTX+ was released after the GeForce GTX 200 series launch. It should have been called the GeForce GTS 250 then and there, not all this time later, and to my mind that is the reason for this particular launch causing so much ire above all else. Personally, I genuinely like NVIDIA's new naming scheme, but with this particular launch I'm not hugely enamoured of how it's been carried out, particularly when you start throwing the 1GB card's memory clock speed confusion into the mix - I only hope AIB partners take heed and label their boards as clearly as humanly possible.
That aside, and rant over, a smaller PCB and lower power requirements aren't changes I can grumble about, although 1GB of frame buffer memory seems excessive for this particular level of board at present. The 512MB GeForce GTS 250's price cut is also welcome, although if AMD are cutting their Radeon HD 4850 and 4870 prices as rumoured this week, making an argument for either GeForce GTS 250 part is getting to be a tough one to make, even when you throw PhysX and CUDA into the equation (two features which might well be marginalised by the release of DirectX 11 at the same time as Windows 7). Renaming confusion to one side, the current state of competition in the graphics market continues to be great news for the consumer (particularly in these troubled times), and that if nothing else is something that we can all get behind and cheer on - Long may it continue.
Many thanks to NVIDIA for the information included in this article
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