Up until the other week, I didn't really know much about NVIDIA's GeForce GT 220 GPU.
Once I heard the name though, I did begin to wonder why my knowledge on the model was limited. Once I got some information on the model, I understood why I didn't know much about the model.
It's a low-end video card and not one of those it's low-end compared to the GTX 295 - it's low-end compared to the 9600 GT. Most the time we don't bother looking at the low-end segment - we prefer to start in the mid-range arena and work our way up. With that said though, we do enjoy a new model and we understand that not everyone wants to or can afford to spend big money on a video card.
So with that said we'll have a look at the GT 220. We actually have two brands on hand with us; firstly we'll be looking at the Galaxy card. We'll have a quick look at the package before having a closer look at the card and then its performance in a number of lower end tests.
The Package and Video Card
It doesn't come as much of a surprise that there's really nothing going on in the package area of the product.
Looking at the card you quickly discover it's like the package with not a whole lot going on. We can see Galaxy is using quite a large cooler that takes up majority of the card. It's overall pretty plain with just a sticker on the fan that gives us the brand and their URL.
As for extra connectors there's really nothing and being a low-end card there's no power connector. We also see that there isn't an SLI connector on the PCB.
In the I/O department we can see we've got a HDMI connector, VGA connector and a Dual-Link DVI connector which was surprising as we tend to find that most low-end cards include only a Single-Link DVI connector.
Coming in the low-end segment the specifications aren't anything too fancy, looking on the NVIDIA website the GT 220 is actually listed due to the fact that it's been an OEM model for a while being seen in computers from HP, Dell and those other PC manufactures.
On the NVIDIA website the core is shown as coming in at 615MHz while the 1GB of GDDR3 memory carries with it a 790MHz or 1580MHz DDR and we can also see the default speed for the shader clock is 1335MHz.
The card from Galaxy we've got comes in at 660MHz on the core and 800MHz or 1600MHz DDR on the 1GB of GDDR3 memory while the shader also comes in higher at 1436MHz.
Some other big features included in the model are the 40nm core, a 128-bit memory bus along with DirectX 10.1, PhysX, CUDA and a number of other technologies.
Test System Setup and 3DMark Vantage
Test System Setup
Processor(s): Intel Core i7 920 @ 3.8GHz (190MHz x 20)
Cooling: Noctua NH-U12P (Supplied by Noctua)
Motherboard(s): GIGABYTE EX58-UD5 (Supplied by GIGABYTE)
Memory: 3 X 2GB OCZ Technology PC-12800 DDR-3 8-8-8-24 (OCZ3G1600LV6GK)
Hard Disk(s): Western Digital 300GB Velicorapter (Supplied by Western Digital)
Operating System: Windows Vista SP1 64-bit
Drivers: ForceWare 191.07
Normally we would compare the video card we have here today to something else; the problem is that we don't really have anything that sits in the same level as this card.
Due to the low-end nature of the video card, we've also tailored our benchmarks, we're testing at 1280 x 1024 and 1680 x 1050 and a lot of our benchmark presets have dropped from Very High and High to Low and Medium, so we're able to achieve hopefully some playable FPS.
Let's get started!
Version and / or Patch Used: 1.0.1
Developer Homepage: http://www.futuremark.com
Product Homepage: http://www.futuremark.com/products/3dmarkvantage/
Buy It Here
3DMark Vantage is the new industry standard PC gaming performance benchmark from Futuremark, newly designed for Windows Vista and DirectX10. It includes two new graphics tests, two new CPU tests, several new feature tests, and support for the latest hardware.
3DMark Vantage is based on a completely new rendering engine, developed specifically to take full advantage of DirectX10, the new graphics API from Microsoft.
Looking at the Vantage numbers we quickly discover that these are the lowest numbers we've seen before, it's not too much of a surprise since this is one of the lowest end video cards we've tested.
Benchmarks - PT Boats: Knights of the Sea
PT Boats: Knights of the Sea
Version and / or Patch Used: Benchmark Demo
Developer Homepage: http://en.akella.com/
Product Homepage: http://www.pt-boats.net/
PT Boats: Knights of the Sea is a naval action simulator that places gamers in charge of a mosquito fleet of the Allied Forces, Russia or Germany during the height of World War II.
Using the latest Direct X 10 technology PT Boards - Knights of the Sea manages to apply a lot of stress to the components of today which in turn gives us quite an intensive benchmark.
Even at 1280 x 1024 and the presets at medium, the GT 220 struggles to get a 30 FPS minimum. Hopefully we can get that number up in some of our other benchmarks.
Benchmarks - CINEBENCH R10
Version and / or Patch Used: Release 10
Developer Homepage: http://www.maxon.net/
Product Homepage: http://www.maxon.net
CINEBENCH is a real-world test suite that assesses your computer's performace capabilities. MAXON CINEBENCH is based on MAXON's award-winning animation software, CINEMA 4D, which is used extensively by studios and production houses worldwide for 3D content creation. MAXON software has been used in blockbuster movies such as Spider-Man, Star Wars, The Chronicles of Narnia and many more.
MAXON CINEBENCH runs several tests on your computer to measure the performance of the main processor and the graphics card under real world circumstances. The benchmark application makes use of up to 16 CPUs or CPU cores and is available for Windows (32-bit and 64-Bit) and Macintosh (PPC and Intel-based).
A typical score of around 6500 for the NVIDIA card.
Benchmarks - World in Conflict
World in Conflict
Version and / or Patch Used: 220.127.116.11
Timedemo or Level Used: Built-in Test
Developer Homepage: http://www.massive.se
Product Homepage: http://www.worldinconflict.com
World in Conflict is a real-time strategy video game by Massive Entertainment and to be published by Sierra Entertainment for Windows (DX9 and DX10).
The game is set in 1989 where economic troubles cripple the Soviet Union and threaten to dissolve it. However, the title pursues a "what if" scenario where, in this case, the Soviet Union does not collapse and instead pursues a course of war to remain in power. It is an intensive new game is sure to put plenty of stress on even the latest graphics cards and we use the built-in benchmarking for our testing.
Under World in Conflict we can see that the GT 220 from Galaxy manages to get that 30 FPS minimum at the lower resolution and our settings at medium.
Benchmarks - Crysis Warhead
Version and / or Patch Used: Unpatched
Timedemo or Level Used: Airfield
Developer Homepage: http://www.crytek.com
Product Homepage: http://crysiswarhead.ea.com/
Buy It Here
Crysis Warhead updates and refines the gameplay of the original game through a sidestory plot involving Psycho, one of previous protagonist Nomad's allies. The game is a parallel story that follows Sergeant Michael "Psycho" Sykes, a character from the original Crysis, as he faces his own trials and challenges on the other side of the island during the time period of the first game.
It also showcases a new, enhanced and optimized version of CryEngine 2 using full DX10 extensions and is the first game developed by Crytek's Budapest studio.
With our Warhead settings at low we're able to get some decent numbers out of the GT 220 which let us play the game at both 1280 x 1024 and 1680 x 1050, which isn't too bad at all.
Benchmarks - Far Cry 2
Far Cry 2
Version and / or Patch Used: 1.01
Timedemo or Level Used: Ranch Long
Developer Homepage: http://www.ubi.com/
Product Homepage: http://www.farcry2.com/
Buy It Here
The Dunia Engine was built specifically for Far Cry 2 by the award-winning Ubisoft Montreal development team. It delivers the most realistic destructible environments, amazing special effects such as dynamic fire propagation and storm effects, real-time night-and-day cycle, dynamic music system, non-scripted enemy A.I. and so much more.
In the benchmark program built into FarCry 2 the lowest preset we can go to is high, so with our settings moved there and 1280 x 1024 added to the mix we see that the card is again struggling to break the 30 FPS minimum.
Benchmarks - S.T.A.L.K.E.R. - Clear Sky
S.T.A.L.K.E.R. - Clear Sky
Version and / or Patch Used: 1.5.07
Timedemo or Level Used: Custom Timedemo
Developer Homepage: http://www.gsc-game.com/
Product Homepage: http://cs.stalker-game.com/en/
Buy It Here
S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Clear Sky, is the stand-alone prequel for S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Shadow of Chernobyl, a first-person shooter computer game by Ukrainian developer GSC Game World. The game consists of a roughly 50/50 mix of new areas and old, remodeled areas from the previous game. The X-ray graphics engine has been updated to version 1.5 and includes DirectX 10 support (later patch 1.5.06 included DirectX 10.1). Additionally, the AI received an overhaul to accommodate the new faction wars feature.
With our settings at low we're only an FPS away from the 30 FPS minimum we need, unfortunately there isn't much room to move in the settings so achieving it might not be easy.
Benchmarks - Left 4 Dead
Left 4 Dead
Version and / or Patch Used: Latest Steam Update
Timedemo or Level Used: Custom Timedemo
Developer Homepage: http://www.valvesoftware.com/
Product Homepage: http://www.l4d.com/
Buy It Here
Left 4 Dead uses the latest version of Valve's Source engine, with improvements such as multi-core processor support and physics-based animation to more realistically portray hair and clothing, and to improve physics interaction with enemies when shot or shoved in different body parts. Animation was also improved to allow characters to lean realistically when moving in curved paths.
Rendering and artificial intelligence were scaled up to allow for greater number of enemies who can navigate the world in better ways, such as climbing, jumping or breaking obstacles. Lighting has been enhanced with new self-shadowing normal mapping and advanced shadow rendering that is important to convey information about the environment and player actions.
Without a minimum we want an average of around 60 FPS, unfortunately we're not able to achieve that at even 1280 x 1024.
Temperature and Sound Tests
With the TES 1326 Infrared Thermometer literally in hand we found ourselves getting real-world temperatures from the products we test at load (3D clock speeds).
There are two places we pull temperature from - the back of the card directly behind the core and if the card is dual slot and has an exhaust point we also pull a temperate from there, as seen in the picture.
Heat output on the card is pretty low; this isn't always the case with low-end cards, as they tend to use cheaper coolers, but the single slot solution here seems to be pretty good.
Pulling out the TES 1350A Sound Level Meter we find ourselves quickly yelling into the top of it to see how loud we can be.
After five minutes of that we get a bit more serious and place the device two CM away from the fan on the card to find the maximum noise level of the card when idle (2D mode) and in load (3D mode).
Noise levels are pretty high; this is mainly due to the smaller and thinner fan. It's nothing too serious, though.
Power Consumption Tests
Using our new PROVA Power Analyzer WM-01 or "Power Thingy" as it has become quickly known as to our readers, we are now able to find out what kind of power is being used by our test system and the associated graphics cards installed. Keep in mind; it tests the complete system (minus LCD monitor, which is plugged directly into AC wall socket).
There are a few important notes to remember though; while our maximum power is taken in 3DMark06 at the same exact point, we have seen in particular tests the power being drawn as much as 10% more. We test at the exact same stage every time; therefore tests should be very consistent and accurate.
The other thing to remember is that our test system is bare minimum - only a 7,200RPM SATA-II single hard drive is used without CD ROM or many cooling fans.
So while the system might draw 400 watts in our test system, placing it into your own PC with a number of other items, the draw is going to be higher.
Power draw is as you would expect, on the low side of things, under 200W at idle and under 250W at load.
From a regular gamer's perspective, NVIDIA's GeForce GT 220 GPU probably isn't really a video card you would buy. The chances are this is the kind of video card that's sitting inside your work PC, assuming it doesn't use onboard video. Does this make it a bad model, though? No, it's just aimed at a different segment. If you're looking for something that's going to pack a bit more punch than an onboard video solution, this is what you would buy - it's going to be perfect for those older games at those lower resolutions.
Galaxy's take on the new GPU is pretty standard - the cooler while being a little on the loud side does a good job of keeping the card cool. We also did see that World in Conflict was able to achieve a 30 FPS minimum, which means other games like Company of Heroes based off the same engine are going to be able run at the same numbers, which we consider playable.
Warhead was also able to break 30 FPS at 1680 x 1050 with the settings at low, so it's possible to get a bit of performance there, but nothing is going to look too pretty.
These are the sacrifices you make with a cheap video card though. While I wouldn't ever personally use one myself, it doesn't mean that there isn't a market for them. If you're making $10 a week pocket money and you're looking for something that is going to replace that onboard graphics solution, so you can play those old Age of Empires games with improved quality, this is a good option.
The other market would be for those people who simply don't want to spend any serious money on a new video card, but want to just get away from that onboard solution for exactly the same reason above and gain some of the well known NVIDIA features.
There's a bit of hidden performance behind the cooler and we've got native HDMI port and a single slot solution. It wouldn't do too bad in a home theater system (HTPC) and as we said, if you're looking for something to play those old games at lower resolutions, it could be the right card for you.
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