Review of Zotac GeForce GTS 250 AMP! 1GB GDDR3 video card

Today we will be taking a closer look at one of ZOTAC’s medium range graphics cards, the “ZOTAC GTS 250 AMP!”. It comes overclocked directly from the factory and has a rather interesting price/performance ratio.



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The graphics card industry has always been a jungle for most consumers. There are just so many models and manufacturers to choose from and it can be overwhelming to try to get a grip of the market. And graphics cards don’t come cheap. For a high end graphics card you will have to put up more cash than for a complete gaming console like Playstation 3. Therefore we decided to take a look at what we can expect in terms of performance and value from a card in the midrange segment.

 

 

 

INTRODUCTION

So let’s take a look at the specification of ZOTAC’s overclocked version of the NVIDIA GTS 250 chip:


ZOTAC GeForce GTS 250 AMP!

GPU

GTS 250

GPU clock

750MHz (128 processor cores)

Memory

1GB GDDR3

Memory speed

1150MHz (2,3GHz effective)

Bus width

256bits

Shader frequenzy

1890MHz

Cooling system

Reference cooler (double slot)

Video connectors

2 x DVI
HDTV/S-Video

Compatible with HDCP

Yes

Compatibility with SLI

Yes, 2-way/3-Way

Power connector

2 6 x PCI-E

Maximum consumption

150W

Supported technologies

DirectX 10, Shader Model 4,0, GeForce 3D Ready Vision, NVIDIA PureVideo HD, NVIDIA PhysX, NVIDIA CUDA


The specifications of this GTS 250 remain far from the top models of the NVIDIA 200 series. Still, it is from the most recent generation of NVIDIA graphics cards. ZOTAC has not put too much work on this card, it is basically the same as NVIDIA:s reference model except for the increase of frequency of the GPU clock and memory speed.

 

 

 

FIRST IMPRESSIONS

ZOTAC presents the GTS 250 AMP! in a big yellow box with a small window that allows us to see the cooler mounted on the card. On the box they let us know the specifications and that the card is from the AMP! series, which means that it’s factory overclocked. It also states that the game “XIII Century: Death or Glory” is incuded in the bundle. An extra point to ZOTAC for offering extended support and guarantee for five years, just by registering at their website.

 

 

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On the back of the box, ZOTAC explains to us how the technologies of the NVIDIA GPU improve gaming experience and how the built in GPU accelleration helps performance in diverse applications. All the specifications are found at the sides of the box as well as the operating systems that it supports.

 

 

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When opening the box we found we found two seperated sections, one for the card and a second for all the accessories that ZOTAC has included; DVI-HDMI adapter, DVI-VGA adapter and a 6 PCI-E pin adapter. Below these two sections we found all the manuals and the CDs with drives and applications.

 

 

 

 

ZOTAC GEFORCE GTS 250 AMP! IN DETAIL

The first thing we noticed with the card is that it carries the standard reference cooler from NVIDIA which covers the entire PCB and has a 80mm fan which blows in fresh air which makes its way across the entire PCB and finally dissapates out of the grid above the DVI connectors. The heatsink itself is made of aluminum and covers the GPU as well as the memory chips.

 

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Something we find a bit annoying with all cards of the last generations is their size, especially their length. Because of it, these cards are often incompatible with smaller cases suited for HTPC use. The ZOTAC GTS 250 AMP! is no exception but it is still shorter than many other cards we have seen and this is also the reason why we used a little smaller case for this review.

 

 

 

 

When we removed the heatsink and took a closer look at the components mounted on the PCB we were happy to see that ZOTAC has included quality capacitors which should vouch for stability and long life length. We also noted that the 250 AMP! needs only one extra power connector attached to it to complete the 150W that it consumers (the rest is taken directly from the PCI-Express slot).

 


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The connectors are two DVI ports which is more or less standard nowadays. With the included adapters (see specification above) we can connect it to both VGA/D-SUB and DVI monitors as well as flatscreen TVs with HDMI inputs.




INSTALLING THE TEST EQUIPMENT

OK, so that’s all the specifications and looks of the card, now let’s move on to the testing . First, here’s the test setup we used to realize this review:


Test equipment

Processor

AMD Phenom II 920

CPU Cooler

Cooler Master Hyper N520

Motherboard

Sapphire PC-AM2RD790 – CrossFireX PUREE

Graphics card

ZOTAC GeForce GTS 250 AMP!

Soundcard

Auzen X-Fi Forte 7.1

Memory

Kingston HyperX DDR2 1066 2x2GB T1 Series

Hard disk

Samsgung SP2504C (SATA II, 7200rmp, 8MB)

Power supply

Zalman ZM660-XT

Box

Antec Skeleton


Operating system and software

Operating system

Windows XP SP3

Drivers of the system

BIOS R7LS422
ForceWare 186,18 WHQL
PhysX 9.09.0428
DirectX 9 (March 2009)

Benchmarking SW

3D Mark 06
Furmark 1.7
Lightsmark 2008

Games SW

World in Conflict: Soviet Assault
Street Fighter IV
Crysis Warhead
X3: Meeting
X3: Terran Conflict
ET Quake Wars
Officers’ Club of Revolutionary Armed Forces Cry 2
WEAPON 2
Weak May Cry 4
The Last Remnant
Tom Clancy´s Hawx

Other software

CPU-Z 1.49
GPU-Z 0.4.3
eVGA Precission


As we have done in previous reviews, we overclocked the CPU to 3500MHz (250×14) and the RAM memory to 1000MHz, all else was left to standard settings. Throughout the entire testing process we used the maximum graphical quality settings. However, to be able to have a more full spectum of data to analyze, we tested the card both with and without filters.

 


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BENCHMARKING TESTS

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In order to compare the results obtained by this card I suggest you take a look at the results we got in our recent review of the Sapphire Radeon HD 4770 with which we used the exact same test setup.



The above results from the benchmarking software speaks for itself, the ZOTAC AMP! 250 clearly offers an excellent performance, better that what we achieved with the  HD 4770. This is especially clear in higher resolutions and with filters enabled.

 

 

 

GAMES TESTING, PART 1

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OK, so above you can see the results of the first part of the game testing. In the first 3 games, Street Fighter IV and X3 you can see that this graphics card offers an excellent performance, supporting both the increase of resolution and the application of filters. More demanding games like; ET: Quake Wars or Devil May Cry offers results more similar to those we obtained with the Radeon HD 4770, although the GTS 250 has a smaller advantage in these games as well.




GAMES TESTING, PART 2

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In the second part of our games testing, we included the most demanding games in our arsenal. This showed the true colors of the ZOTAC GeForce GTS 250 AMP!. As you can see from the graphs above, it performed well with almost all of the games. But as for most graphics cards, with incredibly demanding games such as Crysis and WEAPON 2, we see how the FPS rates decays swiftly, making them not playable (in my opinion). But remember, in all our testing above we always used the highest possible quality setting. So, if you use less demanding settings and resolutions, this card can play those titles as well.



OVERCLOCKING AND COOLING

Now let’s take a look at how “overclock friendly” this card is. This is of course mainly depending on the performance of the cooling solution, but the GFX memory and other components such as the capacitors also plays important roles. We easily overclocked the card from 750/1150/1890 (GPU/memoria/Shaders) to 820/1250/2066. The card ran just as stable on these setting as the factory settings.

 

 

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As we said earlier, the cooling solution chosen by ZOTAC is the the same one as on the NVIDIA GTS 250 reference card. Because the AMP! is a factory overclocked card, this was a bit of a surprise to us. We expected it to carry a more advanced cooling solution. However, once we had overclocked the card we realized why ZOTAC kept the original cooler. I simply works excellent, maintaining the temperatures within very safe margins and without being too noisy. But for shorter intervalls, when the fan hits is max rotation speed it sometimes becomes a bit too noisy in my opinion.


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OVERCLOCKING RESULTS

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As the 250 AMP! comes overclocked out of the box, it was quite impressive that we managed to overclock it as far as we did. When comparing the above results (overclocked) with what the standard GTS 250 AMP! performed, you will find that the improvement which we found in 3D Mark 06 was not very high, about 500 points extra. But in real game testing the performance improved in terms of FSP rates which should be enough to justify the overclocking.




CONCLUSIONS


So it is time to wrap up this review of the ZOTAC GTS 250 AMP!. Clearly, the card is a good performer in the mid range segment (sold for around $140). The card has sufficient power to let us enjoy almost all the lastest game titles with an excellent graphics quality. Still, it simply hasn’t got the muscles to compete with the high end graphics cards. We saw this in more demanding games like Crysis Warhead and Far Cry 2.



The bundle that ZOTAC offers to us is quite satisfacting. They have included a free game and all the adapters you will need. Other points that we liked with the card was the quiet operation and of course its excellent overclocking capacity. The price of the card is placed around $140 and we feel it is reasonable, even a bargain.


Strong points Weak points

Good bundle

The lack of a HDMI output

Quiet and efficient cooling system

Excellent overclocking capacity

Good performance

 

Good price/performance ratio


ZOTAC GeForce GTS 250 AMP!

Packing and accessories

1,5/1,5

Quality and finished

1,5/1,5

Yield

2,5/3

Refrigeration (noise and temperature)

2/2

Overclock

1/1

Price

0,8/1

Total

9,3/10


 

The final score is 93 out of 100 owls and we give the “ZOTAC GeForce GTS 250 AMP!” our Editor’s Choice Award.


TestSeek Labs Editor's Choice 2009 Award



Author: Manuel González Fernández

Translator: Vince Emiloz Sanderson


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