Sparkle GeForce GTS 250 1GB Graphics Card

Graphics Cards
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MP3 SOUND RECORDINGS

These recordings were made with a high resolution, lab quality, digital recording system inside SPCR's own 11 dBA ambient anechoic chamber, then converted to LAME 128kbps encoded MP3s. We've listened long and hard to ensure there is no audible degradation from the original WAV files to these MP3s. They represent a quick snapshot of what we heard during the review.

These recordings are intended to give you an idea of how the product sounds in actual use — one meter is a reasonable typical distance between a computer or computer component and your ear. The recording contains stretches of ambient noise that you can use to judge the relative loudness of the subject. Be aware that very quiet subjects may not be audible — if we couldn't hear it from one meter, chances are we couldn't record it either!

The recording starts with 5~10 seconds of room ambiance, followed by 5~10 seconds of the VGA test system without a video card installed, and then the actual product's noise at various levels. As this particular card did not add any noise the test system, we have provided only a recording of the test system with its system fan set to the levels tested. For the most realistic results, set the volume so that the starting ambient level is just barely audible, then don't change the volume setting again.

FINAL THOUGHTS

Gaming: Please check out the gaming-oriented reviews of the GTS 250 1GB at Tech Report, techPowerUp, and Legit Reviews, The general consensus is that it is more or less equivalent to the HD 4850, and offers slightly better performance than the 512MB version of the GTS 250/9800 GTX+ when image quality settings and resolution are cranked up.

Cooling/Noise: The cooler employed by Sparkle does an adequate job cooling the GPU. It is practically inaudible when idle, but when the fan speed increases under load, it becomes too loud for SPCR. This is classic low-cost, brute-force fan cooling: A fan that spins fast enough is a cheaper alternative to a larger, more costly heatsink. Most of the contemporary graphics cards we've tested in the past year or so, the HD 4830/4850/4870 and GTX 260 for example, all generate less noise on full load than the Sparkle GTS 250. The heatsink seems too small to cool the card effectively unless the fan speed is cranked up.

Power Consumption: By our estimates, the Sparkle GeForce GTS 250 1GB requires approximately 22W when idle and up to 124W DC when stressed to the limit. The idle figure is impressively low for a card of the GTS 250's caliber. The load figure is more or less what you'd expect given the 3D performance. It should also be noted that our sample is 9.5" long with two power connectors, while some GTS 250's are 0.5" shorter with only one power connector. These slimmed down versions may be even more power efficient.

Overall, the Sparkle GeForce GTS 250 1GB is a good midrange graphics card with a competitive price-point to battle the Radeon HD 4850. It has a native HDMI port (though a S/PDIF feed is needed for audio) and it is very quiet and power efficient when idle. Once the GPU is stressed, however, the fan kicks into overdrive to compensate for the undersized heatsink, making it unsuitable for any silent/quiet PC. Among GTS 250 variants, this one may have the dubious distinction of the cooler with the smallest surface area. With such a small heatsink on a card that can draw more than 120W of power, it's no wonder that the fan has to ramp up to high speed under load. For silent PC gamers, a better aftermarket heasink/fan replacement is probably mandatory with this Sparkle.

Sparkle GeForce GTS 250 1GB
PROS

* Quiet when idle
* Low idle power
* Native HDMI port
CONS

* Heatsink too small; has a loud fan to compensate

Our thanks to Sparkle Computer for the video card sample.

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