A few months back NVIDIA "released" the GeForce GTS 250 priced at just around $150. The reason behind the quotations in the previous statement is that the GTS 250 is not exactly something new. While a lot of NVIDIA's R&D dollars have gone into their higher-end products such as the GTX 285 and GTX 295, to satisfy their mid-level needs they turned to an old stand-by: rebranding a previously higher-end card. In the case of the GeForce GTS 250, we're pretty much looking at the same specifications that we saw with the GeForce 9800 GTX+, with a 1GB frame buffer being the only major difference (and even that isn't a meaningful differentiating factor as 9800 GTX+ cards with 1GB of onboard memory have been around for quite some time.)
Still, it's not all as bad as it might seem, for the 9800 GTX+ was a powerful card in its prime, which means you're getting that same power for much less than the 9800 GTX+ retailed for just over a year ago. Additionally, with the rebranding, NVIDIA hopes to eliminate some of the confusion that comes from having different product lines out there. For example, one might expect a "9800" series card to outperform a "285" series, even though we as enthusiasts know better. Renumbering the cards, as well as placing the GT / GTS/ GTX marker before it, should give a better indicator of where the performance level should be, relative to other NVIDIA offerings.
So, then, what's a manufacturer to do with their current and future product listings? To remain competitive, and not have products lingering in the warehouses, companies need to adjust for these changes quickly. For Gigabyte, they went down parallel paths in regards to the GTS 250. First, they took the GeForce 9800 GTX+ GPUs currently in their possession, flashed their BIOSes, updated the cooler, and rechristened them as the GV-N250ZL-1GI. Newer shipments that were already marked as GTS 250s were used to create the card that we're looking at today, the GV-N250OC-1GI. Although it might be noted that "OC" is part of the product name, this card actually does not get overclocked past the default specifications laid out by NVIDIA. Instead, it appears that the OC refers to the differences in speeds between the 'ZL' model and the 'OC' model, with the ZL clocking in at 740 / 1850 / 2000 MHz and the OC at 738 / 1836 / 2200 MHz. The biggest variance appears to be with the memory clocks, although a recent BIOS update for the OC version will update the core and shader clock speeds to match the ZL. We also became aware, however, of a revision to the GV-N250OC-1GI that comes with higher core and shader clock speeds, bringing the GPU up to 765 MHz and the shaders up to 1912 MHz. For now, we'll focus on the original version's specifications, listed below:
As we mentioned in the introduction, the majority of these specifications match those of the GeForce 9800 GTX+. We can even keep the memory buffer numbers intact, as not only were there 512 MB and 1 GB variants of the 9800 GTX+, but we have seen the same amounts of memory installed on GTS 250s as well. Since we're not covering anything new in terms of the underlying technology behind the GeForce GTS 250 and the G92 that it's based on, we suggest instead revisiting a couple of the following HotHardware articles regarding NVIDIA's previous and current GPU architectures:
- GeForce 8800 GT: G92 Takes Flight
- GeForce 8800 GTX and 8800 GTS Launch
- GeForce 8800 GTS 512MB Refresh
- GeForce 9800 GTX Launch
- NVIDIA Geforce GTX 280 and GTX 260 Unleashed
Our GeForce 8800 GTX launch article goes in depth on NVIDIA's previous generation G80 GPU architecture, which is fundamentally very similar to the G92, save for its wider memory interface, and explains NVIDIA's CUDA GPGPU technology. Also, our GeForce 8800 GT and 8800 GTS 512MB articles cover much of the technology employed in NVIDIA's G92 GPU architecture. From there, we invite you to take a look at the GTX 260 and GTX 280 launch piece, in which we discuss the GT200 GPU, and the differences and similarities between the two GPUs. We will be including a GTX 260 Core 216 in our benchmarks as well to show the performance deltas between these two sub-$200 graphics cards.