Power Consumption and Conclusions
One thing the GTS 250 can be proud of its power consumption – it uses the least power at BOTH idle and under a full load. In fact, the HD 4870 512MB uses 56 watts additional power (22% more total system power) while playing Crysis.
First, the obvious: the GeForce GTS 250 and GeForce 9800 GTX+ graphics cards perform basically identically to each other. While at first that might seem to be an obvious conclusion, we were still hoping that the move from 512MB of memory to 1GB would result in SOMETHING. Yes, in Far Cry 2 we did see a noticeable gain in performance on the GTS 250 when compared to the 9800 GTX+ but that was basically it. In a couple of tests the 20×15 and 25×16 resolutions increased SLIGHTLY though I don’t think a $149 graphics card will be the target for a user with a 30″ display like that.
The more important comparisons obviously come when we look at the Radeon cards that we used in our benchmarks. The Radeon HD 4850 512MB was actually surprisingly competitive with the GTS 250 1GB in titles like World in Conflict, Call of Duty: World at War and even Crysis! At the lower and upper resolutions the two cards are within a few frames per second of each other. Our two newest gaming tests though, Far Cry 2 and Left 4 Dead, did show a noticeable performance advantage for the new GTS 250 card across the range of resolutions.
You might be able to guess then how the GTS 250 fares against the Radeon HD 4870: not that well. In fact, the only title that NVIDIA’s offering shows any kind of spark is on Far Cry 2 where both AMD cards simply choke. Sadly, even though the performance gaps between the GTS 250 and HD 4870 512MB card do lessen as the resolution increases, very few gamers are going to care as gamers with $149 GPUs rarely have 30″ 2560×1600 displays.
One area NVIDIA continues to push, and rightfully so, is on the side of features and extras. If you purchase and NVIDIA solution you do get the addition of support for CUDA, PhysX and 3D Vision for GeForce technologies. The value of these extras is very specific and individual and often debatable. While I absolutely loved my time with 3D Vision, very few people are going to be willing to upgrade their monitor for it. The primary CUDA application use, video transcoding, is a popular category and definitely fast but not without faults. PhysX has some interesting qualities, but Mirror’s Edge will only hold interesting for so long.
What’s old is new again…but cheaper too.
On their own, those extras would likely not be enough to change anyone’s mind about which card to purchase, all else being equal. But together they might be enough for a shift to the green squad.
The fact that the GTS 250 512MB card (another option for AICs) can also run in SLI and 3-Way SLI with the existing 9800 GTX+ cards is another interesting addition to the equation. Users looking for an upgrade can take this opportunity to increase performance on an existing setup with a modest sub-$150 investment.
Pricing and Availability
All of our comparisons depend on the prices of each product to really be relevant. Thankfully, neither NVIDIA nor AMD really give a damn about our articles and tend to find ways to lower prices at the very last moment. To demonstrate: I am writing this only 2 hours before the schedule NDA release of the GTS 250 and have received no less than four calls about pricing changes to these products. AMD offered us this nugget:
And then again we here from NVIDIA:
- “NVIDIA is committed to achieving the price to performance leadership in this market.”
What we will likely see is prices lower than the $149 (via rebates) for the GTS 250 1GB graphics card when they actually hit the street; March 10th by all indications.
Or, you can still get a GeForce 9800 GTX+ today for as low as $129 after rebate…
Through all of this, there will be banter from both sides, AMD and NVIDIA, telling anyone that will listen how the other side is simply cutting corners or how there is no innovation. Obviously, both camps have done these types of tricks before: one company releases a new product and/or drops a price, the other side returns the favor to stay competitive. NVIDIA will attempt to argue that the GeForce GTS 250 is something different, but in reality it is nothing more than a renamed price drop offering to the performance gamer. AMD’s response of lowering the prices on the HD 4870 and HD 4850 cards is essentially what we saw NVIDIA do when the GeForce GTX 260 cards were released some months back.
Regardless of the politics involved, the GeForce GTS 250 1GB card does do one thing: decrease the price of great gaming GPU solutions from both NVIDIA and AMD for the consumer. Fan boys on either side will surely complain about how the other group is doing it, but it’s a win for all of us. You can now essentially buy a graphics card that will play most of today’s recent PC titles at resolutions of 1600×1200 and above with top IQ settings for under $150, regardless of which GPU vendor your choose. How’s that for a way to help get out of the funk of winter?
Be sure to use our pricing engine to find the best prices on professional graphics cards and anything else you might need: