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Radeon HD 4850 Vs. GeForce GTS 250: Non-Reference Battle

The Gigabyte GV-N250ZL-1GI: ZL Stands For Zalman

Unlike the somewhat marketing-driven name Matrix, Zalman needs no introduction for most of our readers. For those of you who aren’t in the know, Zalman is a renowned company in the business of making excellent, quiet heatsinks and coolers, among other things. So right out of the gate, just by looking at the massive cooler on the GV-N250ZL-1GI, a person could get the impression that this card is all about cooling. However, there is more here than meets the eye, as Gigabyte has further differentiated this non-reference card by applying its proprietary Ultra Durable VGA feature.

Ultra Durable VGA is the graphics card counterpart to Gigabyte’s Ultra Durable 3 feature set on on some of Gigabyte’s motherboards. We’ve covered the motherboard implementation and performance in this piece

To make a long story short, Ultra Durable VGA is a marketing name for a very similar list of extras: 2 oz. of copper on the PCB, tier-one Samsung or Hynix memory, Japan-made solid capacitors, ferrite core chokes, and low RDS (on) MOSFETs. The tangible benefits that Gigabyte claims Ultra Durable VGA offers is a 5% to 10% lower GPU temperature, a 10% to 30% increase in overclocking ability, and a 10% to 30% reduction in power-switching loss. We’re very interested to see if any of these claims will materialize when we overclock the GV-N250ZL-1GI.

Gigabyte also chose to redesign its PCB instead of just adding the Ultra Durable VGA features to Nvidia’s reference design.

The card is small for a GeForce GTS 250, with the PCB just under 8.5" (about an inch less than the Asus EAH4850 MT). Like its Radeon counterpart, Gigabyte’s GeForce GTS 250 requires a single six-pin PCIe power cable. Gigabyte chose to max out the card’s performance potential with a full gigabyte of RAM, which may impact game performance in titles that rely heavily on the frame buffer. On the downside, Gigabyte chose to only include a single SLI connector on the top of the card, eliminating the possibility of running three GV-N250ZL-1GI cards in 3-way SLI. While this is a theoretical feature loss compared to Nvidia’s reference card, I’m not sure how many folks would realistically want to run three of these cards in tandem, as there are better options out there for that kind of budget.

The default clock speeds for the Gigabyte GV-N250ZL-1GI are 738 MHz on the GPU, 1,836 MHz on the shaders, and 2,200 MHz on the memory. Once again, these are exactly the same as the reference GeForce GTS 250 speeds.

The card has somewhat unique outputs, as Gigabyte has chosen to place an HDMI output, a VGA output, and a single dual-link DVI output on the card. Like the Asus card without two dual-link DVI outputs, the GV-N250ZL-1GI can’t handle two 30” 2650 x 1600 monitors at the same time, but I'm going to go out on a limb and say that a person with two 30" monitors can probably afford a much higher-end card than this. As usual, only two of the three video outputs can be used at any one time.