The Gigabyte GV-N250ZL-1GI: Software And Cooling
The most striking feature of the card is, of course, its large Zalman cooler, as its four heatpipe design is elegant, simple, and typical of a Zalman product. The cooler is a Zalman VF1050, which is a newer version of the tried-and-true VF1000. Buying a Zalman VF1000 alone would set you back $45 on Newegg, so there’s undeniable value with this cooler being part of the GV-N250ZL-1GI package. A low-cost reference GeForce GTS 250 and a Zalman VF 1000 cooler would add up to more than what the Gigabyte card costs.
It’s notable that there is absolutely no cooling applied to the card’s memory, although memory cooling is often a gimmick. While the card takes up two slots, it doesn’t have a vent at the rear of the case, so the hot air from the card's components is deposited back in the case, similar to Asus' EAH4850 MT air-flow design. Unlike the Asus card, however, the Gigabyte cooler is not a "hybrid" unit, so the cooler is always on, although the Zalman fan is so quiet that it’s not really an issue.
Once again, our pre-release sample didn’t include a retail box or software bundle. From promotional shots of the card, we see it will be shipped with a Molex-to-PCIe converter cable, a DVI-to-HDMI dongle, and an audio cable to channel sound from a sound card to the HDMI output, if desired. Remember that sound over HDMI isn’t natively supported in the GeForce GTS 250 cards, so this is a workaround. Notably missing is an SLI connector and component video dongle, which are things we would expect in a top-tier version of a GeForce GTS 250. Also included is a manual and a driver/utility CD. Gigabyte’s Gamer HUD Lite utility will be on this CD as well, although it can be downloaded from the Gigabyte site if need be.
This is a simple overclocking utility that, when accompanied with a Gigabyte card that has the option of voltage control, can be a force to reckon with. Unfortunately, unlike Gigabyte’s GeForce 9800 GT, the GV-N250ZL-1GI has no voltage control ability, and voltage controls will be missing from the Gamer HUD control panel when used with the GV-N250ZL-1GI. Hence, the "Lite" designation.
Presumably, Gigabyte feels that the Ultra Durable VGA feature will be enough to let the card stretch its legs and be a serious overclocking contender. We’re a little disappointed because we wanted to pit one voltage-tweakable card against another, but we’ll see if Gigabyte’s card has what it takes to stand against Asus’ EAH4850 Matrix later when it comes times for overclocking.
For now, we’ll consider that even the restricted version of Gigabyte’s Gamer HUD Lite application offers everything an overclocker really needs with no interface confusion.
The Gamer HUD Lite utility really has only three settings to change: GPU, shader, and memory clock speeds. You can also enable "2D/3D Auto-Optimized," but from what we saw, it didn’t really do any overclocking at that setting. There is also a handy temperature and GPU usage graph. That’s it! Clean and simple.
Armed with these two unique cards and their proprietary overclocking tools, let’s see how far we can take them.