Asus ENGTS 250 Review

tacohunter52 - 2009-03-19 19:27:08 in Video Cards
Category: Video Cards
Reviewed by: tacohunter52   
Reviewed on: April 13, 2009
Price: $169.99

Introduction

The video card is a very interesting component. Many people, when purchasing, will go in thinking that they'll upgrade within a year. However, most do not. A year can easily go by without experiencing any problems or performance drops. When these naughty things happen you will probably decide to keep your video card longer and spend the money on something else. Let's face it. If you're still using a 7600GT and consider yourself a hardcore gamer/enthusiast, it's time for an upgrade. If you're just using your computer for basic photo editing, word processing, and Web browsing, then even a 7600GT will be overkill.

I'm assuming most of you are not just using your computer for the basics. But, how exactly do you decide upon which video card to upgrade? Bigger numbers do not always equal better, and this is true if you're comparing cards from ATI and NVIDIA, or if you're just looking at two cards from NVIDIA. A 7XXX series NVIDIA card is not better than a 4XXX series card from ATI. A 9800GT is not better than an 8800GTX. The way NVIDIA renames cards does not help this confusion at all. On the contrary - it is like feeding a two year old buckets of sugar, giving him a can of spray paint, and then letting him loose in an art museum. The result is that we get a 9800GTX, which is really just an 8800GTX covered in blue paint, vomit and marketing dollars. Luckily NVIDIA is finally putting an end to this mess. That is correct, NVIDIA has developed a new way of naming their cards. There will be two series: the GTS and GTX. The latter being for enthusiasts. In this new naming scheme, the bigger numbers will actually be the better cards. But, what is a new name scheme without re-branding a few older friends?

Introducing the ASUS ENGTS 250, also known as the 9800GTX +. Spec wise, ASUS's ENGTS 250 is the exact same as the 9800GTX +. In fact without actually testing the card, the only noticeable difference is the price tag. For about $20 less you can get what seems to be the exact same card, but with an older name. Hopefully your $20 will get you a performance increase as well as a revised G92 card. The only way to find this out is to test the card. Let's stop the talk and find out just how ASUS's GTS 250 performs. Will this card destroy it's competitors, or are you just paying for a name?

Closer Look:

Packaging is important for every product and not just so you feel good about what you purchased. Nobody wants to recieve a new peice of equipment only to find out it was damaged during shipping. These days most companies do an extremely good job at preventing this. Most people should have nothing to worry about. The packaging is good.

ASUS's ENGTS 250 came packaged in an bright green and dark black box. On the cover you can see the "DARK KNIGHT" logo, as well as ASUS's "Rock Solid Heart Touching" Logo. You can also see some information about the card. It uses 512MB of DDR3 and the cooler has 4 heat pipes. You'll also see that there is a coupon inside the box that will get you 10% off games, oh Boy! The package I received had the remnants of a sticker covering, the horse's hooves and part of its face. As such, I have no idea what was originally there. As usual, the back of the box is full of features, system requirements, and a brief description of some programs. What's cool about this though, is that they're listed in 11 different languages, so if you want to pick up Spanish you could just read the back of this box a few times. The side of the box has ASUS's logo as well as the card name, and a sentence telling you the "DARK KNIGHT SERIES" offers marvellous gaming experiences.

 

 

Inside this box is a white box that made taking pictures of it on a white backdrop a pain. Actually, it made it look like it came from angels in heaven! Check it out directly below. However upon opening it, you can see that it protected the 250 and its accessories very well indeed. Thank you God.

 

 

Included with your GTS 250 you'll recieve a few goodies. They are: 1 Molex to 6pin adapter; 1 component cable; 1 DVI to VGA adapter; 1 DVI to HDMI adapter; 1 SPDIF cord; 1 Manual and 2 CD's. Of course, one of the CD's is the driver disk, and the other is Manuals in more languages. Inside the manual you'll find your 10% coupons, the manual itself, and a guide to using the HDMI, and SPDIF adapters.

 

 

Now that we know how the card was shipped, let's find out how it looks on its own.

Closer Look:

ASUS's ENGTS 250 like most current GPU's is designed to be used in a PCIe 2.0 X 16 slot, but if you're using an older MOBO with just a PCIe X 16 slot, the card should still run fine. The ENGTS 250 is the same as a 9800GTX +, but the speeds it runs at may be slightly different. ASUS's GTS 250 has a core clock of 738MHz and 512MB of GDDR3 memory clocked at 2200MHz. Like the 9800GTX+ the cooler is dual slotted, so it will use two of your expansion slots. This basically means that your card is average sized, so you should be expecting to lose an expansion slot anyway.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

ASUS took a very interesting precaution for the GTS 250's protection. Located on the PCIe connector and both SLI connectors is a piece of plastic. This is used so that you don't accidentally damage them while handling the cards. However, it is not suggested that you leave them in while the card is in use. One of the reasons is melting. I'm pretty sure most of you do not wanted a plastic cap melted to the top of your card, especially if you're planning on using SLI or even TRI SLI at some point in time. Speaking of SLI, because the GTS 250 is the same as a 9800GTX+, you will actually have the ability to SLI the two together.

 

One of the most noticeable differences between the GTS 250 and a 9800GTX+ is that the 250 has only one 6pin connector. This means that it requires less power, which is definitely a plus for you energy efficient gurus out there. Another great thing I love about the 6pin connector on the 250 is that it ISN'T on the top of the card. This will make wire management easier. Unfortunately, the SPDIF connector is at the top of the card near the SLI slots. So, if you're running the wire to your MOBO, it will have to be hanging there. Then again many people will not use this feature. I'd trade it for better power connection placement any day. The power connector to the fan is located right above the PCIe connector and can easily be tucked behind the heat sink if it bothers you.

 

 

What good is a graphics card if you cannot connect it to your monitor? It's no good and ASUS seems to know this. On the card they've included 2 DVI ports, and 1 Component port. If you're using a VGA only monitor, or an HDMI T.V., adapters have been included.

 

Removing the heat sink allows us to more clearly see this card's guts. As you can see, the heat sink has four heat pipes; 2 going to either side. Hopefully this cooler will be able to dissipate enough heat to keep both the GPU and the memory cool. The layout of the GTS 250 is very similar to that of a 9800GTX+. The G92 core is still located in the middle, and 8 memory modules still surround it. Unlike ATI, Nvidia decided to stick with GDDR3 because they feel that the technology hasn't yet reached its limits. It turns out they were right - Nvidia currently has the most powerful single card solution, even though they use the older tech. Of course to purchase a 295, you'll have to sell some body parts. Anyway back to the point. The ENGTS 250 also utilizes Nvidia's "sexy" choice of memory; GDDR3. I was a little worried because ASUS's cooler does not make contact with the memory modules. Hopefully they do not generate enough heat for this to matter. ASUS did however, manage to engrave their name on the top of the DVI connectors. This way if anyone steals them, everyone will know who made them.

 

 

 

Now that we know what ASUS's ENGTS 250 looks like, let's get the sucker installed.

Closer Look:

So now you've put your rig back together with the ENGTS 250 firmly in place. Are you done yet? NO! In order for your new GPU to run properly, you'll have to install the drivers. To do this place the driver CD into your optical drive. When the auto-run pops up you'll be greeted with three options. The first option will install the drivers for your video card. The second option will install programs associated with the GPU. The third option will give you ASUS contact information. You want to begin by installing the drivers so click on "VGA DRIVERS". When the Install Wizard box pops up click next twice.

 

      

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Once you've done this, NVIDIA's Driver Install Wizard should be hogging your whole screen. Once again you'll just have to follow the on screen steps, which consist of you clicking next, and then agreeing to the terms and conditions. After the Drivers have been successfully installed a restart will be required.

 

 

 

After you've installed the drivers, you should install the programs ASUS included. Click on the second option in ASUS's VGA Driver box. Once again you'll have to click next, but hey - it's good practice for in game sniping. AIM, POINT, CLICK!

 

 

 

Two programs will be installed; Gamer OSD and ASUS SmartDoctor. Gamer OSD is a program that you can use to take videos from your games. This means if you're into watching yourself PWNage people over and over again, this program will be perfect for you. For the rest of you it will be relatively useless. ASUS SmartDoctor on the other hand is in fact very useful. It is ASUS's overclocking tool that will allow you to change your GPU settings on the fly. You'll be able to adjust Engine (core clock), Shader clock, and memory clock straight from your OS. Clicking on the triangle shooting sound waves (bottom right hand side) will bring you to the settings menu. Why a triangle shooting sound waves means "settings" escapes me. The settings menu has 5 tabs, the first of which being labeled "settings." What this actually allows you to do is change monitor settings, meaning you can adjust the polling interval, enable overheat protection, and a few other small things. The next tab is again mislabeled as "Monitor." In this tab you'll be able to adjust the temperature, voltage, and fan alarm settings. The third tab, thank god, is actually named correctly as "Fan Control." In this tab you'll be able to adjust the speeds of your fan. The final two tabs have also been named correctly. One is "HyperDrive," and the other is "Information." HyperDrive allows you to adjust the settings for HyperDrive, which will basically OC your card as needed. Information will give you information on your graphics card. Who'da thunk?

 

 

 

 

Like all NVIDIA cards in the 8 series and up, the ENGTS 250 is CUDA-enabled. Companies will utilize this software, because the parallel processing is just so powerful. Think about it - what would you rather have powering your program - 4 cores or 250 cores? A lot of companies will use CUDA technology to help convert video files faster, increase their definition or to increase the FPS. While this can all be done on your CPU, CUDA technology makes the GPU much faster. Plus it keeps your CPU free for other things. A new program that utilizes this technology is MotionDSP's vReveal. The software is designed to take a blurry, shaky, noisy, or distorted video and greatly improve the quality. It is designed to run from a CUDA-enabled GPU, but can run off your CPU too. However, the GPU is able to process the videos 5 times faster than a CPU.

 

Another program that utilizes this technology is folding@home. Stanford's folding program uses your GPU (and CPU) to simulate protein folding. The goal of this program is to help find a cure for diseases caused by protein misfolding. Some of these diseases are Cancer, Mad Cow, and Alzheimer's. The great thing about this program is that you help. Instead of Stanford using one super computer, they uses thousands of other people's computers, which in the end turns out to be more powerful. If you'd like to join in on the folding click here, and remember fold for team 12772 (aka OCC).

 

NVIDIA GPU's also include PhsyX, which is actually a pretty cool technology. It helps to make the physics in games more realistic. This means instead of a grenade landing on the ground, a bullet hitting the wall, or a wrench hitting glass, you'll get bounces, ricochets, and glass shattering. Basically, this program helps make games more realistic. More and more companies are starting to utilize it. Hopefully it will end the days where a block of wood can save you from a barrage of bullets.

Now that we've got the card and programs successfully installed, let's find out what this baby brings to the table.

Specifications:

 

 

Fabrication Process

52nm

Bus Standard

PCI Express 2.0

Video Memory

DDR3 512MB

Engine Clock

740MHz

Memory Clock

2200MHz ( 1100 MHz DDR3 )

Memory Interface

256-bit

CRT Max Resolution

2048 x 1536

DVI Max Resolution

2560 x 1600

D-Sub Output

Yes x 1 (via DVI to D-Sub adaptor x1 )

DVI Output

Yes x 2

HDMI Output

Yes x 1 (via DVI to HDMI adaptor x 1 )

HDTV Output

Yes

HDCP Support

Yes

TV Output

Yes (YpbPr to S-Video and Composite)

Adaptor/Cable bundled

1 x DVI to D-Sub adaptor

1 x DVI to HDMI adaptor

1 x HDTV-out cable

1 x Power cable

1 x S/PDIF cable

Software Bundled

ASUS Utilities & Driver

 

Features:

ASUS Features:

Graphics GPU Features:

All information on this page is courtesy of ASUSTeK Computer Inc.

Testing:

Here comes the fun part. In the following pages, I'll be putting the Asus ENGTS 250 through a series of tests designed to bring the card to its knees. The Asus ENGTS 250 will be tested at both its stock and overclocked speeds, but what is a test without something to compare it to? I'll be comparing Asus's card to other current cards on the market. They will all be tested at stock speeds to avoid any anomalies in the testing process. Using the scores we will be able to see just where the ENGTS 250 stands. NVIDIA cards will be using the 182.08 Drivers, while ATI cards will be using the 9.2 Catalyst release.

 

Comparison Video Cards:

 

 

Overclocking:

Overclocked Settings:

This card is came from the factory at its stock settings, and because of this I was expecting a pretty significant overclock. My goal was to exceed a core clock of 800. As always I increased the Core, Shader, and Memory clocks by increments of 10. After about a 50MHz increase of all 3 clock speeds, I got excruciatingly bored, so I figured what the heck! I Increased the Core clock to 825, the Shader clock to 2009, and the memory clock to 1270. Much to my surprise, these settings were actually able to run 3dmark Vantage. Of course in a game, these settings were completely unstable. I began to lower the settings by 5 for each clock, and with a Core clock of 815 I was able to run all games without any crashes. There was of course a large decrease in FPS. This meant that the overclock was still unstable. I once again decreased the clock speeds, but this time in increments of 3, I was finally able to see increased frame rates with a Core clock of 805 MHz, a Memory clock of 1200MHz, and a Shader clock of 1997MHz. While these settings aren't superb, they do make for a perfectly respectable OC. On top of that, I met my goal of going over a Core clock of 800MHz.

 

Video:

  1. Far Cry 2
  2. Crysis Warhead
  3. BioShock
  4. Call of Duty World at War
  5. Dead Space
  6. Fallout 3
  7. Left 4 Dead
  8. 3DMark 06 Professional
  9. 3DMark Vantage

Testing:

Far Cry 2:

Featuring a new game engine named Dunia, this game looks to be another one to stress your video card. Built specially for Far Cry 2, this engine allows for real time effects and damage. This next generation first person shooter comes to us from Ubisoft surprisingly - not from Crytek. The game is set in a war-torn region of Africa where there is a non-existent central government and the chaos that surrounds this type of social environment. If you have seen the movie Blood Diamond, you know the setting. Ubisoft puts the main storyline of the game into focus with these statements: "Caught between two rival factions in war-torn Africa, you are sent to take out "The Jackal," a mysterious character who has rekindled the conflict between the warlords, jeopardizing thousands of lives. In order to fulfill your mission you will have to play the factions against each other, identify and exploit their weaknesses, and neutralize their superior numbers and firepower with surprise, subversion, cunning and, of course, brute force." In this version of the game, you don't have the beautiful water, but instead the beauty and harshness of the African continent to contend with. Most games give you a set area that can be played through, while Ubisoft has given the gamer the equivalent of 50km2 of the vast African continent to explore while in pursuit of your goals. The settings used are just a few steps below the maximum in-game settings and offer a good blend of performance vs. visual quality.

 

 

 

 

 

Settings:

 

 

 

 

Asus's ENGTS 250 performed about the same as the 4850 and 9800GTX+. It did slightly better in the lower resolution, but in the larger, it was outperformed by the 4850. BFG's GTS 250 performed better then Asus's offering. Keep in mind that BFG's card has 1GB of memory and is clocked higher. The overclock only gained a few FPS, and after all, more can't hurt. Overall I'd say the ENGTS 250 performed quite nicely in this game.

Testing:

Crysis Warhead:

Crysis Warhead is a standalone expansion pack situated in time with the story line of the original Crysis. As Sergeant "Psycho" Sykes, you have a secret mission to accomplish on the far side of the Island. Along the way there are EMP blasts and Aliens to contend with, as you hunt down the KPA chief. This game uses an enhanced version of the Cryengine 2.

 

 

 

 

 

Settings:

 

 

 

 

The ENGTS 250 performed better then the 4850 and 9800GTX+, and it was slightly outperformed by BFG's offering. With the overclock we did see a major increase in FPS at the low resolution. The card managed to gain 10 frame rates, although at the higher resolutions, the FPS only increased by 1 to 3. This card was obviously not meant to play Crysis at these settings. If you play using Gamer (second highest) your FPS will be well within the 30's, and using Optimal you should be just fine. Besides, Crysis looks good at all resolutions in my opinion.

Testing:

BioShock:

BioShock is one of the creepier games you can play. The building of a perfect Utopian society undersea gone horribly wrong. Its inhabitants driven mad with the introduction of tonics and genetic modifications. Now Rapture is just a shadow of its former glory with little girls looting the dead of what little they have left while being shadowed by guardians known as "Big Daddys". It is a demanding game that will make your hardware scream for mercy. This First Person Shooter allows for an infinite number of weapons and modifications to provide a unique experience each time it is played. The environment as well as the story line will wrap you up for hours on end.

 

 

 

 

 

Settings:

 

 

 

 

There seems to be a theme here. The ENGTS performs similiar to the 4850 and 9800GTX+ and is slightly outperformed by the BFG GTS 250. Although in BioShock, the ENGTS 250 did perform at least 10 frames better than the 9800GTX+ in all resolutions. This is a pretty big difference considering they are more or less the same card. The overclock increased frames by about 6 in the lower two resolutions and by 4 in the higher one. The ENGTS 250 offered great performance for this game.

Testing:

Call Of Duty World at War:

Activision's Call Of Duty World at War goes right back to the bread and butter of the franchise - WWII FPS action. In this rendition, you start off in the South Pacific and move through a series of missions that flip back and forth between the Russian front and the island hopping advance toward the Imperial Japanese homeland. Included is a mission on Peliliu Island, arguably one of the more difficult and costly battles in the Pacific theater. The gameplay in the single player mode is rather short, but the game makes up for this shortcoming in online gameplay. If you thought COD4 looked nice, this game is amazing with the graphics maxed out playing at a large resolution. This game just may be my reason to move to a 30 inch monitor. I will use Fraps to measure a section of gameplay in the Semper Fi map on Makin Island to compare performance of these video cards.

 

 

 

 

 

Settings:

 

 

 

 

The performance of the ENGTS 250 for CODWAW was strange to me. At the low resolution it scored about the same as BFG's GTS 250 and Sapphire's 4870. In the medium resolution the ENGTS 250 outperformed everything except for the 4870, which it tied. At the higher resolution, order was restored. The ENGTS 250 performed the same as BFG's card and better then the 9800GTX+. With the overclock we saw a healthy increase of FPS. This card performed outstandingly well at this game at the lower resolutions.

Testing:

Dead Space:

In Dead Space, as part of the crew of the USG Kellion you are headed on a repair mission to repair a ship in distress. Things go from bad to worse as starting with the crash landing and seemingly silent and "Dead" ship, the USG Ishimuru. Offering a non-traditional over the shoulder viewing angle, the game gets right into the action as soon as the ventilation systems are activated. From there things get worse with the appearance of the Necromorphs. Survival now becomes a primary concern for the primary character Isaac Clarke. Survive and you may find the loved one that was aboard the Ishimuru.

 

 

 

 

 

Settings:

 

 

 

 

The Asus ENGTS 250 performed almost the same as BFG's GTS 250. The ENGTS out performed the 4850 and the 9800GTX+ in all resolutions. If that's not enough with the overclock, we saw an amazing performance gain. We gained about 30FPS at the low resolution, about 20 FPS at the middle, and about 10 at the higher one. That's pretty darn good if you ask me.

Testing:

Fallout 3:

Fallout 3 takes place after the nuclear holocaust that nearly wipes out civilization and leaves the world an irradiated mess. The vault, or fallout shelter, you are born in is Vault 101, situated in the Washington DC, Maryland and Virginia area. The premise of the game is that the Vault has been sealed for 200 years and now your father has opened the vault and escaped without a trace. The Overseer believes you are involved, so you must escape as well into the wasteland that was once our nation's capital. I find myself looking for landmarks since I am familiar with the streets of Washington DC.

 

 

 

 

 

Settings:

 

 

 

 

The ENGTS 250 had problems with this game, but not in terms of performance, as it outperformed the 4850 and the 9800GTX+. However, you cannot play Fallout 3 with the programs included with Asus's video card. I had to uninstall both Gamer OSD and Smart Doctor in order to get the game to run. The overclock FPS increase was also minimal, but I'd take an extra frame per second any day of the week.

Testing:

Left 4 Dead:

Left 4 Dead is a new release from Valve that leaves you as part of a group of survivors in a world where an infection has rapidly turned the populace into a zombie horde. You goal is to make it to a rescue point, all the while fighting what seems like overwhelming odds. Along the way there are safe houses where you can replenish your weapons and health. The movie 'I Am Legend' comes to mind to set the stage for this game. But unlike the movie, there are four characters and not just a lone gun and his faithful companion. The horde is not at all like the typical slow walking, foot shuffling zombie. These zombies are quick and work with the pack mentality. Your job: survival! Below are several screenshots to show some in-game action.

 

 

 

 

 

Settings:

 

 

 

 

The Asus ENGTS 250 stays ahead of both the 4850 and the 9800GTX+ in all resolutions. The overclock gave us a fairly respectable performance increase, and at the low resolution the OC'ed ENGTS 250 was able to outperform the 4870.

Testing:

3DMark06 is one of the benchmarks that always comes up when a bragging contest is started. 3DMark06 presents a severe test for many of today's hardware components. Let's see how this setup fares. The settings we will use are listed below.

 

 

 

 

 

Settings:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The ENGTS 250 was able to outperform the 4850 and the 9800GTX+ in all resolutions. With the overclock, we saw 200-500 point increase, which is quite significant.

Testing:

Featuring all-new game tests, this benchmark is for use with Vista-based systems. "There are two all-new CPU tests that have been designed around a new 'Physics and Artificial Intelligence-related computation.' CPU test two offers support for physics related hardware." There are four preset levels that correspond to specific resolutions. 'Entry' is 1024x768 progressing to 'Extreme' at 1920x1200. Of course, each preset can be modified to arrange any number of user designed testing. For our testing, I will use the four presets at all default settings.

 

 

 

 

Settings:

 

 

 

 

 

 

At entry level the ENGTS 250 kicked butt. It scored higher then every card including the 4870, and the overclock only made it go higher. However, it could not keep this up with the higher settings. It got beaten badly by the 4850 and the 9800GTX+ in every setting above entry. Even after the overclock, it could not keep up with the 4850. Wouldn't it be great if entry-level was all we cared about? To dream is to be human...

Conclusion

So the ENGTS does for the most part, perform better than a 9800GTX+. Why not just call it a "Super 9800GTX++?" The simple answer is because why would any respectable company give their product that name? Let's be serious now. NVIDIA has been getting a lot of grief from all this renaming. While they are doing it again, at least it's to put a stop to it. As most of you know, NVIDIA will have 2 main series; GTS and GTX. GTX is for enthusiasts, and GTS is for people a little more budget conscious. To tell you the truth, I'm glad they made another G92 card, simply because it allows consumers to purchase a decent card which is good value.

Asus's ENGTS 250 performed far better than what I expected. What I was expecting was a glorified 9800GTX+, but what I got was a killer card that overclocked like nobody's business, and it required less power! To top things off, it's about the same price as a 9800GTX+. That's right! If you own a 9800GTX+, you can purchase a better card for around the same price, give or take, and then SLI it with your old card right out of the box. Not only is the card inexpensive, it offers great performance. It was able to perform about the same as BFG's GTS 250, which has 1GB of memory instead of 512MB, and aside from CRYSIS, it was able to play all games at every resolution.

If you're looking for a good value card, but aren't interested in this one for its performance, overclockability, or lower energy requirements, then get it for CUDA and PhsyX. Programs such as vReveal, which are very processor intensive, can perform much better with a GPU that utilizes CUDA technology. If you're into video editing, this card is definitely something you might want to investigate. At present, there aren't a whole lot of games that utilize PhsyX, but that's not to say there won't be soon. For this reason, owning a PhsyX card might be a good idea just to keep the physics calculations away from your CPU. All things considered, I'd say this card performs great, and would I happily recommend it to anyone on a tight budget, who must have a decent gaming system.

 

Pros:

 

Cons: