ECS Geforce GT 240 Review

RHKCommander959 - 2009-12-28 17:47:16 in Video Cards
Category: Video Cards
Reviewed by: RHKCommander959   
Reviewed on: February 9, 2010
Price: $69.99

Introduction:

AMD/ATI has been padding the market with its recently released midrange 5750 and 5770 cards for a while now. nVidia answered back with the low end GT 240, GT 220, and GT 210, and low end of midrange GTS 250 (for OEM, GTS 240 and 205) to even out the 200-series line. ECS has equipped its GT 240 NGT240-512QI-F with 512MB of GDDR5 and packed 96 CUDA cores on a 40nm-process GPU core with a 128-bit memory bus. The clocks are set at 550MHz GPU core, 1340MHz Shader, and 1700MHz memory. Other possible configurations are GDDR3 and 1GB memory size. The video outputs are DVI, VGA, and HDMI. Microsoft DirectX 10.1, OpenGL 3.2, and Shader Model 4.1 are the supported standards for gaming. The GT 200s are low power devices that don't even need auxiliary power, so while this card definitely won't be a hardcore gaming beast, it won't break the electric bill either. These look like good HTPC or PhysX cards, at least. 3D Vision works too and gaming capabilities should be similar to the 8800/9600 GSO's with 96 CUDA cores of prior generations so this card could be a capable affordable graphics card for entry/mainstream gamers or users looking to easily upgrade an OEM tower.

For any serious gaming, this card and the other GT 200s take a back seat since they are SLI incapable - they do work well as a PhysX accelerator, enough so that in testing of another GT 240 (the Palit GT 240 reviewed prior), aided by a vanilla nVidia GTX 260, that games using PhysX, such as Batman Arkham Asylum, performed far better and allowed PhysX settings to be cranked up.

 

Closer Look:

The front of the box has an RPG-style female archer shooting a fancy (probably magic) bow that has nothing to do with video cards, except rendering perhaps - a common trend with most companies. The only identifier for what video card is inside was a slip-on cover that was ripped during shipping. The slip says GT240 with 512 MB GDDR5 and 128-bit DVI/HDMI/CRT, which covers most of the pertinent information. The bottom of the front says some of the other technologies the card supports; note that it says OpenGL 3.1 rather than 3.2, which the card does support as per nVidia's website. Rotating to the back is a screenshot of Darkest of Days and some accelerated applications. The features listed on the front are in several languages on the back right. The slip lists the key features like Windows 7, DirectCompute, and OpenCL support. nVidia technologies like PhysX, Cuda, and PureVideo HD are also supported. Minimum requirements are a motherboard with an open PCI Express x16 slot, 300W or greater system power supply with a 12V amperage of 18A or more - based on a PC with a Intel Core 2 Duo CPU, and 150MB of hard drive space.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The sides and top/bottom are void of any pertinent information other than "Graphics Card," PCI Express 2.0, ECS Elitegroup, and Geforce. Some artwork keeps them from being boring however. The box is smooth and does its job of protecting the card but the only important information was on the slip that was damaged. Some minor information is listed on the front and back.

 

 

Opening the box is the standard corrugated cardboard box that protects the graphics card and accessories. Opening it up we find that the card is protected by both an antistatic bubble wrap bag and a PET film antistatic bag. The card is well protected!

 

 

The only accessories that come with the card, common for mid/low end cards, are a manual and driver disc. No adapters are really needed save for the few users who use standards outside of the ones that the card supports, like S-Video.

 

Time to double unwrap the card and get some photos of it!

Closer Look:

GT 240s can be fitted with either 512MB or 1GB of memory in either GDDR3 or GDDR5. The core is built on 40nm technology, so the die costs less to make and more can be fitted onto each wafer, making the cost to nVidia lower; the chips should be more heat and energy efficient as well. The ECS GT 240 is built on a blue PCB and the GPU core is cooled by an Arctic Cooling heatsink that consumes most of the card's length. The heatsink is an Accelero L2 Pro and operates very quietly with its 92mm PWM fan. The heatsink is mounted with MX-2 and is rated for up to 100 Watts of cooling. No SLI connectors are available on this board to reduce costs and because nVidia doesn't support it this round for these graphics cards and suggests upgrading to a more powerful card for SLI. The card should work well as a PhysX card though. Flipping it over we find that there is no backplate and that there are no empty solder joints for auxiliary power. The heatsink must have been designed to compensate for PCB bending during mounting, and all of the memory lies underneath the heatsink.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The ECS GT 240 has DVI, VGA, and HDMI connections mounted through a single slot expansion bracket. The heatsink with fan installed requires the space of a second slot to fit. The backside of the graphics card is clean and empty, no auxiliary power needed. Fin spacing isn't so dense but the fins are thick so the fan can run slower and still allow the heatsink to dissipate heat well. The fan shroud clips on.

 

 

The side of the heatsink is notched to allow some air flow through to the PCB to cool things like the memory mounted underneath. No SLI connections are present because nVidia does not support the technology with these cards, partially to save on cost. The heatsink is shaped to dodge the capacitors. The slot-side shows the manufacturing date of the heatsink. Two of the memory ICs can be spied hiding under the larger overhang on the back side, they are also cooled by the 92mm fan. The fan connector can be seen under the front-side of the video card. The fan shroud/housing attaches with four clips.

 

 

Lets get it installed and throw some drivers in!

Closer Look:

After installing the video card, users will need to install drivers to properly initialize it. nVidia has drivers and extra software that can use PhysX and CUDA - two supported technologies that enable software to run faster than before for video encoding as well as other types of number crunching; Folding@Home makes good use of nVidia cards as well. Ntune can be downloaded and is added to the nVidia Control Panel to enable overclocking, fan control, as well as resolution and output quality and control through the standard nVidia Control Panel. Ntune can also adjust settings on some nVidia chipset boards. PhysX and 3D Stereoscopic vision are also enabled in nVidia Control Panel. Inserting the driver disc will bring about an autoplay window with options for installing drivers and software.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Installing the nVidia driver is really straightforward, just agree to terms and conditions and click next a few times. Once the drivers are done and the system has been reset to reinitialize the video card, settings can be adjusted; there are five groups to choose settings from after installing Ntune. 3D handles in-game settings such as AntiAliasing. Display covers everything that affects visual display on devices such as monitors; the output can be rotated, colors enhanced, brightness adjusted, resolution changed, and so on. Performance allows the graphics card and system to be overhauled and monitored for safe temperatures. Stereoscopic 3D is where users go to turn 3D on or off for nVidia cards using either 3D Vision technology or anaglyph technology - the anaglyph technology only requires a pair of red and blue 3D glasses that are usually free/cheap whereas the 3D Vision costs a bit more - special LCD glasses and a 120Hz monitor. Video is just that, video quality adjustments. Next, Badaboom can be properly installed; Badaboom does not require a system restart before the first run, so on to the program!

 

 

 

Once installed, Badaboom empowers users to quickly convert and compress movies for devices such as smart phones, portable media devices, and the Internet aided by nVidia CUDA technologies. The program is fairly basic so users shouldn't have too hard of a time getting it to do what they need from it, however it only installs as a free limited time trial. Clicking on the advanced tab can also be daunting as there aren't a whole lot of options but the ones that are there may not immediately make sense. The program can make use of DVDs, DVD files, and other files for converting and compression.

 

 

vReveal is another video program but it is able to clean up and fix videos; say you were shaky while recording a special moment, vReveal can help fix it. If the video is too poorly compressed it can try to fix that too! vReveal is powered by nVidia CUDA GPUs to use their parallel processing power and greatly save time over CPU based applications. This software is great for people who have many home videos or people who record TV or other video sources, and for those that like to upload their own files to Youtube or Facebook. There are free demos of Badaboom and vReveal available at their respective websites.

 

 

Now we can go test out the ECS GT 240 512MB!

Specifications:

GPU (Graphics Processing Unit)
Powered by NVIDIA® GeForce® GT 240 GPU
Fully supports Microsoft® DirectX® 10.1
Fully supports OpenGL® 3.2(Requires R190 drivers or later)
GPU Clock
550 MHz
Shader Clock
1340 MHz
Memory Clock
1700 MHz
Memory Interface Bus
128bit
Memory Type
GDDR5 
Memory Size (MB)
512 MB
Bus Standard
Supports PCI Express 2.0 interface
Microsoft® DirectX®
10.1
Output
DVI-I, VGA and HDMI Output

 

Features:

 

 

All Information courtesy of ECS

Testing:

Testing procedure for the ECS GT 240 512 MB NGT240-512QI-F graphics card is the same as with all of the other cards here at OCC. The card will be stressed and performance recorded during testing. For low end cards the settings are dialed down to allow them to still produce playable frames, this is the case for the GT 240. The games consist of Far Cry 2, Crysis Warhead, Darkest of Days, Call of Duty: World at War, Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War II, Batman: Arkham Asylum, Resident Evil 5, and Left 4 Dead, and the synthetic benchmarks are 3DMark 06 and 3DMark Vantage. After running the card normally through the testing phase, the video card will then be overclocked and tested again. The results of the overclocked and stock speed performance can then be compared to see how large of a gain is made (if any). All the system settings remain the same from card to card and test to test, with the exception of disabling PhysX, where applicable.

 

Comparison Video Cards:

 

Overclocking:

Overclocked settings:

The memory on the ECS GT 240 was not very overclockable and would become unstable or result in freezing/crashes with a slight bump so I left it at stock. 1750MHz felt possible but as I said, it froze during testing, even a slight bump caused it; the memory on this specific card might be a low bin. I had to play with drivers to find one that would allow overclocking; MSI Afterburner was the only software that would let me in the end. Unlinking the Core/Shader allowed a higher Shader overclock of 1700MHz (27% gain), and 650MHz core (18% gain). The card loaded at 46C maximum and idled at 26C overclocked with fan at 100%, while ambient was 21C. At 100% the fan was barely audible over the CPU and case fans. Not bad at all, minus memory overclocking.

 

  1. Far Cry 2
  2. Crysis Warhead
  3. Darkest of Days
  4. Call of Duty: World at War
  5. Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War II
  6. Batman: Arkham Asylum
  7. Resident Evil 5
  8. Left 4 Dead
  9. 3DMark 06 Professional
  10. 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 Far Cry 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:

 

 

 

  

 

 

 

 

 

Competition was close between the ECS GT 240 and Sapphire HD 4670. The factory overclocked Palit GT 240 beat the ECS off the line in each resolution. Far Cry 2 is relatively playable with the GT 240 with these settings.

Testing:

Crysis Warhead is a standalone expansion pack situated in time with the storyline 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.

 

 

 

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Crysis Warhead was decent at lower resolutions too, here the GT 240s surpassed the 4670 with some distance. Overclocking netted decent gains too, 5-6 FPS.

Testing:

What would testing be if you did not show both sides of the fence? In this test, PhysX was set to low, while leaving the remaining settings intact. You have seen time and again where the ATI cards suffer when PhysX is enabled. Mirror's Edge and Cryostasis are two prime examples. Darkest of Days is no different. What happens in this test shows that, although the game can be played by cards from the red team, the video effects and quality are diminished.

Game Settings:

 

 

 

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

With Darkest of Days the frame rates were so low that it wouldn't be an enjoyable playing experience - save maybe the low resolution overclocked. The 4670 did better by far here. The only worse cards were the 220s.

Testing:

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:

 

 

  

 

 

 

  

 

 

 

 

Call of Duty is plenty playable with this card. The ECS GT 240 pulled ahead of the 4670 again while the 4770 and GTS 250 were unattainably high. Even at high resolution it did well.

Testing:

Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War II is a real-time strategy game that is significantly different than its predecessor, with improved AI and an improved physics engine. You can play either as single player in campaign mode, or in a multiplayer game where Microsoft's Live ranking system can be used.

Settings

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

With Dawn of War II the results were surprising. The GTS 250 didn't do so well, it got smashed at 1920x1200 and was almost overtaken at 1280x1024 by the overclocked ECS video card. The 4670 lost out in all resolutions. Another playable game although the settings were dialed down to medium.

Testing:

Batman: Arkham Asylum is a new game that brings together two bitter rivals, the Joker and Batman. The Joker has taken over Arkham Asylum, Gotham's home for the criminally insane. Your task is to rein the Joker back in and restore order. This game makes use of PhysX technology to create a rich environment for you to become the Dark Knight.

Game Settings:

 

 

 

 

 

 
 

 

 

 

 

 

With overclocking the ECS GT 240 pulled in somewhat close to the 4770, while beating the 4670 in all three resolutions. With medium settings high FPS were possible.

Testing:

Resident Evil 5 is the sequel to one of the best selling video games of all time. You play the game as Chris Redfield, a survivor of the events at Raccoon City, who now works for the BSAA. Sent to Africa to find the genesis of the latest Bio Organic agents, you meet up with another BSAA operative and work together to solve the problem. The game offers incredible 3D effects and co-op multiplayer.

Game Settings:

 

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Resident Evil 5 was another medium-setting game, the overclocked ECS GT 240 matched, give or take, the 4770. The 4670 was no competition.

Testing:

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. Your goal is to make it to a rescue point, all 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 zombies. These zombies are quick and work with pack mentality. You have but one job; survival!

Settings:

 

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  

 

 

 

At stock the ECS GT 240 matched or exceeded the 4670 from Sapphire but was still very far away from the top two cards. Left 4 Dead was very playable with these settings.

Testing:

3DMark06 is one of the benchmarks that always comes up when a bragging contest begins. 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:

 

 

 

  

 

 

 

 
 

  

 

 

 

3DMark 06 showed decent results from the ECS graphics card - 10500 exact - beating the 4670 by far. Overclocking helped but wasn't enough to gain ground on the 4770. The factory overclocked Palit GT 240 shows how well the small boost helps by beating it decently in all three resolutions.

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:

  

 

 

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

3DMark Vantage is a similar story to the rest of the benchmarks - the ECS GT 240 outperformed the 220s and 4670 without effort but overclocking wasn't enough to catch the 4770. It put out a decent score nonetheless in Vantage.

Conclusion:

Performance for the ECS GT 240 NGT240-512QI-F was decent and fell between the ATI 4670 and 4770. Depending on the games and activities of the user, either the 4770 or GT 240 would be a smart decision; in most of the games the 4770 came ahead, however pricing will decide which one is a smarter choice. It also depends on which heatsink the ECS card has - there is a less attractive single slot edition with the same model number on the market. Folding@Home is an application that could make good use out of this card, although most folders would likely rather shell out for an 8800 for cheaper. The GT 200 cards are all very easy to install and as such, can be purchased for a simple upgrade, especially for people with OEM computers. The heatsink worked very well, keeping the card idling at 25C and loading under 46C even when overclocked. Overclocking was a mix of good and bad; the GPU did well with and 18% core increase and nearly 27% in Shader overclocks. However, the memory didn't like to overclock was quickly unstable.

Other than the unfortunate memory overclocking, or lack thereof, the bundle was very empty, only the bare essentials - manual and driver disc. The VGA slot is a nuisance as well since a DVI-VGA adapter is very cheap but the company, like most others, opted for the VGA output instead. The graphics card could still run dual VGA cards with an adapter, however.

 

Pros:

 

Cons: