Palit GT 220 Sonic Edition Review

ccokeman - 2009-10-10 21:10:55 in Video Cards
Category: Video Cards
Reviewed by: ccokeman   
Reviewed on: October 12, 2009
Price: $69.99

Introduction:

Not every card in the world is a barn burner or meant to be used in a high end gaming computer. In fact, there are probably more mainstream cards sold than high performance cards any day of the week. I know it sounds like blasphemy but you know that's where the money is made. How many desktop PCs go out the door each and every day to a home where they do the things most people do with their computers, such as look at and alter their photos and all those home movies, watch a bunch of Youtube videos, transcode video so it can be made portable for use on an iPod, Zune or even a cellphone? What about watching Blu-Ray content on their big screen? Many of these computers are delivered with a graphics chipset that has a hard time playing all of the HD content we love so much so the end user is left a little less than happy with the results. Well, you say something of this caliber can't be for gaming, can it? Not for the high end graphics quality we like but for some lower resolution gaming it should hold its own.

The Palit GT 220 is a new card that is being released with a focus on the mainstream user in mind with features such as Direct Compute and drag and drop video conversion make it ready for prime time when Microsoft's next operating system, Windows 7, is released to the public. Power consumption has been reduced to where the card only uses seven watts at idle. Seven watts! The Palit GT 220 is is supposed to perform right between the capable 9500 and 9600GT models with a price point that even the most miserly will have a hard time passing up. Let's see what the Palit GT 220 has to offer!

Closer Look:

The Palit GT 220 Sonic Edition is a smaller video card and the packaging reflects this reduction in stature. The front panel mentions that the GT220 is built using a 40nm process and is fully CUDA capable. This card is the "Sonic Edition," which signifies that this card has a little special something. The bottom right has a list of the specifications while the rear of the packaging goes into greater detail on the merits of its specifications. As with all of Palit's video cards, the Frobot make its presence known on the package.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There really isn't much to be seen once you pull the GT 220 out of the package. The Palit GT 220 is protected in a bubble wrap cocoon, and comes with a driver disc and a "Quick Install Guide." Not known for large bundles, Palit has included just what you need to get started.

 

 

Let's see what the GT 220 has to offer! Just looking at the specifications tells us this card will not be a gaming behemoth. But that's A-OK because this little beauty can do other things.

 

Closer Look:

The GT 220 (this one from Palit) is meant to fill the void in nVidia's product stack between the 9500 and 9600GT. The GT 220 is built upon a 40nm process and the core has 48 Cuda cores (processing cores), eight ROPs and 16 texture units. For memory, the GT 220 comes equipped with 512MB of GDDR3 memory on a 128-bit bus. As a Sonic Edition card, the Palit GT 220 has the expected clock speed increase from the base 625MHz on the core all the way up to 720MHz with the Shaders getting a bump from 1380MHz to 1566MHz, while the 512MB of GDDR3 memory gets a bump to 900MHz. Each bus is overclocked to offer an increase in both computing and graphics performance. The GT 220 is DX 10.1 and Shader model 4.1 compatible. The GT 220 is a scant 5.5 inches long and should easily fit in just about any chassis out there with no problems. Palit has chosen to use OS-Con capacitors for long term reliability.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Palit GT 220 offers up three ways of connecting to your display, Dual Link DVI, D-Sub, or a native HDMI connection. This will offer a way to carry both the sound and picture to your high-def television. Along the back end of the card it appears that there is something missing, but is it? This card does not need an external power connection and power is fed entirely through the PCI-E x16 slot. The power specification for this card is 58 watts under load and seven watts at idle. The heatsink assembly covers half of a few memory modules but the heatsink does not provide any direct cooling as there is no contact.

 

 

When you pull the heatsink off you can see that there are only four memory modules on the front side of the PCB with the other four on the back side. The core reads GT216-300 revision A2. The memory used on the Palit GT 220 is made by Qimonda and is designed to operate at speeds up to 1000MHz, depending on the internal Cas latency, with 1.8volts.

 

 

The heatsink assembly is a small aluminum finned block that sits directly on the core and is held in place with four spring loaded screws. The fan used is made by Power Logic and is 60mm in diameter. The fan was silent during operation and allows the GPU core to operate below 60 degrees Celsius when overclocked and under load. Not too bad for a graphics card today, but when you consider that the GT 220 uses only 58 watts when at the stock clocks, you really don't need a huge, beefy heatsink.

 

 

This card is meant more as a co-processor than an out and out gaming powerhouse, so let's see what it holds in store for us.

Closer Look:

The Palit GT 220 is a card that is meant to be used to help people make their everyday tasks go faster and to have a more enjoyable experience watching high definition media. Before all that happens though, you need to get the drivers installed to gain all that functionality. The disc supplied by Palit contains the driver for the GT 220, so all you need to do is insert the disc and allow the GUI to load up and follow the directions until the process completes. Once done, the customary reboot is required. Then you are off to the races to enjoy your computing experience.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When you talk about added functionality you have to wonder, what the heck I am talking about? nVidia has partnered with a whole slew of software companies to allow Cuda enabled applications take advantage of the massive parallel computing capabilities of its graphics processors. The idea is not to replace the CPU since it does quite well in serial applications where the GPU is more efficient in parallel applications. By having the two work together as coprocessors the work is done faster. Some of these applications you have already seen here on OverclockersClub, including Badaboom and Motion DSP's vReveal software. Badaboom allows you to transcode video to portable formats using the processing capabilities of the GPU, while the vReveal software from Motion DSP is great at fixing all of the poorly shot home videos and allows you to fix photos using its proprietary algorithms to bring clarity to blurry pictures. Having the chance to view this program in action again at the nVidia GPU Technology Conference just reaffirmed its worth. The commercial application is great but you have to see the Ikena software that is used for law enforcement. This is the real CSI stuff where you are able to take the grainy pictures from bank and traffic cameras and pull license plate numbers out of the jumble of pixels. You can use Cyberlink's Power Director 7 that offers GPU accelerated H.264 encoding and ten Cuda accelerated effects to drop the time it takes to render projects by a wide margin when compared to the time it takes to render via the CPU alone. Of course, there are many more but this is just a snapshot of the applications available that use Cuda and GPU acceleration. One of the applications that really make use of the nVidia GPUs' massive computing capabilities is Folding @ Home, a distributed computing project that looks for a cure for many really heinous diseases that plague uor lives, such as cancer, Alzheimer's and BSE. If you are interested, make sure you choose team 12772! To find out more visit the CUDA Zone

 

 

 

Another practical use for the GT 220 is to use it as a second card in your system to take care of the PhysX calculations in many of today's latest games, such as Batman: Arkham Asylum, Darkest of Days, and Resident Evil 5 so you can get all of the benefits of the effects put into the games. With the upcoming release of Windows 7, the GT 220 supports Direct Compute and drag and drop video conversion.

 

Specifications:

Model
GT220 Sonic
Process technology
40nm
Processor Cores
48
Memory Amount
512MB
Memory Interface
128bit
DRAM type
GDDR3
Graphics Clock
650MHz
Video Support
DVI. CRT. HDMI
Model
GT220 Sonic
Process technology
40nm
Processor Cores
48
Memory Amount
512MB
Memory Interface
128bit
DRAM type
GDDR3
Graphics Clock
650MHz
Video Support
DVI. CRT. HDMI

 

Features:

Testing:

Testing the Palit GT 220 Sonic Edition is not a challenge so much as trying to find out what kind of gaming performance this card delivers. Its computing attributes make it a card that will help improve the everyday experience of a computer for the mainstream user. To test out the GT 220 Sonic Edition's gaming credentials, I will run the card through the OverclockersClub suite of benchmarks, but you know it won't be able to deliver playable frame rates at the settings I use so I will reduce the settings to a level that gives an expectation of playability because in reality this card will most likely find its home in a mainstream computer with a 17" to 19" LCD panel in a home office or in the family computer. Testing will be limited from 1280x1024 up to 1920x1200, with the revised settings listed at the top of each game page. 1280x1024 should be playable in all of the games in the suite so let's get to it and see if we can make it playable. Of course, overclocking will be part of the exercise. Catalyst 9.9 for all ATI cards, save the 5800 series that require the 8.66 RC, and 191.07 for the nVidia cards

 

Comparison Video Cards:

 

Overclocking:

Overclocked settings:

The Sonic Edition GT 220 started out with a clock speed of 720MHz, although the specifications show 650MHz. This is important because the card at the higher level only gives up another 40MHz on the core, but if 650MHz is the core clock then the little GT 220 gives us over 100MHz worth of extra performance on the core. The overclock I was able to pull from the GT 220 is respectable and did provide additional measurable performance increases without impacting reliability. This was checked with a few days worth of Folding @ Home just to check it out. Bad work units means the overclock was unstable and no bad work units equals a stable clock and that's what I had. The smallish cooler looked like it would be lucky to cool down anything but did an admirable job by keeping the core at 60 degrees Celsius or less when under load while overclocked. It was nice to push a card that did not need a Hoover on top of it to keep it cool.

 

  1. Far Cry 2
  2. Crysis Warhead
  3. Darkest of Days
  4. Call of Duty World at War
  5. Warhammer 40,000 DOW 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 especially 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:

 

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

While it does not give a challenge to the more capable cards, the GT 220 did offer playable frame rates at 1280x1024!

 

 

Testing:

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Again, it looks like 1280x1024 is the sweet spot for gaming with the GT 220 and the lower settings in comparison to what the more capable toys do with more difficult settings.

 

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:

 

 

 

  

 

 

 

 

 

Higher is Better

 

At stock speeds, the GT 220 could not pass muster at even 1280x1024 but once I put the screws to it she pepped up a bit to 34 FPS.

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 high resolution. I will use Fraps to measure a section of gameplay in the Semper Fi map on Makin Island to compare the performance of these video cards.

Settings:

 

 

  

 

 

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

The GT 220 looks like it can offer some real gameplay at up to 1680x1050 by reducing the settings via removing Anti Aliasing in the game settings panel. Overclocking brings a tangible increase in performance but further reduction in the visual quality would allow even faster gameplay.

 

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 a single player in campaign mode, or in a multiplayer game where Microsoft's Live ranking system can be used.

Settings

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Again, 1280x1024 is where we see performance that becomes playable. Overclocking still shows a real benefit at this level.

 

Testing:

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

Game Settings:

 

 

 

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

A reduction of the settings really brings Batman to playable levels at each of the three resolutions. More aggressive settings bring the visual quality up, though at the cost of performance.

 

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 genisis 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 a co-op gaming style.

Game Settings:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The performance in Resident Evil 5 was a surprise for me in that the GT 220 was above 30 FPS at 1680x1050.

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. 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!

Settings:

 

  

 

 

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If killing tons of zombies in a mindless killing spree is your idea of fun or you just need the release that comes with this game, then the GT 220 has the capabilities to offer playable frame rates all the way up to 1920x1200!

 

Testing:

3DMark06 is one of the benchmarks that always comes up when a bragging contest has begun. 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 settings in this test were not modified because the default tests are at the minimum settings already, so you can see where the GT 220 falls on the performance ladder. This card is meant to do other things well.

 

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:

  

 

 

  

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

Going into this you have to know that the GT 220 is not a graphics powerhouse and performs right to its capabilities.

 

Conclusion:

As I saw last week, the GPU is being used for things it traditionally has not been used for and it opened my eyes up to the possibilities. Windows 7 is finally being released in a few short weeks and the GT 220 is poised to take advantage of features of the new (to the masses) operating system such as Direct Compute. Many people use the computer as a way to watch, store and manipulate digital media. Just think, we take all our pictures on a digital camera and take home movies of the kids or your friends with a digital camcorder and you need a way to fix the blurriness and shaking in videos and fix the problems with our photos. We all want to watch great high definition content but again, let's face reality, the current situation with graphics in mainstream computers means that you just can't watch HD content the way it's meant to be. A graphics card that has the ability to pull the load is what is needed and Integrated Intel graphics is not the way to go. Not everyone uses a computer for benchmarking and playing games with all the eye candy on at big resolutions, this is the majority of people out there and they are more numerous than the enthusiasts.

GPU computing is where the experience gets better for the masses. Cuda based applications take advantage of the parallel computing power of the GPU and there are more and more applications integrating GPU acceleration into the program. You have applications that transcode video faster using the GPU than on the CPU and this goes right through the spectrum with photo and video editing to coding video for use with mobile devices. Gives you more time for the things that are important in life instead of just waiting for the latest DVD you want to put on your iPod. Having tested out many of the applications I mentioned in the past, the Palit GT 220 offers decreased time to complete a task than the CPU alone. The Palit GT 220 is not a gaming powerhouse but it does allow you to play at 1280x1024 with settings that are not the bottom of the barrel but fall into the middle of the road. With GPU computing becoming more mainstream, people are finding the tangible benefits of using the GPU as not just a video card but a way to increase productivity and make use of this new way of doing old tasks.

 

Pros:

 

Cons: