Palit GT 240 Sonic Review

RHKCommander959 - 2009-11-15 20:52:18 in Video Cards
Category: Video Cards
Reviewed by: RHKCommander959   
Reviewed on: November 18, 2009
Price: $104.99

Introduction:

Today Palit and nVidia have launched a new video card – the Palit GT240 Sonic Edition – which packs in 96 CUDA cores, and for this particular card, 1GB of GDDR5 memory, while other models should be available with 512MB and for less money. Palit is the first company to come out with a 1GB version of this card. The GPU core is built on the 40nm fabrication process with 128-bit bandwidth. Connectivity is through VGA, DVI, and HDMI. The card supports Microsoft DirectX 10.1 with Shader Model 4.1 support, OpenGL 3.2, nVidia CUDA technology, nVidia 3D Vision, nVidia PureVideo HD technology, amongst many other features. The card should use very little energy since it doesn’t even use an auxiliary power connector common on most other video cards, except for entry-level devices, since the PCI Express slot can only supply around 75W. With the same number of CUDA cores as the 8800 GS, 8800 GTS, and 9600 GSO, with possibly other cards also having the same number of CUDA cores, it will be interesting to see how well the Palit GT 240 1GB compares to those cards and how much the extra memory and GDDR5 may help.

The GT 240 is intended to bring quality media and decent gaming for a decent price tag, but it is also suggested to be used as a PhysX processing card in an SLI setup with a more powerful card to enhance gameplay and further boost FPS. This feature will also be examined to see how effective the card actually is at these claims.

Closer Look:

The front of the box has the unique mascot of Palit – Frobot – swinging around in his mechanical body. In the top left corner the box reads “The Latest Technology 40nm” with a lightning bolt, which I assume is there for the increase in energy efficiency that is usually gained by switching to a smaller node design. Also on the front is the company mantra, “Play it, Tweak it, Get more out of it.” Hopefully users will be able to tweak this card for some serious performance! Near the lower right some of the basic features of the card are listed: the Palit GT 240 is a Sonic Edition with 1GB of GDDR5 on a 128-bit bus. The back of the box has the Palit acronym spelled out and listed in several languages: nVidia Geforce chipset, Advanced Display Pipeline with Full nView capabilities, Complete DirectX support, including DirectX 10.1 and lower, Full OpenGL 3 and lower support, and Drivers included for Windows XP, Vista and 7. The back also has the website and contact e-mail addresses.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The sides of the box have the slogan and company logo again, but also list HDMI and HDCP capability, PCI Express design, and have a small nVidia logo in the corner. Opening the box shows that a red bubble wrap bag protects the card, which is surrounded by a cardboard platform with plenty of space around the sides to help deter damage.

 

 

Removing the graphics card and cardboard platform allows access to the installation guide and driver CD that were stuck together. The card is fairly small but sounds promising from the specifications even though the bundle is almost nonexistent, nothing is really needed except for drivers and maybe a manual to get this card running, so only time and testing will tell.

 

 

With the Palit GT 240 Sonic out of the box, let's examine it closer!


 

Closer Look:

The Palit GT 240 Sonic is intended to fit between the GT 220 and 9800GT video cards in terms of performance, with twice the CUDA cores of the GT 220 at 96; it is also built upon the same 40nm fabrication process. Some GT 240s are packed with 512MB of memory, but this card comes packing 1GB of GDDR5 running through a 128-bit bus. The core is set to 585MHz while the Shaders are at 1424MHz. The Samsung memory is set at 1890MHz. The core is cooled by a petite black heatsink with a bright orange fan and the memory modules remain without cooling. Memory modules are on both sides of the video card, the ones on the top will get some air from the heatsink but otherwise have no cooling either. With the card design it does take up two expansion slots but the overall size is miniscule and should fit in most systems that can spare two full sized slots. Four screws with washers bolt through the back of the circuit board to hold the small heatsink to the GPU core directly, and a warranty sticker covers one of the screws. Otherwise there isn't a whole lot going on at the backside.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The expansion slot is designed with vent grills on half of it while the other half has the connectivity options for video output, VGA, DVI, and HDMI. Most of the height that fills the second slot is from the fan and shroud attached to the heatsink . The heatsink itself is very small but when the heat load is less than 80W a large cooling device isn't really necessary. No auxiliary power connectors are needed, as this card doesn't use enough energy to require any.

 

 

The Palit GT 240 Sonic does not have any SLI ports on it and both sides are sparse of circuitry. The design is simple and clean and should be a no-fuss card when it comes time to install it, no extra power cables or adapters to hook up a monitor, and it should easily fit in even the most cramped cases, depth-wise.

 

 

The memory was created by Samsung Semiconductors and is model K4G10325FE-HC05. Looking at the specification sheet available at Samsung's website you will find some information about the memory; it is GDDR5 SDRAM, 1.5V power requirement, 6th generation production, 84 FBGA and Halogen/Lead free package, and speed .50ns 4.0Gbps, to hit the more important features.

 

Time to move on to drivers!

Closer Look:

After installing video cards, users will need to install the drivers to properly initialize them. Palit provides both a Quick Installation Guide to get the card installed and running properly, and a driver disc to install the main drivers and a few extra programs like Badaboom. PhysX and CUDA are 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. Vtune is a program that comes on the disc and automatically installs with the drivers. It sits in the taskbar and has several options for adjusting video performance: overclocking, fan control, and resolution, even a magnifying glass application. Inserting the driver disc will bring about a green autoplay window with options for installing drivers and software. When installing the drivers, users will be prompted to first install Microsoft DirectX, and once that is complete it continues on to the needed drivers for the user's version of Windows.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Installing the nVidia drivers is really straightforward, just agreeing to terms and conditions and clicking next a few times. Once the drivers are done and the system has been reset to reinitialize the video card, Badaboom can be properly installed. Badaboom does not require a system restart before the first run, so on to the program!

 

 

Once installed it 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 make sense immediately. The program can make use of DVDs, DVD files, and other files for converting and compression.

 

 

Vtune is an application that sits in the tray – allowing easy access to system information and graphical performance and settings. Clicking the first application brings up desktop resolution, color, font size, and refresh rate options to adjust the environment to one's desires.

 

 

The information page lists out basic information about the system in general, good for troubleshooting problems. A tab is also checkable to enable or disable the Vtune program from running on startup. The performance page allows for the Core, Memory, and Shader clock speeds to be changed with the Core and Shaders being unlinkable for squeezing out every extra MHz on big overclocks. The settings can be applied to either 3D or 2D settings, the safe mode button runs the card at tolerable clock rates while the test button is suppose to be a stability test – it only runs for a few seconds as a loading bar and wouldn’t do anything different whether the card was suffering from artifacts or not, so this feature likely doesn’t work properly.

 

 

The fan control page has two tabs above a pair of gauges – the tabs allow users to let the fan run automatically or be set to a manual speed. The software was sluggish when adjusting the slider underneath the gauge, and both 2D and 3D would move to match each other. When the desired speed was set, the gauge would move to represent the speed. Also, temperature readouts for the GPU core were available underneath the gauges– at idle this card was barely above 30C, load somewhere around 60.

 

 

The next two pages are independent of Vtune. Display Properties is just the Windows Display Properties dialogue box, and the DirectX information page comes from the diagnostic DirectX application.

 

 

Lastly, the magnification application, it was a little tricky to use but did magnify well, although it didn’t apply anything special to the magnification and did have some bugs. This program is an interesting idea although personally I wouldn’t likely find a need for it.

 

Time to take a look at the card on paper.

Specifications:

Bus Type
PCI-E 2.0
GPU Clock MHz
585 MHz
Shader Clock MHz
1424 MHz
Memory Interface Bus (bit)
128
Memory Type
GDDR5 
Memory Size (MB)
1024 MB
Memory Clock (MHz)
1890 MHz
Microsoft® DirectX® Support
10.1
Shader Model Support
4.1
Open GL Optimization and Support
3.2
Minimum Power Requirement (Watt)
300W 
Cooling Fansink
Yes
Profile
Double

 

Features:

 

 

 

 

All Information courtesy of Palit @ http://www.palit.biz/main/vgapro.php?id=1289

Testing:

To test the Palit GT 240 Sonic, the standard OverclockersClub benchmark volley had to be adjusted since usually mid-to-high end video cards are tested more rigorously with high quality settings that are just too much for entry and midrange graphics cards to handle. Also, similar graphics cards have been tested in a similar fashion with their results listed along with the Palit GT 240 - the cards used are viewable below. The ATI cards use Catalyst driver 9.10 and the nVidia cards use the 191.07 driver. The settings have changed to resolutions from 1280x1024 up to 1920x1200 with mixed graphics settings to give a more fair representation of these cards. This video card is meant to be an affordable gaming and multimedia device or to be used as a PhysX processor, it will be interesting to see how it performs in both scenarios.

 

Comparison Video Cards:

 

Overclocking:

Overclocked settings:

Overclocking was pretty simple on the Palit GT 240 Sonic, using either MSI Afterburner or Vtune yielded the same results, though the layout is better on the MSI application. The overclock of 699MHz core, 2008MHz memory, and 1701MHz was stable and was not the highest the card could do, but very close. Not bad considering that stock was 585MHz core, 1890MHz memory, and 1424MHz shader. With the fan running at 100% it was noticeable but not ear-piercing as it can be on the blower motors on the ATI 5800s.

 

 

 

  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:

 

 

  

 

 

 

 

 

Not a bad start, the GT 240 is far better than the GT 220s and even bested the Sapphire HD 4670 in Far Cry 2.

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.

 

 

 

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Crysis Warhead gains a larger lead over the GT 220s and 4670 although both the 4770 and GTS 250 continue to dominate with superior power.

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:

 

 

 

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

Performance is miserable as the resolution rises. The 4670 does beat the GT 240 here consistently by around 5 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 results are similar to earlier tests, except the lead over the 4670 is very narrow in Call of Duty World at War. Gameplay is very decent here.

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As the resolution increased in Dawn of War II, the GT 240 pushed further above the 4670 while the GT 220s remained at the bottom of the barrel. Overclocked, it gains ground on the GTS 250.

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:

 

 

 

 

 
 

 

 

 

 

 

Again, the results look similar, the GTS 250 wins by far here however, and the GT 240 gets closer to the 4770 as the resolution climbs but still has plenty more to go. Overclocked, the Palit GT 240 Sonic comes into direct competition with the 4770.

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 a Co-Op gaming style.

Game Settings:

 

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The GT 240 dominates the lower half of the test cards in Resident Evil 5, but is clearly behind the 4770 and GTS 250. The Palit card looks to be a middleman fitting in between the 4670 and 4770.

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:

 

  

 

 

 

 

 

  

 

 

 

Left 4 Dead shows the same trends as in most of the testing. Very playable frame rates even at the highest resolution.

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:

 

 

 

  

 

 

 
 

  

 

 

 

3DMark06 changes the trend up a bit with the GT 240 coming within ~1400 points of the 4770 at stock resolution. The score is far more respectable than that of the GT 220s. Overclocking brings it even closer to the 4770 - even beating it at the stock resolution!

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:

  

 

 

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

The 4770 and GTS 250 dueled head on in Vantage, the GT 240 still performed solidly but was far away from the higher cards, and far above the lower end cards. Good performance nonetheless. Overclocked, the GT 240 starts nibbling at the heels of the more powerful cards, but still not enough to get close to overtaking them.

Conclusion:

While the Palit GT 240 Sonic Edition didn't completely dominate the benchmarks, it did perform very strongly in comparison to the competition. The price users can find the ATI 4670 and 4770 will either make or break the nVidia GT 240 as the 4770 outperformed it in every test. Right now the 4770 looks to only be a few bucks more expensive so that could make for stiff competition, especially since the midrange 5-series cards are beginning to come out. Another supporting ability is that this card should fold immensely better than the competing ATI products. This graphics card should be an easy drop in upgrade or replacement card that can bring decent gaming capabilities and a multimedia aspect through software like Badaboom or vReveal. Although the Palit design does take up two slots, its length and lack of power adapter requirements should make it an easy fit in cramped cases, OEM computers, and HTPC applications. The heatsink worked adequately and kept the card running in the low 30s at idle and mid-60s at load while overclocked. Overclocking wasn't too bad either, going from 585/1890/1424MHz to 699/2008/1701MHz without a hiccup. Using the Palit GT 240 Sonic as a PhysX processor netted roughly an additional 15% in 3DMark Vantage with a GTX 260 216sp card so as a PhysX processor this card looks willing!

The only real cons that came to mind were that the bundle was pretty empty - nothing more was needed to get the card going but it also lacked any excitement as a good accessory bundle is always nice. However, more money may have been diverted to ensure better quality of the GT 240. The only other qualm I could think of was the VGA port, which makes it more difficult to run dual DVI monitors, this feature also looks bad when a VGA adapter can be had for a few bucks, I just found new ones for less than a dollar. Most people who order this card won't likely be running dual monitors anyway, so in reality it does help the card to be ready out of the box for most situations.

A cool running graphics card with solid overclockability and decent gaming power, the ability to "Fold for the Cause," tremendously decrease the time to work on photos and videos, being run as a PhysX processor to aid a more powerful card, and having a very simple drop-in design make this card very attractive if priced aggressively!

 

Pros:

 

Cons: