Late last year NVIDIA launched the 2nd of their 40nm parts, the GT 240. Based upon the GT215 core, the GT 240 is functionally a derivative of the low-end GT 220. Compared to the GT 220 it packs twice as many shader units, twice as many texture units, and support for GDDR5, making it a good deal faster than the GT 220. As a GT 220 derivative, this also means it comes with DirectX 10.1 support and  the VP4 video decode engine.

Form Factor 9800 GT
GT 240 (GDDR5)
GT 240 (DDR3) 9600GT GT 220 (GDDR3)
Stream Processors 112 96 96 64 48
Texture Address / Filtering 56/56 32/32 32/32 32 / 32 16 / 16
ROPs 16 8 8 16 8
Core Clock 600MHz 550MHz 550MHz 650MHz 625MHz
Shader Clock 1450MHz 1340MHz 1340MHz 1625MHz 1360MHz
Memory Clock 1800MHz 3400MHz 1580MHz 1800MHz 1800MHz
Memory Bus Width 256-bit 128-bit 128-bit 256-bit 128-bit
Frame Buffer 512MB/1GB 512MB 512MB/1GB 512MB 512MB
Transistor Count 754M 727M 727M 505M 486M
Manufacturing Process TSMC 55nm TSMC 40nm TSMC 40nm TSMC 55nm TSMC 40nm
Price Point $89-$119 $99 $89-$99  $69-$85 $69-$79

NVIDIA’s latest efforts at lowering idle power usage can be seen here, with a 9W idle power usage (only 2W more than the GT 220) while load power is specified as 70W – 70W likely being chosen to avoid the need for a PCIe power connector. The transistor cost of these extra functional units means that the GT 240 comes in at an estimated 727M transistors, occupying a die area we measure at 144mm2.

Unfortunately, not everything got the same boost as compared to the GT 220. Specifically the number of ROPs remains the same at 8, and worse yet the core clock speed is only 550MHz on the GT 240, versus 625MHz (or more) on the GT 220. So not only did the GT 240 not get more rasterizing power to go with its other enhanced abilities, but in fact it’s ever-so-slightly slower than the GT 220 when it comes to rasterizing. For the sake of comparison this is also half as many ROPs as on the 9600GT and 9800GT, both of which are also clocked higher.

As is often the case with lower-end products, the GT 240 is actually composed of two specifications. There is a DDR3 based GT 240, and a GDDR5 based GT 240. The former has 25.44GB/sec of memory bandwidth, while the latter has 54.4GB/sec. This results in 3 cards: An $89 GT 240 with 512MB of DDR3, a $99 GT 240 with 1GB of DDR3, and a $99 GT 240 with 512MB of GDDR5.

Officially, NVIDIA says the following about the GT 240: “The GeForce GT 240 sits between the GeForce GT 220 and GeForce 9800 GT in price and performance.” In essence this is intended to be a significantly faster GT 220, a solid card whose only crime was price.

In theory this is a great position for the card, but reality bites, hard. For starters we have the stratification of the cards based on memory bandwidth. A DDR3 GT 240 is not comparable to a GDDR5 GT 240 in most cases, and you’ll understand why when you see our benchmarks. The memory bandwidth starvation when using DDR3 means that the DDR3 GT 240 is often in its own lesser performance class, a problem when most DDR3 GT 240s are equipped with 1GB of the stuff and sell for as much as their GDDR5 brethren.

The other problem is that while the GT 240 is supposed to be below the 9800GT in price, it’s not. It’s certainly below it in performance, but one can easily find just as many sub-$100 9800GTs as one can GDDR5 GT 240s, including a number from higher-tier manufacturers. For all practical purposes the 512MB 9800GT and the 512MB GDDR5 GT 240 come in at the same price, which as we’ll see makes it very hard to justify the GT 240 when you can get a faster card for the same price.

Finally, there’s the matter to discuss of actually reviewing a card. NVIDIA and their partners are well aware of the problems in positioning the GT 240, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that no one really wants to talk about these cards. As was the case with the GT 220, NVIDIA did not send out sample cards for the press for review. Even NVIDIA’s vendors are squeamish about the matter, as none of them could get us a card before the launch - one even dropped out after initially offering a card upon realizing that a negative review would be forthcoming.

We can’t really blame NVIDIA or their partners for not wanting to volunteer a card they know would get a poor review, but if you have ever wondered why you don’t see launch-day reviews of these cards like you do more reasonably priced cards, this is why. To that extent we thank eVGA and Asus for sending us GT 240 cards in spite of the poor positioning of the GT 240 line.

With that out of the way, let’s look at today’s cards.

Meet the Asus 1GB DDR3 & 512MB GDDR5
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  • BernardP - Thursday, January 07, 2010 - link

    Despite the fact that it *is* overpriced, I bought the Asus GT240 DDR5. Why? It fits in my small case while the "green" 9600GT and 9800GT don't. It has "good enough" performance for the light gamer that I am. It is a well-balanced match with my Athlon 64 X2 5400+. I'm staying with my current build and Win XP for the next 2 years, so DX10 or DX11 is not important. It's a near-silent HTPC card, my main use. I favor NVidia drivers, especially their ability to create and scale custom resolutions. Why has ATI still not included this feature in their catalyst driver? I don't want to fiddle with PowerStrip.

    With a bit of fine tuning of the fan speed profile in the Asus SmartDoctor utility, I'm able to keep GPU temps below 56 deg. Celcius while gaming, with little added noise. At idle, the card temp is hovering around 33-34 deg.

    Overall, I am very satisfied with my Asus GT240 GDDR5
    Reply
  • knowom - Wednesday, January 06, 2010 - link

    I really like the low power, heat, and noise on the GT 240 a good fanless one would make a excellent HTPC/DAW candidate. A follow up review underclocking it and comparing it against a 9600GT and a bunch of integrated graphics and perhaps I5 as well. Reply
  • philologos - Wednesday, January 06, 2010 - link

    I have an aging Dell Dimension E510, for which I bought a Zotac GT240 512MB GDDR5 AMP! edition. I needed a single slot card with very little height, and I also was wary of using the 6-pin connector from my Dynex (aka Be$t Buy) 400w PSU. I really wanted a 5770, but the coolers would have interfered with Dell's CPU cooling "tunnel."

    I agree the price should be dropped ten to twenty dollars, but there's been a massive improvement from the 8500GT that it replaced. This should tide me over until can afford my first home-built. The GT240 might even serve as a PhysX processor if such things don't go the way of the dinosaurs. Basically, I think this card has a definite niche; I didn't look at the 9800GT Greens, unfortunately, but I have doubts one would even fit. There is precious little space for expansion cards in my 'puter.
    Reply
  • BelardA - Thursday, January 07, 2010 - link

    The 9800GT should fit... even some versions of the ATI 4850.

    Dynex PSUs are usually not that good... :(

    Check out the 12v rail requirements of the video card, but then again - the GT240 (stupid names) is in the same power class as the ATI 4600s.

    Yeah, some people have to bend some metal to make PSUs and cards fit in the Dell E510.
    Reply
  • asusmaun - Wednesday, January 06, 2010 - link

    Hi! I think the GT 240 models with GDDR5 are extremely sweet and I want to get one. I recommend it!

    Look at the fine features:
    * Low power / cool temps (69W)
    * Quiet
    * Small card (eVGA's card is even 1 slot)
    * Pure Video 4th and 5th generation (VP4/5). This might be the only card that does VP5 stuff right now.
    * Plays most games fine if quality/res not set too high. This is true, more or less, for all graphics cards at some point. You can never keep up with game graphics demands without spending a lot of money. If you can spend that much money, good for you, but many cannot.
    * Affordable price for a card with new technology

    The next Nvidia model up, the GTS 250 is a huge, hot (145W) card that is old technology dressed up with a new model name (again!). It only can do Pure Video 2nd generation (VP2) video acceleration. Sure, it can play games a little faster, but game performance isn't always the lone recommend factor for choosing your card. And, the GTS 250 does cost more when I looked at prices. If the GT 240 has enough game performance for you right now, then the GTS 250 is not a better card.

    I'm not going to talk about Radeon cards because I run on Linux and stay with Nvidia cards. If you are going Nvidia, the GT 240 is in the sweet spot for overall price/performance/features IMO.

    If the GT 240 is good enough for you now, the price is maybe low enough also that by the time it seems too slow for you, there will be much better cards with new technology for you to upgrade to later.

    To say the card doesn't matter and just not recommend it based on mainly game performance, isn't really looking at this card's features and market from a balanced point of view. The card could be highly recommendable for a computer used for watching movies and some game playing (HTPC or others). This card is just never going to please those kinds of users that are spoiled with the highest-end components all the time - the rest of us have to compromise some and the GT 240 can fit budget and purpose well right now.

    This review article, even though it does not recommend the card, might actually cause a lot of people to rush to buy these cards, for fear they will be discontinued! I was actually impressed with the game performance charts. So, this review article may very well still help sell a lot of these cards. :)
    Reply
  • AznBoi36 - Wednesday, January 06, 2010 - link

    Excellent points all around.

    I could see the GT240 as a viable upgrade for those on aging systems (Socket 939/478) and are on a tight budget. Why because the CPUs for those platforms most likely aren't fast enough to power many of the newer mainstream cards (ie: keeping the GPU well fed without being CPU limited). Also these users most likely have older monitors @ 1280x1024, and as shown the GT240 has enough oomph to run many of the new games at 1280x1024 with maximum detail and probably some AA/AF.

    New build? I can see this possibly going into a HTPC, but not anything else. There's much better cards out there. The 4670 is the better card overall for HTPC and light gaming IMO. Lower price, similar power requirements, heat and noise.
    Reply
  • Hauk - Wednesday, January 06, 2010 - link

    Man that article title.. ouch! ;) Reply
  • Spoelie - Thursday, January 07, 2010 - link

    It's actually the *message* NVIDIA sent out itself. Not even bothering to send review samples, you're telling the world these cards are low-key and unimportant in the grand scheme of things. Reply
  • Taft12 - Wednesday, January 06, 2010 - link

    "I hesitate to call the GT 240 a “bad” GPU"

    You may hesitate but this review clearly shows that the GT240 paired with DDR3 memory indeed makes for bad GPU. NVidia should have mandated OEMs use DDR5.
    Reply
  • DominionSeraph - Wednesday, January 06, 2010 - link

    Your usage of "GPU" shows that you have no idea what one is.
    You probably think the "CPU" is the case.
    Reply

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