With home media computers finding their way into many people’s living rooms a need for high-powered hardware in smaller form factors is on the rise. Many early adopters of Home Theater PCs or HTPCs simply installed tower systems near their high definition TV or wired existing desktop systems in other rooms to the TV. Now with more widespread adoption many users wanted power horse computer capable of high definition multimedia playback but in a size more suitable to the TV area. The need for smaller components meant many early adopters had to compromise on speed and power when building an HTPC unit. Now more powerful hardware is available in smaller sizes such as micro ATX for motherboards and computers cases the size of AV receivers. Graphics cards have improved greatly in recent years, but new cards meant large heatsinks and coolers making it nearly impossible to fit a power house GPU into a smaller case. Sparkle has answered the call for more power in a smaller size with their low profile sized GTS 250 nVidia GPU graphics card. Maintaining a larger cooling setup for performance and designing the overall card to fit in a low profile scenario makes this card the perfect graphics workhorse for a media computer or slim desktop computer.
|Graphics Processing||NVIDIA GeForce GTS250|
|Memory Type||1024MB GDDR3|
|Bus Type||PCI-Express 2.0|
|Ports||1 x HDMI and 1 x DVI|
GPU-Z showing the attributes of the Sparkle GTS 250 card
- Includes both full size and low profile PCI bracket
- NVIDIA® unified architecture
- Full Microsoft® DirectX® 10 support
- NVIDIA PhysX™ technology
- NVIDIA CUDA™ technology
- PCI Express 2.0 support
- GigaThread™ Technology
- NVIDIA® Lumenex™ Engine
- NVIDIA® Quantum Effects™ Technology
- NVIDIA® ForceWare® Unified Driver Architecture (UDA)
- OpenGL® 2.1 optimizations and support
- Dual 400MHz RAMDACs
- Dual-Link DVI Support
- HDMI Ready
- SPDIF Input
- NVIDIA PureVideo HD technology
Specifications taken from Sparkle’s website: Here
|GTS 250 Box front||GTS 250 Box back|
|The package includes SPDIF cable, 6PIN PCIe
power adapter, low profile bracket, DVI-VGA Adapter, install CD, and instruction manual
|The large heat sink of the cooler requires 2 PCI slots|
A Closer Look
Join as as we look as the performance of the Sparkle GTS-250 over the page.
Benchmark Testing and Analysis:
In order to present the power of the Sparkle GTS250 various tests and games will be run using purpose built software programs that will provide benchmark data for comparisons to other graphics cards. Each test will display the card’s abilities to perform in a given environment, performing graphics intensive tasks. The test setup is considered a mid-range collection of components designed for an affordable HTPC or a media computer. The main goal is to test this low profile card’s ability to deliver performance despite the small form factor of the card.
Our Test Setup
- GIGABYTE GA-MA78GM-US2H AMD 780G Motherboard
- AMD Athlon 64 X2 5600 Brisbane 2.9GHz AM2 65W Dual-Core Processor
- OCZ Reaper HPC Edition 4GB (2 x 2GB) 240-Pin DDR2 800 (PC2 6400) Dual Channel Memory
- OCZ StealthXStream OCZ700SXS 700W Active PFC Power Supply
- Western Digital Caviar Black WD1001FALS 1TB 7200 RPM SATA 3.0Gb/s Hard Drive
- APEVIA X-QPACK-NW-BK MicroATX Computer Case
- Windows 7 Ultimate x64
3DMark Vantage is a battery of 3D benchmarks designed to test the DirectX10 performance to score the performance of a system for comparison to an online database of other submitted systems. 3DMark vantage is used throughout the PC industry; by enthusiasts, experts, and reviewers to effectively compare the performance of CPU, GPU, and system as a whole. The Sparkle GTS250 performed well at performance present scoring 6715 points right about average when comparing results to the FutureMark database (see here). As with most graphics cards in this range, performance and acceptable game play will diminish as the resolution increases. Overall the GTS 250 scored well and should be most capable handling current mainstream games and multimedia playback.
|Performance – 3DMark Score P6715GPU:5461 CPU: 21561||High – 3DMark Score H3946GPU:3445 CPU:22442||Extreme – 3DMark Score X2522GPU:2409 CPU:22513|
36Mark06 is considered the ‘Gamers’ Benchmark’ due to its intensive testing of graphics and CPU processing power. The benchmark tests the 3D gaming capabilities, based on comprehensive real-time 3D graphics and processor tests developed to test the DirectX9 performance of the graphics card. Again these results are designed to give the user quantitative results that can be used to compare with other systems and graphics cards.
|8345 3DMarks @ 1024×786 8AA||6955 3DMarks @ 1280×1024 8AA|
From the creators of CINEMA 4D, MAXON comes CINEBENCH. MAXON’s CINEMA 4D is used by studios and production houses worldwide to create 3D content. The CINEBENCH tool is designed to compare graphics and processor performance. The graphics test uses a complex 3D scene of a car chase which measures the performance of the card in OpenGL mode. The test bombards the graphics card with a huge amount of geometry (nearly 1 million polygons) and textures, as well as a variety of effects, such as environments, bump maps, transparency, lighting and more to evaluate performance. Results of testing the graphics are given in FPS or frames per seconds. The higher the frames per second the better the graphics hardware, the smoother games and movies will play. The Sparkle GTS-250 scored 22.42 fps which is a bit lower than expected. Earlier tests indicted a higher average FPS, but each benchmark is unique.
Cryostasis PhysX Demo
The Sparkle GTS250 includes both NVIDIA PhysX™ and NVIDIA CUDA™ technologies so I thought it best to include a benchmark of the cards PhysX abilities. The Cryostatis demo provides glimpse of how much of an increase in visual performance users will see when playing games or running programs that utilize PhysX technology. This demo displays some of the capabilities of PhysX technology applied to PC video games. The visuals were very eye-pleasing, monsters appeared more realistic and lighting effects looked correct and not artificial. As with earlier tests, the GTS 250 performed well at the lower resolution of 1024×768 with 16AF.
|Demo run @ 4 Antistropic Filtering (AF)|
|1024 x 768 – Ave 36.8 FPS||1280 x 1024 – Ave 29.1 FPS||1920 x 1080 – Ave 22.0 FPS|
|Demo run @ 16 Antistropic Filtering (AF)|
|1024 x 768 – Ave 36.9 FPS||1280 x 1024 – Ave 28.2 FPS||1920 x 1080 – Ave 21.2 FPS|
S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Call of Pripyat
S.T.A.L.K.E.R:. Call of Pripyat benchmark provides information about the performance of the graphics card when playing a FPS (First Person Shooter) game in different types of scenes: day, night, rain, and sun shafts. Measuring the FPS in specific types of scenery shows how well the graphics hardware and driver software can handle the changes in lighting, shadows, movement, detail, etc.
|1024 Medium||1024 High||1024 Extreme|
|1280 Medium||1280 High||1280 Extreme|
|1920 Medium||1920 High||1920 Extreme|
Unigine Tropics is a demanding benchmark built on the Unigine real-time 3D engine. The Unigine renders photo realistic images which really pushes the limits of the graphics hardware. The test was run in DirectX9 mode, full screen, 8AA, and 16AF. At 1024 x 768 the imagery was smooth and realistic, almost perfect and glassy like. At the resolution increased the FPS dropped and began to experience shuddering/tearing of the imagery.
|1024×768 8xAA fullscreen
|1280×1024 8xAA fullscreen
|1920×1080 8xAA fullscreen
Analysis and Conclusion
The Sparkle GTS-250 graphics card is a great choice for a media pc or HTPC due to its good performance, low profile size, and requiring only 1 PCIe power connector. Featuring 128 cores, 256-bit 1024MB GDDR3 memory, and both HDMI & DVI ports this card is an excellent choice for power and connectivity. The internal SPDIF connector adds another useful audio connection reducing the number of unsightly cables around the outside of your setup. The double slot cooler is common amongst GTS-250 cards, but Sparkle managed to effectively cool the card whilst maintaining correct low profile form factor. This GTS-250 would make a great upgrade for any PC looking to turn into a media PC or to simply beef up a slim tower case that required low profile cards. With an average street price of $100-120 the Sparkle GTS-250 is an effective and economic choice for those looking to update the graphics performance of a system.
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