Today NVIDIA releases their new GeForce GT 220 and GeForce G 210 graphics cards. Both cards are based on NVIDIA's first 40 nm graphics processors. The GeForce GT 220 uses the G216 GPU, while the G 210 uses the G218 processor. Both cards are positioned in the lower end of the performance spectrum with performance, in the 9500 GT range. This is also the first time that NVIDIA offers a DirectX 10.1 compliant GPU. NVIDIA's Reviewers Guide states "The GeForce GT 220 is the perfect GPU for Microsoft Windows 7". I respectfully disagree, a Windows 7 graphics card should have support for DirectX 11 in my opinion, no matter if DirectX 11 is popular yet. NVIDIA has also worked on the media PC features and now lets you transmit the HDMI audio signal through the PCI-Express bus without the need for any SPDIF cable. Full HD video decode acceleration, NVIDIA CUDA and PhysX are also present on this card making this an all-round entry level solution if you are looking for a basic graphics card that works well for desktop use, and allows for casual gaming.
Zotac has engineered their own GeForce GT 220 design, which is better optimized for cost than NVIDIA's reference implementation. They have also slapped 1 GB of GDDR3 memory on their card - where many other manufacturers use only 512 MB, for example the Palit GeForce GT 220 512 MB that we reviewed here.
||256 MB /
|512 MB /
|Memory Bus Width
||790 MHz /
Zotac's orange package can be easily recognized from 10m away - full score for company identify. The front has only the most basic product information, I am really missing a "1 GB GDDR3" sticker here. On the back you find a more general text explaining how great Zotac and NVIDIA graphics cards are and what they can be used for.
You will receive:
- Graphics card
- Driver CD + Manual
- 3DMark Vantage full version
- Zotac Boost info sheet
Zotac has designed their own PCB layout which has all memory chips on one side and uses their own low-end cooler.
The card with cooler is exactly one slot tall, perfect for a system with limited space.
The card has one analog VGA port, one DVI port and and one HDMI port. For a low-end graphics card this is a very reasonable output configuration since many low-end PC users still use CRTs. For media PC users the HDMI output enables an easy way to hook up their graphics card to the big screen without any adapter cables or converters.
As mentioned before, NVIDIA has slightly changed how their HDMI Audio works. Instead of connecting an SPDIF output from your sound card to the graphics card, the driver will route the audio signal from the sound device over the PCI-Express bus into the graphics card. According to NVIDIA "fully uncompressed 7.1 LPCM" is supported, as far as I know the sound card will take care of decoding the audio from other formats into LPCM. Please note that you will still need an onboard sound device or sound card. Unlike ATI graphics cards there is no complete sound device embedded inside the GPU.
While there are no SLI connectors, it is possible to put two of these cards in SLI mode for better performance and data will be transferred via the PCI-Express bus.
Here are the front and the back of the card, high-res versions are also available (front
). If you choose to use these images for voltmods etc, please include a link back to this site or let us post your article.
A Closer Look
Zotac's cooler is very basic, it essentialy is a big chunk of metal with a fan in the middle. Compared to other coolers the heatsink area is quite big which will certainly help with cooling performance. The heat output of the GeForce GT 220 is really low, so there won't be a need for much cooling performance anyway.
Being a low-end power efficient design there is a no need for external power connectors on the GeForce GT 220.
The GDDR3 memory chips are made by Samsung and carry the model number K4W1G1646E-HC12. They are specified to run at 833 MHz (1666 MHz GDDR3 effective). NVIDIA does not support GDDR5 memory configurations on the GeForce GT 220. Board partners may choose whether they want to ship their cards with 512 MB or 1 GB of video memory.
This is NVIDIA's new GT 216 GPU, it comes with 486 million transistors and is produced on a 40 nm process at TSMC Taiwan.
||Intel Core i7 920 @ 3.8 GHz
(Bloomfield, 8192 KB Cache)
||Gigabyte X58 Extreme
Intel X58 & ICH10R
||3x 2048 MB Mushkin Redline XP3-12800 DDR3
@ 1520 MHz 8-7-7-16
||WD Raptor 740ADFD 74 GB
||BFG ES-800 800W
||Windows Vista 32-bit SP2
GT 220: 191.07
ATI: Catalyst 9.6
HD 58xx: 8.66 RC6
LG Flatron W3000H 30" 2560x1600
- All video card results were obtained on this exact system with the exact same configuration.
- All games were set to their highest quality setting
Each benchmark was tested at the following settings and resolution:
- 1024 x 768, No Anti-aliasing. This is a standard resolution without demanding display settings.
- 1280 x 1024, 2x Anti-aliasing. Common resolution for most smaller flatscreens today (17" - 19"). A bit of eye candy turned on in the drivers.
- 1680 x 1050, 4x Anti-aliasing. Most common widescreen resolution on larger displays (19" - 22"). Very good looking driver graphics settings.
- 1920 x 1200, 4x Anti-aliasing. Typical widescreen resolution for large displays (22" - 26"). Very good looking driver graphics settings.
- 2560 x 1600, 4x Anti-aliasing. Highest possible resolution for commonly available displays (30"). Very good looking driver graphics settings.
, a card based RTS, is developed by the German EA Phenomic Studio. A few months after launch the game was transformed into a Play 4 Free branded game. That move and the fact that it was included as game bundle with a large number of ATI cards made it one of the more well known RTS games of 2009. You as a player assemble your deck before game to select the units that will be available. Your choice can be from forces of Fire, Frost, Nature and Shadow to complement each other.
The BattleForge engine has full support for DX 9, DX 10 and DX 10.1, we used the internal benchmark tool to acquire our results.
Call of Duty 4
Call of Duty 4
is a first-person shooter that is built on the award winning Call of Duty Series. It is the first version to play in modern times. In a near-future conflict between the United States, Europe and Russia you get to play as a United States Marine and a British SAS operative. The engine is Infinity Ward's own creation and has true dynamic lighting, depth of field, dynamic shadows and HDR. Even though the game plot is scripted you will find yourself in intense battles, often working together with computer controlled team mates.
Call of Juarez 2
Call of Juarez 2: Bound in Blood
is a prequel to the first Call of Juarez game which was one of the first DX10 titles available on the market. This time the plot evolves around two brothers, before each mission you may pick one to play. Your choices affect the game play since both characters have different ways of handling situations and doing combat.
Call of Juarez 2 uses Techland's Chrome Engine 4 which adds Edge Anti Aliasing as one of the first engines on the market. Edge Anti Aliasing looks similar to normal AA but comes with a considerably reduced performance drop. However, due to the deferred shading design of Edge AA, normal AA can't be used on top of it.
Company Of Heroes
The real-time strategy game Company of Heroes
is set during World War II where you take two American companies through several fights all over France to liberate the country from German occupation. Company of Heroes is the first game to use Relic's next-generation engine "Essence Engine" which includes support for HDR lighting, Shader Model 3.0, normal mapping, dynamic lighting and shadows. You are able to zoom in from the tactical view of the battle field to see the individual units fighting. Often you catch yourself admiring the detailed animations of the soldiers while the fight around you is raging.
After the tremendous success of Far Cry, the German game studio Crytek released their latest shooter Crysis
in 2007. The game was by far the most hyped and anticipated game in 2007, the forums were full of "Can my system run Crysis?" threads because of the high hardware requirements of this game. Just like in Far Cry the plot evolves on a small island with a thick and richly detailed jungle world. A lot of attention has been given to small details like correct physics. For example when you fire on a tree trunk, it will shatter and the tree will fall over leaving a stump behind. Enemies in a car can be stopped by shooting the tire of the car. The game graphics are by far the best ever seen in a PC game so far, yet the game still runs well on most computers.
Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War 2
Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War II
by Relic Entertainment is an RTS game based on the Warhammer 40,000 universe. Unlike other Dawn of War titles there is no base-building element in the game, you simply command units on the battlefield. Due to the non-linear mission design, the choices which mission and objective you pick to pursue have considerable impact on game play and mission difficulty. A "hero" unit concept adds RPG elements to the game, allowing you to advance the unit in terms of levels and abilities. Dawn of War 2 uses the Essence Engine 2.0, version 1.0 was used in the Company of Heroes Series.
Enemy Territory: Quake Wars
The first-person shooter Enemy Territory: Quake Wars
is set in the science-fiction universe of Quake and requires several classes to work together to achieve certain goals on a map. In the campaign mode you gain experience which you can use to buy upgrades for your class. The player gets to pick from five classes of either the Global Defense Force or the Strogg faction. As underlying game engine, the successful id Software Doom 3 engine has been licensed, but several features like MegaTextures have been added, giving the outdoor world a much more detailed appearance.
was released in early 2004 by the new development studio Crytek. It quickly became a massive success because it was one of the first titles to take you in a beautiful 3D outdoor world. Far Cry was one of the most demanding games at its time. Even with today's video cards you can still see big differences in frame rates, especially at the higher resolutions.
Far Cry 2
Four years after the success of Far Cry, Ubisoft has published the sequel called Far Cry 2
. While the first part was set on an island, Far Cry 2 takes you deep into Africa with game play that resembles Grand Theft Auto much more than the original Far Cry, which was a classical 3D shooter. Ubisoft engineered a completely new 3D engine called "Dunia" which offers a large amount of popular features like DirectX 9 and DirectX 10 support, destructible environments, physics and non-scripted AI while not being as much of a resource hog as Crytek's CryEngine.
The first person shooter F.E.A.R
, developed by Monolith Game Studios, was released in Fall 2005 and has a great 3D engine that uses a large number of shading and shadow effects to accurately model the game world. In addition to that it features a realistic physics engine that lets you interact with many objects in the game world. The game was voted game of the year by several publications.
Tom Clancy's HAWX
Tom Clancy's H.A.W.X.
is one of the very few recent flight simulator games on the market. Being a console conversion it emphasizes "flight" more than "simulator". It is set in a near future in which private military companies have begun fighting conflicts for nations with their own military gear. You are playing an elite pilot who was recruited by such a private company. During the game you get to fly over 50 different aircrafts, ranging from the MIG 21 to the mighty F22 Raptor. One notable feature of its engine is the use of GeoEye satellite imagery for terrain generation which offers one of the most realistic incarnations of battlefield terrain available today.
is based on a highly modified 3D engine made by id Software. This first person shooter brought a completely new way of gaming to the genre. In many levels you find yourself walking upside down or on the walls. This adds a completely new aspect to the gaming experience in this genre.
The Quake titles are among the most successful first person games. Developed by id Software, the famous game studio that brought you DOOM, you find yourself in a sci-fi world that is full of aliens and shocking effects. The main focus of the game is the single player story line. Quake 4
puts you on the home planet of the Strogg. In a number of missions you and your fellow marines will encounter all sorts of enemies, including some really huge aliens.
The Chronicles of Riddick: Assault on Dark Athena
The Chronicles of Riddick: Assault on Dark Athena
is a first person shooter game set in a far future. You are Riddick, a notorious space criminal played by Vin Diesel in the movies. Dark Athena continues where Escape from Butcher Bay ended. A major aspect of the game is its tactical use of shadows and stealth so that enemies can't detect you. Vin Diesel's voice acting also adds greatly to the game experience.
The 0.0 FPS scores for NVIDIA cards at 2560x1600 are caused by driver crashes which seem to be related to card with 512 MB memory and below. Since it works fine on ATI this is not a game problem but an NVIDIA driver issue.
Before its release in 2007, S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Shadow of Chernobyl
was one of the most hyped games of the last years. This RPG/FPS hybrid game is set a few years in the future, after a nuclear disaster occurs at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant. The release of radiation causes strange things like mutations in the nearby area. You take the role of a Stalker who seeks fame and riches in the contaminated area around Chernobyl. The game engine features all the latest buzzwords like HDR, bullet physics, skeletal animation, soft shadows and weather effects. Stalker's vast outside world is richly modeled, you can interact with a large number of objects in the game thanks to the physics engine.
S.T.A.L.K.E.R. - Clear Sky
STALKER Clear Sky
is GSC Gameworld's prequel to the 2007 hit "STALKER". Just like in the first part the game is set around the Russian area of Chernobyl and Pripyat, most well known for the nuclear accident that occurred there. You play the role of a mercenary who spends his days in The Zone trying to make a living. The Zone is an area which is affected by so-called anomalies which cause mutants to appear and laws of physics to change. While you investigate these anomalies the plot leads up to the events that happened right before the first game starts. A new in-game faction system encourages you to befriend various groups in The Zone in exchange for information or items. While the graphics of Clear Sky are based on the first Stalker game engine, there are numerous improvements, including support for DirectX10 and depth-of-field/volumetric effects.
Team Fortress 2
Team Fortress 2
by the famous people from Valve software builds on an improved Half-Life 2 engine to deliver an action packed, team oriented, comic graphics first person shooter game. Even though the game features nice graphics, it tends to be very CPU limited, especially on lower resolutions. Players get to team up being either RED or BLU with a selection of nine classes. Each class offers a different play style, just like in the original Team Fortress games.
Unreal Tournament 3
The fourth game in Epic's highly successful Unreal Tournament Series is simply called Unreal Tournament 3
. It is based on the all-new Unreal 3 engine which is a major step forward from the previous engine. The game principle is centered about an arena style gameplay where several contestants try to reach a certain kill count or capture a flag for example. As you would expect from a new 2007 title, the graphics are top notch, with large and detailed textures. One major drawback of the way the engine is designed is that there is no support for Anti-Aliasing.
World In Conflict
The realtime strategy game World In Conflict
by Massive Entertainment is set in 1989 taking the player through a fictional conflict during the collapse of the Soviet Union. Unlike other RTS games, World in Conflict is not centered around building a base, you command units on the battlefield with a number of reinforcement points available to replace lost troops.
Massive's Masstech Game Engine makes heavy use of level-of-detail techniques which allow you to zoom in closely on the action displaying fights in high-fidelity with a large number of effects.
is the number one player in the world of synthetic benchmarking. The 3DMark series is the most popular test suite for video card testing and is used by gamers, overclockers and manufacturers alike to determine how fast their hardware is. Even though it is a few years old, 3DMark03 can easily stress today's video cards.
Another benchmark from Futuremark
is 3DMark05 which comes with four completely new game tests that make massive use of shaders and lighting effects. 3DMark05 is a great test for modern video card architectures - in some tests you are often close to the 30 fps mark, below which your games will feel sluggish.
Even though it's based on Futuremark's 3DMark05, the new 3DMark06 adds new tests for Shader Model 3.0 and HDR rendering. It is also the first 3DMark to incorporate a CPU score into the final 3DMark score. All tests have received an overhaul, for example in the Canyon Flight test you can now see beautiful sun glare effects with the help of High Dynamic Range rendering.
Cooling modern video cards is becoming more and more difficult, especially when users are asking for quiet cooling solutions. That's why the engineers are now paying much more attention to power consumption of new video card designs.
For this test we measure power consumption of only the graphics card, via PCI-Express power connector(s) and PCI-Express bus slot. A Keithley Integra 2700 with 6.5 digits is used for all measurements. Again, the values here reflect card only power consumption measured at DC VGA card inputs, not the whole system.
We chose 3DMark03 Nature as a standard test representing typical 3D usage because it offers: - very high power draw - high repeatability - is a standard benchmark that is supported by all cards - drivers are actively tested and optimized for it - supports all multi-GPU configurations - easy to obtain - fairly compact in size - test runs a constant duration and renders a variable scene with variable complexity just like any normal game.
The four result values are as following:
- Idle: Windows Vista Aero sitting at the desktop (1280x1024 32-bit) all windows closed, drivers installed. Card left to warm up in idle until power draw is stable.
- Average: 3DMark03 Nature at 1280x1024, 6xAA, 16xAF. This results in the highest power consumption. Average of all readings (12 per second) while the test was rendering (no title screen).
- Peak: 3DMark03 Nature at 1280x1024, 6xAA, 16xAF. Highest single reading during the test.
- Maximum: Furmark Stability Test at 1280x1024, 0xAA. This results in a very high non-game power consumption that can typically be reached only with stress testing applications. Card left running stress test until power draw converged to a stable value.
Power consumption can only be described as extremely low. Idle is the state in which most PCs spend most of the time and here NVIDIA made substantial improvements from the 9500 GT. Under load power consumption increases slightly, but is still very low, which results in outstanding performance/watt scores.
In the past years users would accept everything just to get more performance. Nowadays this has changed with people being more aware of the fan noise and power consumption of their graphic cards.
In order to properly test the fan noise a card emits we are using a Bruel & Kjaer 2236 sound level meter (~$4,000) which has the measurement range and accuracy we are looking for.
The tested graphics card is installed in a system that is completely passively cooled. That is passive PSU, passive CPU cooler, passive cooling on the motherboard and Solid-State HDD.
This setup allows us to eliminate secondary noise sources and test only the video card. To be more compliant with standards like DIN 45635 (we are not claiming to be fully DIN 45635 certified) the measurement is conducted at 100 cm distance and 160 cm over the floor. The ambient background noise level in the room is well below 20 dbA for all measurements. Please note that the dbA scale is not linear, it is logarithmic. 40 dbA is not twice as loud as 20 dbA. A 3 dbA increase results in double the sound pressure. The human hearing is a bit different and it is generally accepted that a 10 dbA increase doubles the perceived sound level.
While the fan noise of Zotac's GeForce GT 220 is quite low, I think it is still too much. Temperatures are below 50°C under load, and 33° in idle So it would have been wiser to go with higher temperatures and a much quieter fan. Given the size of the heatsink this should be no problem at all. It should also be noted that Palit's GT 220 that we reviewed today has a much less capable heatsink but runs a lot quieter.
To create this graph we took all performance results of the five resolutions we tested, threw them together and calculated the relative performance of each card, compared to our review sample. In a sixth graph we also combined all tests in all resolutions to calculate the total relative performance of the review sample.
Performance per Watt
This graph was created by taking the relative performance numbers and putting them in contrast to the average power consumption results.
Performance per Dollar
If you are looking for the best bang for the buck, then you will love this graph. We looked up the current USD price of each card on the popular online shop Newegg and used it and the relative performance numbers to calculate the Performance per Dollar Index.
To find the maximum overclock of our card we used a combination of GPUTool and our benchmarking suite.
The overclocks listed here were achieved with the default fan and voltage settings as defined in the VGA BIOS. Please note that every single sample overclocks differently, that's why our results here can only serve as a guideline for what you can expect from your card.
The overclocks of our card are 675 MHz core (8% overclock) and 855 MHz Memory (8% overclock). The overclocks are OK, a bit lower than I expected. Whether overclocking makes any sense on a graphics card like this is up to you to decide depending on your requirements.
Using these clock frequencies we ran a quick test of Call of Duty 4 to evaluate the gains from overclocking.
The actual 3D performance gained from overclocking is 9.4%.
Temperatures are good, but too low. Considering that the fan is not as quiet as it could be for this performance class, I would have preferred higher temperatures and a quieter fan.
Value and Conclusion
- While a final price is not available yet, expect the Zotac GT 220 Sonic to sell in the $79 range.
- Low power consumption
- 40 nm GPU
- 1 GB of GDDR3 memory
- Native HDMI output
- HDMI audio no longer requires SPDIF cable
- Single slot design
- 3D Mark full version included
- No external power connector required
- Support for DirectX 10.1
- Support for CUDA / PhysX
- High price
- Low clock speed on memory
- Not as quiet as it could be
- Only a small performance increase to last generation
- No support for DirectX 11
||If you haven't noticed by now, the GeForce GT 220 is not meant for gaming. While it may be able to play older games at lower resolutions like 1024x768 or with lower details, it completely lacks the rendering power for anything more serious. What it is made for is desktop use. The power consumption in idle is an amazing 10W which will help save you some money, especially if you are running a whole office full of computers. Feature wise everything you need is there, the lack of DirectX 11 doesn't seem to be that important considering you won't be enjoying many games on these cards and as NVIDIA told us for years, DirectX 10.1 is useless anyway. I really like the switch away from S-Video output to native HDMI on recent cards. It will help with the widespread adoption of media PCs to play back content on HD TVs. While it is nice that you no longer need to route an SPDIF cable to your sound card I would have preferred a more complete approach like ATI's integrated HD Audio Device inside the GPU.|
When compared to the one-year old Radeon HD 4670, which sits at an even lower price point, the HD 4670 wins in Performance, Price, Perf/Watt, Perf/Dollar. Out of these criteria for a low-end card the most important is price. Just price, not price/performance - 3D performance doesn't matter for 2D/Aero desktop. Right now the GT 220 cards are going for $70-$80, which is clearly too high. Thanks to the 40 nm process NVIDIA can make those GPUs really, really cheap. This, in my opinion, is the whole point of this product: cheaper GPUs for NVIDIA, better margins. In order to be able to compete in the retail market, the price of these cards has to go down to the $50 region.
I am not that happy with Zotac's implementation of the GeForce GT 220, for some reason (probably cost) they chose the low memory clock speed of 790 MHz and used 1 GB of GDDR3. While 1 GB GDDR3 might read nice it has absolutely no performance impact on this kind of product, there is a difference at 2560x1600, but you are not going to game on a $1000 display with a $80 card. Another point is the fan noise, even though it is quiet there is still a lot of room for optimization here. Zotac used such a nice heatsink but then didn't optimize the fan settings for it. A nice treat is the included 3DMark Vantage license, even if you don't use it, you can sell it for a few bucks, which can help reduce the price of the card a bit.