AMD Phenom II 965 X4 BE
2x2Gb Crucial Ballistix Tracer DDR3-1600
Swiftech H2O-220 Compact
64Gb Patriot Torqx SSD
1Tb WD Caviar Black
Optiarc 24x DVD+/-RW
Silverstone Decathlon 750w
Cooler Master HAF 932 AMD Edition
Windows 7 64bit Home Premium
The GTS 250 LP appears tiny when installed in a full tower case with lots of real estate surrounding it. Cooling ability will also likely be greatly enhanced compared to a smaller enclosure, which often have a limited number of fans and/or restricted airflow.
The included software CD offers only the nVidia driver installation, as well as the install and troubleshooting guide in electronic format, and Adobe Acrobat Reader to view them. The driver version on the CD is 191.07 which is several revisions behind the current 197.45 available directly from nVidia.
The latest version of GPU-Z still incorrectly identifies the card as a 65nm G92 core, even though all GTS 250 and 9800GTX+ should in fact be 55nm dies. Stock clocks on the card are confirmed at 600MHz core, 900MHz memory and 1566MHz shader, down from the 738/1100/1836MHz found on a reference GTS 250.
Comparing the cooling on the Sparkle GTS 250 LP to our previous review of the XFX GTS 250, we find that the smaller cooler does in fact allow the chipset to run a little hotter at both idle and when under load, but only by a few degrees. Keep in mind however this is installed in a large case with plenty of airflow, a small HTPC or LAN box will undoubtedly cause the card to run warmer.
Fan speed ramps up quickly with temperature and the noise level of this little fan is a high-pitched whine that starts to become noticeable outside the case above 50% and becomes rather annoying by 70%. Unfortunately this means that most graphical loads placed on the card are going to kick the fan into high gear.
The power usage of the system was measured with a Kill-A-Watt meter in both idle and load states, using Furmark to generate maximum draw. Compared to the onboard 4290 graphics, the Sparkle GTS 250 LP uses roughly 25W more at idle, and 115W more under load, for a total peak draw of right around 150W. Although the idle consumption is less than a standard GTS 250, the draw at load is on par, and right at the maximum rating for the PCI-E slot plus one 6pin power connector. Some full size GTS 250 cards, including Sparkle's, use dual 6pin PCI-E connectors for this very reason.
Typically I would try to bump up the clock frequencies a bit, but due to the minimalistic cooler, higher than normal temps and targeted low power market, most users probably won't be interested in overclocking this card anyway. Let's run some benchmarks and see how the GTS 250 LP compares.