While current onboard graphics offerings delivered with the help of today’s processors are sufficient and have much improved compared to their predecessors, it is an undeniable fact that having a dedicated discrete graphics card on a desktop PC is still a better option. Graphics cards, even those that fall under the entry-level category, are much better than onboard graphics systems in many respects. With a dedicated graphics card, an entire desktop PC becomes more powerful, applications run faster, and games become more playable.
Under the entry-level category, among the latest GPU offerings are the NVIDIA GeForce GT 740 and the AMD Radeon R7 250. Launched a few months ago, the GeForce GT 740 is a 28nm 993MHz GPU based on NVIDIA’s Kepler architecture with the codename GK107, which was first introduced to the GeForce 600 series GPUs. The GeForce GT 740 comes in two memory variants: DDR3 with 1800MHz clock and GDDR5 with 1250MHz (5000MHz - effective) clock.
The rival AMD Radeon R7 250 has been around for quite a while and is actually positioned as a midrange offering. Launched in October last year, the Radeon R7 250 is a 28nm 1000MHz GPU that uses AMD’s Graphics Core Next (GCN) 1.0 architecture and its codename is Oland XT. It also comes in DDR3 and GDDR5 flavors with up to 1150 (4600MHz - effective) memory clock. Similar to the GeForce GT 740, the Radeon R7 250 is also available in 1GB and 2GB memory sizes, and uses 128-bit memory interface.
For this review, the two GPUs are represented by two graphics cards that are closely priced for less than PhP 5,000 in the market: the Palit GeForce GT 740 OC Edition and the Sapphire R7 250. Let us take a closer look at these two entry-level graphics cards.
Palit GeForce GT 740 OC Edition
Palit’s GeForce GT 740 OC Edition is a short graphics card with a dark brown PCB measuring 14.5 x 11cm. Its size makes it ideal for almost any size of a desktop PC, particularly box-type mini PCs. It is almost as large as its more powerful relative, the Palit GeForce GTX 750 StormX OC Edition, but unlike the latter, it is a single-slot solution. On the connectivity front, the card comes with a VGA, DVI, and a mini HDMI connector. Its packaging is simpler and smaller than that of the Sapphire Radeon R7 250.
For cooling, the Palit card makes use of a standard fan-heatsink cooling system and GPU thermal paste. By taking off the cooler, the card fully revealed its onboard components. Apart from the GPU and solid capacitors, other noticeable elements on the PCB are the four Samsung GDDR5 memory chips (K4G20325FD-FC03). The card does not have a power connector, except for the small one that is designed to power the fan.
Sapphire Radeon R7 250
Arriving with a box larger and more colorful than that of the Palit GeForce GT 740 OC Edition, the Sapphire Radeon R7 250 is a graphics card which is visually bigger than the former. At first, we thought that it was just an optical illusion brought about by its fan and heatsink chassis, but investigating on the card’s smaller details, the Sapphire Radeon R7 250 is actually bigger than the Palit GeForce GT 740 OC Edition. Starting off with Sapphire’s matte black PCB, it measures 15 x 10.5cm, a bit longer than Palit’s graphics card. Sapphire’s fan (Apistek GA81S2U) is also wider, measuring approximately 7.5cm in terms of diameter. Palit’s fan is also manufactured by Apistek (GA72S2U) with a diameter of approximately 6.5cm. Nevertheless, Palit’s heatsink is still larger and thicker than that of the Sapphire card.
The onboard components of the Sapphire Radeon R7 250 are essentially the same as that of the Palit GeForce GT 740 OC Edition. The Sapphire card also comes with four GDDR5 memory chips, but they are manufactured by Elpida (W2032BBBG). The card is also a single-slot solution, which hosts a VGA, DVI, and a Type A HDMI that is instantly compatible with a typical HDMI cable commonly used on monitors and HDTVs.