In the world of graphics cards, one often tends to ignore the little ones and for good reason, I suppose. Most of the entry level graphics cards are too weak to handle even casual games. On paper they may be very appealing compared to the onboard graphics chip, but that never translates into any real world advantage. Which is why when Nvidia released the GT 520, it went almost unnoticed and we got to know about it once ZOTAC sent their sample for review.
Design and Features
The card is based on Nvidia’s new GF119 core which is yet another Fermi derivative with a highly crippled configuration. The GT 520 has just 48 shader units and a 64-bit memory bus which is very weak, but not unusual for a card in this price bracket. For reasons unknown, Nvidia have decided to go with a whole gig (1GB) of GDDR3 memory which makes no sense at all.
Perfect for HTPC users
ZOTAC is offering two versions, the standard one (that we are testing) and a Zone edition which is a passively cooled card. There’s nothing exciting to talk about here, it’s puny little thing that occupies a single slot in the system making it a viable candidate for an HTPC. The core is clocked at 810MHz while the memory runs at 1600MHz (effective). Due to its low profile nature, you don’t need a high wattage PSU, any run-of-the-mill 300W PSU would do fine.
Plenty of connectivity
The ports include VGA, HDMI and DVI. There isn’t any HDMI cable bundled, possibly to keep the costs down. ZOTAC have also included extra brackets for the ports incase you wish to separate the VGA port and use it in a different slot. A small orange fan helps cool the aluminum heatsink that covers the core and the memory chips. That’s pretty much it really; let’s see how this fares against AMD’s lineup particularly the XFX HD6450 we recently reviewed.
Test Rig Specifications
• Processor: Intel Core i7-2600K CPU @ 3.40 GHz
• Motherboard: GIGABYTE P67A-UD3R
• Memory: Corsair Dominator GT 6 GB DDR3 (3 x 2 GB)
• Hard drive: WD Velociraptor 300 GB
• GPU: ZOTAC GT 520
• PSU: Cooler Master Silent Pro 1000W
• VGA Driver : 275.33
The ZOTAC GT 520 and the XFX HD 6450 perform more or less the same. I ran all the games at a 1680×1050 resolution and disabled any AA or AF, the rest of the settings was untouched. I wasn’t able to get the Left 4 Dead 2 score due to random freezing issues but I’ll try and add that score once I get it sorted out.
Temperature and Noise
Using FurMark to gauge the temperature, we got a idle temp of 41C and when stressed, it shot up to 63C. The tiny fan does a decent job of keeping the temperatures in check and isn’t very noisy either.
Too weak for gaming and a bit expensive for an HTPC card
The MRP of the ZOTAC GT 520 is Rs.3,699, but end users can find it in stores for Rs.3,400. Judging by the performance and features, we’d have to pick the XFX HD 6450 over the GT 520. AMD’s offering is practically identical to the GT 520 in terms of design and features and costs a lot less as well at just Rs.2,500. The card also has a passive cooler so it’s quieter and you have the option for Eyefinity. Nvidia’s GT 520 doesn’t bring anything new to an already crowded entry level segment. There are many other cards that offer the same features and performance at a much lower price so if you’re looking for a good HTPC card then I’d recommend the HD 6450 over the GT 520. If you want to do a bit of gaming, as well then the HD 6570 is your best bet for a couple hundered more.
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