There is a sea of graphics cards AIBs [Add-in Board partners] and a new product release often get dismissed as "yet another one". But, every once in a while a product appears that captures our attention.
This time around, we noticed several very interesting features on Sparkle’s Calibre X260/X260HM graphics cards. For starters, the card features a custom PCB [Printed Circuit Board] that allows a completely different cooling setup compared with the reference cards.
At first, you won’t notice anything different on the card…
The fan itself is raised above the board by 5-10mm [when compared to the reference solution], resulting in more directed airflow over the aluminum + copper heat pipes heatsink. Where things turn interesting is the back of the card: Sparkle uses a single slot bracket, with only two DVI connectors on it, while the plastic cooler casing has uninterrupted exhaust – unlike all other dual-slot cards we’ve seen. This is a very interesting approach, which results in reducing the heating of the metal bracket. Sparkle definitely gets brownie points for this. Secondly, the board itself is modified not to make the product cheaper, but to feature greater flexibility when it comes to underclocking [going green] and overclocking [clocking' to heaven's high]. Both Calibre cards have more phases for the GPU [vGPU] and Memory [vMEM].
…but then, looking the card from this view – you can see the amount of changes made on the card – uninterrupted heat exhaust and a significantly raised fan
There are three clock modes available: Green [GRN], Standard [STD] and Overclocking [OC]. If you select the green mode, the clock speeds drop to 400MHz for the GPU core, 800MHz shaders [lowest we saw on any nVidia GPU after the introduction of asynchronous clock on GeForce 8800GTX] and 600MHz DDR [1.2 GT/s] for the memory. In this mode, power consumption is reduced by around 30% – an impressive feat from engineering team at Sparkle.
Standard mode is nothing to write about, 576 MHz for the core, 1.24 GHz for shaders and 999 MHz DDR [1.99 GT/s] for the memory. OC mode however, equals the clock on the GeForce GTX285, with 648 MHz for the GPU core, 1.40 GHz for shaders and sadly, untouched memory clock – we’re disappointed with that decision, as it keeps the standard and overclocked memory bandwidth at the same 95.9 GB/s.
All in all, the Sparkle Calibre X260 is a very interesting exercise in engineering and it would be interesting to see these innovations moving to the rest of their line-up, with the GeForce GTX285 standing to benefit the most from the "green" mode. But still… guys’n’girls, Sparkle needs to play more with the memory clocks when it comes to overclocked models.