Review: The most affordable Geforce 500 series card
Nvidia launched the GT 520 at the beginning of April. We’re talking about a low-end card from the company’s Geforce 500 series. Gainward decided to re-tailor it in order to cater to those who prefer their cards silent and dubbed the card GT 520 1GB SilentFX.
Geforce GT 520 is a budget card for workstations and HTPCs and it’s quite an affordable alternative to integrated graphics. Geforce GT 520 1GB SilentFX goes for about €35 and comes with passive cooling and three different video outs. Gainward’s cooler is inaudible but we believe that many HTPC users will not like the fact that the card is dual slot. Geforce GT 520 1GB SilentFX comes with one VGA, one HDMI and one dual-link DVI so most users will be covered.
Geforce GT 520 is based on the GF119 chip, one of the most basic Fermi GPUs. Specs-wise, the GF119 is half of the GF108, which can be found on GT 430 cards. Note that Nvidia followed up on its Geforce GT 220 (no DX11 support) with the GT 420 (with DX11 support) but the GT 420 was reserved for OEMs. Thus, the GT 520 can be considered as the GT 220’s successor.
As you’d expect, Geforce GT 520 consumes very little with a 29W TDP. The card has DX11 support but only 48 CUDA processors (shaders).
Geforce GT 520 1GB SilentFX comes in a small but sturdy box that emphasizes that the card received the ‘Good’ design treatment, which means that Gainward uses special cooling. This time around, it’s a dual slot passive cooler. The box holds the card, a short user manual and driver CD.
Just like most Nvidia’s mainstream cards, Geforce GT 520 comes with support for 3D Vision, PhysX acceleration, PureVideo HD, blu-ray acceleration, CUDA support, DX11. Naturally, all these features are emphasized on the box.
Gainward Geforce GT 520 SilentFX is a low profile graphics card that measures about 168mm in length. The low profile slot bracket is not included although the card’s VGA connector can be removed. The cooler is quite simple and made of a single massive aluminum block with tall fins, which makes it a dual slot card. The large dissipation surface does not require grand cooling inside the case but, naturally, it will require at least some airflow in order to dissipate heat.
The PCB is about 14.5cm long but as you can see from the picture, the cooler is longer than the card. You can see that the card has no SLI connectors but two GT 520 cards can be daisy chained in SLI mode with data transferred via PCI Express bus.
The memory chips are on the GPU side of the PCB. Although it seems as if the cooler touches the memory chips, there are a few millimeters between them.
Gainward opted for Elpida EDJ1108BDSE-DJ-F DDR3 chips which run at 1070MHz but, according to the specs, can run up to 1333MHz at 1.5 volts. The memory interface is a 64 bit, which is why the card has a low bandwidth of only 8.6GB/s.
Geforce GT 520 SilentFX has VGA, HDMI 1.4a and dual-link DVI outputs, one of each to be precise. Audio is routed directly via HDMI connector with bitstreaming support for both Dolby True HD and DTS-HD Master Audio.
The following picture shows the GT 520 SilentFX next to Gainward’s GTX 570 GX sample card (reviewed here) just to get a size comparison point. Both cards have dual slot coolers.
Since it’s a low-power GPU, there’s no need for additional power, i.e. the card gets all the power it needs via PCI Express. Still, users are advised to use a 300W+ PSU.
Gainward’s GT 520 SilentFX runs at reference GPU clocks – 810MHz. However, Gainward increased the memory clocks from reference 900MHz to 1070MHz. Nvidia did not want to intrude on the GT 430 but we’d still like to have seen a bit better performance by the GT 520.
Video processing and power consumption
Most users who want Nvidia?s GT 520 will use it for viewing HD movies, off of their own media servers or online, i.e. they'll utilize to the max solely for multimedia. Linux users on the other hand will prefer Nvidia to AMD due to the former's superior driver support. Relatively low consumption, passive cooling and enough juice for postprocessing effects are the pros for GT 520 because, as you've seen yourself, it's not quite tailored for gaming. The cheaper GT 430 on the other hand would be much better for this purpose.
Load Temp Gaming
GPUZ showed fan speed as well, although the GT 520 SilentFX is passively cooled.
Load Temp 1080p
GT 520 is Gainward’s most affordable Geforce 500 series card. The company offers three different models based on the GF119 GPU, one of which is Geforce GT 520 SilentFX. We’re talking about a passively cooled card aimed at workstation and HTPC users. Passive operation and quality audio video reproduction are one of the main advantages of the GT 520 SilentFX over similar cards. The card has a low power GPU whose TDP is only 29W, thus allowing for passive cooling.
The GF119’s GPU is enough for processing video in any format but as far as gaming is concerned – users are stuck with 1280x1024, or even lower depending on specific game demands. Geforce GT 430 can still be found on the shelves and it goes for only €5-10 more than the GT 520. So, if you’re keen on gaming, we’d advise you to go for the GT430.
Bitstreaming support for both Dolby True HD and DTS-HD Master Audio via HDMI-a is perfect for home theatre computers but the GT 520’s advantage over Intel’s and AMD’s integrated solutions is that it can run two displays. Apart from the HDMI connectors, GT 520 SilentFX has one VGA and one dual-link DVI out.
Gainward’s GT 520 SilentFX uses dual slot heatsink that may cause problems in some smaller HTPC cases, although the card’s main downside, i.e. lack of graphics performance, is down to Nvidia’s design. On the other hand, if you’re looking for a passively cooled card, it’s definitely worth checking out, if nothing else then to upgrade integrated graphics solutions.