Zotac Makes A Silent GeForce GT 640
We usually look at mainstream and high-end graphics cards, but the Zotac GeForce GT 640 Zone Edition managed to catch our attention since it is passively cooled. The idea of having a silent video card without any active cooling fans is a big deal for the HTPC crowd and those users want silence. The Zotac GeForce GT 640 Zone Edition video card was announced in July 2012, but has yet to make it to the retail market for some reason. We held this review on purpose as there is no sense in reviewing a video card that you can not buy. Zotac informed us that the card is now shipping and should become available to purchase online in the next week or two. So, we figured that now is the perfect time to take a look at this zero noise graphics card!
The Zotac GeForce GT 640 Zone Edition uses the NVIDIA GK107 'Kepler' 28nm GPU that has 384 CUDA cores (shader units) and 16 ROPs. This card is clocked at 902MHz and does not feature a boost mode. When it comes to memory you'll find that this card has 2048 MB (2GB) of DDR3 memory that runs on a 128-bit memory bus. Most mainstream and high-end cards today use GDDR5 memory, but DDR3 memory is less expensive to use. The 2GB of DDR3 memory runs at 891MHz on this particular card.
Zotac GeForce GT 640 Video Cards:
- Zotac GeForce GT 640 Zone Edition (ZT-60204-20L) - 902MHz Core / 2GB DDR3
- Zotac GeForce GT 640 Low Profile (ZT-60203-10L) - 902MHz Core Clock / 2GB DDR3
- Zotac GeForce GT 640 Synergy Edition (ZT-60205-10L) - 902MHz Core / 1GB DDR3
- Zotac GeForce GT 640 (ZT-60201-10L) - 902MHz Core Clock / 2GB DDR3
Zotac makes four different GeForce GT 640 cards and all feature the same core clock speeds, so be careful which you buy. Zotac has a standard card, a passive card, a low profile card and one with less memory. We are looking at the Zotac GeForce GT 640 Zone Edition video card with model number ZT-60204-20L.
The Zotac GeForce GT 640 Zone Edition is a dual-slot graphics card that looks pretty sharp. As you can see the passive cooler uses three copper heat-pipes and the aluminum cooling fins wrap around the back of the card for increased surface area. Zotac used a black PCB that is just 5.75" long for this card, but the cooling fins extend past the end of the circuit board, making the card 6.5625" in total length.
This card has a simple design as there is no need for additional power and there is no SLI connector for Multi-GPU setups. As long as you have a 350W or greater power supply with 20Amps on the +12V rail and a PCI Express x16 graphics slot on your motherboard you should be good to go with this card.
Turning the Zotac GeForce GT 640 Zone over you can see that it doesn't have a back plate or any of the DDR3 memory chips on the back of the black colored PCB. The serial number sticker is the most important thing that is located on the back of this card. This number is critical if you plan on ever RMA'ing it under the 2-year limited warranty period should anything ever go wrong. Zotac is using PCB model number 23A-DN256-05Ain case you are curious.
With the card flipped this direction you can see the three copper heatpipes that help keep the GK107' GPU temperatures at bay. You can also see another pair of labels and more importantly a fan header that is located just above the PCI Express x16 slot connector on the left side. If you wanted to add a video card cooling fan to this card you are able to with this small 2-pin fan header. Also notice that there is thermal padding on the far left side to help transfer heat from the VRM area to the cooling fins.
The Zotac GeForce GT 640 Zone Edition has DVI-I, DVI-D & mini-HDMI when it comes to video outputs. Zotac only includes a DVI to VGA adapter, so you better have a mini-HDMI to full size HDMI adapter at home if you plan on using this for your HTPC build. This card was designed for the home theater PC crowd, so it is beyond us why Zotac would include a VGA adapter and not an HDMI adapter. Someone at Zotac dropped the ball here and forgot who this card is for.
The GeForce GT 640 does support running three monitors thanks to NVIDIA Surround technology. Also, if you are worried about 4K monitor support for the future you are in luck! This card has 4K video decoding capabilities, so you can run at a 4096x2160 resolution if you can afford one of the $25,000+ 4K monitors right now.
You might have noticed that we went over this card is that the heat sink wrapped around the back of the PCB. If you thought this card would have issues with motherboard chipsets, then pat yourself on the back for catching that. The second we plugged this video card into our ASUS P9X79 Deluxe motherboard we noticed that it wasn't sitting flat and that it was resting on the chipset cooler. The card still worked, but would not seat into the slot or secure with the PCIe locking mechanism. If your motherboard has the chipset cooler right above the primary PCIe x16 slot then you might have some issues.
Let's take a look at the retail box and bundle then jump into game testing!
Retail Box & Bundle
The retail packaging for Zotac GeForce GT 640 Zone Edition was colorful and had all the basic information on it. The one thing we wish more manufacturers would do is to put the clock speeds of the cards on the box, but we have been asking for that for 10 years now.
On the back of the retail box you have the in-depth details on many of the features for the GeForce GT 640. Again no clock speeds are mentioned on the back or any side of the box, but the power supply requirements are there. The Zotac GeForce GT 640 Zone Edition needs a minimum 350W or greater power supply with at least 20 Amps on the +12V rail.
Inside the box you'll find the retail bundle that Zotac includes with the purchase of this card. You'll find a quick install guide, the driver disc, a DVI-to-VGA adapter, warranty card and a 3-day pass to try out the Trackmania driving game. It would have been nice to see a mini-HDMI to HDMI adapter instead of the VGA adapter, but what an you do.
Before we look at the numbers, let's take a brief look at the test
system that was used. All testing was done using a fresh install of Windows
7 Ultimate 64-bit and benchmarks were completed on the desktop with no
other software programs running.
Drivers used for testing:
- Catalyst 12.8 - AMD Radeon HD 7870 GHz Edition
- GeForce 306.23 - GeForce GT 640, GTX 660 & GeForce GTX 660 Ti
Intel X79/LGA2011 Platform
The Intel X79 platform that we used to test the all of the video cards was running the ASUS P9X79 Deluxe motherboard with BIOS 0906 that came out on 12/22/2011. The Corsair Vengeance 16GB 1866MHz quad channel memory kit was set to 1866MHz with 1.5v and 9-10-9-27 1T memory timings. The OCZ Vertex 3 240GB SSD was run with firmware version 2.15.
|The Intel X79 Test Platform|
Intel Core i7-3960X
ASUS P9X79 Deluxe
16GB Corsair 1866MHz
OCZ Vertex 3 240GB
Windows 7 Ultimate 64-bit
Video Cards Tested:
- AMD Radeon HD 7870 GHz Edition 2GB - 1000MHz Core / 1200MHz Memory
- Zotac GeForce GT 640 Zone Edition 2GB - 902MHz Core / 1782MHz Memory
- EVGA GeForce GTX 660 2GB - 1046MHz Core / 1502MHz Memory
- MSI GeForce GTX 660 2GB - 1033MHz Core / 1502MHz Memory
- EVGA GeForce GTX 660 Ti SC 2GB - 980MHz Core / 1502MHz Memory
Zotac GeForce GT 640 Zone Edition GPU-Z Information:
Zotac GeForce GT 640 Zone Edition GPU-Z Idle Temp:
Batman: Arkham City
Batman: Arkham City is a 2011 action-adventure video game developed by Rocksteady Studios. It is the sequel to the 2009 video game Batman: Arkham Asylum, based on the DC Comics superhero Batman. The game was released by Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment for the PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 and Microsoft Windows. The PC and Onlive version was released on November 22, 2011.
Batman: Arkham City uses the Unreal Engine 3 game engine with PhysX. For benchmark testing of Batman: Arkham City we disabled PhysX to keep it fair and ran the game in DirectX 11 mode with 8x MSAA enabled and all the image quality features cranked up. You can see all of the exact settings in the screen captures above.
Battlefield 3 (BF3) is a first-person shooter video game developed by EA Digital Illusions CE and published by Electronic Arts. The game was released in North America on October 25, 2011 and in Europe on October 28, 2011. It does not support versions of Windows prior to Windows Vista as the game only supports DirectX 10 and 11. It is a direct sequel to 2005's Battlefield 2, and the eleventh installment in the Battlefield franchise. The game sold 5 million copies in its first week of release and the PC download is exclusive to EA's Origin platform, through which PC users also authenticate when connecting to the game.
Battlefield 3 debuts the new Frostbite 2 engine. This updated Frostbite engine can realistically portray the destruction of buildings and scenery to a greater extent than previous versions. Unlike previous iterations, the new version can also support dense urban areas. Battlefield 3 uses a new type of character animation technology called ANT. ANT technology is used in EA Sports games, such as FIFA, but for Battlefield 3 is adapted to create a more realistic soldier, with the ability to transition into cover and turn the head before the body.
This game looks great and we tested with the highest settings possible. This means we used 'ultra' settings and really punished the cards being tested. We ran FRAPS for two minutes on the single player map called 'Rock and a Hard Place' for benchmarking.
Dirt: Showdown is a video game published and developed by Codemasters for Microsoft Windows, Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. It was released in May 2012 in Europe and in June in North America. It is part of the Colin McRae Rally game series.
Dirt: Showdown removes several of the gameplay modes featured Dirt 3, and introduces new ones. Gameplay modes can be classified as Racing, Demolition, Hoonigan or Party. We ran the built in Benchmark at Ultra settings to get a true feel of what this engine has to offer!
It is very important to note that Global Illumination and Advanced Lighting have massive performance penalties when enabled, something not seen in other titles in the Dirt series. It seems to affect NVIDIA hardware more so than AMD. We ran with and without the settings enabled to show our readers that these two settings can make a world of difference to your gaming experience.
Metro 2033 is an action-oriented video game with a combination of survival horror and first-person shooter elements. The game is based on the novel Metro 2033 by Russian author Dmitry Glukhovsky. It was developed by 4A Games in the Ukraine. The game is played from the perspective of a character named Artyom. The story takes place in post-apocalyptic Moscow, mostly inside the metro station where the player's character was raised (he was born before the war, in an unharmed city), but occasionally the player has to go above ground on certain missions and scavenge for valuables.
This is another extremely demanding game. Image quality settings were raised to Very High quality with 4x AA and 16x AF. We turned off PhysX and DOF (Depth of Field) for benchmarking.
Sleeping Dogs is a 2012 open world action-adventure video game developed by United Front Games in conjunction with Square Enix London Studios and published by Square Enix. The game was released on August 14, 2012, for Microsoft Windows. The game uses the Havok physics engine.
We used the Adrenaline Sleeping Dogs Benchmark tool to benchmark this game title to make sure the benchmarking was consistent. We tested with 'High' quality setting at 1280x1024 and 1920x1024 resolutions.
3DMark 11 is the latest version of the world’s most popular benchmark for measuring the 3D graphics performance of gaming PCs. 3DMark 11 uses a native DirectX 11 engine designed to make extensive use of all the new features in DirectX 11, including tessellation, compute shaders and multi-threading.
We ran 3DMark11 with both the performance and extreme presets to see how our hardware will run.
3DMark11 Performance Benchmark Results:
The Zotac GeForce GT 640 Zone Edition scored 2410 3DMarks in 3DMark11 with the performance preset.
3DMark11 Extreme Benchmark Results:
The Zotac GeForce GT 640 Zone Edition scored 704 3DMarks in 3DMark11 with the extreme preset.
For testing power consumption, we took our test system and plugged it
into a Kill-A-Watt power meter. For idle numbers, we allowed the system
to idle on the desktop for 15 minutes and took the reading. For load
numbers we measured the peak wattage used by the system while running
the OpenGL benchmark FurMark 1.10.1 at 1024x768 resolution. We also ran four game titles at 1920x1080 and averaged the peak results recorded the highest Wattage seen on the meter for the gaming results.
Power Consumption Results: The Zotac GeForce GT 640 had very nice idle power consumption and the entire system used just 98 Watts of power. At full load we hit 200 Watts and that was in both game titles and Furmark! This is around 90 Watts less than the GeForce GTX 660 and GeForce GTX 660 Ti, which is significant. If you don't need a mainstream or high-end gaming graphic card then something like the GT 640 will save you some money if it is used often.
Temperature & Noise Testing
Temperatures are important to enthusiasts and gamers, so we took a bit and did some temperature testing on the NVIDIA GeForce GT 640 video card.
Zotac GeForce GT 640 Zone Edition Idle:
The Zotac GeForce GT 640 Zone Edition had an idle temperature of 48.0C in a room that was 26.0C (79F).
Zotac GeForce GT 640 Zone Edition in Games:
In game titles like Dirt Showdown we were hitting 99C, which is getting pretty toasty. Keep in mind that we test everything on the open test bench.
Zotac GeForce GT 640 Zone Edition in Furmark:
With Furmark fired up and running at 1024x768 we saw the temperature reach 102C and then the card started to throttle and the temperatures started to drop a bit. The card ran like a champ at these extreme speed and it throttled like it was supposed to when it got too hot. We didn't try to blow it up, but we weren't nervous at these speeds as the card acted like it was supposed to and throttled down to lower temperatures.
The Zotac GeForce GT 640 Zone Edition runs hotter than all the active cards that we compared it to, but keep in mind that this card is fanless and silent.
We recently upgraded our sound meter to an Extech sound level meter with ±1.5dB accuracy that meets Type 2 standards. This meter ranges from 35dB to 90dB on the low measurement range, which is perfect for us as our test room usually averages around 38dB. We measure the sound level two inches above the corner of the motherboard with 'A' frequency weighting. The microphone wind cover is used to make sure no wind is blowing across the microphone, which would seriously throw off the data.
The Zotac GeForce GT 640 Zone Edition is silent, so the noise level remained the same across all test scenarios. Our test system was still observed at 41.7 dBA though due to the water cooler pump and fans that were being used to cool the processor. The Zotac GeForce GT 640 Zone is truly silent and that is awesome. In order to get zero noise you'll have to sacrifice GPU temperatures though and that is up to you to decide.
Final Thoughts and Conclusions
The Zotac GeForce GT 640 Zone Edition was designed to for HTPC users where silence was key. This card has no issues handling Blu-ray video playback and makes for a great passive graphics card. The only place that Zotac dropped the ball is by not including a mini-HDMI to HDMI adapter. Zotac clearly states they designed this card for home theater users, but for some reason didn't include the adapter they need the most to use this card straight away. That is disappointing as consumers will have to go out and spend another $6 for this adapter.
When it comes to gaming performance the GeForce GT 640 can play the latest DirectX 11 game titles, but you'll need to turn down the image quality settings and use lower resolutions. If you plan on gaming at 1680x1050 or lower then this card should be up to the task when the IQ settings are down. Our benchmarks today showed that with the image quality settings cranked up that the GeForce GT 640 just doesn't have enough horse power to get the job done. The GK107 has just 384 CUDA Cores and while they are great for running HD videos and GP-GPU offloading, they start to show signs of weakness in the games.
If you are silent video card the Zotac GeForce GT 640 Zone Edition should be on your short list. Just make sure that the cooling fins on the back of the card won't come in contact with your motherboards chipset cooling solution and that you have a case with good airflow. The Zotac GeForce GT 640 Zone Edition is able to run hot though, but it is always good to have some air moving across the card.
When it comes to pricing of the Zotac GeForce GT 640 Zone Edition we have been told that it will be $10 more than the standard version. The standard Zotac GeForce GT 640 can be found online for $112.28 shipped. This would put the Zotac GeForce GT 640 Zone Edition around the $125 price range. The lowest cost NVIDIA GeForce GT 640 2GB video card on Newegg is $87.55 after rebate, so you are looking around $35-$40 extra for a passive card. Newegg does not carry any other passive NVIDIA GeForce GT 640, so Zotac might be able to get away with the pricing as there is no real competition for this card. If you don't need a silent card then there is no reason to be looking at this card, but if you do then it is the only one to be looking at!
UPDATE: Zotac says the Zotac GeForce GT 640 has an MSRP of $99.99 and the Zone Edition is priced at $119.99. These prices are not what we are seeing online, so Zotac might be doing a price drop soon.
Legit Bottom Line: The Zotac GeForce GT 640 Zone Edition makes no noise, but you have to pay more to get this passive video card!