PNY GeForce 8400GS PCI-E 256MB review

Price when reviewed

With most motherboards’ integrated graphics controllers coming with just a solitary D-SUB video-out connector, it’s no surprise PNY is trying to grab a piece of the low-end market with a cheap, discrete card.

It offers plenty the average onboard graphics processor doesn’t. Its DVI-I port is HDCP-compatible, so with a DVI-to-HDMI converter it will connect to an HDTV. The only drawback is the lack of an onboard sound processor, so you’ll still need to wire up your sound card to your speakers. The seven-pin TV-out socket is another plus – a converter in the box allows you to connect to a component or S-Video display.

Despite PNY’s claims that the 8400GS offers “screaming gaming performance”, we struggled to get a usable frame rate. The core GPU runs at 450MHz and the 256MB of GDDR2 RAM at 400MHz, and Call of Duty 2 at its lowest settings staggered along at 18fps, dropping to 9fps at medium. And, despite the 8400’s DirectX 10 compatibility, our Call of Juarez test suggests you won’t be getting the best from Microsoft’s next-generation API. At the lowest settings, it ran at below 10fps. Perhaps PNY means screaming in frustration.

The fan is a tiny one, but we were pleased with the low-level noise put out, even when the card was under pressure. Against a stock Intel cooler it was barely audible; even when the CPU cooler was temporarily stopped it was still a minimal distraction. It’s also pleasing that it doesn’t require extra PCI Express power connectors.

While many companies would like you to believe that discrete graphics cards will somehow make mundane jobs like running Vista’s Aero interface better, the truth is they won’t. But there are plenty of other reasons to spend a relatively small sum on a discrete GPU and the 8400GS is a decent alternative to onboard graphics chips thanks to its HD features. Just don’t expect to be able to use it for any more than the most gentle of gaming.

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