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ASUS Extreme N6800 Ultra 256MB
ASUS Extreme N6800GT 256MB
ASUS N6600GT 128MB AGP
ASUS Extreme AX850XT Platinum 256MB
ASUS Extreme AX800XL 256MB

Based on NVIDIA GeForce 6800Ultra/6800GT/6600GT and
ATI RADEON X850 XT PE/X800XL

April 7, 2005










TABLE OF CONTENTS

  1. Introduction
  2. Video card's features
  3. Testbed configurations, benchmarks
  4. Test results: summary performance diagrams
  5. Conclusions



It's March already, but this winter doesn't want to go away, frosts and snowstorms still don't give way to spring.

That's right, it's the Moscow weather at the beginning of March this year. There have been years, when there was almost no snow, the sun was shining, and the pavements were dry already at this time of the year (in cities, of course). However, this will eventually happen, spring will come, and it will bring precursors of warmth, which is so unpleasant to modern 3D accelerators, especially of the High End level, because they are heated much even without it.

Even the overheating of the notorious GeForce FX 5800 Ultra with FlowFX seems not that striking (as it used to be in the end of 2002). That's why additional cooling inside modern PC cases is almost mandatory for these days. Details will be provided below.

So, we are going to review the new products from ASUSTeK, a long-time resident on the Russian market. They concern products based on processors both from ATI and NVIDIA. As is well known, the company works on a universal scheme, it cooperates with both graphics processors manufacturers (like many other brands). That's why it'll be very interesting to find out about the new ASUS products for the PCI-E sector. Besides, the 6600GT AGP is also of current importance.

Note that all video cards, except for one (based on RADEON X850 XT PE), are manufactured by ASUSTeK itself. What concerns the X850 XT, it's well known that they are still manufactured on a single plant by ATI's request, so they are all the same (only HIS installed its own cooling system). There is no point in explaining what PCI-E cards are and what they are for, I guess. We have written about them many times. This sector is currently rapidly growing.



Video Cards



ASUS Extreme N6800 Ultra 256MB
Interface: PCI-Express x16

Frequencies (chip/memory physical (memory effective): 425/550 (1100) MHz (nominal — 400-425/550 (1100) MHz)

Memory bus width: 256bit

Number of vertex pipelines: 6

Number of pixel pipelines: 16

Dimensions: 220x100x32mm (the last figure is the maximum thickness of a video card).

PCB color: dark blue.

Output connectors: 2xDVI, S-Video.

VIVO: not available

TV-out: integrated into GPU.




ASUS Extreme N6800GT 256MB
Interface: PCI-Express x16

Frequencies (chip/memory physical (memory effective): 350/500 (1000) MHz (nominal - 350/500 (1000) MHz)

Memory bus width: 256bit

Number of vertex pipelines: 6

Number of pixel pipelines: 16

Dimensions: 220x100x17mm (the last figure is the maximum thickness of a video card).

PCB color: dark blue.

Output connectors: 2xDVI, S-Video.

VIVO: not available

TV-out: integrated into GPU.




ASUS N6600GT 128MB AGP
Interface: AGP 2x/4x/8x

Frequencies (chip/memory — physical (memory — effective): 520/510 (1020) MHz (nominal - 500/450 (900) MHz)

Memory bus width: 128bit

Number of vertex pipelines: 3

Number of pixel pipelines: 8

Dimensions: 175x100x18mm (the last figure is the maximum thickness of a video card).

PCB color: dark blue.

Output connectors: DVI, d-Sub, S-Video.

VIVO: not available

TV-out: integrated into GPU.




ASUS Extreme AX850XT Platinum 256MB
Interface: PCI-Express x16

Frequencies (chip/memory — physical (memory — effective): 540/590 (1180) MHz (nominal - 540/590 (1180) MHz)

Memory bus width: 256bit

Number of vertex pipelines: 6

Number of pixel pipelines: 16

Dimensions: 190x100x36mm (the last value is the maximal thickness of a video card at its cooler).

PCB color: red.

Output connectors: 2xDVI, S-Video.

VIVO: available, based on RAGE Theater.

TV-out: integrated into GPU.




ASUS Extreme AX800XL 256MB
Interface: PCI-Express x16

Frequencies (chip/memory — physical (memory — effective): 400/495 (990) MHz (nominal - 400/495 (990) MHz)

Memory bus width: 256bit

Number of vertex pipelines: 6

Number of pixel pipelines: 16

Dimensions: 190x100x17mm (the last figure is the maximum thickness of a video card).

PCB color: orange.

Output connectors: 2xDVI, S-Video.

VIVO: available, based on RAGE Theater.

TV-out: integrated into GPU.






ASUS Extreme N6800 Ultra 256MB
The video card has 256 MB of GDDR3 SDRAM allocated in eight chips on the front side of the PCB.

Samsung (GDDR3) memory chips. 1.6ns memory access time, which corresponds to 625 (1250) MHz.




ASUS Extreme N6800GT 256MB
The video card has 256 MB of GDDR3 SDRAM allocated in eight chips on the front side of the PCB.

Samsung (GDDR3) memory chips. 2.0ns memory access time, which corresponds to 500 (1000) MHz.




ASUS N6600GT 128MB AGP
The video card has 256 MB of GDDR3 SDRAM allocated in four chips on the front side of the PCB.

Samsung (GDDR3) memory chips. 1.6ns memory access time, which corresponds to 625 (1250) MHz.




ASUS Extreme AX850XT Platinum 256MB
The video card has 256 MB of GDDR3 SDRAM allocated in eight chips on the front and back sides of the PCB.

Samsung (GDDR3) memory chips. 1.6ns memory access time, which corresponds to 625 (1250) MHz.




ASUS Extreme AX800XL 256MB
The video card has 256 MB of GDDR3 SDRAM allocated in eight chips on the front and back sides of the PCB.

Samsung (GDDR3) memory chips. 2.0ns memory access time, which corresponds to 500 (1000) MHz.






Comparison with the reference design, front view
ASUS Extreme N6800 Ultra 256MB
Reference card NVIDIA GeForce 6800 Ultra PCI-E






ASUS Extreme N6800GT 256MB



ASUS N6600GT 128MB AGP
Reference card NVIDIA GeForce 6600GT






ASUS Extreme AX850XT Platinum 256MB
Reference card ATI RADEON X850 XT PE









ASUS Extreme AX800XL 256MB 128MB
Reference card ATI RADEON X800 XL








Comparison with the reference design, back view
ASUS Extreme N6800 Ultra 256MB
Reference card NVIDIA GeForce 6800 Ultra PCI-E






ASUS Extreme N6800GT 256MB



ASUS N6600GT 128MB AGP
Reference card NVIDIA GeForce 6600GT






ASUS Extreme AX850XT Platinum 256MB
Reference card ATI RADEON X850 XT PE









ASUS Extreme AX800XL 256MB 128MB
Reference card ATI RADEON X800 XL








Well, it seems we again have reference design copies. But this is good, especially for High End cards, because the PCB layout is obviously very complex and the slightest glitch in calculations may have a negative effect on operating stability. What concerns reference designs, they are thoroughly tested. Besides, the experience of mass-volume production by various manufacturers may indicate whether the design is good or bad. But I repeat that all the cards except for one (X850 XT PE) are manufactured on ASUSTeK plants. Even GeForce 6800 Ultra! We have previously seen all video cards based on this processor - even copies and reference cards, manufactured by NVIDIA's request on some third party plants.

But there is still a small difference between the X800 XL from ASUS and the reference design: a fan power connector is shifted a tad to the right.

We should say a few words about monitor connectors: in fact only one card based on the 6600GT has both DVI and d-Sub. The other products are equipped with two DVI connectors. However, the bundles include adapters, so owners of monitors without DVI interfaces will be able to use such cards. All the cards, except the X800 XL, have connectors for additional power, bundles of the PCI-E products contain adapters from 6-pin to regular 4-pin connectors.

Let's review the cooling systems.

ASUS Extreme N6800 Ultra 256MB

It's a reference cooling system offered by NVIDIA. ASUS just added a cover on the heatsink :). It consists of three parts: a copper base, installed on the core; plastic housing with a turbine (shifted to the left) and a typically curved memory heatsink.

The turbine drives air through the core (and cools it) and then cools a heatpipe with low-boiling liquid, which goes along the entire length of the curved memory heatsink. The air also contributes to cooling the heatsink on voltage regulators.

The turbine operates at 3000-7000 rpm. We'll describe the noise below.




ASUS Extreme N6800GT 256MB

A similar cooling scheme, but it's significantly narrower and has an illumination. The noise is more irritating than in the previous device due to the narrow heatsink. Details will be provided below.







ASUS N6600GT 128MB AGP

I call such coolers "a la GeForce4", i.e. it has a closed heatsink with an off-center fan, which draws the air in and drives it through the grid over a graphics processor. The heatsink has a copper base. The HSI bridge has its own plate heatsink. It's this heatsink that creates major overheating problems.

The fan rotates at 2500 rpm.

We'll describe the noise below.







ASUS Extreme AX850XT Platinum 256MB

It's a turbine-type device. The turbine is installed approximately in the center of the step housing that draws the air through the end of the plastic pipe and blows it out of the PC case through the bell. The video card is equipped with a special grid bracket so that a user couldn't install the card into a PC case where the second slot after PCI-E is bracketed.

Turbine rotational speed is from 2500 to 6000 rpm, so the startup noise is strong. It's not actually a noise, it's turbine roar similar to FlowFX. The roar stops a couple of seconds after startup and the turbine rpm drops to minimum.




ASUS Extreme AX800XL 256MB

It's a closed type cooler with a large copper heatsink. The fan is shifted to the left, it drives air through the fins of the heatsink over the core.

The fan rotates at about 3000 rpm.

The cooler has an illumination.






Let's proceed with the examination of cooling systems and the resulting video card dimensions.

ASUS Extreme N6800 Ultra 256MB

It's a two-slot cooler, so the card takes up much space in the system unit. You should also take into account that the accelerator requires much empty space around it for better cooling.

Startup noise is rather high, it abates only in 5-8 minutes of operation in 2D mode. You can watch a video and evaluate the noise at this link (2.6MB, AVI DivX 5.1).




ASUS Extreme N6800GT 256MB

The cooler is narrow but it still requires much empty space around the card for better cooling. Concerning the noise — everything is like in the previous product, but the noise level is higher: that's the effect of the narrow heatsink housing.

You can watch a video and evaluate the noise at this link (2.9MB, AVI DivX 5.1).




ASUS N6600GT 128MB AGP

The cooler makes almost no noise, but it cools only GPU. The HSI bridge has a simple heatsink, which gets overheated and heats the entire card, which is not very good.

You can watch a video and evaluate the noise at this link (4.2MB, AVI DivX 5.1).




ASUS Extreme AX850XT Platinum 256MB

You may have already read about the roar of this turbine in previous articles devoted to a similar card. But you will hear it only at startup, it will abate noticeably after a couple of seconds.

You can watch a video and evaluate the noise at this link (3.3MB, AVI DivX 5.1).




ASUS Extreme AX800XL 256MB

The cooler is quite effective and quiet, even though its heatsink is narrow.

You can watch a video and evaluate the noise at this link (3.1MB, AVI DivX 5.1).






Bundle

ASUS Extreme N6800 Ultra 256MB
The box contains a user's guide, CD with drivers, ASUSDVD, DVI-to-d-Sub adapter, external power cord, TV extension cord, several games (you can see them on the photo), INCLUDING DOOM III ! And, of course, a Web camera.








ASUS Extreme N6800GT 256MB
This bundle is similar to the previous one, for the only exception of DOOM III.


ASUS N6600GT 128MB AGP
The box contains a user's guide, CD with drivers, several games; DVI-to-d-Sub adapter, TV extension cord.


ASUS Extreme AX850XT Platinum 256MB
The box contains a user's guide, CD with drivers, ASUSDVD, DVI-to-d-Sub adapter, external power cord, TV extension cord, HDTV and VIVO cables, as well as several games.


ASUS Extreme AX800XL 256MB
A similar bundle, except for a HDTV cable and TV cord extensions.




Let's have a look at the boxes.

ASUS Extreme N6800 Ultra 256MB

I have already noted before that the company tries to make packages as large and bright as possible :-). We have already seen much of it, though: a handle, a lift-up lid. The difference between the box designs in ATI and NVIDIA is interesting: both boxes display people (various fictional heroes), but boxes of the former display females, while the latter — males.




ASUS Extreme N6800GT 256MB

A similar box with a window under a lift-up lid to demonstrate the video card.







ASUS N6600GT 128MB AGP

A small box made of thick cardboard, designed in company's style.




ASUS Extreme AX850XT Platinum 256MB

The same box as for ASUS Extreme N6800 Ultra 256MB, but the design is a tad different, I have already mentioned it.




ASUS Extreme AX800XL 256MB

It's all the same, but the box also contains a window to demonstrate the card.









Installation and Drivers

Testbed configurations:

  • Athlon 64 (939Socket) based computer
    • CPU: AMD Athlon 3800+ (2400MHz) (L2=512K)
    • Motherboard: ASUS A8N SLI Deluxe based on NVIDIA nForce4 SLI
    • RAM: 1 GB DDR SDRAM 400MHz
    • HDD: WD Caviar SE WD1600JD 160GB SATA

  • Athlon 64 (754Socket) based computer:
    • CPU: AMD Athlon 64 3400+ (L2=1024K)
    • Motherboard: ASUS K8V SE Deluxe based on VIA K8T800
    • RAM: 1 GB DDR SDRAM PC3200
    • HDD: Seagate Barracuda 7200.7 80GB SATA

  • Operating system: Windows XP SP2 DirectX 9.0c
  • Monitors: ViewSonic P810 (21") and Mitsubishi Diamond Pro 2070sb (21").
  • ATI drivers 6.512 (CATALYST 5.2); NVIDIA drivers 71.81.

VSync is disabled.

ASUS video cards come shipped with many utilities, but the main utility is SmartDoctor. That's how it looks for each of the tested cards.



ASUS Extreme N6800 Ultra 256MB; ASUS Extreme N6800GT 256MB




ASUS N6600GT 128MB AGP




ASUS Extreme AX850XT Platinum 256MB




ASUS Extreme AX800XL 256MB






You can see that only the X800 XL is fully supported by the utility: it demonstrates all card's parameters. In all other products you can only control their frequencies. We used the latest version (4.64) of the utility that was available on March 10.

Now what concerns the temperature. I used RivaTuner for monitoring cards (written by A.Nikolaychuk AKA Unwinder). All video cards were installed into a closed PC case without additional cooling (only the front and rear fans of the PC case) and worked there for about 2 hours under a constant 3D load (a cycle of our tests).



ASUS Extreme N6800 Ultra 256MB




Link to the full monitoring file

The cooler effect is obvious: the core temperature never rose above 72 degrees. The noise is noticeable though. But there is a Gainward utility — ExperTool (unfortunately ASUS didn't develop a proprietary utility!) — that allows to control the rotational speed of fans in all reference NV4x. So I used this utility (it allows to reduce the rotational speed of a cooler by 50% from the nominal value), the noise got noticeably lower. Here are the temperature conditions during our tests in lite cooling mode.

ASUS Extreme N6800 Ultra 256MB with low cooling




Link to the full monitoring file

As you can see, the temperature got only a tad higher! The conclusion is clear: such rotational speed of the turbine is excessive, half of that speed is quite sufficient.

ASUS Extreme N6800GT 256MB




Link to the full monitoring file

This card gets hotter than the previous one even though it operates at lower frequencies: that's due to the narrow cooler, which is not very effective and very noisy.

ASUS N6600GT 128MB AGP




Link to the full monitoring file

Just look at this horror! The core temperature exceeds 90 degrees! That's the fault of the HSI bridge, which overheats the PCB and channels the heat to the core as well. The card is quite stable though. But you should keep in mind that additional fans must be installed in PC cases with such cards!

ASUS Extreme AX850XT Platinum 256MB




Link to the full monitoring file

The same horror! Overheating (in our sense of the word) is obvious, though you can see that the cooler never raised its rpm higher than 19% of its nominal capacity. But the card operated quite well, there is nothing to complain about. According to the preliminary analysis, the cooler switches to its 100% capacity only at about 100 degrees. So, either this chip is designed to withstand such temperatures or the sensor readings are corrected on the software level to show higher temperatures.

ASUS Extreme AX800XL 256MB




Link to the full monitoring file

This video card has no problems with overheating, the core temperature doesn't exceed 55 degrees.

Test results: performance comparison

We used the following test applications:

  • Tomb Raider: Angel of Darkness v.49 (Core Design/Eldos Software) DirectX 9.0, Paris5_4 demo. The tests were conducted with the quality set to maximum, only Depth of Fields PS20 was disabled.

  • Half-Life2 (Valve/Sierra) — DirectX 9.0, demo (ixbt01, ixbt02, ixbt03 The tests were carried out with maximum quality, option -dxlevel 90, presets for video card types are removed from dxsupport.cfg.

  • FarCry 1.3 (Crytek/UbiSoft), DirectX 9.0, multitexturing, 3 demo from Research, Pier, Regulator levels (-DEVMODE startup option), Very High test settings.

  • DOOM III (id Software/Activision) — OpenGL, multitexturing, test settings — High Quality (ANIS8x), demo ixbt1 (33MB!). We have a sample batch file to start the game automatically with increased speed and reduced jerking (precaching) d3auto.rar. (DO NOT BE AFRAID of the black screen after the first menu, that's how it should be! It will last 5-10 seconds and then the demo should start)

  • 3DMark05 (FutureMark) — DirectX 9.0, multitexturing, test settings — trilinear,

  • The Chronicles Of Riddick: Escape From Butcher Bay (Starbreeze/Vivendi) — OpenGL, multitexturing, test settings — maximum texture quality, Shader 2.0, demo 44 and demo ducche.

If you want to get the demo-benchmarks, which we use, contact me at my e-mail.

Overall performance

Performance against CPU (without AntiAliasing and Anisotropy)

Performance against CPU (with AntiAliasing 4x and Anisotropy 16x)



Conclusions

  1. These days ASUS Extreme N6800 Ultra 256MB is nearly the most powerful accelerator based on a processor from NVIDIA. It's certainly an image product at a huge price. It offers excellent characteristics, and its popularity will be up to the price. But such cards are almost impossible to find in Russia, though it's already mid March. 2D quality in 1600x1200 at 85 Hz is excellent. 455/1240MHz overclocking. You should keep in mind that the cooler is noisy, so I recommend a Gainward utility — ExperTool.

  2. ASUS Extreme N6800GT 256MB is based almost on the same chip, but the frequencies are lower. But on the other hand the price is more acceptable. The cooling system design is not good enough, it's no way quiet (I recommend the Gainward utility again). Overclocking — 430/1190 MHz (but I repeat that overclocking depends on a given sample!). 2D quality in 1600x1200 at 85 Hz is excellent.

  3. ASUS N6600GT 128MB AGP is nothing special, it's a complete copy of the reference design, but the copper cooler and 1.6ns memory will attract overclockers. Besides, this sample got overclocked to 577/1230MHz! 2D quality in 1600x1200 at 85 Hz is excellent. But you should keep in mind that the card gets very heated and additional cooling is needed much.

  4. ASUS Extreme AX850XT Platinum 256MB is a reference card, everything is standard in it. It goes without saying that the highest performance in a great number of games (except for NVIDIA SLI, of course), VIVO support - all these features are advantages of this card. But the potentially possible cooler noise (even roar rather than noise) and the irritating overheating (the card operation is stable, but it's not very pleasant to see 96 degrees on the chip) — all these issues are disadvantages. But if there is a good air flow inside a PC case, there must be no problems! The 2D image quality at 1600x1200@85Hz is excellent. 560/1230 MHz overclocking (when cooled). It's certainly an image product at a huge price as well.

  5. ASUS Extreme AX800XL 256MB is a copy of the reference design, but it has its peculiarities. Of course, the price will plummet as for all new products from ASUS, but I hope it won't be too high to make the previous X800 XT a better bargain :-). SmartDoctor works with this card very well, modding fans will be pleased. 2D quality in 1600x1200 at 85 Hz is excellent. 428/1170MHz overclocking.

You can find more detailed comparisons of various video cards in our 3Digest.





According to the test results, ASUS Extreme AX800XL 256MB gets the Original Design award (March).






Besides, ASUS Extreme N6800 Ultra 256MB gets the Original Package award (March).








Theoretical materials and reviews of video cards, which concern functional properties of the GPU ATI RADEON X800 (R420)/X850 (R480)/X700 (RV410) and NVIDIA GeForce 6800 (NV40/45)/6600 (NV43)



We express our thanks to
ASUSTeK
for the provided video cards.



Andrey Vorobiev (anvakams@ixbt.com)

2005


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