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ASUS Extreme N7800 GTX 256MB, ASUS Extreme N7800 GTX TOP 256MB
Based on NVIDIA GeForce 7800 GTX

August 24, 2005








TABLE OF CONTENTS

  1. Introduction
  2. Video card's features
  3. Testbed configurations, benchmarks
  4. SLI Anti-Aliasing 16x
  5. Test results
  6. Conclusions



Summer is already over, it has been marked by the GeForce 7800 series. Indeed, NVIDIA's flagship (GeForce 7800GTX) was launched at the end of June, its junior brother appeared nearly two months after - 7800GT, I already wrote about this card.

Our subject today is the GeForce 7800 GTX. The joy of the new announcement was that it was made not only on paper. These cards appeared on the shelves right after the official celebrations dedicated to the launch of the fastest accelerator.

Moreover, despite the summer time and the consequent traditional recession of sales during that period, these very expensive cards were actively sold. However, there were so many cards manufactured (like an avalanche in response to the deficit of the previous 6800 Ultra) that the prices started crawling down. Though the official recommended retail price is still $549, in America you can come across 7800 GTX cards below $500. Of course, the prices on the Russian market are more inert, but even here you may find reasonable prices ($540-$550), ignoring super-impudent retailers who offer such cards at $650-$660.

The Canadian company is already suffering losses, even though its representatives would always reply to all questions that there were no reasons to launch their answer in summer, that only the autumn would bring sales: according to independent experts from Mercury Research, NVIDIA currently owns 73% of the Hi-End accelerators market. ATI was forced to make an unprecedented move and drop its prices for top accelerators: the X850XT PE went down from $549 to $349! It will hardly help though - the 7800GT is already out, even more expensive, than the most powerful accelerator from ATI, it's still a tad faster and based on higher technology.

So the only way out for NVIDIA's competitor now is to launch a worthy product, but it will be hard in the light of the dropped prices for the 7800 GTX. Let's get back to the 7800 GTX.

I have already reviewed several cards on this GPU, nothing much to write about - for now all partners sell reference cards, ordered by NVIDIA and manufactured by Leadtek (Foxconn). Today we shall examine another reference card from ASUS and the second similar representative, which cooling system is upgraded and which frequencies are raised to 486/1350 MHz.

Thus, ASUS Extreme N7800GTX TOP has become nearly the most powerful card for today, even among the 7800 GTX accelerators!

Here are the videos, which briefly illustrate the new product.

Of course, the increased frequencies meant additional efforts from ASUS engineers: in order to guarantee operation at these frequencies (+56 MHz on the core and +75 (150) MHz on memory), such cards should be tested and selected. It increases the primary costs, not to mention that the company buys famous coolers from Arctic Cooling for these video cards.

So we cannot expect low prices for the ASUS Extreme N7800GTX TOP. I guess they will be more expensive by $50-$60 than the regular GeForce 7800 GTX. But if we take into account that such a cooler has a similar retail price ($45-$50), such an overhead looks appropriate.

Let's examine the cards themselves.

Video Cards



ASUS Extreme N7800 GTX 256MB
Interface: PCI-Express x16

Frequencies (ROP/Shader/Geometry unit/memory - physical (memory - effective): 430/430/470/600 (1200) MHz (nominal — 430/430/470/600 (1200) MHz)

Memory bus width: 256bit

Number of vertex pipelines: 8

Number of pixel pipelines: 24

Dimensions: 205x100x15mm (the last figure is the maximum thickness of a video card).

PCB color: green.

Output connectors: 2xDVI, S-Video.

VIVO: available (Philips 7115)

TV-out: integrated into GPU.




ASUS Extreme N7800 GTX TOP 256MB
Interface: PCI-Express x16

Frequencies (ROP/Shader/Geometry unit/memory - physical (memory - effective): 486/486/526/675 (1350) MHz (nominal — 430/430/470/600 (1200) MHz)

Memory bus width: 256bit

Number of vertex pipelines: 8

Number of pixel pipelines: 24

Dimensions: 205x100x32mm (the last figure is the maximum thickness of a video card).

PCB color: green.

Output connectors: 2xDVI, S-Video.

VIVO: available (Philips 7115)

TV-out: integrated into GPU.






ASUS Extreme N7800 GTX 256MB, ASUS Extreme N7800 GTX TOP 256MB
The cards have 256 MB GDDR3 SDRAM allocated in 8 chips on the front and the back sides of the PCB.

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






Comparison with the reference design, front view
ASUS Extreme N7800 GTX 256MB
Reference card NVIDIA GeForce 7800 GTX






ASUS Extreme N7800 GTX TOP 256MB





Comparison with the reference design, back view
ASUS Extreme N7800 GTX 256MB
Reference card NVIDIA GeForce 7800 GTX






ASUS Extreme N7800 GTX TOP 256MB





I guess there is no reason to comment on the cards, they are copies of the reference card and everything I could say about them can be found in our previous articles (the list is at the end of the article).

It should be mentioned that the 7800 GTX is equipped with a couple of DVI jacks and contacts for a SLI bridge.



ASUS Extreme N7800 GTX 256MB

The cooling system was thoroughly examined in the base article about G70. I will just remind you that the central heatsink is connected with a heat pipe to the memory heatsink. Let's proceed. The device is very narrow, it occupies one slot only, which is good news. On the whole, the cooler is very quiet. Only the first seconds after startup are a tad noisy because of the high rpms of the turbine. You can evaluate its noise in this video (1.5MB, WMV)







ASUS Extreme N7800 GTX TOP 256MB

A proprietary Arctic Cooling device. In fact you can buy such a cooler separately, these coolers are available on sale.

The cooler consists of a copper base, which is pressed to processor core and memory chips (via thermal spacers), soldered to a finned heatsink. A plastic air duct (housing) goes right above the heatsink. There is a turbine at one end that pumps the air in, and a bell at the other end, through which hot air is blown away from the PC case. It's clear that the air passes through the heatsink and cools it.

This device is unique in its low noise (turbine configuration is well though-out) and very good cooling efficiency. Theoretically, the rotational speed may vary from 3000 to 6000. But we should take into account that this cooler is not equipped with a tachometer, so it's nearly unamenable to control. In fact it's not that necessary, it runs at 3000 by default anyway - it's quite enough for effective cooling of the card and doesn't break the silence.

Of course, the efficiency and quietness come at a cost. That cost is the thick cooling system, when the second slot after PCI-E is blocked. But that's a minor drawback. What's much more important is that the cooler DRIVES THE HEAT from a system unit outside, while the reference cooler BLOWS INSIDE, thus the heat wave flows AGAINST the general air flow inside a PC case (the air is usually driven into a PC case from the front panel and then it's driven outside from the rear panel).

But this cooling system has a major flaw: badly organized heat dissipation from memory chips at the back of the PCB compared to the front side. The back side is equipped with just a plate, which is of little cooling help, while the front side houses a cooler, which efficiently channels the heat away, including the heat from the memory chips. I think that they should have connected the front and the back parts of the device with heat pipes (to improve heat dissipation from the back) or to install a large heatsink on the back of the PCB (like an Arctic Cooling model for RADEON cards). At least they should have installed a simple large heatsink on each memory chip. The memory is overclocked (the nominal value is 625 MHz, and it operates at 675 MHz). And it gets very hot even at standard 600 MHz.


















In conclusion of the examination we should note that the card is equipped with a VIVO codec (VideoIn,VideoOut). That is this product may be used by amateurs to capture analog video and record it in digital form.






Bundle

ASUS Extreme N7800 GTX 256MB, ASUS Extreme N7800 GTX TOP 256MB
User manual, DVI-to-d-Sub adapter, HDTV/VIVO adapter, software bundle - you can see it on the right photo. Unlike the ASUS Extreme N7800 GTX 256MB, one of the games in the ASUS Extreme N7800 GTX TOP 256MB bundle is replaced with Virtual Drive utility. In both cases a user may find a bonus: proprietary leather album for compact discs.







Box.

ASUS Extreme N7800 GTX 256MB, ASUS Extreme N7800 GTX TOP 256MB

Boxes are also identical, only their backgrounds are different (black or blue). The box with a handle (big) has a jacket with a flip cover. All components inside the box are arranged into cardboard sections, a card lies in a polyurethane foam box to avoid damages in transit (unless this box gets under a heavy cargo or it's not dropped from a lifting crane). So these cards may travel shock-free.






Installation and Drivers

Testbed configurations:

  • Athlon 64 (939Socket) based computer
    • CPU: AMD Athlon 4000+ (2400MHz) (L2=1024K)
    • Motherboard: ASUS A8N SLI Deluxe based on NVIDIA nForce4 SLI
    • RAM: 1 GB DDR SDRAM 400MHz (CAS (tCL)=2.5; RAS to CAS delay (tRCD)=3; Row Precharge (tRP)=3; tRAS=6)
    • HDD: WD Caviar SE WD1600JD 160GB SATA

  • RADEON X850 XT PE (PowerColor RX850XT PE, PCI-E, 256MB GDDR3, 540/1180 MHz);
  • GeForce 6800 Ultra (ASUS EN6800 Ultra, PCI-E, 256MB GDDR3, 425/1100 MHz);
  • GeForce 7800 GTX (ASUS, PCI-E, 256MB GDDR3, 430/430/470/1200 MHz);
  • GeForce 7800 GTX (Leadtek, PCI-E, 256MB GDDR3, 430/430/470/1200 MHz);
  • Operating system: Windows XP SP2 DirectX 9.0c
  • Monitors: ViewSonic P810 (21") and Mitsubishi Diamond Pro 2070sb (21").
  • ATI drivers 6.553 (CATALYST 5.7) NVIDIA drivers 77.77.

VSync is disabled.

This picture refers to the ASUS Extreme N7800 GTX TOP 256MB.




The latest beta version of RivaTuner 15.7 is getting more and more features before the release. It now allows to monitor the card's temperature (Ambient) and cooler's rotational speed (if it's a reference model or if it's equipped with the same 4-pin connector). As I have already mentioned above, the cooler in the ASUS Extreme N7800 GTX TOP 256MB does not have such a connector (just a 2-pin one), that's why the monitoring above does not show correct values of the rotational speed. Now what concerns the temperature. Despite the heavily increased operating frequencies, the cooler is evidently very efficient - the core temperature does not exceed 70° even under the heaviest load. The only thing that troubles me is the hot heatsink on the voltage regulators. The reference cooler takes care of it, no matter how well it does it job. Even if blowing hot air (from GPU) is not a good way of cooling. But in this case this heatsink is covered by the plastic housing of a cooler, which limits air access. Well, we'll be looking forward to comments. Perhaps I'm being too cautious, while the designers checked everything and consider that elements of the power supply unit are not that hot.

Overclocking. ROP/Shader units can operate only at 432, 459, 486, 513 MHz (potentially even higher, but there will hardly be such chips). Only the geometry unit allows to control is operating frequency continuously. We managed to overclock this video card to 513/513/553 MHz (core) retaining the operating stability. Maximum memory limit is 1400 MHz.

SLI AA 16x

Before the traditional performance tests, let's see what the new AA mode in SLI mode provides in practice, considering that we are promised a super 16x mode! The quality must be above praise! I shall not tire you with theoretical materials and publish a table with screenshots so that you could see everything with your own eyes. We used only those applications that are sure to change their operating mode depending on forced AA in the driver. By the way, not all applications allow this. To be more exact, the driver does not enable the forced mode, if a game does not allow it. In particular, 3DMark05 runs only with AA, which can be selected in its options. It's useless to force AA in NVIDIA's drivers for this package. But this AA mode is supported by ATI cards, if it's disabled in 3Dmark05 and enabled only in the driver.

AA Mode Screenshot
Shadow Mapping demo, (C)Gerasimov Ph.
NO AA


AA 4x+TAA


AA 8xS


SLI AA 16x


Far Cry v.1.32
NO AA


AA 4x+TAA


AA 8xS


SLI AA 16x


In my opinion, we don't need a higher AA mode now that TAA can smooth semitransparent textures in MSAA 4x mode. Especially when you see how VORACIOUS this SLI AA 16x mode is. Of course, you should take into account that this mode is not fine-tuned yet. That's why performance may drop not so catastrophically in future... As for now, the AA 16x mode utterly defeats even such a monster as the GeForce 7800 GTX SLI.

Test results: performance comparison

We used the following test applications:

  • 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 demos 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,

  • F.E.A.R. (Multiplayer beta) (Monolith/Sierra) — DirectX 9.0, multitexturing, Maximum test settings, Soft shadows.

  • Splinter Cell Chaos of Theory v.1.04 (Ubisoft) — DirectX 9.0, multitexturing, maximum test settings, shaders 3.0 (for NVIDIA cards)/shaders 2.0 (for ATI cards); HDR OFF!

  • 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.

    I wish to thank Rinat Dosayev (AKA 4uckall) and Alexei Ostrovski (AKA Ducce), who have created a demo for this game. I also want to thank Alexei Berillo AKA Somebody Else for his help

I'll comment only on the ASUS Extreme N7800 GTX TOP 256MB, as we have reviewed performance of the regular 7800 GTX cards many times. There is no point in repeating them. Comments on the AA 16x performance results are also unnecessary, it's quite clear that the performance drop is capital!



Game tests that heavily load vertex shaders, mixed pixel shaders 1.1 and 2.0, active multitexturing.

FarCry, Research



Test results: FarCry Research




ASUS Extreme N7800 GTX TOP 256MB also did well, it goes up on a par with the 6800 Ultra SLI, even though the latter is obviously more expensive. It outperforms the regular 7800 GTX by up to 11%.

Game tests that heavily load vertex shaders, pixel shaders 2.0, active multitexturing.

F.E.A.R. (MP beta)



Test results: F.E.A.R. (MP beta)




I'll tell you right away that all SLI cards act VERY strangely in this test with Drivers 77.77: they demonstrate very low performance without the AA+AF load. The problem obviously lies in the driver, which doesn't recognize this demo. So there will be no comments about the advantage over SLI - that's obviously a mistake. I guess it's the fault of the Soft Shadow mode, because everything falls into place without it. You can see it right away: as soon as the Soft Shadows mode is enabled, the horizontal line that divides working areas of two SLI accelerators immediately goes down. The second accelerator is evidently nearly idle.

What concerns the ASUS Extreme N7800 GTX TOP 256MB - it's superb! It breaks far away from its competitors! It does it in the heaviest game - a potential hit.

Splinter Cell Chaos Theory



Test results: SCCT




The load here is also very high, especially to shader units. That's the only reason the 6800 Ultra SLI has taken up the lead. But you can just as well ignore it, because the price for this tandem is still higher than for the most expensive 7800 GTX card. In other respects the ASUS Extreme N7800 GTX TOP 256MB does an excellent job!

Half-Life2: ixbt01 demo



Test results: Half-Life2, ixbt01




This test is limited heavily by a processor even with AA+AF, so it's difficult to evaluate cards objectively here. We can only see that the ASUS Extreme N7800 GTX TOP 256MB offers excellent gameplay under the heaviest load even in high resolutions.



Game tests that heavily load pixel pipelines with texturing, active operations of the stencil buffer and shader units

DOOM III High mode



Test results: DOOM III






Chronicles of Riddick, demo 44



Test results: Chronicles of Riddick, demo 44




Well, this group of traditionally advantageous games for NVIDIA demonstrates that the ASUS Extreme N7800 GTX TOP 256MB is a leader among single-chip accelerators (that is without SLI). Even though the 6800 Ultra SLI is outperformed only insignificantly, we can score a victory to the card from ASUS.



Synthetic tests that heavily load shader units

3DMark05: MARKS



Test results: 3DMark05 MARKS




This situation is similar to what we have seen in F.E.A.R. ASUS Extreme N7800 GTX TOP 256MB is beyond competition! (of course, if we don't take into account the 6800 Ultra SLI).



Conclusions

ASUS Extreme N7800 GTX 256MB is an ordinary product based on the standard GeForce 7800 GTX. There is nothing special about it. It's not manufactured by ASUSTeK. Yep, it's a reference card distributed by NVIDIA among its partners. So if the price is raised too high, there is no reason to chase the brand, you will get the same features from any other NVIDIA's partner (but for a lower price). It has an advantage - a good bundle with a bonus of a leather CD album.

ASUS Extreme N7800 GTX TOP 256MB is also based on a reference card, but the selection guarantees it to run at higher frequencies. Thus this card is an absolute leader in performance and wins our attention. Add a very efficient and quiet cooling system, which drives the heat away from a system unit. It's the nicest looking accelerator I've ever reviewed. Of course, the price will play a pivotal role. I hope retailers won't raise it so that it would be more reasonable to buy a regular card with moneyback plus an Arctic Cooling device and to try and overclock the 7800GTX to the same frequencies as in the product from ASUS.

Both cards demonstrated excellent quality in 2D at 1600x1200@100Hz.



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








ASUS Extreme N7800 GTX TOP 256MB gets the Original Design award (August).









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 Russia
for the provided video cards.


Andrey Vorobiev (anvakams@ixbt.com)

August, 2005.



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