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ASUS RADEON 3850 / 3850X2, GeForce 9600GT / 9800GTX / 9800GX2

Five original graphics cards.

October 3, 2008



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Time flies like bytes in a computer game. We haven't finished reviewing all new RADEON HD 3850 cards, but we already have to face the 48XX series. 3870 X2 has already become a thing of the past, forced out by 4870 X2. GeForce 9800 GX2 is also leaving the market, being driven out by GTX 280 and 4870 X2.

So, we are desperately trying to examine new cards from previous series. Since these products are still available in stores, this review may be interesting to some of you.

This review focuses on five graphics cards from ASUS. Four are custom products. As for the fifth, GeForce 9800 GX2, since there's no sense in customizing it, it's represented by an overclocked reference card.

Graphics Cards


ASUS GeForce 9600 GT Silent (EN9600GT) 512MB
  • GPU: GeForce 9600 GT (G94)
  • Interface: PCI-Express x16
  • GPU frequencies (ROPs/Shaders): 650/1625 MHz (nominal -- 650/1625 MHz)
  • Memory frequencies, physical (effective): 900 (1800) MHz (nominal -- 900 (1800) MHz)
  • Memory bus width: 256bit
  • Vertex processors: -
  • Pixel processors: -
  • Unified processors: 64
  • Texture processors: 32 (BLF)
  • ROPs: 16
  • Dimensions: 190x100x33 mm (the last figure is maximum thickness of the graphics card).
  • PCB color: blue
  • RAMDACs/TDMS: integrated into GPU.
  • Output connectors: 2xDVI (Dual-Link/HDMI), TV-out
  • VIVO: not available
  • TV-out: integrated into GPU.
  • Multi-GPU operation: SLI (Hardware).
ASUS GeForce 9800 GX2 TOP (EN9800GX2) 2x512MB
  • GPU: 2 x GeForce 9800 GTX (2 x G92)
  • Interface: PCI-Express x16
  • GPU frequencies (ROPs/Shaders): 670/1674 MHz (nominal -- 600/1512 MHz)
  • Memory frequencies, physical (effective): 1060 (2120) MHz (nominal -- 1000 (2000) MHz)
  • Memory bus width: 2 x 256bit
  • Vertex processors: -
  • Pixel processors: -
  • Unified processors: 2 x 128
  • Texture processors: 2 x 64 (BLF/TLF)
  • ROPs: 2 x 16
  • Dimensions: 270x100x33 mm (the last figure is maximum thickness of the graphics card).
  • PCB color: black
  • RAMDACs/TDMS: integrated into GPU.
  • Output connectors: 2xDVI (Dual-Link/HDMI), HDMI.
  • VIVO: not available
  • TV-out: not installed.
  • Multi-GPU operation: 9800 GX2 is based on SLI inside, and it also allows external SLI (Hardware).
ASUS RADEON 3850 Smart OC (EAH3850) 1024MB
  • GPU: RADEON 3850 (RV670)
  • Interface: PCI-Express x16
  • GPU frequencies (ROPs/Shaders): 670/670 MHz (nominal -- 670/670 MHz)
  • Memory frequencies, physical (effective): 500 (1000) MHz (nominal -- 830 (1660) MHz)
  • Memory bus width: 256bit
  • Vertex processors: -
  • Pixel processors: -
  • Unified processors: 320
  • Texture processors: 16 (BLF/TLF)
  • ROPs: 16
  • Dimensions: 200x100x32 mm (the last figure is maximum thickness of the graphics card).
  • PCB color: red
  • RAMDACs/TDMS: integrated into GPU.
  • Output connectors: 2xDVI (Dual-Link/HDMI), TV-Out.
  • VIVO: not available
  • TV-out: integrated into GPU.
  • Multi-GPU operation: CrossFire (Hardware).
ASUS RADEON 3850 X2 (EAH3850X2) 2x512MB
  • GPU: 2 x RADEON HD 3850 (RV670)
  • Interface: PCI-Express x16
  • GPU frequencies (ROPs/Shaders): 670/670 MHz (nominal -- 670/670 MHz)
  • Memory frequencies, physical (effective): 830 (1660) MHz (nominal -- 830 (1660) MHz)
  • Memory bus width: 2 x 256bit
  • Vertex processors: -
  • Pixel processors: -
  • Unified processors: 2 x 320
  • Texture processors: 2 x 16 (BLF/TLF)
  • ROPs: 2 x 16
  • Dimensions: 270x100x32 mm (the last figure is maximum thickness of the graphics card).
  • PCB color: red
  • RAMDACs/TDMS: integrated into GPU.
  • Output connectors: 2xDVI (1xDual-Link/HDMI), TV-Out.
  • VIVO: not available
  • TV-out: integrated into GPU.
  • Multi-GPU operation: the 3850 X2 is based on CrossFire inside, and it also allows external CrossFire (Hardware).
ASUS GeForce 9800 GTX TOP (EN9800GTX) 512MB
  • GPU: GeForce 9800 GTX (G92)
  • Interface: PCI-Express x16
  • GPU frequencies (ROPs/Shaders): 755 officially (actually 740)/1836 MHz (nominal -- 675/1688 MHz)
  • Memory frequencies, physical (effective): 1150 (2300) MHz (nominal -- 1100 (2200) MHz)
  • Memory bus width: 256bit
  • Vertex processors: -
  • Pixel processors: -
  • Unified processors: 128
  • Texture processors: 64 (BLF/TLF)
  • ROPs: 16
  • Dimensions: 270x100x32 mm (the last figure is maximum thickness of the graphics card).
  • PCB color: black
  • RAMDACs/TDMS: integrated into GPU.
  • Output connectors: 2xDVI (Dual-Link/HDMI), TV-Out.
  • VIVO: not available
  • TV-out: integrated into GPU.
  • Multi-GPU operation: SLI (Hardware).


ASUS GeForce 9600 GT Silent (EN9600GT) 512MB

The graphics card has 512 MB of GDDR3 SDRAM allocated in eight chips on the front and back sides of the PCB.

Samsung memory chips (GDDR3). 1.0 ns memory access time, which corresponds to 1000 (2000) MHz.

ASUS GeForce 9800 GX2 TOP (EN9800GX2) 2x512MB

The graphics card has 2x512 MB of GDDR3 SDRAM allocated in sixteen chips (eight chips on the front side of each PCB).

Samsung memory chips (GDDR3). 0.8 ns memory access time, which corresponds to 1200 (2400) MHz.

ASUS RADEON 3850 X2 (EAH3850X2) 2x512MB

The graphics card has 2x512 MB of GDDR3 SDRAM allocated in sixteen chips on the front and back sides of the PCB.

Samsung memory chips (GDDR3). 1.0 ns memory access time, which corresponds to 1000 (2000) MHz.

ASUS RADEON 3850 Smart OC (EAH3850) 1024MB

The graphics card has 1024 MB of GDDR2 SDRAM allocated in sixteen chips on the front and back sides of the PCB.

Qimonda memory chips (GDDR2). 2.0 ns memory access time, which corresponds to 500 (1000) MHz.

ASUS GeForce 9800 GTX TOP (EN9800GTX) 512MB

The graphics card has 512 MB of GDDR3 SDRAM allocated in eight chips on the front side of the PCB.

Samsung memory chips (GDDR3). 0.8 ns memory access time, which corresponds to 1200 (2400) MHz.



Comparison with the reference design, front view
ASUS GeForce 9800 GX2 TOP (EN9800GX2) 2x512MB Reference card NVIDIA GeForce 9800 GX2
ASUS GeForce 9600 GT Silent (EN9600GT) 512MB Reference card NVIDIA GeForce 9600 GT
ASUS RADEON 3850 Smart OC (EAH3850) 1024MB Reference card ATI RADEON HD 3850
ASUS RADEON 3850 X2 (EAH3850X2) 2x512MB ASUS RADEON 3870 X2 (EAH3870X2 TOP) 2x512MB
ASUS GeForce 9800 GTX TOP (EN9800GTX) 512MB Reference card NVIDIA GeForce 9800 GTX


Comparison with the reference design, back view
ASUS GeForce 9800 GX2 TOP (EN9800GX2) 2x512MB Reference card NVIDIA GeForce 9800 GX2
ASUS GeForce 9600 GT Silent (EN9600GT) 512MB Reference card NVIDIA GeForce 9600 GT
ASUS RADEON 3850 Smart OC (EAH3850) 1024MB Reference card ATI RADEON HD 3850
ASUS RADEON 3850 X2 (EAH3850X2) 2x512MB ASUS RADEON 3870 X2 (EAH3870X2 TOP) 2x512MB
ASUS GeForce 9800 GTX TOP (EN9800GTX) 512MB Reference card NVIDIA GeForce 9800 GTX

As I have already mentioned above, only the 9800 GX2 and 9800 GTX cards copy the reference design. So we won't examine them in detail again, as we have already published reviews of 9800GX2 and 9800 GTX. Just note that ASUS products are factory-overclocked. Other cards are also very interesting.

Let's take a look at the 3850 card with 1 GB of memory and an original button on the bracket, which raises GPU voltage and turns on DVI port LEDs. Frankly speaking, the idea to illuminate ports has never crossed my mind, so ASUS impressed me here. Still, this feature is of little interest as PC enclosures usually have interfaces pointing at the wall, preventing you from seeing any illumination. Besides, it's only one port, the second is connected to the monitor.



What else there is about this card, except for its cooling system? It was very silly to equip it with slow DDR2 memory, paring down memory bandwidth that radically. As a result, the card might not be able to fully use 1 GB it has. We'll get back to this later, when we analyze test results.

The 3850 X2 is a complete copy of ASUS 3870 X2. The latter had four connectors (two GPUs with two connectors each) as well as a noisy cooler. The 3850 X2 modification lost two additional DVIs (there are empty seats for these elements on the PCB) and got a slower and quieter cooler. Everything else is the same.

The noiseless GeForce 9600 GT has also been designed by ASUS. Along with a custom cooler it features a custom PCB with memory chips circling the GPU on both PCB sides.

All cards except 9800 GX2 have original TV-Out interfaces that require a special adapter to output video to a TV set via S-Video or RCA.

An analog monitor with a D-Sub (VGA) interface can be connected by means of a special DVI-to-D-Sub adapter. Also bundled are DVI-to-HDMI adapters (these graphics cards support video/audio output to HDMI receivers), so there should be no problems with such monitors.

Maximum resolutions and frequencies:

  • 240 Hz maximum refresh rate
  • 2048 x 1536 x 32bit @ 85Hz Max - analog interface
  • 2560 x 1600 @ 60Hz Max - digital interface (all Dual-Link DVIs)

As of MPEG2 playback (DVD-Video), we analyzed this issue in 2002. Little has changed since that time. CPU load during video playback on modern graphics cards does not exceed 25%.

As of HDTV, a review is available here.

All cards require additional power source, so each is bundled with a molex to 6-pin adapter, even though all modern PSUs have such cables.


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Article navigation:

Page 1: Introduction, graphics cards

Page 2: Cooling

Page 3: Bundles, boxes

Page 4: Performance tests, conclusions



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