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Asus EN9800GT Matrix GeForce 9800GT
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Date: Dec 10, 2008
Section:Graphics/Sound
Author: Jeff Bouton
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Introduction and Product Specifications
As the holidays loom near, we're sure many of you are itching to add some hot new hardware to your wish lists.  Whether you're looking to upgrade or are seeking that perfect piece of hardware for a friend or loved one, finding the right match can be daunting.  Further complicating matters is the recent severe economic downturn which is affecting us all.  While the weak economy has an effect on consumer purchasing power, it also opens the doors for drastic price cuts as competition increases and inventories sit, collecting dust.

No doubt, as the end of the month approaches, there will certainly be some attractive deals to be had.  Whether you are looking for a decent desktop graphics card, motherboard or gaming console, the extremely competitive holiday shopping season bodes well for consumers.  Since our focus today is on affordable graphics cards, one item on our radar that seems to be an interesting mid-range solution is the the Asus EN9800GT Matrix GeForce 9800GT.

The Asus EN9800GT Matrix GeForce 9800GT is an excellent candidate for those looking for solid desktop graphics without an excessive price tag.  For a reasonable price point of around $150, the Asus EN9800GT Matrix GeForce 9800GT aims to deliver a wealth of features and strong performance, without taking a huge bite out of your holiday budget.  In the pages ahead, we'll run this card through its paces with the latest games on the market to see how it stacks up to its peers.  Then, we'll evaluate its position in the overall graphics market to see just how well this model ranks in overall value.

 



Asus EN9800GT Matrix GeForce 9800GT
Specifications and Features
Graphics Engine:  NVIDIA GeForce 9800GT

Bus Standard:  PCI Express 2.0

Video Memory:  DDR3 512MB

Engine Clock:  612 MHz

Shader Clock:  1.512 GHz

Memory Clock:  1.8 GHz ( 900 MHz DDR3 )

RAMDAC:  400MHz

Memory Interface:  256-bit

CRT Max Resolution:  2048 x 1536

DVI Max Resolution:  2560 x 1600

D-Sub Output:  Yes x 1 (via DVI to D-Sub adaptor x 1 )
DVI Output:  Yes x 1 (DVI-I)

HDMI Output:  Yes x 1

HDTV Output (YPbPr):  Yes

HDCP Support:  Yes

TV Output:  Yes (YPbPr to S-Video and Composite)

Adaptor/Cable bundled
1 x DVI to D-Sub adaptor
1 x HDTV-out cable
1 x Power cable
1 x S/PDIF cable

Software Bundled:  ASUS Utilities & Driver

Note:  The card size is 4.376 inches x 9 inches 

The Asus EN9800GT Matrix GeForce 9800GT comes with a good collection of essentials in its retail package, but doesn't offer any extras, like a free game for example.  The package includes requisite cabling to take advantage of all the card's features, including a DVI-to-D-Sub Adapter, HDTV-Out Cable, a power PCI express power adapter and a S/PDIF cable.  The only item missing is an HDMI cable, but that would have obviously bumped up the cost.



On the software front, ASUS includes their typical ASUS Utilities and Driver CD which includes all necessary hardware drivers as well as some ASUS freebie software titles including GamerOSD for XP/Vista, Video Security Online and Asus iTracker.
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The EN9800GT Matrix 9800GT Up Close
Essentially a revamed 8800 GT, the Asus EN9800GT Matrix GeForce 9800GT is built around the the 55nm G92 GPU.   The engine is clocked at 612MHz, 12MHz over reference specifications, while the Shader Clock runs at 1.512GHz.  Unlike the slightly overclocked GPU, the unit's 512MB of GDDR3 comes clocked at 1.8GHz (900MHz DDR), following reference specifications. 

  

Measuring 9 inches long and 4.376 inches high, the SLI capable card is equipped with one DVI port supporting a maximum resolution of 2560x1600 while analog (requires adapter) has a maximum resolution of 2560x1536.  The Asus EN9800GT Matrix GeForce 9800GT forgoes a second DVI port in lieu of an HDMI port for connecting to an HDTV or any other HDMI capable display.  There is also a TV-Out port that supports YPbPR, S-Video and Composite output. 

  

As for its cooling, ASUS designed a custom solution that performs much better then the stock reference design.  Asus claims this hybrid Matrix cooler is very quiet, and we couldn't agree more.  During 2D usage, there was virtually no sound and when playing 3D games, the noise output was still very low, even when overclocking.  The active cooling management available through ASUS' Advanced Dynamic GPU load detection also helps ensure proper thermal management, while improving overall power consumption.
 

   
 

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HH Test System and 3DMark Vantage

HotHardware's Test Systems
Intel Powered


Hardware Used:
Core 2 Duo X6850 (3GHz)

Intel DX48BT2 (B)
(X48 Express)

Asus EN9800 GT Matrix
Radeon HD 4850
Asus EN8800GTX

2048MB Kingston DDR3-1333
(2 X 1GB)

Integrated Audio
Integrated Network

Western Digital "Raptor" 74GB
(10,000RPM - SATA)


Relevant Software:

Windows Vista Ultimate SP1
DirectX June 2008 Redist

NVIDIA Forceware v180.48
ATI Catalyst v8.11

Benchmarks Used:
3DMark Vantage v1.0.1
Cryis:  Warhead
Unreal Tournament 3
Half Life 2: Episode 2*
FarCry 2

Futuremark 3DMark Vantage
Synthetic DirectX Gaming


3DMark Vantage

The latest version of Futuremark's synthetic 3D gaming benchmark, 3DMark Vantage, is specifically bound to Windows Vista-based systems because it uses some advanced visual technologies that are only available with DirectX 10, which y isn't available on previous versions of Windows.  3DMark Vantage isn't simply a port of 3DMark06 to DirectX 10 though.  With this latest version of the benchmark, Futuremark has incorporated two new graphics tests, two new CPU tests, several new feature tests, in addition to support for the latest PC hardware.  We tested the graphics cards here with 3DMark Vantage's Default Settings








 

The Asus EN9800GT Matrix trailed the Radeon 4850 and GeForce 8800GTX in all tests.  The 8800GTX trumped both cards overall, while the Radeon 4850 held a 5.5% overall score advantage over the EN9800GT.  When breaking things down further, the GPU 1 and 2 tests show the Radeon 4850 continues to hold onto its lead over the EN9800GT, averaging a 5 FPS advantage between the two tests.
 
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Crysis: Warheard and Half-Life 2: EP2

Crysis:  Warhead
DirectX Gaming Performance


Crysis:  Warhead

Crysis Warhead is the recently released standalone expansion pack to the wildly popular first person shooter, Crysis.   The game engine used for Crysis Warhead, Cry Engine 2, employs some of the latest 3D rendering techniques like Parallax Occlusion Mapping, Subsurface Scattering, Motion Blur and Depth-of-Field effects.   And like the original Crysis, Warhead's complex visuals are a difficult proposition for even today's high-end graphics cards.  We ran the game with all of its visual options set to High Quality to put a significant load on the graphics cards being tested.  We ran a custom test at 1280x1024 and 1600x1200 with no AA or Anisotropic Filtering enabled.



The ASUS EN9800GT Matrix turned the tables on the ATI Radeon 4850 with this test, pulling ahead of the ATI card by 2 FPS at 1280x1024 and 6 FPS at 1600x1200.  The EN8800GTX was still the fastest of the three, but the EN9800GT was a close second with a 1-2 FPS difference.

Half Life 2: Episode 2
DirectX Gaming Performance


Half Life 2:
Episode 2

Thanks to the dedication of hardcore PC gamers and a huge mod-community, the original Half-Life was one of the most successful first person shooters of all time. And courtesy of an updated game engine, gorgeous visuals, and intelligent weapon and level designs, Half Life 2 became just as popular.  Episode 2 - the most recent addition to the franchise - offers a number of visual enhancements including better looking transparent texture anti-aliasing. These tests were run at resolutions of 1280x1024 and 1600x1200 with 4X anti-aliasing and 16X anisotropic filtering enabled concurrently.  Color correction and HDR rendering were also enabled in the game engine as well.  We used a custom recorded timedemo to benchmark all cards for these tests.



In this test, the ATI Radeon 4850 posted the best results, even trumping the ASUS EN8800GTX by no less than 5 FPS.  Overall, Half-Life 2:  Episode Two wasn't terribly taxing on any of the three models, all of which broke triple digit frame rates at 1280x1024.  At 1600x1200, the EN9800GT was the only model not to break 100 FPS, but still posted a very playable 86 FPS at this resolution.
 
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Unreal Tournament 3 and FarCry 2

Unreal Tournament 3
DirectX Gaming Performance


Unreal Tournament 3

If you're a long-time PC gamer, the Unreal Tournament franchise should need no introduction.  UT's fast paced action and over the top weapons have been popular for as long as Epic has been making the games.  For these tests, we used the latest addition to the franchise, Unreal Tournament 3.  The game doesn't have a built-in benchmarking tool, however, so we enlisted the help of FRAPS here.  These tests were run at resolutions of 1280x1024 and 1600x1200 with no anti-aliasing and 16x anisotropic filtering enabled.  All graphical options set to High Quality with color correction enabled.



This test was the most balanced we've run thus far.  All three cards posted close results, with the EN8800GTX posting the best results at 1280x1024 and the ATI Radeon 4850 posting top scores at 1600x1200.  Both the EN9800GT and ATI Radeon 4850 were tied at 1280x1024 while the Radeon held an 11 FPS advantage at 1600x1200 in this test.

FarCry 2
DirectX Gaming Performance


FarCry 2

Like the original, FarCry 2 is one of the more visually impressive games to be released on the PC to date.  Courtesy of the Dunia game engine developed by Ubisoft, FarCry 2's game-play is enhanced by advanced environment physics, destructible terrain, high resolution textures, complex shaders, realistic dynamic lighting, and motion-captured animations.  We benchmarked the graphics cards in this article with a fully patched version of FarCry 2, using one of the built-in demo runs recorded in the "Ranch" map.  The test results shown here were run at various resolutions with 4X AA and No anisotropic enabled concurrently.

 

With FarCry 2, the Radeon 4850 and the GeForce 8800GTX were the most closely matched in performance, with the Radeon 4850 holding a slight advantage.  The EN9800GT trailed the other models by a little over 5 FPS at 1280x1024 while the margin widened at 1600x1200 by closer to 8 FPS.
 
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Overclocking the Matrix EN9800GT

Overclocking the Asus EN9800GT Matrix GeForce 9800GT
Raising the bar even higher

With its slight factory overclock and custom cooler, we were not certain what to expect when ramping up the clock speeds with the Asus EN9800GT Matrix.  Loading NVIDIA's nTune software, we raised the GPU and Memory speeds as high as they would go while still being able to complete the built in GPU stress test.  We then ran our Half-Life 2:  Episode Two benchmark, throttling back the clock speeds as needed until the test would complete without issue.
 


 

Our efforts proved fruitful, squeezing out an additional 78MHz of GPU speed and uncovering an additional 150MHz (300DDR) of memory speed.  These gains had measurable effects on the benchmark results as well, tacking on 14 FPS at 1280x1024 and 12 FPS at 1600x1200.  This equaled increases of 12% and 13.9% respectively; a sizable performance gain.  These gains allowed the EN9800GT to nearly match the results of the EN8800GTX, however, the card was not able to eclipse the performance of the ATI Radeon 4850, which posted excellent results in this test.
 
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Our Summary and Conclusion

Performance Summary:  In the addortment of benchmarks used in this review, the Asus EN9800GT Matrix GeForce 9800GT was dominant in only one test.  With FutureMark's 3DMark Vantage synthetic testing, the EN9800GT Matrix trailed the ATI Radeon 4850 by roughly 5.5% overall.  When we shifted to real world gaming tests, the results vacillated with each test, with Crysis: Warhead being the only one that the EN9800GT Matrix topped the ATI card in both resolutions.  Half-Life 2: Episode Two favored the Radeon 4850 while Unreal Tournament 3 had the two tied at 1280x1024, at 1600x1200, however, the EN9800GT Matrix slipped 11 FPS behind the Radeon 4850.  Lastly, our FarCry 2 results were all relatively close, but the EN8800GTX and Radeon 4850 were a closer competition than the Asus EN9800GT Matrix GeForce 9800GT.




While our test results may show evidence that the Radeon 4850 is the better performing card overall, it isn't that simple of a determination.  While 4850s can be found for $150, they are often stock models with no bells and whistles added.  If you seek out a factory overclocked model with a custom cooler, the price tends to move closer to the $170-$190 range.  In our opinion, the Asus EN9800GT Matrix GeForce 9800GT proved to be a decent choice for $150, offering ultra quiet performance, HDMI support, PhysX and CUDA support, and competitive performance in all of the tests we threw at it.

While we were pleased with the Asus EN9800GT Matrix GeForce 9800GT overall, there is a lot of competition in this area and the ATI Radeon 4850 proved to be a better performer in the majority of tests.  However, when you start looking at cards with HDMI ports, the Radeon 4850 tends to increase in price by $30-40.  We think you couldn't go wrong with either model at their respective price points, but if money is an issue, considering its features and performance, we currently think Asus has done a good job with the EN9800GT Matrix GeForce 9800GT.

  • Quiet while idle or under load
  • Hybrid Cooler
  • Decent Overclocker
  • No game included
  • Dual-Slot Cooler




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