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Asus EAX1600PRO and EN7600GT - HDMI On Tap
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Date: Mar 12, 2007
Section:Graphics/Sound
Author: Robert Maloney
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Introduction

Today at HotHardware, we will be looking at two video cards from Asus.  They don't necessarily scream "power user" and they aren't adorned with the flashiest packaging. Instead, these two cards are more like the utilitarian work-horses that one might expect to find in a mid-range PC, or even a DYI build that's catered more to function than fashion.  That doesn't mean we won't run any benchmarks with our favorite games to see how they compare to each other, as well as to another mid-level card, but don't focus strictly on the benchmark results in this article. These two cards aren't designed to set records in Half-Life 2, but rather offer some uncommon features not found on many competing products.

With our introduction out of the way, we present to you the Asus EAX1600PRO and the EN7600GT:

    

As their boxes suggest, these cards are not the flashiest of sorts.  One shouldn't be so quick to judge them, however, before noticing that each box prominently displays a large badge declaring them HDMI ready.

So, what's the big deal about HDMI you ask?  Let's take a quick refresher course to catch up on this technology before continuing on with a closer look at each of the cards.


  

HDMI, short for High Definition Multimedia Interface, is the first industry supported digital-only interface, that requires only a single cable to connect an output source to an HD device, such as a television or monitor.  HDMI supports standard, enhanced, or high-definition video, plus multi-channel digital audio on a single cable. It transmits all ATSC HDTV standards and supports 8-channel, 192kHz, uncompressed digital audio and all currently-available compressed formats (such as Dolby Digital and DTS). HDMI 1.3 adds additional support for new lossless digital audio formats Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD with bandwidth to spare to accommodate potential future enhancements.  Although still growing in popularity on video cards, it is considered the modern replacement for older cable types, such as S-Video, Co-axial, Composite, VGA, DVI-A, and DVI-I.

HDMI brings along some big advantages for the home entertainment aficionado.  Video and audio are both sent into one cable, eliminating the mess of cables that are typically situated on or around A/V components.  Both audio and video are sent uncompressed, digitally, without any loss resulting in the highest quality picture and sound.  All versions of HDMI will also support playback of HD-DVD or Blu-Ray content, although other constraints might come into play here, including some DRM headaches for PC users.

HDMI 1.3, the latest revision of the spec, delivers a few new features including Deep Color Support. Deep Color can accommodate 10, 12, and 16 bit color depths, which at its highest level offers over five times more color that standard HDTV systems.  The proliferation of colors reduces on-screen color banding by allowing more subtle graduations, as seen below:

  

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Asus EAX1600PRO/I/256M/A

 

ASUS EAX1600PRO/I/256M/A
The little engine that could

      

      

The EAX1600PRO/I/256M/A is a half-height card, which makes it well suited for installation into a standard size PC, or possibly a slim-line HTPC.  With the GPU and memory both running at 400MHz, it doesn't take much more than the small heatsink/fan to keep things running cool.  We'd almost expect that Asus could have even gone so far as to employ a completely passive cooling method, which would have cut down on power consumption and noise output, but the setup as it is helped us out with overclocking, as you will see later on in the review.  To keep things streamlined, 256MB of Infineon GDDR3 memory are placed towards the far end of the card, with 2 chips on each side.

      

Silicon Image's Sil1930 ASIC provides the HDMI output, and with it an integrated HDCP cipher engine with HDCP repeater function support.  The Sil1930 offers a fully compliant HDMI output capable of supporting video resolutions up to UXGA and 1080p with up to eight channels of 192kHz audio. To ensure compatibility with a broad range of PC audio hardware platforms, the Sil1930 supports a wide variety of audio interfaces - including HD-Audio, SPDIF and three I2S channels.  To minimize the stature of the EAX1600PRO, Asus makes the S/PDIF port optional, allowing the user to unplug the attached cable and use a smaller bracket with only the HDMI and VGA outputs available. 

ASUS EAX1600PRO /I/256M/A
Features & Specifications
Features - ATI Radeon X1600
. 157 million transistors on 90nm fabrication process
. Twelve pixel shader processors
. Five vertex shader processors
. 128-bit 4-channel DDR/DDR2/GDDR3/GDDR4 memory interface
. Native PCI Express x16 bus interface
. Dynamic Voltage Control

Ring Bus Memory Controller
. 256-bit internal ring bus for memory reads
. Programmable intelligent arbitration logic
. Fully associative texture, color, and Z/stencil cache designs
. Hierarchical Z-buffer with Early Z test
. Lossless Z Compression (up to 48:1)
. Fast Z-Buffer Clear
. Z/stencil cache optimized for real-time shadow rendering

Ultra-Threaded Shader Engine
. Support for Microsoft DirectX 9.0 Shader Model 3.0 programmable vertex and pixel shaders in hardware
. Full speed 128-bit floating point processing for all shader operations
. Dedicated branch execution units for high performance dynamic branching and flow control
. Dedicated texture address units for improved efficiency
. 3Dc+ texture compression
_o High quality 4:1 compression for normal maps and two-channel data formats
_o High quality 2:1 compression for luminance maps and single-channel data formats
. Multiple Render Target (MRT) support
. Render to vertex buffer support
. Complete feature set also supported in OpenGL 2.0

Advanced Image Quality Features
. 64-bit floating point HDR rendering supported throughout the pipeline
_o Includes support for blending and multi-sample anti-aliasing
. 32-bit integer HDR (10:10:10:2) format supported throughout the pipeline
_o Includes support for blending and multi-sample anti-aliasing
. 2x/4x/6x Anti-Aliasing modes
_o Multi-sample algorithm with gamma correction, programmable sparse sample patterns, and centroid sampling
_o New Adaptive Anti-Aliasing feature with Performance and Quality modes
_o Temporal Anti-Aliasing mode
_o Lossless Color Compression (up to 6:1) at all resolutions, including widescreen HDTV resolutions
. 2x/4x/8x/16x Anisotropic Filtering modes
_o Up to 128-tap texture filtering
_o Adaptive algorithm with Performance and Quality options
. High resolution texture support (up to 4k x 4k)
Avivo Video and Display Engine
. High performance programmable video processor
_o Accelerated MPEG-2, MPEG-4, DivX, WMV9, VC-1, and H.264 decoding (including DVD/HD-DVD/Blu-ray playback), encoding & transcoding
_o DXVA support
_o De-blocking and noise reduction filtering
_o Motion compensation, IDCT, DCT and color space conversion
_o Vector adaptive per-pixel de-interlacing
_o 3:2 pulldown (frame rate conversion)
. Seamless integration of pixel shaders with video in real time
. HDR tone mapping acceleration
_o Maps any input format to 10 bit per channel output
. Flexible display support
_o Dual integrated dual-link DVI transmitters
_o DVI 1.0 / HDMI compliant and HDCP ready
_o Dual integrated 10 bit per channel 400 MHz DACs
_o 16 bit per channel floating point HDR and 10 bit per channel DVI output
_o Programmable piecewise linear gamma correction, color correction, and color space conversion (10 bits per color)
_o Complete, independent color controls and video overlays for each display
_o High quality pre- and post-scaling engines, with underscan support for all outputs
_o Content-adaptive de-flicker filtering for interlaced displays
_o XilleonTM TV encoder for high quality analog output
_o YPrPb component output for direct drive of HDTV displays
_o Spatial/temporal dithering enables 10-bit color quality on 8-bit and 6-bit displays
_o Fast, glitch-free mode switching
_o VGA mode support on all outputs
. Compatible with ATI TV/Video encoder products, including Theater 550

High Performance Memory Controller
. Fully associative texture, color, and Z/stencil cache designs
. Hierarchical Z-buffer with Early Z test
. Lossless Z Compression (up to 48:1)
. Fast Z-Buffer Clear
. Z/stencil cache optimized for real-time shadow rendering


 


         

The bundle that came with the EAX1600PRO looks quite a bit different that the traditional Asus bundle, and with good reason.  What good would an HMDI port be if there wasn't a way to connect a monitor to it?  At the very least, there was an HMDI to DVI converter, one S/PDIF cable, an internal audio connector, and the aforementioned half-bracket with screws.  A quick setup guide provides the basics for installation, but it is too generic to cover the newer technologies found on the EAX1600PRO.  Luckily, Asus has provided links on their website that specifically cover HDMI and S/PDIF connection instructions for those inclined to use them.    

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Asus EN7600GT/HDTI/256M/A

 

ASUS EN7600GT/HDTI/256M/A
Good things come in small packages

      

      

The EN7600GT/HDTI/256M/A is Asus' first NVIDIA based card featuring HDMI support and like the EAX1600PRO, it too brings with it HDCP compatibility for playing back protected HD-DVD and Blu-ray content. It has 256MB of GDDR3 memory running at 700MHz and a core clock speed of 560MHz, which is faster and than the X1600 based card. As a result, not only is the outline larger than the EAX1600PRO, but the cooling unit is also larger, and unfortunately louder - making the latter card possibly a better choice for use in an HTPC.  Although a bit bigger, the heatsink doesn't manage to make contact with the upper most RAM.

      

The rear of the card is completely bare of any major parts, save for some power regulation components. Alongside the top edge of the EN7600GT is an SLI connector, which means we could, theoretically, connect two of these cards for better performance. But take note that better performance could probably be had for less by simply buying a single 7950GT (or similar card) than we would get with two 7600GTs. Output options are more plentiful than the EAX1600PRO, as the standard height allowed Asus to keep an Optical S/PDIF port and a TV-out connector, in addition to the HDMI and DVI-I ports on the card. 

Asus EN7600GT/HDTI/256M/A
Bringing HD to the GT for the PC
NVIDIA CineFX 4.0 Shading Architecture

Vertex Shaders
Support for Microsoft DirectX 9.0 Vertex Shader 3.0
Displacement mapping
Geometry instancing
Infinite length vertex programs


Pixel Shaders
Support for DirectX 9.0 Pixel Shader 3.0
Full pixel branching support
Support for Multiple Render Targets (MRTs)
Infinite length pixel programs

Next-Generation Texture Engine
Accelerated texture access
Up to 16 textures per rendering pass
Support for 16-bit floating point format and 32-bit floating point format
Support for non-power of two textures
Support for sRGB texture format for gamma textures
DirectX and S3TC texture compression


._Full 128-bit studio-quality floating point precision through the entire rendering pipeline with native hardware support for 32bpp, 64bpp, and 128bpp rendering modes


NVIDIA Intellisample 4.0 Technology

._Advanced 16x anisotropic filtering (with up to 128 Taps)
._Blistering- fast antialiasing and compression performance
._Gamma-adjusted rotated-grid antialiasing removes jagged edges for incredible image quality
._Transparent multisampling and transparent supersampling modes boost antialiasing quality to new levels
._Support for normal map compression
._Support for advanced lossless compression algorithms for color, texture, and z-data at even higher resolutions and frame rates
._Fast z-clear

NVIDIA UltraShadow II Technology
._Designed to enhance the performance of shadow-intensive games

 

64-Bit Texture Filtering and Blending

._Delivers true high dynamic-range (HDR) lighting support
._Full floating point support throughout entire pipeline
._Floating point filtering improves the quality of images in motion
._Floating point texturing drives new levels of clarity and image detail
._Floating point frame buffer blending gives detail to special effects like motion blur and explosions

API Support
. Complete DirectX support, including the latest version of Microsoft DirectX 9.0 Shader Model 3.0
._Full OpenGL support, including OpenGL 2.0


NVIDIA Digital Vibrance Control (DVC) 3.0 Technology
._DVC color controls
._DVC image sharpening controls

NVIDIA SLI Technology
._Patented hardware and software technology allows two GPUs to run in parallel to scale performance
._Scales performance on over 60 top PC games and applications


NVIDIA PureVideo Technology
._Dedicated on-chip video processor
._High-definition H.264, MPEG2 and WMV9 decode acceleration
._Advanced spatial-temporal de-interlacing
._Inverse telecine (2:2 and 3:2 pull-down correction)
._High-quality video scaling
._Video color correction
._Microsoft Video Mixing Renderer (VMR) supports multiple video windows with full video quality and features in each window

Composited Desktop Hardware Engine
._Video post-processing
._Real-time desktop compositing
._Accelerated antialiased text rendering
._Pixel shader-driven special effects and animation

Advanced Display Functionality
._Dual integrated 400MHz RAMDACs for display resolutions up to and including 2048x1536 at 85Hz
._Dual-link DVI capability to drive the industry's largest and highest resolution digital flat panel displays up to 2560x1600
._Integrated HDTV encoder provides analog TV-output (Component/Composite/S-Video) up to 1080i resolution
._Full NVIDIA nView multi-display technology capability

Advanced Engineering
._Designed for PCI Express x16
._Designed for high-speed GDDR3 memory

Operating Systems
._Windows XP/XP 64/ME/2000
._Built for Microsoft Windows Vista
._Linux
._Macintosh OS X


 


    

Although similar, the EN7600GT bundle varies from the EAX1600PRO in a number of ways. First, it does come with an HDMI-to-DVI converter, so this aspect is covered. It also comes with an optical S/PDIF cable for plugging externally into your sound card or motherboard. This can be bypassed by using an internal S/PDIF cable, also included. There are also some old standbys, including a DVI-VGA adapter, an HDTV-Out cable, and the Speedy setup manual and driver CDs. As we stated before, the manual is basic at best - not covering the various connections possible with the EN7600GT/HTDI. So again, expect a trip to their website for additional instructions to cover these scenarios.

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Testing System and 3DMark06

   

HOW WE CONFIGURED THE TEST SYSTEM: We tested the Asus EN7600GT and EAX1600PRO on the Gigabyte GA-8N-SLI powered by an Intel Pentium 4 550 processor and 1GB of Corsair XMS2 DDR2 memory. The first thing we did when configuring this test system was enter the BIOS and loaded the "High Performance Defaults."  The hard drive was then formatted and Windows XP Professional with SP2 was installed. When the installation was complete, we installed the latest nForce 4 chipset drivers, installed all of the other necessary drivers for the rest of our components, and removed Windows Messenger from the system. Auto-Updating and System Restore were then disabled, the hard drive was defragmented, and a 1536 MB permanent page file was created on the same partition as the Windows installation. Lastly, we set Windows' Visual Effects to "best performance," installed all of the benchmarking software, and ran our tests. 

The Hot Hardware Test System
The Everyday man's system

Processor -

Motherboard -



Video Cards -




Memory -

Audio -

Hard Driv
e -

 

Hardware Used:
Intel Pentium 4 550 (3.4GHz)

Gigabyte GA-8N-SLI Quad Royal
nForce4 SLI X16

HIS Radeon X1650 XT iSilence II

Asus EN7600GT
Asus EAX1600Pro




1GB Corsair XMS2 DDR2

Integrated

2x Western Digital SE16 (RAID 0)

7,200RPM - SATA II - 250GB

Operating System -
Chipset Drivers -
DirectX -

Video Drivers
-




Synthetic (DX) -

DirectX -
DirectX -

DirectX -
DirectX -

OpenGL -
OpenGL -
Relevant Software:
Windows XP Professional SP2
nForce Drivers v6.86
DirectX 9.0c

NVIDIA Forceware v93.71

ATI Catalyst 7.1


Benchmarks Used:
3DMark06 v1.1.0
Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory v1.05
F.E.A.R. v1.0.8
Half Life 2 - Lost Coast
Need for Speed: Carbon
Quake4 v1.2
Prey

Performance Comparisons with 3DMark06 v1.0.2
Details: http://www.futuremark.com/products/3dmark06/

3DMark06
Futuremark recently launched a brand new version of its popular benchmark, 3DMark06. The new version of the benchmark is updated in a number of ways and now includes not only Shader Model 2.0 tests but also Shader Model 3.0 and HDR tests as well. Some of the assets from 3DMark05 have been re-used, but the scenes are now rendered with much more geometric detail, and the shader complexity is vastly increased as well. Max shader length in 3DMark05 was 96 instructions, while 3DMark06 ups the number of instructions to 512. 3DMark06 also employs much more lighting, and there is extensive use of soft shadows. With 3DMark06, Futuremark has also updated how the final score is tabulated. In this latest version of the benchmark, SM 2.0 and HDR / SM3.0 tests are weighted, and the CPU score is factored into the final tally as well.

 

 

 

Based solely on these benchmarks, it would appear that the EN7600GT and EAX1600PRO are operating on two different levels.  The X1650 XT that we reviewed earlier makes a much better competitor for the EN7600GT, with the two card flip-flopping in the separate tests; the 7600 GT performing better with SM2.0 tests and the X1650 XT at SM3.0, and nipping the 7600 GT overall.  The EAX1600 Pro, on the other hand, is only putting out half of what the other two can produce.

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Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory

Performance Comparisons with Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory v1.05
Details: http://www.splintercell3.com/us/

SC: Chaos Theory
Based on a heavily modified version of the Unreal Engine, enhanced with a slew of DX9 shaders, lighting and mapping effects, Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory is gorgeous with its very immersive, albeit dark, environment. The game engine has a shader model 3.0 code path that allows the GeForce 6 & 7 Series of cards, and the new X1000 family of cards, to really shine, and a recent patch has implemented a shader model 2.0 path for ATI's X8x0 generation of graphics hardware. For these tests we enabled the SM 3.0 path on all of the cards we tested. However, High Dynamic Range rendering was disabled so that we could test the game with anti-aliasing enabled (a future patch should enable AA with HDR on the X1K family). We benchmarked the game at resolutions of 1280x1024 and 1600x1200, both with and without anti-aliasing and anisotropic filtering.

 

 

 

The Splinter Cell results don't fare too much better for the EAX1600PRO.  Frame rates, even at the lowest settings, barely reached the mid-20's and went down from there.  The EN7600GT's numbers were much more respectable, topping out near 60fps at 1280x1024 and taking the highest frame rate during that test.  It lost a bit of steam, however, when we enabled AA and aniso.  The X1650 XT easily leap-frogged the 7600 GT in these tests, outgunning it by 15-25%.

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Prey

 

Performance Comparisons with Prey
Details: http://www.prey.com/

Prey
After many years of development, Take-Two Interactive recently released the highly anticipated game Prey. Prey is based upon an updated and modified version of the Doom 3 engine, and as such performance characteristics between the two titles are very similar.  Like Doom 3, Prey is also an OpenGL game that uses extremely high-detailed textures and a plethora of dynamic lighting and shadows.  But unlike Doom3, Prey features a fare share of outdoor environments as well.  We ran these Prey benchmarks using a custom recorded timedemo with the game set to its "High-Quality" graphics mode, at resolutions of 1280 x 1024 and 1600 x 1200 with 4X AA and 8X anisotropic filtering enabled simultaneously.

 

 

 

Benchmarking Prey left us with the indelible belief that the EN7600GT and X1650 XT cards make a perfect sparring duo, like, let's say Batman and The Joker.  Neither one can truly knock off the other, and in some cases they battle to a stalemate.  In this analogy, the EAX1600PRO is more like Batgirl, winding up as an afterthought.  The numbers just aren't pretty, with frame rates falling as low as single-digits in our most demanding benchmark run.

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F.E.A.R.

   

Performance Comparisons with F.E.A.R.
Details: http://www.whatisfear.com/us/

F.E.A.R.
One of the most highly anticipated titles of 2005 was Monolith's paranormal thriller F.E.A.R. Using the full retail release of the game patched to v1.0.8, we put the graphics cards in this review through their paces to see how they fared with a popular title. Here, all graphics settings within the game were set to the maximum values, but with soft shadows disabled (soft shadows and anti-aliasing do not work together currently). Benchmark runs were completed at supported resolutions of 1280x960 and 1600x1200, with and without anti-aliasing and anisotropic filtering enabled.

 

Considering F.E.A.R.'s lush graphics, it's a bit of a surprise that the EAX1600PRO is able to reach as high as the mid 20's at 1280x960.  Still, when compared to the EN7600GT, it is less than half the 55fps that card was able to output.  The EN7600GT pushed out the highest frame rates at both resolutions, but only until we applied some anti-aliasing.  Doing so turned the 3-4 fps lead into a 2-3 fps deficit when compared to the X1650 XT.

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Half Life 2: Lost Coast

    

Performance Comparisons with Half Life 2: Lost Coast
Details: http://www.half-life2.com/
Thanks to the dedication of hardcore PC gamers and a huge mod-community, the original Half-Life became one of the most successful first person shooters of all time. So, when Valve announced Half-Life 2 was close to completion in mid-2003, gamers the world over sat in eager anticipation. Unfortunately, thanks to a compromised internal network, the theft of a portion of the game's source code, and a tumultuous relationship with the game's distributor, Vivendi Universal, we all had to wait until November '04 to get our hands on this classic. A new addition to the HL family, we benchmarked the add-on 'Lost Coast' at 1280x1024 and 1600x1200 using the built-in video stress test.

 

 

Any of the three cards tested here seem capable of playing HL2 at a high-resolution at playable frame-rates. The AA and Aniso tests were also favorable for the EN7600GT, which had the card running faster than the standard tests with the EAX1600PRO.  4XAA and 8X Aniso does put a hurt on the EAX1600PRO, however, reducing the promising frame rates by more than half at each resolution.

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Quake 4

 

Performance Comparisons with Quake 4
Details: http://www.quake4game.com/

Quake 4
id Software, in conjunction with developer Raven, released the latest addition to the wildly popular Quake franchise, Quake 4. Quake 4 is based upon an updated and slightly modified version of the Doom 3 engine, and as such performance characteristics between the two titles are very similar.  Like Doom 3, Quake 4 is also an OpenGL game that uses extremely high-detailed textures and a ton of dynamic lighting and shadows, but unlike Doom3, Quake 4 features some outdoor environments as well. We ran these Quake 4 benchmarks using a custom demo with the game set to its "High-Quality" mode, at resolutions of 1280x1024 and 1600x1200 without anti-aliasing enabled and then again with 4X AA and 8X aniso enabled simultaneously.

 

 

The NVIDIA-powered EN7600GT took a commanding lead in the Quake 4 benchmarks, easily bettering the closest competitor, the X1650 XT, by 20-25% in the standard runs.  Said lead, however, was minimized to not much more than a few frames with AA and Aniso enabled.  The EAX1600Pro was barely a factor in the equation, barely able to escape single digit frame-rates, and generally close to two-thirds slower than the other two cards.

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Need for Speed: Carbon

 

Performance Comparisons with Need For Speed: Carbon
Details: http://nfs.ea.com/

Need For Speed:
Carbon
Dating back to the days of floppy disks, EGA, and the Lamborghini Countach, the Need For Speed franchise is undoubtedly one of the most popular in gaming history.  The most recent addition to the franchise is Need For Speed: Carbon, a racing-sim loaded with muscle cars and exotics in addition to a number of lighting and special graphics effects. We ran these NFS: Carbon benchmarks by utilizing FRAPS and tracking framerates on the same track, using the same car with every card. The game was configured with all of its graphics-related options set to their maximum values, with motion blur enabled.  We tested the game at resolutions of 1280 x 1024 and 1600 x 1200 with 4X AA and 16X anisotropic filtering enabled simultaneously.

 

Need for Speed: Carbon proved to be a bit much for the cards tested here.  The tandem of Asus cards took a beating, with the highest score of just under 16fps coming from the EN7600GT at 1280x1024, and rapidly declining all of the way down to a mere 5 frames per second by the EAX1600PRO at 1600x1200 with AA and Aniso applied.  It's a fair assessment to state that these cards are not what heavy-gamers are looking for.

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Overclocked Results

 

The default core and memory clock speeds for each card are as follows: 560MHz/700 MHz for the core and memory of the Asus EN7600GT, and a much tamer 400MHz/400MHz for the Asus EAX1600PRO. With similar components, lower clocks typically require less power and generate less heat, which makes these cards more compact and quieter as they employ smaller cooling solutions.  To unlock their full potential, we used third party tools to overclock the core and memory speeds, while maintaining stability.  The end result were a modest bump in speeds with the EN7600GT of 601MHz for the GPU, and 789MHz for the memory. Results were even more favorable for the Asus EAX1600PRO, where speeds of 513MHz/518MHz were attained - basically a 25% increase for both the core and memory.

Overclocking Results
Time for Some Turbo Charged Action

 

 

 

 

The mildly raised speeds on the EN7600GT bumped its 3DMark06 performance over the X1650 XT.  However, even an overclocked 7600 GT was no match when it came to F.E.A.R., as a 3 frame per second increase still placed it 17 fps behind.  The more impressive gains were found, expectedly, on the EAX1600PRO.  There we saw a 25% increase in 3DMark06, as well as a jump from 10 fps to 18 fps - nearly double - when benchmarking F.E.A.R.  It brought game frame rates between the two Asus cards to much closer to a playable level.

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Performance Summary and Conclusions

   

Performance Summary: Obviously, the benchmarks paint a very different picture for these two cards. The EN7600GT, for the most part, held its own in the benchmarks. Its performance was more along the lines of the much newer Radeon X1650 XT from ATI. The EAX1600PRO, on the other hand, had a tough time with many of the games we used for testing, sometimes dropping as low as single digit frame rates. 

ASUS EAX1600PRO/I/256M/A - Asus' EAX1600PRO really didn't put up very impressive benchmark scores, although overclocking sure helped out in this department. In all fairness though, the card isn't designed for high framerates. The card is well suited for use in an HTPC or other Media Center box, where quiet operation, cooler temperatures, and High Definition output are key. The only thing really lacking here is the addition of a true HDMI cable, rather than the conversion from HDMI to DVI, for connecting it to an HD-TV or HMDI-equipped monitor without the extra cost.

.  Half-height conversion kit
.  Great addition to a HTPC
.  Overclocks well
.  Low in-game performance
.  No HDMI cable in package

 

ASUS EN7600GT/HTDI/256M/A - At about $200, the EN7600GT/HTDI is a bit pricier than non-HDMI equipped 7600GTs, including Asus' own EN7600GT Silent. Although, the price has come down rapidly over the last few months. While the performance of this card was relatively good, we caution prospective buyers to sure this card is a good fit for their usage model. Gamers should probably look for something a little more powerful as they could easily pick up a much more capable card, such as the Asus EN7950GT, at a similar price. Media Center builders should be on the lookout as well, because some slim-line cases require half height cards, and they might be put off by the noisier fan as well.

.  Good performance
.  SLI Support
.  Cables for all connections
.  Louder than we expected
.  Priced higher than other 7600 GTs
.  Might not be the best fit for an HTPC

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