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Asus EN8800GTS 320MB
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Date: Apr 06, 2007
Section:Graphics/Sound
Author: Marco Chiappetta
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Introduction, Specifications and Bundle

A few weeks ago, NVIDIA unleashed the relatively affordable 320MB GeForce 8800 GTS on the world. On launch day, we took a look at a pre-overclocked 320MB card from XFX and ended up giving it an Editor's Choice award due to its feature set, performance, and overall value.  Today, we're going to shine the spotlight on another retail-ready 320MB GeForce 8800 GTS card, but this one comes by way of Asus.

Unlike XFX's card, the Asus EN8800GTS/HTDP/320M is not pre-overclocked from the factory. It does ship with a decent accessory bundle, however, that includes a couple of full version games.  Asus also throws in a handful of proprietary applications and utilities in an attempt to further add value to their product. Read on to see if they succeeded, or if your hard earned cash is better spent elsewhere...

  
Asus EN8800GTS/HTDP/320M Box

Asus EN8800GTS/HTDP/320M
Features and Specifications


    
Asus EN8800GTS/HTDP/320M Accessory Bundle

Asus bundles their EN8800GTS/HTDP/320M cards with a nice assortment of accessories and software. Included in the box along with the card itself, were an HD component output dongle, a dual-Molex to 6-Pin PCI Express power adapter, a user's manual, a leather Asus-embossed CD case, and a quintet of CDs. One disc contained the obligatory drivers, another a digital user's manual and some proprietary utilities (Splendid, Video Security, Game Liveshow, Game Replay, Game Face Messenger, and Game OSD). The remaining three discs were comprised of full versions of 3DMark06, Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon: Advanced Warfighter, and RACE the Official WTCC game.

Overall, this was a fairly good accessory bundle in our opinion. The included software and games certainly add to the value of the product. Asus did go a little light on the cables, however. Noticeably absent were any S-Video or component cables or a DVI to VGA adapter. Although, we should note that a DVI to VGA adapter is listed in the specifications; there just wasn't one in the box we received for evaluation.

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The Asus EN8800GTS 320MB

The GeForce 8800 GTS 320MB shares many of the same features as the 8800 GTX, but the two cards physically differ in a number of ways.  For one, the 8800 GTS is built upon a shorter 9" PCB. GTS cards also requires less power; NVIDIA recommends a 400W PSU that can supply 26A on its 12V rails. As such the GTS has only one 6-Pin PCI Express power receptacle, whereas the more powerful GTX has two. The GTS also has only a single SLI edge connector, so at some point in the future the GTX is likely to offer a few additional features when running in SLI mode.

    

What you see pictured above is Asus' take on the 320MB GeForce 8800 GTS, the aptly named EN8800GTS/HTDP/320M. Underneath the card's cooler, which is identical to the one used on other GTS cards save for the custom Asus decal, lies a G80 GPU clocked at 513MHz and 320MB of GDDR3 memory clocked at 1584MHz. Please note that the 320MB GTS has the same 96 stream processors enabled in the GPU as the 640MB cards, and its memory has the same 320-bit interface.  The GTX, however, has 128 stream processors and a 384-bit memory interface. The 320-bit memory interface means the GTS is outfitted with 10, 32-bit DRAMs. The PCB does have pads for 12, however. So, there is a possibility that future, unannounced GeForce 8800 series cards with 384-bit memory interfaces may use this PCB design. 

    

Like other GeForce 8800 GTS 320MB cards, Asus' EN8800 GTS features a pair of dual-link DVI outputs and an HD/TV video output.  The cooler is two-slots wide, with a barrel fan that sucks air in from within the system, and exhausts it out of the case through vents in its mounting bracket. The fan is variable speed and will spin up or down based on the temperature of the GPU. We found it to be relatively quiet most of the time, because it rarely spun up to full speed, even after an extended benchmark session.

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Our Test System and 3DMark06

HOW WE CONFIGURED THE TEST SYSTEMS: We tested all of the graphics cards used in this article on an EVGA nForce 680i SLI based motherboard powered by a Core 2 Extreme X6800 dual-core processor and 2GB of low-latency Corsair RAM. The first thing we did when configuring the test system was enter the BIOS and set all values to their default settings. Then we manually configured the memory timings and disabled any integrated peripherals that wouldn't be put to use. The hard drive was then formatted, and Windows XP Pro with SP2 and the October DX9 update was installed. When the installation was complete, we then installed the latest chipset drivers available, installed all of the other drivers necessary for the rest of our components, and removed Windows Messenger from the system.  Auto-Updating and System Restore were also disabled, the hard drive was defragmented, and a 1024MB permanent page file was created on the same partition as the Windows installation. Lastly, we set Windows XP's Visual Effects to "best performance," installed all of the benchmarking software, and ran the tests.

The HotHardware Test System
Core 2 Extreme Powered

Processor -

Motherboard -


Video Cards -









Memory -


Audio -

Hard Driv
e -

 

Hardware Used:
Core 2 Extreme X6800 (2.93GHz)


EVGA nForce 680i SLI
nForce 680i SLI chipset

Asus EN8800GTS 320MB

XFX GeForce 8800 GTS 320M XXX
GeForce 8800 GTS 320MB
GeForce 8800 GTX
GeForce 8800 GTS 640MB
GeForce 7950 GX2
GeForce 7900 GTX
Radeon X1950 XTX (CF Master)


2048MB Corsair PC2-6400C3
2 X 1GB

Integrated on board

Western Digital "Raptor"

74GB - 10,000RPM - SATA

OS -
Chipset Drivers -
DirectX -

Video Drivers
-




Synthetic (DX) -
DirectX -
DirectX -
DirectX -
DirectX -
OpenGL -

OpenGL -
Relevant Software:
Windows XP Pro SP2
nForce Drivers v9.53
DirectX 9.0c (December Redist.)

NVIDIA Forceware v97.92

ATI Catalyst v7.1


Benchmarks Used:
3DMark06 v1.0.2
Need For Speed: Carbon v1.2*
FarCry v1.4*
F.E.A.R. v1.08
Half Life 2: Episode 1*
Prey v1.2*
Quake 4 v1.3*

* - Custom Test (HH Exclusive demo)
Performance Comparisons with 3DMark06 v1.0.2
Details: http://www.futuremark.com/products/3dmark06/

3DMark06
3DMark06 is the latest addition to the 3DMark franchise. This version differs from 3Dmark05 in a number of ways, and now includes not only Shader Model 2.0 tests, but 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.

The Asus EN8800GTS finished right where you'd expect to in the 3DMark06 benchmark. The Asus card performed on-par with a reference GeForce 8800 GTS 320MB, but behind the higher-clock XFX GeForce 8800 GTS XXX Edition. Considering the card's approximate $300 price tag, its interesting to see it blowing past the Radeon X1950 XTX and even the dual-GPU powered 7950 GX2.

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FarCry v1.4

Performance Comparisons with FarCry v1.4
Details: http://www.farcry.ubi.com/

FarCry
If you've been on top of the gaming scene for some time, you probably know that FarCry was one of the most visually impressive games to be released on the PC in the last few years.  Courtesy of its proprietary engine, dubbed "CryEngine" by its developers, FarCry's game-play is enhanced by Polybump mapping, advanced environment physics, destructible terrain, dynamic lighting, motion-captured animation, and surround sound. Before titles such as Half-Life 2 and Doom 3 hit the scene, FarCry gave us a taste of what was to come in next-generation 3D gaming on the PC. We benchmarked the graphics cards in this article with a fully patched version of FarCry using a custom-recorded demo run taken in the "Catacombs" area checkpoint. The tests were run at various resolutions with 4X AA and 16X aniso enabled concurrently.

We saw a similar trend to 3DMark06's with our custom FarCry benchmark. Here again, the Asus EN8800GTS falls inline with the reference GeForce 8800 GTS, just behind the factory overclocked XFX model. Regardless of its placement though, all of the cards put up triple digit framerates at both resolutions which somewhat negates the performance advantage at these resolutions.

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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 graphical effects. We ran these NFS: Carbon benchmarks by utilizing FRAPS and tracking framerates on the same track, using the same car with every graphics 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 1,280 x 1,024 and 1,600 x 1,200 with 4X AA and 16X anisotropic filtering enabled simultaneously.

We saw more of the same with Need For Speed: Carbon.  Asus' card performed on-par with the reference model, but it wasn't quite as fast as XFX's XXX Edition. All of the 8800 series cards, however, held onto significant performance advantages over the previous generation Radeon and GeForce 7 cards.

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Half Life 2: Episode 1

Performance Comparisons with Half-Life 2: Episode 1
Details: http://www.half-life2.com/

Half Life 2:
Episode 1
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 quite a while to get our hands on HL2.  Armed with the latest episodic update to HL2, Episode 1, we benchmarked the game with a long, custom-recorded timedemo that takes us through both outdoor and indoor environments. These tests were run at resolutions of 1,280 x 1,024 through 2,560 x 1,600 with 4X anti-aliasing and 16X anisotropic filtering enabled concurrently, and with color correction and HDR rendering enabled in the game engine as well.

 

From this point forward in this article, we tested all of the cards are standard and XHD resolutions. As you can see, the increased demands put on the EN8800GTS, resulted in a somewhat different performance trend. At the lower resolutions, it fell in-line with our previous tests, but once the resolution was increased above 1920x1200, the card's smaller frame buffer held it back, and its performance suffered because of it.

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F.E.A.R. v1.08

Performance Comparisons with F.E.A.R
More Info: 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. Taking a look at the game's minimum system requirements, we see that you will need at least a 1.7GHz Pentium 4 with 512MB of system memory and a 64MB graphics card in the Radeon 9000 or GeForce4 Ti-classes or better, to adequately run the game. Using the full retail release of the game patched to v1.07, we put the graphics cards in this article through their paces to see how they fared with a popular title. Here, all graphics settings within the game were set to their maximum values, but with soft shadows disabled (Soft shadows and anti-aliasing do not work together currently). Benchmark runs were then completed at resolutions of 1,280x1024 through 2,560 x 1,600 with anti-aliasing and anisotropic filtering enabled.

The performance trend in the F.E.A.R. benchmark mirrored those of our custom Half Life 2: Episode 1 test on the previous page. The Asus EN8800GTS was a strong performer at the lower resolutions, but its framerate dropped off considerably at the higher resolutions. The performance drop at XHD resolutions was so significant (again, due to its relatively small 320MB frame buffer) that the 7900 GTX and X1950 XTX were able to pull ahead of it.

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Quake 4 v1.3

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

Quake 4
id Software, in conjunction with developer Raven, recently 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 this these Quake 4 benchmarks using a custom demo with the game set to its "High-Quality" mode, at resolutions of 1,280 x 1,024 through 2,560 x 1,600 4X AA and 8X aniso enabled simultaneously.

The performance trend we witnessed in virtually all of our previous benchmarks played out again in our custom Quake 4 test. Here's the Asus EN8800GTS once again finished alongside the reference GeForce 8800 GTX 320MB card and just behind XFX's higher-clocked model. And once again at the higher XHD resolutions, framerates dropped off quite a bit.

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Prey v1.2

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 1,280 x 1,024 and 1,600 x 1,200 with 4X AA and 16X anisotropic filtering enabled simultaneously.

Because both games are based on the same engine, the results from our custom Prey benchmark look much like the Quake 4 results on the previous page. Overall, the framerates are lower in Prey due to the more demanding nature of the graphics, but the trend remains virtually unchanged.

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Overclocking the Asus EN8800GTS

For our next set of performance metrics, we spent a little time overclocking the Asus EN8800GTS using the clock frequency slider available within NVIDIA's Forceware drivers, under the "Performance" menu after installing the nTune performance application.

Overclocking t he Asus EN8800GTS 320M
(Fast 3D Video Card) + Overclocking = Even Faster Card

To find each card's peak core and memory frequencies, we slowly raised their respective sliders until we begun to see visual artifacts on-screen while running a game or benchmark, or until our test system was no longer stable.

Asus EN8800GTS: Stock = 513MHz GPU / 1584MHz Memory
Asus EN8800GTS:
Overclocked = 648MHz GPU / 1880MHz Memory


Asus EN8800GTS: Stock = 513MHz GPU / 1584MHz Memory
Asus EN8800GTS:
Overclocked = 648MHz GPU / 1880MHz Memory

When all was said and done, we were able to take the Asus EN8800GTS up from its default GPU core and memory frequencies of 513MHz / 1584MHz. all the way up to 648MHz / 1880MHz, increases of 135MHz and 296MHz (DDR), respectively.

While we had the card overclocked, we re-ran a couple of benchmarks at 1600x1200 to show you all just how performance had increased. As you can see, the performance increases were quite significant. They allowed the Asus EN8800GTS to pull ahead of the XFX card by a few FPS in both tests. It wasn't quite enough of a boost to catch the more powerful 8800 GTX, but who cares.  Free performance is free performance.

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Our Summary and Conclusion

Performance Summary: The Asus EN8800GTS/HTDP/320M performed on-par with a similarly clocked 320MB GeForce 8800 GTS reference card, but behind a pre-overclocked card from XFX. Overall, its performance was better than previous generation high-end GeForce 7 and Radeon X1950 cards, especially at resolutions of 1920x1200 and lower. At ultra high resolutions, the card's smallish 320MB frame buffer holds it back in some more demanding games, like Half Life 2: Episode 1 and F.E.A.R., for example.

We like the Asus EN8800GTS/HTDP/320M on many different levels. This card, and other similarly configured GeForce 8 series cards, satisfy the needs of a large segment of the market in our opinion. Their performance is high enough at mainstream resolutions that its worth upgrading to a card like this from virtually any last-gen product, and you'd end up with the added benefits of full HDCP and DX10 support, a better video engine, and a more complete feature set overall, that includes things like CSAA and higher quality anisotropic filtering. Asus' interpretation of the 320MB GeForce 8800 GTS in particular is a fine choice due to its price, good overclockability, and well appointed software bundle that includes two full games and a full version of the popular benchmarking tool 3DMark06. At about $300, the Asus EN8800GTS does fall at the upper end of the price range for standard clocked 320MB GeForce 8800 GTS cards by about $25, but the software bundle does offset the slightly higher price. Asus' warranty is also shorter than some others at 3 years, and it is not transferable, so that is something to take into consideration as well.  Overall though, we suspect anyone in the market for a graphics card in this price range will be pleased by the Asus EN8800GTS/HTDP/320M. This card is fast, has plenty of next-gen features, and it's relatively affordable.

  • Good Performance
  • Decent Overclocker
  • Good Accessory Bundle
  • Two Full Games Included
  • Relatively Affordable
  • Missing Adapter From Box
  • "Only" a 3 year Warranty

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