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Appeared on: Friday, November 12, 2004
Asus AX600XT


1. Introduction

01 - Introduction

There is not much that we can say about Asus that hasn't already been said. It's been in the industry for a long time, manufacturing quality-based products. In 2003, Asus sold 5,000,000 motherboards which means one out of every 5 desktop computers was built using an Asus motherboard. In the VGA arena, Asus is known for two things: a)its quality, b) its slightly pricier products.

This time we'll be examining the Asus AX X600 XT PCI Express card. For those of you who missed our previous reviews, here's a recap on what is PCI-Express :

In a nutshell, it's the technology used when your newly installed graphics card communicates with your motherboard. Currently, unless your computer is 6 years old or older your motherboard has an AGP slot for your vga card. As today's (and tomorrow's) processors and Input/Output or I/O devices demand much higher bandwidth than that available with AGP's 8X, PCI-Express was created with a maximum bandwidth of 16X. In the following 2 years, AGP will be phased out as all vga cards, soundcards and other peripherals will be manufactured for PCI-Express powered motherboards. However, for the time being, PCI-Express has been designed to be backwards compatible, meaning that it's still using the same principles as PCI2.2 to avoid application and driver problems. Due to this compatibility limitation, an issue in performance arises as the AGP8X version of a VGA card is currently faster than the newer PCI-E version.

- Packaging - Bundle

Asus continues the tradition that sees its VGA cards shipping in large, shiny boxes, no matter the actual size of the card inside. Luckily, the X600 comes with a rich bundle to fill the box.


The main star of the X600's bundle is the so called Asus CD Suite, a bright orange plastic 12 cd case containing all of the card's software. The full version of Deus Ex is the only game it contains as well as 4 other cd's that are included in all Asus VGA cards packages.

Software Bundle:

-Deus Ex
-AsusDVD
-MediaShow
-PowerDirector
-Ulead Cool 3D and Photo Express

-Asus VGA driver (R8.02)
-Asus VGA manual

Also inside the package, you'll find a DVI-to-VGA adaptor (the only way we could connect the card with our monitor), an S-Video to composite cable for VideoIn/VideoOut use and the HDTV adaptor for HDTV connectivity.

The DVI-to-VGA adaptor, S-Video to composite VIVO cable, HDTV adaptor and the Asus CD Suite bundled with the AX 600XT.


2. A closer look

02 - A closer look

Main Features
GPU Radeon X600 - R380
Memory Brand/Model Hynix HY4DU283222 AF-22
Memory Type 128 MB 128-bit GDDR
Memory Speed 500MHz
Core Speed 370MHz (2.6ns)
Memory Bandwidth 11.68 GB/sec
Pixel Pipelines 4
Shader Pipelines 2
Fill rate 2 Giga pixels /sec
DX Support 9.0
OpenGL Support 1.5
Output DVI-I / TV-Out / D-Sub
Bus PCI Express
Processing technology 0.13 micron

The Asus AX 600XT uses ATI's R380 chipset. We've mentioned before that the changes are only minor making the card equal in graphics power with the older 9600XT.

A close-up on the AF-22 memory.

In contrast to Powercolor's X600XT memory, the AF-25, Asus designed the AX600XT using 128Mb of the AF22 version of the HY4DU283222 memory. This means the memory parts are built for running at 450MHz while the AF-25 could only reach up to 400MHz although we managed to overclock Powercolor's memory up to 425MHz without experiencing any problems. We'll see how good of an overclocker the AX600XT is later on.

The ATI Rage Theater chip for VIVO purposes.

If you take a closer look at the next picture, you'll see how the cooling system on the AX600XT works. Quite noisy for it's size, the clear crystal fan is located above the main chipset taking in air and forcing it through the heatsink towards the PCI-express slot. All of this while the memory heatsink located further left remains without proper air cooling.

The front side of the card.(click to enlarge).

As you can see in the picture above, the AX 600XT doesn't have a VGA output. Instead it has DVI and HDTV outputs but if you can't take advantage of these, you can just use the bundled DVI-to-VGA adaptor to connect your monitor or the S-Video to Composite VIVO cable for standard TV output.

The latest trend wants crystal clear fans being lit by blue or red leds .

 

The rear side of the AX600XT (click to enlarge)

3. Test System

Test System - Page 03

Processor: Retail Intel Pentium 4 530 3GHz
Case: Antec 1080AMG
Motherboard: MSI 915G Combo
Memory: 2x512MB OCZ PC-4200 Memory
Hard Disk Drive: WD800JD 80GB 7200RPM
CD-RW: LiteOn LTR-52246S
PowerSupply: Levicom 500Watt
Microsoft WindowsXP Pro Service Pack1
DirectX v9.0c

Benchmarking Software
3DMark05,03,01
Codecreatures Benchmark Pro v1.0
AquaMark3 v3.0
ATiTool 0.0.22
Farcry v1.1 Build 1256
CounterStrike Source Beta
Doom 3
Medal of Honour Pacific Assault Demo
Thief 3
Ground Control II


4. 3DMark05

3DMark05 - Page 04

With 3DMark05, Futuremark continues the tradition in its benchmarking software by providing a state-of-the-art Microsoft ® DirectX ® 9 3D performance benchmark.
3DMark05 is an all new 3DMark version, making the most out of Microsoft's DirectX 9. The previous version, 3DMark03, provided a nice testbench for this technology. However, 3DMark03 used DirectX 9 specific features in a limited manner, because fully supporting hardware was rare at the time of its launch. In contrast, 3DMark05 requires DirectX 9 hardware with full support for at least Shader Model 2, and takes shader usage to never before seen levels.
Just like its predecessors, 3DMark05's point system is set so that at the moment of release, the high-end VGA cards available on the market can only score around 5000 3DMarks, whereas the worst card that meets the program's requirements, yields a score of 1000.

Game Test 1 - Return to Proxycon

Being the sequel to the "Battle of Proxycon" from 3DMark03, in "Return to Proxycon" we're once again set in space and the battle continues as space pirates invade a cargo ship in order to take control of its valuable cargo.

 

 

 

This test, tries to simulate a futuristic first-person shooter game with all the high details that such a game entails. The dynamic shadows, highly detailed environment and advanced lighting techniques, ensure that under normal circumstances, no recent card can run it with decent frame rates.

 

The two X600XT cards did much better than the X300 and the older generation 9600 Pro. The small difference of 0.2fps between them should not be consindered as indicative of any sort of performance difference.

Game Test 2 - Firefly Forest

A forest is filled with magic fireflies at night. The moon is nearly full, illuminating the forest with a bluish faint light. The magic fireflies have flickering, bright green lights that playfully move around the forest.

This scene is a nice example of a smaller scale outdoor scene with rich vegetation. Immediate visibility is only short range, and there is a skybox surrounding the whole scene.

A large number of trees with their branches swinging separately, and dense vegetation being dynamically distributed according to the camera movements, make this test the most demanding of the three.

 

The difference in frame rate for the second game increased where the AX600XT lost some more ground to the Powercolor card.

Game Test 3 - Canyon Flight

A Jules Verne type airship flies through a canyon guarded by a dangerous sea monster. The airmen defend their ship using heavy cannons, but these seem to have no effect on the huge sea monster. Finally, the crew manages a narrow escape using the airship's "last resort" afterburners.

This scene is fairly complex with large areas of water reflecting the high canyon walls. The water is actually one of the key points of interest in this scene. The water not only does realistic looking reflections and refractions, it has a depth fog, making the sea monster swimming under the airship appear deep down in the water. The air in this scene also uses a volumetric fog, making distant cliffs in the canyon appear far away.

 

In the third and much lighter game, the Asus AX 600XT rendered at an average rate of 8.1 frames per second but still couldn't match its competitor from the same family.

Final Score

 3DMarks on 3DMark05 are now calculated with the following formula:

(Game Test 1 * Game Test 2 * Game Test 3)^0.33 * 250

This is basically the geometric mean of the total frames in each game multiplied by 250, which means that all game tests are on an equal par.
Let’s see the result for the AX600XT:

Immediately obvious in the game test scores is the fact that the Asus AX600XT couldn't overtake the Powercolor X600, which is reasonable since it didn't perform better in any of the game tests.


5. 3DMark 2003

05 - 3DMark 2003

3D Mark is a widely used and accepted benchmark that stresses the DirectX performance of a VGA card. A very strong point of 3DMark is that its VGA card measuring does not require any CPU power. So the resulting fps are a good reference of a VGA card's rendering performance. For testing the performance of each card, we used the 4 game benchmarks from 3DMark.

3Dmark03 also includes sound and CPU tests as well as some other feature tests.

- Game Test 1 - Wings of Fury (DX7)

This test is a combat flight simulator written for older hardware (DirectX 7). Particles are used a lot in this test - smoke and vapor trails, flak and gunfire, and explosions are produced using point sprites and quads.

 

 

 

- Game Test 2 - Battle of Proxycon (DX8)

This test is a simulation of a first person shooter game. 1.1 and 1.4 Vertex shaders are widely used since all character models are skinned using vertex shaders.This makes this test a good vertex shader comparison for VGA cards.

 

 


- Game Test 3 - Trolls' Lair (DX8)

This test should be the favorite of all RPG lovers. It is a cut scene of a female warrior facing two malicious trolls. Again, the same vertex and pixel processing is used as in game test 2.

This test also uses post-processing effects, such as Depth of Field and Bloom effects which are widely used in today's game cut scene sequences.

- Game Test 4 - Mother Nature (DX9)

Mother nature represents the level of effects and realism that are possible using 2.0 vertex and pixel shaders, plus some other features that DirectX 9 offers.


 

 

 

The Asus AX600XT offers the same performance as the Powercolor where both did very well against the X300. However, as with the 9600XT, they're no match for an FX5900XT.

- 3DMark Official score

If you test your machine with 3DMark you can post the results at 3DMark's online results page. For more information visit futuremark.com.

The resulting 3Dmarks number is representative of the overall game test performance. The Asus AX600XT faithfully produced the same 3DMarks as the Powercolor, while the FX5900XT remains unreachable.


6. Aquamark3 / 3DMark 2001

06 - Aquamark3 / 3DMark 2001

Since the majority of today's applications and games are compatible with DirectX 9, the need for benchmark applications that use DX 9 has been stepped up. This particular benchmark uses the 3D engine (Krass engine) from the Aquanox game.

Aquamark Triscore

The Aquamark Triscore comprises 3 values: the overall system performance, the performance of the graphics system and the CPU performance. Keep in mind that this is not the total result of the tests, but the result of the whole benchmark process including all 9 chapters.

 

3DMark 2001

3DMark 2001 is the predecessor to 3DMark03. It's mainly a directx 8.1 benchmark and the score depends a lot on the CPU power of your computer. However, for reference use only, we decided it would be best to just leave it in our benchmark list so you can compare the next generation cards with the possibly outdated one you have at home.


7. Codecreatures
07 - Codecreatures

CodeCreatures is a synthetic 3D benchmark that is a good reference for VGA performance comparison. This is a high-end 3D benchmark that also requires DirectX 8 hardware, making it a good tool for measuring the potential of DirectX 8 game performance.

The Codecreatures benchmark is written with Microsoft's DirectX 8.1 API and incorporates the use of Vertex and PixelShaders, popular on next generation 3D accelerators.

The benchmark plays a photo-realistic nature scene and calculates the performance of the graphics adapter by measuring the fps that it can display at 1024x768, 1280x1024 and 1600x1200 pixels resolutions.

 

 

 

The Asus AX 600XT yielded the same performance as its relative from Powercolor.

-Codecreatures number

The codecreatures number is the resulting score of the total benchmarking process and is basically the geometric mean of the three framerates multiplied by 100.


8. Half life 2

08 - Half life 2

Half life 2 is no doubt the most anticipated pc game of all times. Gamers having the excellence of Half Life 1 in the back of their mind as well as the remarkable E3 demo preview, have been anxiously waiting for the much delayed release of HL2.

Regarding the storyline, the player again picks up the crowbar as research scientist Gordon Freeman, who finds himself on an alien-infested Earth being picked to the bone, its resources depleted, its populace dwindling. Freeman is thrust into the unenviable role of rescuing the world from the wrong he unleashed back at Black Mesa. And a lot of people he cares about are counting on him.

Characters - Advanced facial animation system delivers the most sophisticated in-game characters ever seen. With 40 distinct facial "muscles," human characters convey the full array of human emotion and respond to the player with fluidity and intelligence.

Physics - From pebbles to water to 2-ton trucks, all respond as expected as they obey the laws of physics - mass, friction, gravity, and buoyancy.

Graphics - Source’s shader-based renderer, like the one used at Pixar to create movies such as Toy Story® and Monster's, Inc.®, creates the most beautiful and realistic environments ever seen in a video game.

AI - Neither friends nor enemies charge blindly into the fray. They can assess threats, navigate tricky terrain, and fashion weapons from whatever is at hand.

To measure performance we used the Video Stress Test(VST) that is available in the CounterStrike:Source beta available through Steam. We set all the details to the highest level and changed the resolutions from 800x600 to 1600x1200.

 

 

 

With 103 fps under 800x600, the AX600XT took the lead in Half Life 2 Video Stress Test performance, only to lose it later under more demanding resolutions.

However, enabling 4x Anti-Aliasing and 8x Anisotropic Filtering, the Asus AX600XT showed more power than any of the other cards.


9. Doom 3

09 - Doom 3

A massive demonic invasion has overwhelmed the Union Aerospace Corporation's (UAC) Mars Research Facility leaving only chaos and horror in its wake. As one of the few survivors, you struggle with shock and fear as you fight your way to Hell and back, in an epic clash against pure evil.

Activision made it's miracle again with Doom 3 which is said to be the best-looking game ever, thanks to the brand-new OpenGL graphics engine used to generate its convincingly lifelike, densely atmospheric, and surprisingly expansive environments. If you are a fan of the previous Doom games then you will get many flashbacks with this revision, since you will find reimagined versions of almost every monster from both Doom and Doom II.

To measure performance on the game, we used the timedemo demo1 command from the console (Alt+Ctrl+~).
Enabling the high quality setting and executing the timedemo demo1 command twice for each resolution, we witnessed the following:

First without the Anti-Aliasing and Anisotropic Filtering settings enabled, we got the following results:

We can see the Asus AX600XT did very well under the first two resolutions, but its performance drops dramatically when increasing it any further.

Gameplay gets unbearable as we enable the standard quality settings of AA and AF. The framerates drop below 20 to reach the awful average of 5.3 fps 1600x1200.


10. Far Cry

10 - Far Cry

You are Jack Carver running your own boat charter business in beautiful Micronesia. With a past best left behind you, you'll be focusing on your present assignment: escorting an ambitious journalist named Valerie Cortez to the Island of Cabatu. It seems like a piece of cake, but you'll soon learn: paradise can be hell.

Farcry is an awesome First Person Shooter (FPS) based on a last generation 3D engine named CryEngine. Real-time editing, bump-mapping, static lights, network system, integrated physics system, shaders, shadows and a dynamic music system are just some of the state of-the-art features that the CryEngine offers.

A great advantage and strong point of the CryEngine is its physics system which supports character inverse kinematics, vehicles, rigid bodies, liquid, rag doll, cloth and body effects. All physics seem to be very realistic and you never get bored when facing enemies, since character models have multiple animations that blend in believable ways.

With an integrated shader system and a massive terrain which maximizes the view distance to 2km, these features make Farcry a perfect action game and also a referable benchmark to speak of.

- Benchmark Settings

For this game we recorded a new demo from the start of the Rebellion stage. We chose an indoor scene in order to avoid being CPU bound under any circumstances. This will produce slightly higher results since it is also less GPU intensive but we can't afford being stuck at 40-50 fps because of the CPU.

The latest patch (1.2) was used for our tests which updates the game's graphics engine to use the Shader model 3.0. Unfortunately this is supported for the 6800 series only.

The resolutions we run the demo on are the following: 800x600,1024x768, 1280x1024 and 1600x1200. The first test was committed with Anti Aliasing (AA) and Anisotropic Filtering (AF) features off. In the second test we stepped up AA to 4x and AF to 8x.


 


11. Medal of Honour Pacific Assault

11 - Medal of Honour Pacific Assault

Medal of Honor Pacific Assault puts you in the boots of a WWII soldier in the Pacific Theater of Operations. As Marine Private Tommy Conlin, you Click to enlargemust survive the devastating attack on Pearl Harbor and then join the Allied crusade to defeat imperial Japan's bloody conquest of the Pacific. From the attack at Pearl Harbor to the pivotal battle against Japanese Forces at Tarawa Island, Medal of Honor Pacific Assault gives PC gamers a sense of the courage it took to endure and overcome the Japanese threat in WWII and fight for VICTORY in the Pacific.

To record the performance with this game, we used fraps and played around for a minute in the first stage of the demo.

 

The Asus AX600XT faired much worse than Powercolor's x600. However with both cards, the game is equally enjoyable. By turning some of the game's options off, you can increase the resolution further without losing much detail.

As we couldn't set any AntiAliasing at this point, we will just present the plain result until we get the full game version.

Click to enlarge


12. Thief 3

12 - Thief 3

Instead of Deus Ex, from now on we’ll be testing our cards using Thief 3. It’s based on the same engine but it’s much less GPU intensive and playable with more VGA cards than Deus.

The game makes severe use of Pixel Shader 1.1 instructions, the bloom effect and stencil shadows to achieve a wonderful result on your screen.

In the game, you play the part of Master Thief Garrett who is back to rule out any evil forces using his unique stealth abilities. Deadly Shadows shows what stealth gameplay is all about. This game really gives you the feel of sneaking around and has you holding your breath when trapped in a sticky situation.

Since there is no official benchmark for the game, we’ll do our tests using a GPU intensive scene from the tutorial-level which we believe represents the average fps you’ll get when playing the game.

 

 

 

 

The differences between the two X600 cards lessen as we move on to more demanding games such as Thief 3. Stencil shadows and pixel shading seem to bring the worst out of the AX600 and gameplay turns out to be annoying, even at 800x600.

Enabling 4x multisapling is disappointing, as no card was able to run the game at more that 20 fps.


13. Colin McRae 05

13 - Colin McRae 05

For all you racing fans out there, this test is for you and will represent the Racing game category in our benchmarks.

From the graphics point of view the first thing you’ll notice in the game is the excellent amount of detail on your racing car. High resolution textures on the car and lighting make it quite impressive. All the eye candy, such as the sun reflection in the virtual camera are still the same as with the older CM versions but motion blur has been added when your car hits something hard, which will happen quite often if you're new to the racing simulation world.

To measure the performance with the game, we used fraps to get the average fps of the whole 8th stage of UK which is actually the only stage you get to play on the demo.

As you can see, the Asus AX600XT offers excellent performance. As long as your CPU can handle it, you can even play the game under 1600x1200 without any problems from your graphics card.

1024x768, 4x Anti-Aliasing and 8x anisotropic filtering is once again the suggested setting to enjoy this game. With an average of 35fps, it's surely the perfect balance between quality and performance.


14. Ground Control II

14 - Ground Control II

Ground Control 2 is an action-oriented game of tactics and warfare. As Captain Jacob Angelus of the Northern Star Alliance, you will command squads of infantry, artillery, and airpower against the might of the Empire of Terra. Base building and resource-collecting are replaced with unit control and combat tactics where your knowledge of the battlefield maneuvers will make the difference in your fight against a ruthless enemy. Position your troops on hilltops for better aim or inside buildings and forests for protection as you’ll need to use every inch of terrain to your advantage. Call in air strikes or assault pods to take the battle behind enemy lines. Send out scouts to locate the enemy and use spotters for your artillery with the 360° free-roaming camera. Experience the total immersion of futuristic warfare as you lead your forces to victory!

 

For our benchmarks, we used the highest possible settings on the first mission of the single player game and moved around the camera to get an average framerate using fraps.

Ground Control II offers really impressive graphics without requiring much GPU power. Click on the picture above to view a screenshot from the game. Check out the excellent water effects!

In Ground Control II the Asus AX 600XT suprizingly winds up with more fps than the rest of the cards, even the X600 from Powercolor.

As we enabled all the quality options, the two X600XT cards yielded the exact same performance under all resolutions.

 


15. Overclocking

15 - Overclocking

No matter your graphics card, there comes a time in your computer's life when it can no longer cope with the latest technology the ever so popular games use. This is one of the main reasons for overclocking your graphics card. Gamers are always looking forward to a little extra boost in terms of framerate. Even though most of the times, the boost is far from noticeable, overclocking remains the last resort when you can't afford to buy a brand new VGA card.

The default clock speeds for the card is 500MHz for the core and 370MHz for the memory. As we mentioned earlier, Asus used a set of Hynix memory modules capable of running up to a frequency of 450MHz. Sadly, the heatsink on the memory chips wasn't enough to withstand any serious amount of overclocking.

The core however was much more resilient to overheating, as the core's fan/sink seem to be doing a great job.

Using ATiTool, we found the perfect balance between heat and performance which was at 555MHz for the core and 415MHz for the memory.

Increasing the memory clock any further,
produced the so-called "artifacts".

Let's see what effect this overclocking had on 3 of our games:

The impact in fps is obviously great. Under 1024x768 we got 6 extra fps for Half life 2, 8 fps for Far Cry and 4 fps for Doom 3.

Even though we're not satisfied with the memory clock speed we were able to set, the resulting boost in the framerates is quite good and that's what matters in the end, isn't it?


16. Conclusion

16 - Conclusion

Just like the Powercolor X600XT , the Asus AX600XT yielded satisfactory performance. It's able to render most of the games with all the eye candy enabled but mainly under low resolutions. In any case, don't expect not to give up some quality options in order to enjoy games such as Thief 3 or Doom 3.

The card's price varies, at around $230 and as we mentioned before is targets towards the mid-to-high end user. It's really a shame the X600 is nothing but a port of the 9600XT for PCI-Express powered motherboards. All the other new generation ATi products (X300,X700 and X800) seem to set new standards in terms of price/performance but X600 has nothing new to offer.

As you saw on the previous page, the AX X600XT is quite an overclocker. The fan/heat-sink didn't help a lot in cooling the memory modules but it did a great job on the GPU core. The core's clock is the most significant part when trying to overclock a card, so the performance boost we got was more than satisfactory.

The AX600XT's bundle is a lite version of the X800XT's bundle.With Counterstrike: Condition Zero missing from the CD case, Deus Ex is the only game to stand out amongst the remaining software. However, Deus Ex is a great game, worth purchasing and it surely gives the bundle some strong points along with the portable Asus CD Suite.

Pros:
-Reasonable performance
-Great bundle
-HDTV output

Cons:
- Noisy cooling fan
- A bit pricey

Performance:
Value for money:
Overclocking:
Bundle:

 



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