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Appeared on: Wednesday, March 30, 2005
Asus Extreme N6800GT


1. Introduction

Asus Extreme N6800GT - 01 - Introduction

After examining an AGP version of the EN6600GT from Asus, it's time to jump back to the PCI-Express bus and take a look a card aimed at the enthusiast market, the Extreme N6800GT.

Asus Extreme N6800GT

As its name indicates, the N6800GT is based on the Nvidia 6800 GPU core, also known as NV40. The card is basically a cheaper version of the 6800 Ultra with lower clock speeds and a slimmer cooling solution. The Extreme N6800 series is not to be confused with the V9999 series from the Asus products which are built for the AGP standard bus.

- Packaging/Bundle

The packaging of the EN6800GT is a larger version of the one Asus used with the 6600 series. Inside the package you'll find a set of accessories for all your needs:
- 640x480 webcam
- TV-out adaptor
- DVI-to-2nd VGA adaptor
- 12V PCI-E power connector

Apart from these accessories, the Asus CD Suite is also included in the package.

 

Asus CD SuiteSoftware Bundle:
- Joint Operations : Typhoon rising
- AsusDVD
- Asus PowerDirector 3DE
- Medi@Show SE 2.0
- Asus CD manual
- Asus VGA driver CD

 

 


2. Features

Asus Extreme N6800GT - 02 - Features

Main Features
GPU Nvidia 6800 - NV40 rev.A1
Memory Type 256 MB 256-bit GDDR3
Engine Clock Speed 350MHz
Memory Clock Speed 500MHz
Memory Bandwidth 32.0 GB/sec
Pixel Pipelines 16
Vertex Pipelines 6
Fill rate 5.6 Giga pixels /sec
DX Support 9.0
OpenGL Support 1.5
Output Dual DVI-I
Bus PCI-Express 16x
Processing technology 0.13 micron

The Extreme N6800GT uses the same processor as an 6800 Ultra based card, codenamed NV40. The major differences between the two references are summarized in the following table:

- 6800 GT 6800 Ultra
Engine Clock Speed
350MHz
400MHz
Memory Clock Speed
500MHz
550MHz
Memory Bandwidth
32.0 GB/sec
35.2 GB/sec
Fill rate
5.6 Giga pixels /sec
6.4 Giga pixels /sec

The lower Memory Bandwidth and Fill Rate of the 6800GT is a direct result of its lower clock frequencies. In other words, should you be able to clock the GT card to Ultra speeds without overheating it, the performance would get very close to that of an Ultra card.

Both the GT and Ultra have a 16 pixel and 6 vertex pipeline architecture which is the highest number you will encounter in a graphics card until the next generation cards arrive.

 

Of course, the GT uses a 256 bit memory interface and is equipped with 256MB of GDDR3 RAM. It will take a while until 512MB cards storm the market as there's currently no game that makes use of so much memory (Doom3 doesn't count as the Ultra details that require 512MB offer no extra image quality).

 

ASUS Features:
SLI Multi-GPU ready: Dramatically scales performance by allowing two graphics cards to run in parallel.
ASUS GameFace™ Live: The World's first multiplayer audio and video chatting solution for PC games. It enables simultaneous connection up to 8 players.
ASUS Video Security™ Online: Whether you're online or not, ASUS VideoSecurity Online provides you a flexible and economical security system. It can easily turn your computer into your own security server.
Diversified displays connectivity (Dual DVI, Dual VGA, DVI+VGA, DVI+TV-out)
High-quality TV output for big screen gaming or presentations

Graphics Chip Key Features:
Superscalar GPU architecture - Delivers up to 8x the shading power of previous generation products for sreaming gaming performance.
NVIDIA® CineFX™ 3.0 engine
Shader model 3.0 support enables stunning and complex special effects
High-Speed GDDR3 memory interface
NVIDIA UltraShadow™ II technology - Enhances the performance of bleeding-edge games
NVIDIA High-Precision Dynamic-Range (HPDR) technology - NVIDIA HPDR sets new standards for image clarity and quality through floating point capabilities in shading, filtering, texturing, and blending.
NVIDIA® Intellisample™ 3.0 technology
The industry's fastest antialiasing delivers ultra-realistic visuals, with no jagged edges, at lightning-fast speeds
NVIDIA nVIEW Multi-display technology
Advanced technology provides the ultimate in viewing flexibility and control for multiple monitors.


3. A closer look

Asus Extreme N6800GT - 03 - A closer look

The Asus EN6800GT uses a special HSF for cooling. The cooler used is designed by Asus and it's a slim version of the reference Nvidia 6800 Ultra HSF.

The front side of the card.(click for hi-res).

That way, the 6800GT no longer takes up two slots to fit on your motherboard but still gets enough cooling to prevent it from overheating. The HSF covers both the GPU and memory parts as all memory parts are located on the front of the graphics card.

The back side of the card.(click for hi-res).

On the picture above you can clearly spot the SLI connector. For more information about SLI, you should read our Asus A8V SLI Deluxe article.

 

The fansink is constructed from both plastic and metallic parts. A small led located close to the fan, will highlight the card and light up your case with a bright blue light.

As in all mid and high end graphics cards using the PCI-Express bus, the EN6800GT needs power to operate safely and will not boot unless you have plugged in the PCI-E 8-pin power connector.

The new power connector

The output signals of the Asus EN6800GT consists of two DVI-I and a D-sub port. If your monitor doesn't use the DVI-I connector, you'll have to use the DVI-to-VGA adaptor bundled along with the card.

Dual DVI-I output and a single D-sub found on the card's rear

4. Test System

Asus Extreme N6800GT - 04 - Test System

Processor: Intel P4 3.0GHz L775
Cooler: Big Typhoon
Case: Antec 1080AMG
Motherboard: Gigabyte 8I915P Duo Pro
Memory: 2x512MB OCZ PC-4200 Memory
Hard Disk Drive: WD800JD 80GB 7200RPM
CD-RW: LiteOn LTR-52246S
PowerSupply: Levicom 500Watt
Microsoft WindowsXP Pro SP2
DirectX v9.0c



Benchmarking Software
3DMark05,03,01
Codecreatures Benchmark Pro
AquaMark3 v3.0
ATiTool 0.0.23
Farcry v1.3
CounterStrike Source
Doom 3
Thief 3
Ground Control II


5. 3DMark05

Asus Extreme N6800GT - 05 - 3DMark05

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 taking the most out of Microsoft's DirectX 9. The previous version 3DMark03, did a nice introduction into this level of 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 in stores can only score around 5000 3DMarks, whereas the worst card that meets the programs 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 future first-person shooter game with all the high details that entails. The dynamic shadows, high-detailed environment and advanced lighting techniques ensure that under normal circumstances, no recent card can run it with decent frame rates.

Right from the start of 3DMark05, the 6800GT was able to deliver an average of 21.1 frames per second, 6 more than the output of the 6600GT.

Game Test 2 - Firefly Forest

A forest gets filled with magic fireflies in the 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 not so far, 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 second game test being the most demanding of the three, shows much less variance between the three cards. However, the order still remains the same with the X850XT leading the race followed by the N6800GT and finally the N6600GT.

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 "last resort' afterburners of the airship.

This scene is fairly complex with large areas of water reflecting the high canyon walls. The water actually is 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 actually look deep down in the water. The air in this scene also uses
a volumetric fog, making distant cliffs of the canyon really look far away.

 

In GT3, the EN6800GT's performance almost reached the 28fps of the X850XT at 24.9. The 6600GT on the other hand could not even reach 20fps.

Final Score

 3DMarks on 3DMark05 are now calculated by 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. This means that all game tests are now equal.
Let's see our results for the N6800GT:

3DMark05 ended with a total of 4801 marks for our EN6800GT, 40% better performance than the mid-end 6600GT. The X850XT from Club3D reigned in this benchmark delivering the highest framerates in all of the game tests and of course came up with the highest final score.


6. 3DMark 2003

Asus Extreme N6800GT - 06 - 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 it's VGA card measuring is does not require any CPU power. So the resulting fps are a good reference a VGA card's rendering performance. For testing the performance of each card we used the 4 game benchmarks 3DMark has.

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 first person shooter game types. 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 first 3 game tests show excellent results for the N6800GT, as its performance is very close to the X850XT. On the last game however, which uses a DX9 path, the later outperformed the 6800GT by almost 20fps.

- 3DMark Official score

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

The final score for the Asus Extreme N6800GT is 11181, just 1000 3dmarks behind the top performer, the X850XT from Club 3D.


7. Codecreatures
Asus Extreme N6800GT - 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 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 resolutions.

 

 

-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.

The difference in Codecreatures performance is very small and a potential overclock on the 6800GT would decrease it even further.


8. Aquamark3 / 3DMark 2001

Asus Extreme N6800GT - 08 - Aquamark3 / 3DMark 2001

Since the majority of today's applications and games are compatible with DirectX 9, the need of benchmark applications that use DX 9 has been brought up. The benchmark uses the 3D engine (Krass engine) of 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 directx8.1 benchmark and the score depends a lot on the CPU power of your computer. However, for reference use only we decided it'd 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.


9. Half life 2

Asus Extreme N6800GT - 09 - Half life 2

Half life 2 is no doubt the most anticipated pc game of all times. Gamers keeping the excellence of Half Life 1 in 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 of 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 respond as expected, as they obey the laws of 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 each time changed the resolution from 800x600 up to 1600x1200.

 

 

As you can see in both of the graphs, the N6800GT and X850XT hold enough power to run the benchmark with great framerates no matter what resolution or quality settings you want to use.

At 1600x1200 with AA set to 4x and AF to 8x, the Asus N6800GT managed to deliver 76fps against the 92fps of the X850XT whereas the N6600GT was outperformed by both at just 31fps.

10. Doom 3

Asus Extreme N6800GT - 10 - Doom 3

A massive demonic invasion has overwhelmed the Union Aerospace Corporations? (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:

Doom 3 is well known for its fondness of Nvidia cards and the results prove this claim once again. The Asus N6800GT had no trouble beating the flagship of ATi in performance under any resolution.

Enabling Anisotropic Filtering and Anti Aliasing, the listing remains unchanged. The X850 XT from Club3D, although delivering a respectable number of fps is once again outperformed by our N6800GT. However, the difference between the two high-end cards is now smaller due to the X850XT's much higher fill rate which favors it in situations like these.


11. Far Cry

Asus Extreme N6800GT - 11 - 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 as 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 custom demo from the start of the Rebellion stage. We chose an indoor scene in order to avoid getting the CPU bound effect. This will result in slightly higher results since it is also less GPU intensive, but we can't afford being stuck at 40-50 fps because of our CPU.

The latest patch (1.3) was used for our tests which updates the game's graphics engine to use the 3.0 Shader model. This option is only supported for the 6800 series.

The resolutions we ran the demo under, are as follows: 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 leveled up AA to 4x and AF to 8x. All tests were taken with Jack's flashlight on, to increase the game's demands from the graphics cards and with ai_update_interval set to zero so that the results are unbiased.

In Far Cry, the N6800GT starts with 91fps under 1024x768 and falls to 50fps under 1600x1200. These are excellent results but that might change when we switch to 4xAA and 8xAF.

As foretold, the framerate for the N6800GT under 1600x1200 drops to 36fps. Unfortunately, as this number is just an average of the in-game fps, this is not acceptable as the actual framerate is smaller at some points of the benchmark. However, the N6800GT provides smooth gameplay at the 1280x1024 resolution.


12. Thief 3

Asus Extreme N6800GT - 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 by 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 in 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 holding your breath when stuck 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 that represents the average fps you'll get when playing the game.

 

 

 

Just as in the the case of the X850XT, the N6800GT is also CPU-bound with the first three resolutions as Thief 3 DS is an incredibly demanding game for both the GPU and CPU. The N6800GT starts off pretty well with 45 frames per second but when increasing the resolution to 1600x1200, the framerate becomes unacceptable.

When enabling Multisampling through the game menu and Anisotropic Filtering through the drivers menu, the framerates are almost halved. If you really feel like increasing the image quality of the game, it seems 800x600 is the only resolution that the card can handle satisfactorily.


13. Colin McRae 05

Asus Extreme N6800GT - 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 detail of 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 the older CM versions but motion blur has been added when your card hits something hard which will happen most often if you're new to the racing simulation world.

To measure performance on 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.

The N6800GT's performance is once more limited by the CPU at around 78fps. The framerate is excellent so let's just examine the Quality settings results.

Anisotropic Filtering and Anti-Aliasing constitute no problem for the Extreme N6800GT from Asus and the game is very enjoyable, even at the highest resolution.


14. Ground Control II

Asus Extreme N6800GT - 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 bring 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 these excellent water effects!

 

All cards performed equally well at GCII. The N6800GT performance-wise, stands between the X850XT and 6600GT once more, but all three graphics cards are able to run the game flawlessly.

The N6800GT has the power to deliver 37fps under 1280x1024, but if we increase the resolution further when the screen gets crowded with enemies, it will result in a drop in the framerate to a lower level, distorting the gameplay's smoothness. Hence, 1280x1024 is the best setting if you want to enjoy this game.

 


15. Overclocking

Asus Extreme N6800GT - 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 for 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.

Increasing the memory clock too much,
produces the so-called "artifacts".

The stock clock speeds for the Extreme N6800GT are 350MHz for the GPU and 520MHz for the memory modules. Our purpose was to overclock the card to 6800Ultra speeds, which are 400MHz and 550MHz respectively. Unfortunately, this couldn't be accomplished.

Although the GPU could handle the 410MHz we were able to set it to, the new HSF that cools the card was a major constraint for the memory clock speed and the highest stable setting we reached was 520MHz. When we tried setting it a little bit higher, it would produce artifacts, sometimes immediately and other times after stress testing the card with games.

Even if we failed to overclock the card up to an Ultra, the impact in Doom 3 and Half Life 2 performance is exciting. Far Cry on the other hard showed very small differences with a 2-4 fps boost.


16. Conclusion

Asus Extreme N6800GT - 16 - Conclusion

Although the N6800GT did not seem to excel in the majority of the benchmarks against the enthusiast X850XT, its performance is still over-the-top when compared to the 6600GT with large framerate differences between them. Let's also not forget that the X850XT is the flagship of ATi at the moment while the N6800GT is a more budget oriented but still high-end card.

If you're looking for a high end graphics card upgrade but you're not willing to waste $700 out of your budget for an 6800Ultra or X850XT, surely the $500 the 6800GT costs is a far more reasonable price.

Overclocking was a bit disappointing since we failed to clock the card to Ultra speeds, but even so the performance boost we got was more than satisfactory.

The EN6800GT offers one of the most complete software bundles and accessories. Inside the package you'll find all needed accessories for connecting your video card with external devices, a game, applications, a portable CD case and even a webcam that you can use with Asus GameFace. However, the game chosen could be much better than Joint Operations or at least another game should accompany the card. In which case the bundle would be simply excellent.

Pros:
-High performance
-Great bundle
-Low noise fan
-Takes up only one PCI-E slot

Cons:
-Memory couldn't overclock stably at Ultra speeds.

Performance:
Value for money:
Overclocking:
Bundle:


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