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Appeared on: Tuesday, March 21, 2006
ASUS EAX1800XT TOP


1. Introduction

This review is for all the hardcore gamers out there, because today we will be looking at ASUS' latest VGA card, the EAX1800XT TOP/2DHTV/512M, which uses the powerful RADEON X1800XT chipset.

-Features and specs according to ASUS

Model EAX1800XT TOP/2DHTV/512M

Graphics Engine

RADEON X1800XT

Video Memory

512MB DDR3

Engine Clock

700MHz

Memory Clock

1.6GHz (800MHz DDR3)

Memory Interface

256-bit

Max. Resolution

2048 X 1536

Bus Standard

16 lanes PCI Express

VGA Output

Standard 15-pin VGA (per DVI To VGA Adapter)

HDTV Output

S-Video to HDTV

TV Output

S-Video to Composite

Video Input

S-Video to Composite

DVI Output

DVI-I

Dual DVI Output

Yes

Dual VGA Output

Yes

ASUS Cooling technology

Yes

Adaptor/Cable Bundled

DVI to VGA adapter
9 Pin S-Video to HDTV cable
9 Pin VIVO cable
Svideo Cable
RCA COMPOSITE CABLE
ATX POWER CABLE
AC POWER CORD
ADAPTER 80W

Software Bundled

KING KONG FULL VERSION DVD
ASUS XitePad
GamePack-(Second Sight, Chaos League, POWERDROME)
SNOWBLIND
Joint Operations
Xpand Rally
ASUS DVD XP
Power Director 3
Media Show
ASUS Utilities & Driver

The EAX1800XT TOP/2DHTV/512M is the highest stock overclocked RADEON X1800XT currently on the market. The default core speed for the ATI X1800XT is 625 for core and 750 for Memory, but ASUS has successfully overclocked the X1800XT by using the best cooler on the market, which couldn't be any other than an Arctic Cooling cooler.

- Packaging/Bundle

ASUS surprised us in this package. It not only offers a great variety of games, but it also offers an external Power Supply and a USB GamePad! :-). So you don't need to worry, if your PSU is incapable of providing the required horsepower, and with the gamepad you can turn your PC into a Console.

Games that are included:

Software:

Manuals...

CD Leather Wallet with the ASUS logo...

external power supply (US plug)...

2 x DVI-I-VGA adaptors, S-Video extender cable, RGB component output cable, PCI Express power adaptor, VIVO cable (S-Video and composite I/O), and a composite video extender cable....

Now that we've covered the card's features, let's move on the second page in order to have a closer look at this 'work of art'... :P


2. Features

Radeon® X1800 XT - Overview, as seen on the ATI website

Radeon® X1800 XT - Advanced 3D Architecture for Maximum Visual Velocity

The new Radeon® X1800XT hands you the visual and performance possibilities you only dreamed of. Get the ultimate gaming performance AND image quality with a CrossFire™ Ready ultra-threaded graphics card that features, 512MB of DDR3 memory, a 625 MHz engine, Shader Model 3.0 done right, and high dynamic range visual effects, all enabled by the most advanced 90 nanometer GPU process.

The World’d Most Advanced 3D Technology
Incredible frame rates with the most advanced 3D technology including:

  • an ultra-threaded pixel shader engine with fast dynamic branching and a lightening fast 512-bit memory controller.
  • Support for Shader Model 3.0 allowing for new High Dynamic Range (HDR) visual effects, and enhanced realism with Adaptive Anti-aliasing.
  • Feature-rich Catalyst® Control Center with automatic and adjustable display configurations.
Revolutionary Avivo™ Video and Display Technology
  • Connects to high-resolution displays and digital TVs'
  • Creates vibrant colors, ultra sharp images, and true-to-life image reproduction
  • Renders the smoothest video playback ever offered by ATI
 
CrossFire™ Ready for Extreme, Accelerated Gaming
  • Multi-GPU power that ignites your gaming experience
  • “Supertiling” for GPU-sharing that speeds rendering for optimized performance
  • CrossFire™ boosts image quality by permitting far higher anti-aliasing, anisotropic filtering, shading, and texture settings

 

Click on the image for a larger photograph

Click on the image for a larger photograph

The Cooler has a mirror finish with the ASUS logo on it, making a great effect when reflecting the other PC components...

A closer look at the Arctic Cooling fan...

On the card's mounting bracket, you can see two DVI connectors, as well as the power connector, which is used with the optional AC adapter to power the card from an external source.

2 x DVI connectors, S-Video in/out and power connector...

On the back, you will find the standard PCI-E power connector, which by 'default' is connected via a cable to the mounting bracket's external power supply connector. So, when using the external AC adapter, you don't need to worry about PSU watts, since no power is drawn from the PC's PSU. However, if you do have a PSU with the required capacity, you probably won't need the external AC adapter.

OK, let's move on to the next page where we look at the testbed.


3. Test System

For our review, we used the following components:

Software that we used:

- 3DMark05,03,01
- Codecreatures Benchmark Pro
- AquaMark3 v3.0
- ATI Control Center v6.2
- Half Life 2
- Quake 4
- Ground Control II
- F.E.A.R.
- Need For Speed: Most Wanted

For comparison, we will be posting the results of the ASUS EAX1800XT TOP/2DHTV/512M along with the results of the Club3D X1800XT, ASUS N7800 GTX TOP and XFX 7800 GTX.


4. 3DMark2005

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 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

Click to enlargeBeing 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.

Game Test 2 - Firefly Forest

Click to enlargeA 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.

Game Test 3 - Canyon Flight

Click to enlargeA 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.

With the well tested benchmark 3D Mark 2005, the framerates from the EAX1800XT TOP are higher than the other three cards in all cases, while the N7800 GTX TOP follows close behind reporting slightly lower FPS.

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.

As expected, the EAX1800XT TOP scored the most 3D Marks. 9282 is very high indeed, if we consider that this score has only been surpassed by one other card. ;)


5. 3DMark2003

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 scene is a little bit different here. With 3D Mark05, the EAX 1800XT TOP was ahead in all test, but in 3D Mark03, the N7800 GTX TOP shows its capabilities, reporting similar fps.

- 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.

In the final score, the EAX 1800XT TOP and N7800 GTX TOP reported similar scores. It is really interesting that the Club 3D X1800XT is left in last position. It seems that ASUS has done a great job with the ATI boards, turning the ATI 1800XT into a real 'beast'.


6. 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 frame rates multiplied by 100.

It obvious by now that Codecreadures prefers nVidia based cards, pushing the 7800 GTX series into first positions, while the EAX 1800XT TOP follows close behind.


7. Aquamark - 3DMark01

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.

Unfortunately, we faced problems while running the Aquamark 3 benchmark, the program either ended with an error or the PC froze up with a 'black screen'. We tried older version ATI catalyst drivers and we also tried to run the test with the EAX 1800XT TOP installed in an Intel based PC, but the results were the same. The truth is however, that this benchmark is no longer supported.

particle
vertex
massive

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 you have at home.

This is the same as we saw with 3D Mark03, with the EAX 1800XT TOP reporting a similar score to the N7800 GTX TOP.

Well, enough with the benchmarks... :) let's see how the card really performs when it comes to real games, starting with Half Life 2...


8. Half Life 2

Half life 2 is no doubt the most anticipated PC game of all times.

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 already know, the resolutions at 800x600 and 1024x768 are CPU dependent so they don't give a true indication of a card's performance. The true value of a VGA card is best seen at higher resolutions. That is, at 1280x1024 and at 1600x1200 gaming resolutions. Nevertheless, similar fps were reported by the EAX1800 XT and N7800GTX, though the GTX TOP was the better of the two here...

With 4xAA and 8xAF, the scene clears up about who's the best. 136 fps at 1600X1200 is impressive from the 7800 GTX TOP, while 146fps at 1280x1024 is also good. The 7800 GTX TOP is the better card again.


9. 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 air power 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.

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 frame rate using fraps.

Ground Control II offers really impressive graphics without requiring much GPU power.

Wow! completely different scenario unfolds here. The XFX 7800 GTX is out in front, at least with AA and AF disabled, while the N7800GTX TOP and EAX1800XT TOP follow not too far behind.

With AA and AF enabled, the XFX 7800 GTX maintains its supremacy at the lower resolutions, but when we move to 1280x1024 and above, the N8700 GTX TOP shows its strength. The EAX1800XT TOP falls slightly behind, especially at the higher resolutions.


10. Quake 4

In a desperate war for Earth's survival, against an unrelenting alien enemy, the only way to defeat them is to become one of them. Armed with advanced weaponry and vehicles and aided by an elite squad of marines, you take the battle to the heart of the Strogg home planet and become Earth's only hope for victory.

Quake 4 is a First Person Shooter developed by Ravensoft, based on the Doom 3 engine, and the graphics and gameplay certainly reflect that fact. For those who really hated the one-way corridors of Doom 3, new outdoor areas have been added to the game. The feeling however, still remains the same as these areas are quite small-scale, contrary to what other games have to offer.

 

- Benchmark Settings

As Quake 4 includes no default benchmark, we decided to go with another publicly available demo to measure performance. What we chose is a demo from HWSpirit, which involves a small outdoor scene followed by a long indoor combat. As preloading the stage once again failed miserably and the average framerate varied a lot, we ran it twice every time we restarted the game and measured only the second run.

The resolutions we used are 800x600, 1024x768, 1280x1024 and 1600x1200. We measured performance with and without Anti-aliasing.

With AA and AF disabled, the XFX 7800 GTX proves slightly faster, while the EAX1800XT TOP is only slightly slower.

Things are different with AA and AF enabled and despite the fact that Quake4 uses the Doom 3 engine (Doom 3 liked nVidia Cards), the EAX1800XT card climbs to the top in the higher resolutions.


11. Need For Speed - Most Wanted

Wake up to the smell of burnt rubber as the thrill of illicit street racing permeates into the air.

Combining illicit street racing and tuner customization with the intensity of strategic police pursuit that surpasses any Hollywood-style chase scene, Need for Speed Most Wanted will be on every gamer's 'must-have' list this holiday season. Out-race rivals, evade cops and exploit hundreds of miles of open road as gamers make their way up the Blacklist.

To become the most wanted racer, players must build up their street cred and Rap Sheet with gripping, white knuckle, head-to-head races with the top drivers on the streets, as well as pull daring, evasive moves to out-run and out-fox the cops that patrol the open road. Players can manage their heat or utilize a number of strategic tactics to keep the cops off their tails as they leave their rivals behind to suck their exhaust fumes.

- Benchmark Settings

NFS Most Wanted does not include a default benchmark. To measure the card's performance, we've chosen to record the framerate at the start of a circuit race with end-game cars. The starting point tends to be one of the most graphically demanding sections because of the smoke created by spinning wheels added to the rest of the game's visual effects. If a card can pass this stage with an acceptable framerate, it is a guarantee that it will face no problems with the rest of the game.

The resolutions we used are 800x600, 1024x768, 1280x1024 and 1600x1200. We measured performance at the lowest and highest possible settings.

Once again, with AA and AF disabled, the XFX 7800 GTX continues to hold the lead, at both low and high resolutions.

But with AA and AF enabled, the EAX1800XT shows its processing power.


12. F.E.A.R.

You aren't a soldier. You are a weapon. A paramilitary force infiltrates a multi billion dollar aerospace compound taking hostages, but issuing no demands.

The government responds by sending in its best special operations teams, only to have them obliterated. Live footage of the massacre is cut short by an unexpected wave of destruction that leaves military leaders stunned and in disbelief.

First Encounter Assault Recon (F.E.A.R.) is one of the new-generation FPS. The graphics are really stunning, the plot behind the whole shooting successfully keeps it interesting and even the A.I. seems to work well.

F.E.A.R. offers a lot to the First Person Shooter world. The graphics are very clear with excellent textures, great new effects that will stress your graphics card and rag-doll physics that are waiting to be exploited as you progress through the game.

- Benchmark Settings

F.E.A.R. allows you to test the video settings with a mini-benchmark involving a lot of weapon firing, explosions and several other effects. After the benchmark is run, you're presented with a screen showing your minimum, average and maximum framerates and also percentages of how often the framerate was below 25fps, between 25 and 40, and finally above 40. For presentation reasons, we're just sticking to the minimum and average framerates.

The resolutions we used are 800x600, 1024x768, 1280x1024 and 1600x1200. We measured performance with high and highest details.

The EAX 1800XT TOP had very respectable framerates averages for high settings, slightly below the N7800 GTX TOP and the similar to the Club3D X1800XT. In the minimum framerates, the EAX1800XT TOP was not as steady.

With highest settings, the EAX1800XT TOP produced the best average and respectable minimum framerates.


13. Overclocking

No matter your graphics card, there comes a time in your computer's life when it can no longer cope with the latest technological demands the ever so popular games impose. 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 time the boost is far from noticeable, overclocking remains the last resort when you can't afford to buy a brand new VGA card.

As we have already mentioned, the EAX1800XT TOP comes already stock overclocked. The default running frequencies from ATI for the X1800XT series are 625MHz core clock and 750MHz memory clock. But the default core and memory for the ASUS EAX1800XT TOP, as we received it, were set at 695/792 MHz. The higher clock frequencies are due to the Arctic Cooling cooler that ASUS equipped the ATI card with. In order to read the idle temperature, we left the system for a while without doing anything and the temperature was around 39°C while during 3D Mark05, it increased to 59°C.


IDLE temperature Gaming temperature

To overclock the card, we ran the Automated Overdrive wizard from the ATI control center, which should find the best frequencies. The overclocking achieved was minimal, with just an additional +4MHz for the core clock and +5MHz for the memory. But then, we are dealing with an already overclocked card.

The next bit of news is probably going to disappoint you. We ran 3D Mark05 in order to see if there was a performance increase with the albeit small overclocking. We got 100 points less than with the stock frequencies. We then tried F.E.A.R. and there wasn't any difference from the default clocks. We decided to stop there set the card to the default frequencies. In any case, who needs to overclock this card? After all, it performed really well in all our test games... :-)


14. Conclusion

Are you a hardcore gamer? Do you want to have a Hi-End card? Well, if you are also an ATI fan, then the ASUS EAX1800XT TOP is for you. The retail package is huge, bundled with just about everything you could require, cables, games etc. In fact, it also includes a USB GamePad and an external Power supply so you don't need to worry if your current PSU doesn't have the juice to power this demanding 'beast'.

This card performed excellently in all benchmarks, except for Codecreatures II, which prefers nVidia based cards. Unfortunately, we couldn't test the card with Aquamark 3 which produced errors and black screens, but after all, it is an old benchmarking software and it is no longer supported. In games, the performances we got were fluctuated a bit, especially when AA and AF were disabled. In Quake4, NFS Most Wanted and F.E.A.R. without AA and AF, the nVidia cards were slightly better. But with AA and AF enabled, the ASUS RADEON X1800XT showed us it's true power, producing higher fps than the other cards. In Half Life 2 and Ground Control II, the leader is nVidia at all resolutions, with or without AA and AF, although the performance from the ATI cards might improve with a future release of ATI Catalyst.

Overclocking? Well, this card is already stock overclocked and even though we managed to nudge it a tad further, all we got was lower performance in 3D Mark05 and no difference in fps with F.E.A.R. So, it's probably best to leave the card at it's default frequencies.

At the time of this review, the ASUS EAX1800XT TOP was priced at US$510 from newegg.com, which is reasonable for a Hi-End card and for the excellent bundle included.

Pros:
- Good performance in almost all tests
- Quiet operation
- Excellent retail package (King Kong game, GamePad)
- External Power Supply
- Low gaming temperatures

Cons:
- No Overclocking

Performance:
Overclocking:
Bundle:
Value for money:


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