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Appeared on: Thursday, March 08, 2007
Asus EN7900GS TOP


1. Introduction

Asus, as a respectable VGA manufacturer has introduced its own proposal for the Nvidia 7900GS platform. This time, Asus hasn't exactly followed what other manufacturers have done, but rather, introduced new levels of performance with the EN7900GS Top VGA card. We compare how this card performs against various 7900GS VGA cards and how much performance can be gained by pairing two EN7900GS Top in SLI mode.

- Asus EN7900GS Top

Asus' proposal for the 7900GS platform, uses the reference board for Nvidia's 7900GS series but with much higher GPU/RAM clocks. Below you can find a comparison between the various GeForce 7 series, its main differences in specs, since we will comparing them in real life gaming tests.

GeForce 7 Series GPUs Model Comparison

Feature
GeForce 7950 Models
GeForce 7900 Models
GeForce 7800 Models
GeForce 7600 Models
GeForce 7300 Models
Graphics Bus Technology
PCI Express
PCI Express
AGP 8X/PCI Express
AGP 8X/PCI Express
PCI Express
Microsoft® DirectX® 9.0
SM3.0
SM3.0
SM3.0
SM3.0
SM3.0
NVIDIA® Intellisample™ Technology
4.0
4.0
4.0
4.0
4.0
NVIDIA® SLI™ Technology
Y1
Y
Y
Y
Y2
High Dynamic-Range (HDR) Support
Y
Y
Y
Y
Y
NVIDIA® TurboCache™ Technology
n/a
n/a
n/a
n/a
Y
Effective Memory Interface
512-bit
256-bit
256-bit
128-bit
128-bit3/64-bit
Memory
GDDR3
GDDR3
GDDR3
GDDR3/DDR2
GDDR3/DDR2
Process
0.09 µ
0.09 µ
0.11 µ
0.09 µ
0.09 µ
RAMDACs
400MHz
400MHz
400MHz
400MHz
400MHz

Geforce 7900GS Chipset Features

Next Generation Super Scaler GPU Architecture
Delivers over 2x the shading power of previous generation products, taking gaming performance to extreme levels.

Full Microsoft® DirectX® 9.0 Shader Model 3.0 Support
The standard for today's PCs and next generation consoles enables stunning and complex effects for cinematic realism.

NVIDIA® CineFX® 4.0 Engine
Delivers advanced visual effects at unimaginable speeds. Next generation shader architecture with new texture unit design streamlines texture processing for faster and smoother gameplay.

NVIDIA® SLI Technology
NVIDIA SLI technology is a revolutionary platform innovation that allows users to intelligently scale graphics performance by combining multiple NVIDIA graphics solutions in a single system with an NVIDIA nForce SLI MCP.

NVIDIA® Intellisample 4.0 Technology
The industry’s fastest antialiasing delivers ultra-realistic visuals with no jagged edges, at lightning-fast speeds. Visual quality is taken to new heights through a new rotated grid sampling pattern, advanced 128 tap sample coverage, 16x anisotropic filtering, and support for transparent supersampling and multisampling.

True High Dynamic-Range (HDR) Rendering Support
The ultimate lighting effects bring environments to life for a truly immersive, ultra-realistic experience. NVIDIA's 64-bit texture implementation delivers state-of-the-art high dynamic-range (HDR) visual effect through floating point capabilities in shading, filtering, texturing and blending.

NVIDIA® PureVideo Technology
The combination of high-definition video processors and decoder software delivers unprecedented picture clarity, smooth video, accurate color and precise image scaling for all video content to turn your PC into a high end home theater.

NVIDIA® UltraShadow II Technology
Enhances the performance of bleeding-edge games that feature complex scenes with multiple light sources and objects.

NVIDIA® ForceWare® unified Driver Architecture (UDA)
Delivers a proven record of compatibility, reliability and stability with the widest range of games and applications. ForceWare ensures the best out-of-box experience for every user and delivers continuous performance and feature updates over the life of NVIDIA GeForce GPUs.

OpenGL® 2.0 Optimizations and Support
Ensures top-notch compatibility and performance for Open GL applications.

NVIDIA® nView Multi-Display Technology
Advanced technology provides the ultimate in viewing flexible and control for multiple monitors.

PCI Express® Support
Designed to run perfectly with the next generation PCI Express bus architecture. The new bus doubles the bandwidth of AGP 8X delivering over 4 GB/sec. in both upstream and downstream data transfers.

The system requirements for such a high end card:

1. Microsoft Windows® 2000/XP
2. A PCI-Express compliant motherboard with full size expansion slot
3. Installation requires CD-ROM or DVD-Rom drive
4. A 6-pin PCI Express supplementary power connector
5. DVI or VGA compatible monitor
6. Minimum of 500-600W Power Supply with a minimum of +12V @ 30A for all PC components in SLI mode


2. Asus EN7900GS Top

The ASUS EN7900GS TOP graphics card features more advanced technology and superior performance. Equipped with the prominent GeForce™ 7900 GS GPU and fastest DDR3 memory, the ASUS EN7900GS TOP performs up to 20% faster than Generic GF7900GS series.

Not only can ASUS EN7900GS TOP users fully exploit innovative graphics technologies such as NVIDIA® CineFX™ 4.0 engine, nView™, UltraShadow™ II technologies from NVIDIA™, but also unique ASUS innovations such as SPLENDID for intelligent video enhancement and interactive gaming features. The all-new ASUS card delivers the ultimate in computer visual enjoyment.

ASUS Features

Full specification

Graphics Engine
GeForce™ 7900 GS
Video Memory
256MB DDR3
Engine Clock
590MHz
Memory Clock
1.44GHz(720MHz DDR3)
Memory Interface
256-bit
Max Resolution
2048 X 1536
Bus Standard
PCI Express x16
HDTV Output
Yes, S-Video to HDTV Out
VGA Output
Yes, With DVI-VGA adaptor
TV Output
Yes, S-Video to Composite
Dual DVI Output
Yes
Adapter/Cable Bundled
DVI to VGA adapter
HDTV-OUT adaptor
Power Cable
Software Bundled
ASUS Utilities & Driver

The Asus 7900GS Top can be found online at the retail price of €200~220. The retail box has the usual Asus design:

The retail package is complete with printed manual, drivers and of course cables:

The retail package includes:

Looking at the card, it is mid-sized, so it will fit comfortably in your mid-ATX box. The cooling system is compact so you wont have problems fitting this card even in small cases. The cooling system is uses copper and covers only the GPU core, not the memory banks. At full load, the fan is noisy:

Memory is from Hynix:

The card needs to a PCI-E power supply in order to operate. Remember, you need at least a 600W SLI certified PSU if you decide to go SLI.

The card has two DVI-D and one TV-out outputs.

On the back of the card we can see the sticker with the model and serial numbers:


3. Tests and setup

Using Everest Ultimate Edition 2006 we can see more specifications for the card:

All tests were conducted with the same PC setup:

In SLI mode, more options are available, mainly for the AA modes

We used several games and applications to evaluate the VGA card's performance:


4. 3D Mark 05 / 06

3DMark®05 is best suited for the latest generation of DirectX®9.0 graphics cards. It is the first benchmark to require DirectX9.0 compliant hardware with support for Pixel Shaders 2.0 or higher! By combining high quality 3D tests, CPU tests, feature tests, image quality tools, and much more, 3DMark05 is a premium benchmark for evaluating the latest generation of gaming hardware. 3DMark05 is the answer to the continuously growing challenge in benchmarking!

For all test results, we used the default settings for 3DMark05 as follows:

3D Mark 05 is a well know benchmark utility that represents the combination of CPU+VGA strength. The Asus EN7900GS Top performed very well and reached the XFX 7950GT Silent's performance. In any case, it was 21% faster than a "generic" 7900GS card, such as the Foxconn 7900GS. Pairing two Asus EN7900GS cards, we see impressive performance that reaches that of the 7950GT SLI combination...

 

- 3D Mark 06 v1.0.2

3DMark®06 is the worldwide standard in advanced 3D game performance benchmarking and the latest version in the popular 3DMark series! 3DMark06 tests include all new HDR/SM3.0 graphics tests, advanced SM2.0 graphics tests, AI and physics driven single and multiple cores or processor CPU tests and a collection of comprehensive feature tests to reliably measure next generation gaming performance today. Futuremark's exclusive Online ResultBrowser web service tracks and compares 3DMark06 scores. Again we left all settings as default:

In 3D Mark 06, the performance difference is still around 21% in favor of the Asus EN7900GS Top over the Foxconn 7900GS.


5. F.E.A.R.

The story begins as an unidentified paramilitary force infiltrates a multi-billion dollar aerospace compound. The government responds by sending in Special Forces, but loses contact as an eerie signal interrupts radio communications. When the interference subsides moments later, the team has been literally torn apart. As part of a classified strike team created to deal with threats no one else can handle, your mission is simple: Eliminate the intruders at any cost. Determine the origin of the signal. And contain this crisis before it spirals out of control.

For all tests, we used the latest available patch that updates the gaming engine to v1.08. The game offers 1280x1024 resolution, which was used for all tests. We maxed all details for both CPU and VGA card, except for Soft Shadows and AA/AF. We used Nvidia's 3D Control panel to enable AA/AF as shown in each graph.

Below are the results after using the built-in benchmark test:

F.E.A.R is a demanding game and the Asus EN7900GS Top performed very well. It surpassed the "generic" 7900GS and was only 7FPS "slower" than the XFX7950GT Silent. Pairing two Asus EN7900GS Tops in SLI gives almost the same performance as a 7950GT SLI combination. It is interesting to see which card is less affected after enabling AA/AF:

Enabling AA/AF impacts on the performance of all tested cards. As we can see, either in single or in SLI mode, the Asus EN7900GS Top is a good performer. In SLI mode, it matches the 7950GT SLI's performance with a very slight difference. The green line represents the "generic" 7900GS SLI mode, where we can see a difference of around 10+ FPS.


6. Prey

Prey tells the story of Tommy, a Cherokee garage mechanic stuck on a reservation going nowhere. His life changes when an otherworldly crisis forces him to awaken spiritual powers from his long-forgotten birthright. Abducted along with his people to a menacing mothership orbiting Earth, he sets out to save himself and his girlfriend and eventually his planet.

Prey is serious, dark story, based on authentic Cherokee mythology. Themes of sacrifice, love and responsibility are explored and the story dives into emotional territory not yet explored by similar games. Prey is based on Quake 3 engine and for sure will keep you awake many nights...

We used the latest available patch that updated the gaming engine to v1.2.0. For all tests we used hocbench which offers all benchmarking options through a GUI. We used the built-in Guru3D timedemo and all results are posted below:

Without enabling AA/AF, the Asus EN7900GS Top was only 3 FPS slower than the XFX 7950GT Silent. The Asus EN7900GS SLI combination is somewhat slower than the 7950GT SLI but very close nonetheless.

Enabling the various AA/AF rendering modes, we saw exactly the same behaviour as with F.E.A.R.


7. Splinter Cell Chaos Theory

A Japanese Information Defense Force is formed to help face modern threats. Deemed a violation of international law and of the Japanese Post-War Constitution, Korea and China become outraged.

Secretly, the head of the IDF begins launching information-warfare attacks against Japan and blaming the attacks on North Korea. When the U.S. intervenes, as they are obligated to under Article 9 of the Japanese Post-War Constitution, the U.S. is attacked as well, forcing North Korea to escalate the situation with a pre-emptive invasion of South Korea. As war erupts on the Korean Peninsula, Sam Fisher must thwart the alliance between the Japanese Admiral, a neurotic computer hacker, and the head of an international paramilitary company in order to prevent the rekindling of a massive world war in the Pacific.

The graphical engine supports Pixel Shader 1 and 3, HDR along with other new effects. We used hocbench which offers all benchmarking options through an easy GUI. We used the built-in "Guru3D 2" timedemo and all results are posted below, using SM1.1

The Asus EN7900GS Top was very close to the performance of the XFX7950GT Silent, and in SLI mode had exactly the same performance as the 7950GT SLI.

Splinter Cell - Chaos Theory also supports Shader Model 3.0 which can be enabled easily with hocbench software:

SM3.0 offers much better visual details but with a performance hit. Here, we saw that the Asus EN7900GS Top was one FPS faster than the XFX7950GT Silent and two FPS slower than the 7950GT SLI. Splinter Cell Chaos Theory doesn't offer AA/AF modes, but they are available from Nvidia's Forceware 3D Control panel.

Enabling AA/AF drops the performance of all cards...


8. Half Life 2 Episode 1

The world of Half-Life 2 has amazed everyone with its great story, graphics and Valve's great support. Half-Life 2: Episode One is the first in a series of new adventures created by Valve that extend the Half-Life 2 single player experience. It details the aftermath of Half Life 2 and launches a journey beyond City 17.

Stepping into the hazard suit of Dr. Gordon Freeman, you face the immediate repercussions of your actions in City 17 and the Citadel. Rejoin Alyx Vance and her robot, Dog, to once again aid the human resistance in their desperate battle against the totalitarian alien menace of the Combine.

Episode One exposes Alyx's combat skills and knowledge of City 17. Battle side-by-side with her through Valve's first episodic game, a four-to-six hour adventure of greater density and detail than non-episodic releases.

We recorded a timedemo and used the built-in console to run it with each card. All tests were done at 1280x1024 with HDR shadows fully enabled. Antialiasing and Filtering modes were enabled through Nvidia's 3D control panel:

At 1280x1024, the Asus EN7900GS Top was slower than the XFX7950GT Silent by 12FPS.

HDR Effects and AA/AF do have an effect on performance. With the highest possible visual quality settings, both the 7950GT SLI and Asus EN7900GS Top had exactly the same performance.


9. Company Of Heroes

In Company of Heroes, gamers will experience the journey of the brave men of Able Company in a deep single-player campaign that begins with the invasion of Normandy through their fight across Europe, all set against the most dynamic battlefield ever seen in a game.

Company of Heroes' completely destructable environment means no two battles ever play out in the same way. Advanced squad AI delivers startling new realism and responsiveness, bringing soldiers to life as they interact with the environment and execute advanced squad tactics to eliminate the opposition forces.

The game offers impressive graphics, especially when all visual quality settings are maxed out.

We used the built-in benchmark for all tests at 1280x1024 resolution. Since AA/AF cannot be set inside the game, we used Nvidia's 3D control panel for each mode. Built-in Antialiasing setting within Company Of Heroes has been disabled. Let's see how each card performed in the Company Of Heroes Benchmark with High Quality settings.

The combination of two 7950GT SLI cards gives the highest performance...

Company Of Heroes doesn't seem to overly affect the cards when AA/AF rendering modes are enabled. Interestingly, the Asus EN7900GS Top combo performed better than the 7950GT SLI, probably due to different driver revision...


10. BattleField 2142

The year is 2142, and the dawn of a new Ice age has thrown the world into a panic. The math is simple and brutal: The soil not covered by ice can only feed a fraction of the Earth's population. Some will live, most will die. In Battlefield 2142, players will choose to fight for one of two military superpowers in an epic battle for survival, the European Union or the newly formed Pan Asian Coalition.

Armed with a devastating arsenal of hi-tech assault rifles, cloaking devices and sentry guns, players will also do battle using some of the most imposing vehicles known to man. Massive battle Mechs wage fierce combat on the ground, while futuristic aircraft rule the skies. When facing one of these new behemoths, players will need to use their wits and an arsenal of new countermeasures like EMP grenades to level the playing field.

Team play features allow up to 64 players to enter the action on the front lines as part of a formal squad, or work behind the scenes in Commander Mode to direct the strategic assaults of their teammates. With in-game success, players increase their rank and unlock awards, including new weapons, medals and more, delivering the most comprehensive and flexible persistence in the Battlefield universe to date.

In order to benchmark the graphics cards, we recorded our own timedemo using the built-in command (demo.recordDemo). Then we used Guru3D BF2 benchmark modified, in order to support BF 2142. We used the following quality settings - anti-aliasing is disabled inside the game, we use Nvidia's 3D Control Panel to enable/disable AA/AF rendering modes:

Note that 1280x1024 resolution is not supported in the game, however it can be enabled from the command line. Since the game counts all frames, including loading screens, we removed them so all figures represent pure gaming experience. Note that all tests were performed at 1280x1024 with the default camera view. Let's now proceed to the first test results.

At 1280x1024, the Asus EN7900GS Top was 11FPS faster than the Foxconn 7900GS.

Enabling AA/AF in Battlefield 2142 enhances visual quality and of course gaming experience.


11. NFS Carbon

Need for Speed Carbon delivers the next generation of adrenaline-filled street racing and will challenge players to face the ultimate test of driving skill on treacherous canyon roads.

What starts in the city is settled in the canyons as Need for Speed Carbon immerses you into the world's most dangerous and adrenaline-filled form of street racing. You and your crew must race in an all-out war for the city, risking everything to take over your rivals' neighbourhoods one block at a time. As the police turn up the heat, the battle ultimately shifts to Carbon Canyon, where territories and reputations can be lost on every perilous curve.


Lets race...

Need for Speed Carbon delivers the next generation of customization giving you the power to design and tweak your crew's cars in every way using the ground-breaking new Autosculpt technology. Represent your car class, your crew, and your turf in Need for Speed Carbon, the next revolution in racing games.

In order to benchmark the graphics cards, we made the same two rounds on the same track with the same car. By using FRAPS, we recorded all 2 minutes of driving.


Black and beautiful...

Keep in mind that all tests results were done with "Blur Effect" and "Rain" disabled, since enabling them gives a huge performance hit on all cards. In any case, all other detail settings are maxed out. As usual, AA/AF modes are set from Nvidia's 3D control panel.

Without enabling AA/AF, we can see the performance of each card at 1280x1024.

NFS Carbon is a game that performs better with ATI cards. The Asus EN7900GS Top was faster than the Foxconn 7900GS.

Enabling AA/AF at NFS Carbon is...demanding on all VGA cards. Both the 7950GT SLI and Asus EN7900GT Top were very close.


12. NeverWinter Nights 2

Bards sing tales of heroes from ages past, but never have the Forgotten Realms so desperately needed a champion. Years have passed since the war between Luskan and Neverwinter, almost enough time for the wounds of war to heal. But the brief peace the Realms have known may be at an end. Tension growing between the mighty city-states means the Sword Coast again teeters on the edge of open war.

Unnoticed, a greater danger stalks the City of Skilled Hands. Unbeknownst to the denizens of the North, deep in the Mere of Dead Men, dark forces from across the Realms have been rallied under the banner of a legendary evil. If left unchallenged, all of the North is doomed to fall under its power.

Even in this darkest hour, hope remains. A mysterious relic is borne to Neverwinter in the hands of a lone hero so that its secrets may be unlocked - secrets that carry the fate of all the North. So begins an epic tale of shattered alliances, noble acts and dark deeds to be told across the Realms for generations to come.

Under Game options, we maxed all available visual settings.

Anisotropic filtering was enabled from the "Advanced Graphics" tab, while Anti-aliasing modes were set using Nvidia's 3D control panel.

We saved a game and ran exactly the same route (more or less), moving the camera a lot around the player. This is the worst a case scenario while playing. By using FRAPS, we recorded two minutes of the game and logged the lowest and average numbers.

NeverWinter Nights2 is a "difficult" game with all visual improvements enabled. The 7950GT series seems to pull more power and had overall higher performance.

Antialiasing is not offered from within the game options. Using Nvidia's 3D control panel, we enabled up to 16xQ AA. Both the 7950GT SLI and Asus EN7900GS Top SLI were very close.


13. Overclocking

There is always a way to improve the performance of your system by overclocking it. The Asus EN7900GS Top is already overclocked, compared with Nvidia's 7900GS reference board, by 140MHz for Core and 60MHz for memory.

We were curious to see if the card could handle even higher frequencies. Using RivaTuner v2.00 Final, we reached 621MHz for Core and 821MHz for memory.

We didn't see as much of improvement in the performance as we had hoped for. So, with an already highly overclocked card, overclocking is not recommended.


14. Conclusion

The Asus EN7900GS Top was a pleasant surprise for us. While generic 7900GS cards already offer high performance, the Asus raised both GPU and memory clocks and created a small "monster" that is able to reach the performance of 7950GT series, especially in SLI mode. In all tests, the Asus EN7900GS Top was 18~21% faster than a "generic" Nvidia 7900GS card.

There is one factor that you should consider before buying an Asus EN7900GS Top. It costs almost €40 more than a "generic" 7900GS card, but it does offers around 21% faster performance. What we didn't like was the fact that nothing has been changed in the cooling system and when the fan kicks-in to lower the GPU temperature, lots of noise is produced. The difference compared with a "generic" 7900GS card is noticeable, if you hear them working side-by-side.

Pairing two Asus EN7900GS Top cards is another interesting scenario. Here, you will get very high performance, that in most cases will reach the 7950GT SLI combo. This way you will "save" around €80~100, compared with a 7950GT SLI setup. What we would suggest if you are thinking of an SLI setup, is instead to buy a brand new 8800GTS card, that will offer much higher performance and overall futureproof buyer protection. In any case, if you are looking for a cost effective solution, based on the 7900GS series, take a serious look at the Asus EN7900GS Top. It costs a little more, but offers a lot more, than a "generic" 7900GS card

Performance
Overclocking
Bundle
Value for money


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