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Appeared on: Thursday, August 16, 2007
Asus EN8600GTS Top


1. Introduction

- Introduction

Asus continuing its tradition of releasing "overclocked" products, has released a Nvidia 8600GTS with higher clock speeds, aiming for the highest possible performance a user can get in this category. In this review, we will examine what you can expect from the Asus EN8600GTS Top, with both synthetic tests and real-life gaming experience. More-over, we add several new DirectX 10 games, since the 8600 series supports the upcoming titles that promise to rock your gaming world.

NVIDIA's Unified Architecture GeForce 8 Series GPUs - First to Support Microsoft DirectX 10 Games and Applications.

NVIDIA® GeForce® 8 series graphics processing units (GPUs) redefine the PC gaming experience. With a revolutionary unified architecture and full support for Microsoft® DirectX® 10 games, GeForce 8 series GPUs deliver unprecedented performance, extraordinarily detailed environments, and film quality game effects.

Below is a table that illustrates the main differences between the various GeForce 8 series GPUs:

  GeForce
8800 Ultra
GeForce
8800 GTX
GeForce
8800 GTS
GeForce
8600 GTS
GeForce
8600 GT
GeForce
8500 GT
GeForce
8400 GS
Core Clock (MHz) 612 575 500 675 540 450 450
Shader Clock (MHz) 1500 1350 1200 1450 1190 900 900
Memory Clock (MHz) 1080 900 800 1000 700 400 400
Memory Amount 768MB 768MB 640MB or
320MB
256MB 256MB 256MB 256MB
Memory Interface 384-bit 384-bit 320-bit 128-bit 128-bit 128-bit 64-bit
Memory Bandwidth (GB/sec) 103.7 86.4 64 32 22.4 12.8 6.4
Texture Fill Rate (billion/sec) 39.2 36.8 24 10.8 8.64 3.6 3.6

The GeForce 8600 GT and 8600 GTS are essentially the same product, with the only difference being the core and memory clock frequencies.

- Asus EN8600GTS Top

The ASUS Extreme N8600GTS TOP features 256MB of memory, a core clock of 745MHz and a memory frequency of 2.29GHz. That's almost 10% higher core and 14.5% higher memory frequencies compared with the "generic" 8600GTS cards.


The retail package clearly shows off the faster performance users can expect from their EN8600GTS Top. The card is available at the retail price of €250Euro (+ shipping):

The contents are carefully packaged:

There are no retail games included, only two discs with drivers and utilities.

The card is normal length, and reminds us of the Nvidia 7900GS series. The cooling system is made out of copper and covers both the GPU core and memory banks. At full load, the fan is a little noisy:

The card offers two (x2) DVI-D and one TV-out outputs. HDCP is supported and you can output HD content to your TV or monitor.

SLI is available on the EN8600GTS Top card:

6pin PCI-E power is needed for the card to work properly.

- Full specification

Graphics Engine
GeForce™ 8600GTS
Video Memory
256MB GDDR3
Engine Clock
745MHz
Memory Clock
2.290GHz (2x1145MHz 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

2. Tests and Setup

- Tests and setup

Using Everest Ultimate Edition 2006 we can see more of the card's details:

All tests were conducted with the same PC setup:

With the 8800 series, the 3D control panel has some minor changes. Users can now set the AA mode:

and select up to 16x, even with a single card.

We used a number of games and applications to evaluate the VGA card's performance:

For comparison, we will also include the following VGA cards, but only for DirectX 9:


3. 3D Mark 05 - 3D Mark 06

- 3D Mark 05 v1.2.0

3DMark®05 is best suited for the latest generation of DirectX®9.0 graphics cards. It is the first benchmark to require a 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 EN8600GTS Top performed very well, gaining 11712 points.

 

- 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 at defaults:

In 3D Mark 06, the performance of the Asus EN8600GTS Top was again second but far from the performance of the Gainward 8800GTS GS 320.


4. F.E.A.R.

- 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 game engine to v1.08. The game offers 1280x1024 resolution, which was used for all tests. We maxed all details for CPU and VGA card, except Soft Shadows and AA/AF. We used the card's 3D Control panel to enable AA/AF, as indicated in each graph.

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

The Asus EN8600GTS Top performed well and reached 86FPS average rendering performance without any anti-aliasing and anisotropic filtering enabled.

Enabling AA/AF hits on the performance of all cards. Looking at the performance of the Asus EN8600GTS Top, we can see that it doesn't do all that well until 8x AA mode. The Asus EN7900GS proved faster at 2x AA and 4x AA modes.


5. Prey

- 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 a 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 game engine to v1.2.0. For all tests we used hocbench which offers all benchmarking options from within a GUI. We used the built-in Guru3D timedemo, and all results are posted below:

Without enabling AA/AF, the Asus EN 8600GTS Top reached 73 FPS, a rather low performance.

After enabling the various AA/AF rendering modes, we saw that the Asus EN8600GTS Top is still slower than both the Asus EN7900GS Top and PowerColor X1950Pro up until 4x AA mode.


6. Splinter Cell Chaos Theory

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

The Asus EN8600GTS Top was slower than the EN7900GS Top in this test (SM 1.1). Splinter Cell - Chaos Theory also supports Shader Model 3.0 that can be enabled easily from hocbench:

SM3.0 offers much better visual details but at the cost of performance. In this mode, the Asus EN8600GTS Top and EN7900GS Top had exactly the same performance. Splinter Cell Chaos Theory doesn't offer AA/AF modes, so we had to enable them with each VGA card's 3D Control panel.

Enabling AA/AF impacts on the performance of both the Asus EN7900GS Top and PowerColor X1950Pro. The Asus EN8600GTS Top and Gainward 8800GTS GS 320 do not seem to be affected.


7. Half Life 2 Episode 1

- 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 the timedemo 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:

The HL2 Engine has always been a favorite area for ATI based cards. The Asus EN8600GTS Top was slower than the Powercolor X1950Pro without enabling AA/AF rendering modes.

HDR Effects and AA/AF do affect performance. The PowerColor X1950 Pro remains faster than the Asus EN8600GTS Top.


8. Company Of Heroes (DirectX9 & 10)

- Company Of Heroes (DirectX9 & 10)

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 destructible 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 for DirectX9 are maxed out:

We used the built-in benchmark for all tests, at 1280x1024 resolution. The latest patch offers both DirectX10 and AA/AF support. Let's see how each card performed in the Company Of Heroes Benchmark with Highest Quality settings.

The Asus EN8600GTS Top's performance was worse than the EN7900GS Top at COH with all details maxed. Under the latest patch, we enabled AA/AF and the results are very discouraging from the EN8600GTS Top, since at 4x AA, performance drops down to 16FPS.

Under Windows VISTA and DirectX10, we have more visual details available, and with everything except AA fully maxed...

The performance was rather low, with 15 FPS average rendering speed. You probably need to reduce several settings to make the game playable.


9. Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter 2 (GRAW2)

- Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter 2 (GRAW2)

Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter 2 builds off of the events in the first game and places gamers in control of the U.S. military's elite fighting unit, the Ghosts.

In the year 2014, the rising conflict between Mexican loyalists and insurgent rebel forces has thrown Mexico into full-scale civil war. Under the command of Captain Scott Mitchell, the Ghosts are called upon to face an imminent threat to the United States.

The fate of two countries now lies in the hands of the Ghosts as they fend off an attack on U.S. soil. Equipped with the most cutting-edge weaponry and technology, the Ghosts must battle on both sides of the border to neutralize the escalating rebel threat.

In order to benchmark the graphics card, we used FRAPS and ran the same battle routine with the same course. We used the following visual/audio quality settings, anti-aliasing isn't really offered within the game. Texture quality is set to medium, since the game only allows high detail with an Ageia Physics PhysX card installed:

The sound options are left at default.

At 1280x1024 with maximum details enabled, the Asus EN8600GTS Top performed well with 48FPS average rendering performance.


10. Lost Planet: Extreme Condition (DirectX9 & 10)

- Lost Planet: Extreme Condition (DirectX9 & 10)

The game's plot focuses on the amnesiac character Wayne Holden, his father, Gale Holden, and the past and future of the planet E.D.N. III. After a particularly vicious battle against a large Akrid known only as "Green Eye", Gale is supposedly killed, and Wayne lost on the icy planes of E.D.N. III . The planet of E.D.N III is perpetually cold and snowy, originally inhabited by a species of aliens known as Akrid, who forced humanity to abandon E.D.N. III by strength of numbers and surprise, which can be found in many and varied forms.

They all share one trait; Thermal Energy, or T.Eng., as it's called in the game. This powerful energy source, found only in Akrid bodies, made humankind determined to fight them after having to retreat from this new menace. They created the Vital Suit, or VS, technology, essentially heated mechs with mounted weapons and powered by T.Eng.

Capcom brought the Lost Planet: Extreme Condition PC version complete with DX10 support. The graphics are stunning and especially if you run VISTA with a high powered GPU processor. In order to benchmark the graphic cards, we used the Demo version which includes a "Performance Test" function. There are two results from two different animated courses that are described as "Snow" and "Cave":

We used the following visual settings for all tests:

Let's now see the performance for our tested card:

The Asus EN8600GTS Top performed well in this demo benchmark with 36FPS and 42FPS for Snow and Cave scenes respectively. Of course, real life gaming could be a little different, and truly, the performance decreased dramatically with exactly the same visual settings and same stage:

We played for a few minutes and the lowest performance we measured was 18FPS, while the average was 28FPS.

Under Windows VISTA, using the same default demo settings as with WinXP, we got for the demo version, about the same gaming speed:

While in real life gaming experience, the rendering performance was marginally better, higher by 2FPS in both lowest/average marks:


11. Call Of Juarez (DirectX 10)

- Call Of Juarez (DirectX 10)

Call of Juarez is a Western-themed first-person shooter from the Polish developer Techland. First released for Windows in 2006, it was ported to the Xbox 360 on June 5th 2007.The U.S. release of the PC version is one of the first games to utilize Microsoft's DirectX 10. It was released on June 12th, 2007.

Call of Juarez is loosely based on a number of Western movie hits from the last four decades, particularly the Spaghetti Westerns that became popular in the sixties and early seventies. The game features two different characters: Billy "Candle", a young fugitive accused of murder and the Reverend Ray, an ex-outlaw who turned to religion, believing that God Himself has chosen Ray to be the instrument of His wrath. Billy's character provides stealth and sniper elements to the game. With his whip he can latch onto objects to get into hard to reach locations. Later in the game, Billy acquires a bow, which can be used for ranged stealth kills.

In order to benchmark the graphics card, we used the DirectX 10 demo version that is actually a benchmark utility. You can set various quality settings. We chose two modes, one with AA enabled:

COJ utilizes all DirectX10 features and the results should be considered as an indication of what you can expect from the retail game.

The Asus EN8600GTS Top performed very poorly, but the results could be better if we disable 2xAA:

While the lowest FPS was the same, the average rendering performance almost doubled, making the game, somewhat playable...


12. Overclocking

- Overclocking

There is always a way to improve the performance of your system by overclocking it. The Asus EN8600GTS Top is already overclocked compared with Nvidia's 8600GTS reference board, by 70MHz for Core and 145MHz for memory.

We were curious to see if the card could handle even more overclocking. Using RivaTuner v2.02 Final, we reached 780MHz for Core and 1193MHz for memory.

We didn't expect much overclocking space from the Asus EN8600GTS Top and we only managed to gain 4.45% in both core/memory frequencies. Therefore, with an already highly overclocked card, overclocking is not suggested. FYI, we managed an extra 166points to 3DMark05 and 179 points to 3DMark06, to the already existing results.


13. Conclusion

- Conclusion

Asus' support for Nvidia comes with the release of an overclocked 8600GTS based product, the "8600GTS Top" that has higher performance than reference based 8600GTS Nvidia cards. The 8600GTS series fully supports DirectX10 geometry shaders, offering superb visual quality, when of course the game supports it.

In this review, we include many DirectX 9 and DirectX 10 games. The performance of the Asus EN8600GTS Top was a mixed bag since in several games, it didn't perform any better than the Asus EN7900GS or PowerColor X1950Pro. We could see a clear performance difference when we raised AA from 4x to 8x, but this setting cannot be properly handled by 8600GTS series. With DirectX10 games, the performance was mediocre, so it is also not the best possible solution for hardcore gamers.

The card supports HDCP output so we can consider it as a futureproof buy. The only question is how much would you spend for an Asus EN8600GTS Top. We found the card available at online stores for €250, when an Asus EN7900GS Top costs "only" €170! On the other hand, an Asus 8800GTS 320MB costs around €289, which is obviously a better priced product for middle-to-hardcore gamers.

We can see a good market for the Asus EN8600GTS Top, but only if the price was much lower, with a clear price gap from the 8800 series...

Performance
Overclocking
Bundle
Value for money


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