ASUS GeForce GTX 280 TOP Graphics Card

NVIDIAs top dog has been strapped with some new clocks under the TOP line from ASUS. We check it out.
| Aug 24, 2008 at 11:00 pm CDT
Rating: 93%Manufacturer: ASUS

Introduction

ASUS GeForce GTX 280 TOP Graphics Card
IntroductionIt was only going to be a matter of time 'till ASUS strapped some mean clocks onto the GTX 280 and put it under its TOP naming scheme. Well, that day has come and it's time to see what happens when the GTX 280 gets, for the most part, an unnecessary but much loved speed bump. The tumbling GTX 280 prices over the past few weeks make the card more and more affordable for people wanting to get a top gaming experience. While we all know that for the most part the new AMD HD 4870 X2 is the faster single card on the market, NVIDIA still hold the crown of the fastest single cored card.While we want to get stuck into the performance side of things as quickly as possible, we will take a little bit of time to see what's going on in the package department first; then we'll have a look what ASUS has included in the bundle along with seeing how the card looks. So let's not delay any longer and move forth to page two.

The Package

The PackageAs we've mentioned a few times already, the new ASUS top-end cards carry with them a much smaller box, which is great. For the most part, though, the overall design hasn't really changed with the green and black theme continuing on. Across the top of the box we have the ASUS logo while a picture of a female warrior takes up the right side of the box.
ASUS GeForce GTX 280 TOP Graphics Card
Across the bottom of the box we have the model and above that some of the main features like PCI Express 2.0, 1GB of GDDR3 memory and the fact that it's part of the TOP line-up. Above this we have a graph that shows the difference in speeds between the stock model and the TOP one we have here.
ASUS GeForce GTX 280 TOP Graphics Card
Turning the box over, we again have the model and brand running across the top of the box. Below that we have a list of some of the features and below that ASUS explain some of the exclusive software you receive with the card. The bottom corner also makes mention of the power connectors needed to run the card.
ASUS GeForce GTX 280 TOP Graphics Card
Apart from the Speed Setup guide, we have a driver CD along with another typical CD from ASUS that contains the graphics card manual in a number of languages.
ASUS GeForce GTX 280 TOP Graphics Card
Cable wise, we have a component out dongle, molex to 6-pin PCI Express connector and a single DVI to VGA connector.
ASUS GeForce GTX 280 TOP Graphics Card
Also included in the package, we have a leather mouse pad and leather CD wallet which is a nice added bonus.

The Card

The CardPulling our brand spankin' new GTX 280 TOP out of the box, you as usual come to the realization that the card carries with it, like all other GTX 280s, the reference cooler. Of course, ASUS have managed to splash it up a bit.
ASUS GeForce GTX 280 TOP Graphics Card
On the fan we have a sticker that has ASUS while the rest of the card has a camouflage sticker with our warrior woman that we saw on the front of the box making another appearance.
ASUS GeForce GTX 280 TOP Graphics Card
ASUS GeForce GTX 280 TOP Graphics Card
Like we just mentioned, the card of course follows the reference design which we've become so accustomed to seeing. At the back we have our two power connectors; one a 6-pin and the other an 8-pin. Towards the front of the card, hidden underneath a cover we have two SLI connectors ready to be used for people fortunate enough to have two or three of these cards.
ASUS GeForce GTX 280 TOP Graphics Card
The I/O department also gives us the typical expected lay out with two Dual-Link DVI connectors along with a single TV-Out port. We also of course have some slots to let the hot air escape from the card due to the two slot design.SpecificationsCarrying the TOP label, the card is of course overclocked; the core has moved from 602MHz to 670MHz, the shader clock from 1296MHz to 1460MHz and the 1GB of GDDR3 from 2214MHz DDR to 2430MHz DDR.This massive increase in clocks should help yield a decent performance increase, so let's not talk about the looks of the card anymore and just get stuck into the results to see how the card fairs against some of the others we've looked at.

Test System Setup and 3DMark06

Test System SetupProcessor(s): Intel Core 2 Quad Q6600 @ 3GHz (333MHz x 9)Cooling: Corsair Nautilus500 (Supplied by Corsair) with Arctic Cooling MX-2 Thermal Compound (Supplied by Arctic Cooling)Motherboard(s): GIGABYTE X48-DQ6 (Supplied by GIGABYTE)Memory: 2 X 1GB Kingston PC6400 DDR-2 3-3-3-10 (KHX6400D2ULK2/2G) (Supplied by Kingston)Hard Disk(s): Seagate 250GB 7200RPM SATA-2 7200.10 (Supplied by Seagate)Operating System: Windows XP Professional SP2, Windows Vista SP1Drivers: ATI Catalyst 8.7Today we will check out how the new GTX 280 TOP fairs against a stock clocked GTX 280, the older dual-GPU 9800 GX2 and the newer 9800 GTX+ TOP we looked at just the other day from ASUS.3DMark06Version and / or Patch Used: Build 110Developer Homepage: http://www.futuremark.comProduct Homepage: http://www.futuremark.com/products/3dmark06/Buy It Here
3DMark06 is the worldwide standard in advanced 3D game performance benchmarking. A fundamental tool for every company in the PC industry as well as PC users and gamers, 3DMark06 uses advanced real-time 3D game workloads to measure PC performance using a suite of DirectX 9 3D graphics tests, CPU tests, and 3D feature tests.3DMark06 tests include all new HDR/SM3.0 graphics tests, 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.
ASUS GeForce GTX 280 TOP Graphics Card
Straight off the bat we can see the TOP version of the GTX 280 is the fastest card here. We can see where the 9800 GX2 was beating the stock clocked card that the heavily overclocked ASUS version manages to overtake it with no drama at all.

Benchmarks - 3DMark Vantage

3DMark VantageVersion and / or Patch Used: 1.0.1Developer Homepage: http://www.futuremark.comProduct Homepage: http://www.futuremark.com/products/3dmarkvantage/Buy It Here
3DMark Vantage is the new industry standard PC gaming performance benchmark from Futuremark, newly designed for Windows Vista and DirectX10. It includes two new graphics tests, two new CPU tests, several new feature tests, and support for the latest hardware. 3DMark Vantage is based on a completely new rendering engine, developed specifically to take full advantage of DirectX10, the new graphics API from Microsoft.
ASUS GeForce GTX 280 TOP Graphics Card
While under Vantage we see the stock clocked GTX 280 beating the older 9800 GX2 here with no dramas, the ASUS version helps performance get kicked up a notch thanks to the massive overclock.

Benchmarks - PT Boats: Knights of the Sea

PT Boats: Knights of the SeaVersion and / or Patch Used: Benchmark DemoDeveloper Homepage: http://en.akella.com/Product Homepage: http://www.pt-boats.net/
PT Boats: Knights of the Sea is a naval action simulator that places gamers in charge of a mosquito fleet of the Allied Forces, Russia or Germany during the height of World War II.Using the latest Direct X 10 technology PT Boards - Knights of the Sea manages to apply a lot of stress to the components of today which in turn gives us quite an intensive benchmark.
ASUS GeForce GTX 280 TOP Graphics Card
ASUS GeForce GTX 280 TOP Graphics Card
Under PT Boats we can see that performance get's a slight kick up in the minimum and average department. We again see in the averages the GTX 280 TOP is faster than the 9800 GX2 while the stock clocked GTX 280 is slightly slower than it.

Benchmarks - CINEBENCH R10

CINEBENCH R10Version and / or Patch Used: Release 10Developer Homepage: http://www.maxon.net/Product Homepage: http://www.maxon.net
CINEBENCH is a real-world test suite that assesses your computer's performace capabilities. MAXON CINEBENCH is based on MAXON's award-winning animation software, CINEMA 4D, which is used extensively by studios and production houses worldwide for 3D content creation. MAXON software has been used in blockbuster movies such as Spider-Man, Star Wars, The Chronicles of Narnia and many more.MAXON CINEBENCH runs several tests on your computer to measure the performance of the main processor and the graphics card under real world circumstances. The benchmark application makes use of up to 16 CPUs or CPU cores and is available for Windows (32-bit and 64-Bit) and Macintosh (PPC and Intel-based).
ASUS GeForce GTX 280 TOP Graphics Card
It doesn't come as any surprise that the overclock on the GTX 280 does nothing for performance here; we see it lag a little behind, but nothing to be too worried about.

Benchmarks - World in Conflict

World in ConflictVersion and / or Patch Used: 1.0.0.5Timedemo or Level Used: Built-in TestDeveloper Homepage: http://www.massive.se Product Homepage: http://www.worldinconflict.com
World in Conflict is a real-time strategy video game by Massive Entertainment and to be published by Sierra Entertainment for Windows (DX9 and DX10) and the Xbox 360.The game is set in 1989 where economic troubles cripple the Soviet Union and threaten to dissolve it. However, the title pursues a "what if" scenario where, in this case, the Soviet Union does not collapse and instead pursues a course of war to remain in power. It is an intensive new game is sure to put plenty of stress on even the latest graphics cards and we use the built-in benchmarking for our testing.
ASUS GeForce GTX 280 TOP Graphics Card
ASUS GeForce GTX 280 TOP Graphics Card
Across the board we can see the bump in memory and core have really kicked the GTX 280 up a notch with a minimum fps at 2560 x 1600 now coming in at 29 FPS.

Benchmarks - Crysis

CrysisVersion and / or Patch Used: 1.2.1Timedemo or Level Used: Custom time demoDeveloper Homepage: http://www.crytek.com/ Product Homepage: http://www.ea.com/crysis/Buy It Here
From the makers of Far Cry, Crysis offers FPS fans the best-looking, most highly-evolving gameplay, requiring the player to use adaptive tactics and total customization of weapons and armor to survive in dynamic, hostile environments including Zero-G.Real time editing, bump mapping, dynamic lights, network system, integrated physics system, shaders, shadows and a dynamic music system are just some of the state of-the-art features the CryENGINE™ 2 offers. The CryENGINE™ 2 comes complete with all of its internal tools and also includes the CryENGINE™ 2 Sandbox world editing system.
ASUS GeForce GTX 280 TOP Graphics Card
Crysis also manages to get some improvements with the extremely high clocks ASUS offer. Only at 1280 x 1024 has the 9800 GX2 been able to just sneak out ahead.

Benchmarks - Unreal Tournament 3

Unreal Tournament 3Version and / or Patch Used: 1.1Timedemo or Level Used: Developer Homepage: http://www.epicgames.com/ Product Homepage: http://www.unrealtournament3.com/Buy It Here
Following the formulae that made Unreal Tournament so great the third installment to the series has hit us recently with better than ever graphics. The games uses the latest Unreal Engine which like most modern day games when maxed out puts the pressure on our lineup of graphics cards.
ASUS GeForce GTX 280 TOP Graphics Card
We again for the most part see the GTX 280 TOP get a decent performance increase, especially as we start climbing up to the 2560 x 1600 mark.

Benchmarks - High Quality AA and AF

High Quality AA and AFOur high quality tests let us separate the men from the boys and the ladies from the girls. If the cards weren't struggling before they will start to now.3DMark06
ASUS GeForce GTX 280 TOP Graphics Card
We again see here that at stock the GTX 280 manages to lag behind the 9800 GX2, but the overclocked TOP offering from ASUS helps the card go past the GX2.World In Conflict
ASUS GeForce GTX 280 TOP Graphics Card
ASUS GeForce GTX 280 TOP Graphics Card
We again see a decent performance increase with the TOP GTX 280 in hand.

Benchmarks - 3DMark06 - XP

3DMark06Version and / or Patch Used: Build 110Developer Homepage: http://www.futuremark.comProduct Homepage: http://www.futuremark.com/products/3dmark06/Buy It Here
3DMark06 is the worldwide standard in advanced 3D game performance benchmarking. A fundamental tool for every company in the PC industry as well as PC users and gamers, 3DMark06 uses advanced real-time 3D game workloads to measure PC performance using a suite of DirectX 9 3D graphics tests, CPU tests, and 3D feature tests.3DMark06 tests include all new HDR/SM3.0 graphics tests, 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.
ASUS GeForce GTX 280 TOP Graphics Card
Checking out 3DMark06 under XP, we see again for the most part the GTX 280 being able to overtake the GX2 when overclocked.

Benchmarks - CINEBENCH R10 - XP

CINEBENCH R10Version and / or Patch Used: Release 10Developer Homepage: http://www.maxon.net/Product Homepage: http://www.maxon.net
CINEBENCH is a real-world test suite that assesses your computer's performace capabilities. MAXON CINEBENCH is based on MAXON's award-winning animation software, CINEMA 4D, which is used extensively by studios and production houses worldwide for 3D content creation. MAXON software has been used in blockbuster movies such as Spider-Man, Star Wars, The Chronicles of Narnia and many more.MAXON CINEBENCH runs several tests on your computer to measure the performance of the main processor and the graphics card under real world circumstances. The benchmark application makes use of up to 16 CPUs or CPU cores and is available for Windows (32-bit and 64-Bit) and Macintosh (PPC and Intel-based).
ASUS GeForce GTX 280 TOP Graphics Card
Under CINEBENCH in XP we can see the two GTX 280s score quite similar with the overclock not coming in handy under this test.

Benchmarks - World in Conflict - XP

World in ConflictVersion and / or Patch Used: 1.0.0.5Timedemo or Level Used: Built-in TestDeveloper Homepage: http://www.massive.se Product Homepage: http://www.worldinconflict.com
World in Conflict is a real-time strategy video game by Massive Entertainment and to be published by Sierra Entertainment for Windows (DX9 and DX10) and the Xbox 360.The game is set in 1989 where economic troubles cripple the Soviet Union and threaten to dissolve it. However, the title pursues a "what if" scenario where, in this case, the Soviet Union does not collapse and instead pursues a course of war to remain in power. It is an intensive new game is sure to put plenty of stress on even the latest graphics cards and we use the built-in benchmarking for our testing.
ASUS GeForce GTX 280 TOP Graphics Card
ASUS GeForce GTX 280 TOP Graphics Card
As with our Vista tests, we again see that the overclock on offer from the GTX 280 TOP gives us a very decent boost in performance.

Benchmarks - Unreal Tournament 3 - XP

Unreal Tournament 3Version and / or Patch Used: 1.1Timedemo or Level Used: Developer Homepage: http://www.epicgames.com/ Product Homepage: http://www.unrealtournament3.com/Buy It Here
Following the formulae that made Unreal Tournament so great the third installment to the series has hit us recently with better than ever graphics. The games uses the latest Unreal Engine which like most modern day games when maxed out puts the pressure on our lineup of graphics cards.
ASUS GeForce GTX 280 TOP Graphics Card
Finally, we finish with UT3 and we again see at the higher resolution the overclock giving us a nice boost in performance.

Temperature and Sound Tests

Temperature Tests
With the TES 1326 Infrared Thermometer literally in hand we found ourselves getting real-world temperatures from the products we test at load (3D clock speeds).There are two places we pull temperature from - the back of the card directly behind the core and if the card is dual slot and has an exhaust point we also pull a temperate from there, as seen in the picture.
ASUS GeForce GTX 280 TOP Graphics Card
As you would expect with the same cooler, the temperature between the ASUS and GIGABYTE is almost identical.Sound Tests
Pulling out the TES 1350A Sound Level Meter we find ourselves quickly yelling into the top of it to see how loud we can be.After five minutes of that we get a bit more serious and place the device two CM away from the fan on the card to find the maximum noise level of the card when idle (2D mode) and in load (3D mode).
ASUS GeForce GTX 280 TOP Graphics Card
Noise levels are also almost identical as well, as you would expect.

Power Consumption Tests

Power Consumption Tests
Using our new PROVA Power Analyzer WM-01 or "Power Thingy" as it has become quickly known as to our readers, we are now able to find out what kind of power is being used by our test system and the associated graphics cards installed. Keep in mind; it tests the complete system (minus LCD monitor, which is plugged directly into AC wall socket).There are a few important notes to remember though; while our maximum power is taken in 3DMark06 at the same exact point, we have seen in particular tests the power being drawn as much as 10% more. We test at the exact same stage every time; therefore tests should be very consistent and accurate.The other thing to remember is that our test system is bare minimum - only a 7,200RPM SATA-II single hard drive is used without CD ROM or many cooling fans.So while the system might draw 400 watts in our test system, placing it into your own PC with a number of other items, the draw is going to be higher.
ASUS GeForce GTX 280 TOP Graphics Card
We finish our testing with power. Being reference, the results are as you would expect with the two GTX 280s performing similar to each other.

Final Thoughts

Final Thoughts ASUS continue to impress with graphics card release after graphics card release by actually offering an out-of-the-box overclock that makes a difference to performance in games. The actual overclocks they offer on these cards tend to be the difference between upping the AA or AF up a notch or moving from high to very high detail settings. While it would have been nice to see a game included in the bundle, the mouse pad and CD wallet is a nice touch. Of course, we also get all the other necessary cables we need to get up and running.Performance is ultimately what this range of cards is about, though, and ASUS has managed to execute this perfectly. The card really manages to scream along and helps give the GTX 280 even more performance, making it overtake the 9800 GX2 for the most part in times where it used to just sit behind it.If you don't want to venture down the dual-GPU path, you're not too concerned about money and want the fastest single cored graphics card on the market, the GTX 280 TOP from ASUS is going to be one card that's hard to pass up.
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Shawn takes care of all of our video card reviews. From 2009, Shawn is also taking care of our memory reviews, and from May 2011, Shawn also takes care of our CPU, chipset and motherboard reviews. As of December 2011, Shawn is based out of Taipei, Taiwan.

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