ASUS, while extremely well known for high-quality and feature-packed motherboards, graphics cards and notebooks, aren't necessarily the most popular. Their whole line-up of products does carry that normal ASUS premium which most people don't have trouble justifying on motherboards and notebooks but when it comes to graphics cards, we've always thought that they are not worth paying the extra dollars - purely because they weren't all that different from the competition but carried a higher price tag.Although that was up until recently as with the release of the new nVidia GeForce 7800 GTX, ASUS have stepped out of the square and done something a little more exciting. They've taken selected 7800 GTX chips and overclocked them out of the box and strapped on a fancy cooler, an Arctic Cooling solution to be exact - the same as which HIS use for their Radeon graphics cards. With these features combined, they've created a top
card, no seriously - it's called "T.O.P" short for Top Overclocking Performance
.The ASUS GeForce 7800 GTX T.O.P. is the fastest air cooled out of the box 7800 GTX solution on the market right now with the water cooled offering from BFG Tech just sneaking ahead of its core speed. Let's continue on as we take a close look at ASUS' top-of-the-line 7800 GTX and just how to compares to a standard clocked version of the graphics card.
Retail PackageRetail Package
In true ASUS style we have an absolutely massive box which shows some of the main features the card offers, the score difference over a standard 7800GTX along with the awards they have received.
The front of the box can be opened up and gives us some detail on what some of the software inside offers - better gaming experience, better movie experience and more. Some of the features are extremely cool but how much or how often you would use it might make it a bit pointless.
Turning the box over we have a huge amount of information due to the fact that you have to fill a box up this big with something. We have our normal extended specifications, a list of more awards, a quick look at the software inside the difference of this card and more against Intel integrated graphics (like that can even be considered competition, but anyway...) along with a few other little bits of information.
Inside we have a fancy black CD wallet so you can pile the huge amount of CDs into one location so you don't lose them. The picture almost makes it look like a normal wallet and when looking at it you come to think that it would look quite nice in your pocket - maybe something for the future.
Software wise we have a huge pile including Driver CD, VirtualDrive 9, Medi@Show, Project Snowblind, PowerDirector, ASUSDVD, Xpand Rally and a game pack. There is enough to keep you entertained and there is no reason you won't be able to make full use of the 7800 GTX.
Manual wise we have a quick setup guide and a more extensive manual in regards to the drivers and utilities on offer from ASUS. Pretty much we have nothing out of the ordinary and you will probably find yourself leaving them in the box, as usual.
Cable wise we don't have a whole lot with a DVI to VGA connector, PCI E power cable converter and the little box that lets us utilize HDTV Out and VIVO. The extra money you spend goes into the software bundle and the card itself which we will look at right now.
The CardThe Card
The only thing better than a single 7800GTX is two of them and the only thing better then that are two with some funky aftermarket coolers installed without risking your warranty. The Silencer line up from Arctic Cooling has been one of the most popular aftermarket coolers in a long time and the only company that comes close to competing with them is Zalman.We can see that on the front of the cooler we have T.O.P. which stands for Top Overclocking Performance
as we discussed in the introduction. This card comes in at a hefty 486MHz core and 1.35GHz memory
which is a huge jump over the standard 400MHz core and 1.2GHz memory speed. These speeds are only obtainable with the help of the Silencer cooler which offers not only better cooling performance but less noise, so it really is a win-win situation.
Moving to the front of the card we have our Dual DVI ports which we find on all 7800 GTX's and the S Video like cable which lets us plug our little box into giving us all the joys of VIVO and HDTV Out.
Moving around to the rear of the card we have our PCI E power connector. If you have a power supply that has this connector built into it (most new ones do), you can just insert it straight in and get up and running otherwise you will have to use the PCI E connector that comes with the package which requires you to use two Molex connectors. You really need to make sure you have some spare as when running in SLI you need a total of four spare Molex connectors - so keep this in mind before buying.
The top of the card shows us two things - first is our trusty SLI connector that lets us run two of these together so we can get up to another 90% performance and a big silver bracket across the top which stops the card from bending. While a little bit of flex in the past might have been okay, with the SLI connector on the top now, nobody wants to risk the flex in a card breaking the crucial connector.
Finally moving to the bottom of the card we have our PCI Express connector at the moment and as far as we can tell the 7800 GTX is going to be PCI Express-only with no word from nVidia in regards to an AGP version coming anytime soon.
Benchmarks - Test System Setup & 3DMark SeriesTest System SetupProcessor(s):
AMD Athlon X2 3800+ (NOT
supplied by AMD)Motherboard(s):
ASUS A8N SLI Premium (Supplied by ASUS
2 X 512MB Mushkin PC4000 DDR (Supplied by Mushkin
WD Raptor 74GB 10,000RPM SATA (Supplied by Western Digital
Microsoft Windows XP Professional SP1Drivers:
nVidia Forceware 78.01 and DX9cWe have finally with much pleasure got our hands on a brand new AMD Athlon X2 3800+ (Editor's Note: mind you, with no thanks to AMD - we had to find our own way of getting one while Intel just keeps throwing processors at us
) so we can start removing some of the CPU bottleneck that we find we get when running an SLI 7800 GTX combination on an Intel processor. While we don't necessarily favor one over the other, both manufactures have their place on the market where they fit in best at the moment and AMD processors do offer better gaming performance.With our new processor we have a new motherboard and the ASUS A8N SLI Premium (nForce4 SLI AMD) is the board of choice. With a bucket load of features, extra room between the PCI E slots, it was the perfect companion for the SLI 7800 GTX setup and the ONLY companion to the ASUS 7800GTX T.O.P as we needed the extra space between the slots due to the larger than normal coolers on the ASUS cards. Keep in mind the coolers are larger than usual (much wider than reference cards) so make sure if you're going to be running SLI, your motherboard will properly fit both cards.With that out of the way, let's move onto the testing and see how the ASUS 7800 GTX T.O.P model compares against a regular 7800 GTX.3DMark03Version and / or Patch Used:
Build 360Developer Homepage: http://www.futuremark.comProduct Homepage: http://www.futuremark.com/products/3dmark03/Buy It Here
By combining full DX8 and partial DX9 support with completely new tests and graphics over the previous version, 3DMark03 continues the legacy of being the industry standard 3D benchmark.Please Note: Due to recent events with the 3DMark03 series, we are adding results purely for those who are still in favor of 3DMark03. These results should not be taken too seriously and are only added for interest sakes.
At the lower resolution we can see quite a big jump in the single card solution when compared to a stock 7800 GTX. Similar numbers carry through on both the SLI setup and the higher resolution tests.As you'd probably expect, we also see the SLI solution offering quite a noticeable score difference when compared to the single card solution.3DMark05Version and / or Patch Used:
Build 120Developer Homepage: http://www.futuremark.comProduct Homepage: http://www.futuremark.com/products/3dmark05/Buy It Here
3DMark05 is the latest version in the popular 3DMark "Gamers Benchmark" series. It includes a complete set of DX9 benchmarks which tests Shader Model 2.0 and higher.For more information on the 3DMark05 benchmark, we recommend you read our preview here
3DMark05 at the higher resolutions really benefits from the increased core and memory speed. While the difference can be seen at the lower resolution, it's not until we get to the higher resolution where it becomes really apparent. We can also see that the increase from single card to SLI is a lot greater at the higher resolution.
Benchmarks - Half Life 2Half Life 2Version and / or Patch Used:
UnpatchedTimedemo or Level Used:
Custom TimedemoDeveloper Homepage: http://www.valvesoftware.com Product Homepage: http://www.half-life2.comBuy It Here
By taking the suspense, challenge and visceral charge of the original, and adding startling new realism and responsiveness, Half-Life 2 opens the door to a world where the player's presence affects everything around him, from the physical environment to the behaviors even the emotions of both friends and enemies.We benchmark Half Life 2 with our own custom timedemos as to avoid possible driver optimizations using the "record demo_name" command and loading the timedemo with the "timedemo demo_name" command - For a full list of the commands, click here
Half Life 2 really did give us some weird results with the ASUS 7800GTX T.O.P. single card being the fastest with it being even quicker then the SLI setup. These results probably shouldn't be taken too seriously.
Benchmarks - Doom 3Doom 3Version and / or Patch Used:
UnpatchedTimedemo or Level Used:
Custom TimedemoDeveloper Homepage: http://www.idsoftware.com Product Homepage: http://www.doom3.comBuy It Here
Doom 3 is the latest game to hit our test lab and is one of the most intensive games to dates. With our own custom time demo we are able to give a realistic rating on what kind of FPS you will be achieving.For more information on benchmarking Doom 3 we recommend you check out our extensive article regarding it here
Doom 3 at the lower resolution shows the cards very bunched up and its not until we move along to the higher resolution where the cards begin to separate from each other. We can see that at 1600 x 1200 the overclocked version gets a good performance boost to the reference nVidia design.
Benchmarks - Far CryFar CryVersion and / or Patch Used:
UnpatchedTimedemo or Level Used:
Ubisoft VolcanoDeveloper Homepage: http://www.crytek.comProduct Homepage: http://www.farcrygame.comBuy It Here
There is no denying that Far Cry is currently one of the most graphic intensive games on the market, utilizing PS2.0 technology (the latest versions support Shader Model 3.0 with DX9c) and offering an exceptional visual experience there is no denying that even some of the faster graphics cards struggle.
Far Cry finds us hitting a CPU limitation with the results being extremely boring. Even at 1600 x 1200 the video cards are not running at their full potential.
Benchmarks - High Quality AA and AFHigh Quality AA and AF
In our High Quality tests we bump the Antialiasing (AA) and Anisotropic Filtering (AF) up causing the card(s) to be put under more load which usually helps us remove the CPU limitation.We'll be using 4 x AA and 8 x AF as this is quite a common setup for most people who are venturing into the AA and AF area.
When not running AA and AF, 3DMark05 showed us an excellent jump in performance with us seeing a 50% increase in speed when comparing the single and SLI setups. With AA and AF enabled the overclocked ASUS 7800 GTX really does get away form the rest of the back.
Half Life 2 again was being extremely weird with our results with the single ASUS 7800GTX T.O.P. out performing the SLI combination. It is safe to say that HL2 SLI optimization isn't at 100% yet.
Doom 3 yields almost a 50% increase in speed with the overclocked cards giving a 6FPS difference in single and SLI setups.
CPU Overclocking effect on FPSCPU Overclocking effect on FPS
Even with the power of the AMD Athlon X2 and Intel Extreme Edition processors, we still find ourselves hitting a CPU limitation in a lot of our benchmarks. That is, the graphics cards have more performance to give but the processor is letting the team down.By overclocking the processor we can see what kind of a performance increase we get. When something isn't CPU limited the performance increase isn't all that major but when we do have a CPU bottleneck, every MHz extra we can get can show us an excellent jump in performance. The Athlon X2 3800+ was increased from 2GHz to 2.35GHz with a slight increase in the front side bus utilizing the stock X2 HSF.
At the lower resolution where the CPU is under more load we can see that the overclock gave us a nice little increase with the 1600 x 1200 result being quite minor.
3DMark05 yields excellent performance with the CPU overclock receiving a 1000 point increase at the lower resolutions and an 800 point increase at the higher resolution. With some more tweaking and time on your hands you should be breaking records in no time.
As we mentioned early Far Cry really felt the CPU limitation and with a slight increase in FSB we got another 6 FPS bringing us to over 90FPS. As you can see though, with the performance being so close at both resolutions when overclocked we are still CPU limited even with overclocking in play.
Final ThoughtsFinal Thoughts
There you have it, two of the fastest air cooled nVidia GeForce 7800 GTX's on the market with a full warranty included in the deal. We have a really snazzy looking, great performing card and an excellent bundle with the only gripe most people will find being the premium that is paid for an ASUS product. While in the past the premium wasn't giving much more then an extra game and a big box, now it's real good to see that we are getting more for our extra dollars spent this time around.According to our Price Comparison website, the T.O.P version of the card will cost you around $75 US more than regular 7800 GTX from ASUS. Zipzoomfly
are selling the T.O.P version for $569.99 US while Newegg
are selling the regular version for $495 US. So, you end up paying a little more but not too much more.The Arctic Cooling Silencer cooler is one of the best aftermarket graphics card coolers around thanks to the great overclocking potential it offers with a drop in noise levels. ASUS have really made full use of the cooler giving us some insane stock speeds out of the box which do result in some decent performance increases.We did have some issues overclocking our samples cards from ASUS further than they already and we aren't sure why but we've seen other reviews online where testers were able to overclock further. With this said though, it isn't really much of an issue as the speeds we get at stock are simply amazing with the memory speed really exceeding itself.When installing the cards onto a DFI nForce 4 SLI board we found that the gap between the two PCI-E slots did make it quite difficult to have the cards running in SLI. We physically had to bend them together and place the bridge on it which is something you really don't want to be doing, at all. While this would be a problem if the A8N SLI Premium was a bad board, it isn't and is quickly entering the hearts of many enthusiasts thanks to the fanless design, removal of the SLI selector and a lot of the little bugs being removed that were found in the A8N-SLI.Overall the ASUS 7800 GTX T.O.P cards offer some kick-ass performance out of the box and we congratulate ASUS for stepping out of the square and trying something new. If you're on the market for a new high-end graphics cards, you can't really look much further than what we have here today.- Pricing Details - Pros
Great cooling (performance and low level of noise)Overclocked out-of-the-boxBrilliant performance and looksExcellent bundle to keep you entertainedBend-proof designVIVO and HDTV- Cons
ASUS premium priceMight be a tight fit in SLI on some motherboards - check before buyingThe ASUS 7800GTX is for
people who aren't shy to spend more money then they should for the purpose of owning some of the most kick ass graphics cards around and is not for
people who open their wallet and see butterflies come out of it.Rating - 9 out of 10 and TweakTown's "MUST HAVE" Editors Choice Award