ASUS EN8800GT TOP
The first card we’re looking at is ASUS’ EN8800GT TOP. ASUS is well known for their high-end motherboards and video cards. Their “TOP” line of cards are catered towards enthusiasts looking for more performance than your typical GeForce or Radeon graphics card which runs at the stock clock frequencies outlined by AMD and NVIDIA. ASUS accomplishes this by running the GPU and memory at speeds that are higher than the stock GPU specifications. In the case of the EN8800GT TOP for instance the GPU runs at 700MHz – that’s 100MHz higher than the stock GeForce 8800 GT’s reference speed of 600MHz – while the board’s memory runs at 1.0GHz (2.0GHz effective). In comparison, NVIDIA’s reference specifications for the GeForce 8800 GT call for a memory speed of 900MHz.
One additional feature ASUS has re-integrated into their latest TOP cards is their Smart Doctor software. With ASUS Smart Doctor, you can overclock the TOP card for even more performance. In fact, one new feature ASUS has added to Smart Doctor is the ability to adjust not only the GPU and memory speeds, but also the clock speed of the GPU’s stream processors. If you recall, this was a feature that NVIDIA promised they would add to their own nTune software over a year ago but it’s still MIA to this day.
Smart Doctor can also be used to monitor critical aspects of the GPU such as the board’s fan speed, temperature, and voltages. Smart Doctor also includes ASUS HyperDrive, which can be used to automatically overclock the card, while SmartCooling dynamically adjusts the fan’s RPMs based on temperature or workload (keep in mind that dynamic fan speed is a feature present on all 8800 GT cards).
Besides Smart Doctor, ASUS continues to bundle their cards with their GamerOSD and Video Security Online programs. Like FRAPS, GamerOSD provides real-time frames per second monitoring, video capture, and screenshot capability. GamerOSD can also be used to overclock the GPU while you’re gaming.
Physically, the EN8800GT TOP card itself is an exact copy of NVIDIA’s reference board design for the GeForce 8800 GT. ASUS has made no changes to the board’s components; everything is stock including the power circuitry and the card’s fan.
On the fan you can’t miss the large Company of Heroes: Opposing Fronts sticker. Company of Heroes was one of the top games of 2006 and the Opposing Fronts expansion was launched late last year. The game supports DirectX 10 graphics and currently sells for $30-$40 online, so the fact that ASUS includes this game for free with the card makes it a great value if you were planning on picking up Opposing Fronts, or you just want to see why this RTS is so widely acclaimed. Besides the copy of Opposing Fronts, ASUS bundles the card with one DVI adapter, a power cable, and a component video cable. The card also comes with a leather CD wallet.