Review The headline feature of the Asus EN8800GT 1GB is - as the name suggests - the fact that it packs in 1GB of GDDR 3 memory instead of the 512MB that you’ll find on standard GeForce 8800 GT-based graphics cards.
When we unpacked the graphics card from the usual enormous Asus box, the memory did indeed grab our attention but not in the way that we expected. The 1GB is arranged in eight chips manufactured by Qimonda and each chip carries the legend HYB18H1G321A-11. The '1G' in the middle refers to the 1Gb density of each chip and the '11' suffix is presumably the rated speed in nanoseconds as 1.1ns equates to a true clock speed of 900MHz. That’s a DDR rating of 1800MHz which is exactly in line with the specification of the Asus.
Asus' EN8800GT 1GB: double the memory of a typical 8800 GT
The point isn’t that we can cleverly decode the markings on a memory chip but rather that we were able to see the memory chips quite clearly. Asus has chosen an oval aluminium cooler with a large 80mm fan in place of the standard shroud-type cooler on this GT. The cooler is supported on four stand-offs and makes contact with the 'G92' graphics chip but leaves the memory chips bare, hence our ability to read the markings. Unlike an 8800 GTS, the mounting bracket on this card is a single-slot design. However, the height of the cooler means this GT is a double-slot card that blows hot air inside your PC case.
At start-up, the fan on a regular 8800 GT makes one heck of a din until the drivers kick in to slow it down. During operation it is very quiet indeed. The only downside that we can see with the usual 8800 GT design is the heat generated in the casing. We measured the casing temperature as 30°C with the Windows desktop running, rising to 55°C during a gaming session. This was with an open test system laid out on the bench.
By contrast, the Asus 1GB is quieter during start-up as the fan spins at a constant speed. Once Windows is running, the 1GB is the noisier of the two as the fan is audible. The cooler on the 1GB does a better job of keeping the GT under control as it runs at a consistent 25°C even under load.
That’s the cosmetics and cooling out of the way, so let’s take a look at the spec of the EN8800GT 1GB, including that extra memory. Of the 8800 GTs that we’ve seen to date, the MSI NX8800GT has a core speed of 660MHz and memory that runs at an effective speed of 1900MHz. The overclocked 512MB Asus EN8800GT TOP has a 700MHz core and 512MB of memory with a speed of 2000MHz.
Single-slot backplane, double-slot cooler
By contrast, the EN8800GT 1GB core speed is 600MHz and the memory runs at 1800MHz, and that 1.1ns figure suggests the memory doesn’t have much headroom for overclocking. The Unified Shaders, or Stream Processors, that make up the heart of a GeForce 8800-series GPU run 2.5x faster than the core speed so that’s 1650MHz on the MSI, 1750MHz on the Asus TOP and a mere 1500MHz on the Asus 1GB.
Hmm, that doesn’t look too promising.
We tested the 1GB card back-to-back with the Asus 512MB TOP model and compared both to a regular 8800 GT. The test system used an Intel Core 2 Q6600 processor; an Abit IP35 Pro motherboard based on the P35 chipset; 2GB of Corsair TWIN2X-9136C5 memory; and a Hitachi 7K1000 hard drive running on Windows Vista.
CPU-Z readouts: EN8800GT 1GB (left) and EN8800GT TOP
The 1GB card draws 20W less at the mains socket than the 512MB TOP, which is a hefty amount of power. It seems unlikely that this can be thanks to the extra memory or that the Asus fan is significantly more efficient than the standard Nvidia fan so you have to put the power saving down to the slower clock speeds.
We ran the EN8800GT 1GB at the standard 600MHz/1800MHz speeds and also overclocked the card using the Asus SmartDoctor utility that is included on the driver CD.
SmartDoctor is a dual-purpose piece of software that monitors the temperature and fan speed of the graphics card and also provides a pair of slider controls for the core and memory speeds. In the case of the EN8800GT 1GB, the maximum settings are a core speed of 700MHz and memory speed of 2000MHz. However, the system locked solid at those settings.
Power Draw Results
Power draw in Watt (W)
We split the difference and successfully clocked the 1GB at 650MHz/1900MHz which is the starting point for most 512MB GT cards and the result is clear in 3DMark06. The extra memory on the 1GB card didn’t show any benefit until we cranked the screen resolution and quality settings to the maximum, at which point the 1GB just about passed the 512MB TOP. That’s a resolution of 2048 x 1536, which is way beyond the point that most displays can manage.
Longer bars are better
In Crysis it’s a different story, but it’s also a bit confusing. At a reasonably low resolution of 1280 x 1024, the 1GB card is faster than the 512MB both with and without the use of anti-aliasing (AA). When we raised the resolution to 1920 x 1200, the extra speed of the 512MB card pulled it into the lead, but enabling AA gave the crown back to the 1GB card.
Frame rates in frames per second
Crysis set to Medium Quality
Longer bars are better
It’s hard to come up with some definitive answers from those figures, but it is clear that core and memory speeds are critical to performance while the quantity of memory can deliver a bonus, bit only in exceptionally tough circumstances.
Asus has piled one whole gigabyte of memory on an 8800 GT graphics card which sounds impressive but does it deliver the goods?
Well, faced with the choice of an 8800 GT with 512MB but overclocked, or the same GPU with 1GB of memory, at the same price we’ll plump for the 1GB model. Not because it’s got the extra memory, oh no, but mainly because we dislike the heat produced by the standard GT cooling system.