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Asus EN9800GX2 - Asus EN9800GX2
Display output options are a little different to what we usually expect as joining the regular duo of dual-link DVI-I connectors is an HDMI v1.3 socket, which has replaced the normal component/composite/S-video output that we've come to expect. All three outputs support HDCP, for playing back protected HD content like Blu-ray discs, but only the HDMI connection allows you to carry a digital audio signal from your computer to your AV equipment. Like previous nVidia cards, this also requires you to use an internal S/PDIF connection from your sound card to a socket on top of the GX2, which is hidden under that small rubber plug that can be seen just near the back of the card in the shot below.
You'll also notice another plastic tab next to the S/PDIF connector. This covers the two auxiliary power connections that are required to provide enough power to the card. One is a six-pin PCI-Express socket and the other is an eight-pin socket. So you'll need a hefty modern power supply to run this card.
One final socket is hidden away along that top edge and it is, of course, an SLI connector that will enable you to run two of these cards in a quad-SLI configuration. Something we like to call the 'more money than sense' setup. We're not just being jealous so and so's when we say that, though. It's well known that the performance of SLI doesn't scale linearly as you add more and more graphics cards as overheads in calculating how to distribute the computing load across the graphics chips makes it less and less efficient. You will get more performance but it won't be anywhere close to four times what you'd get from a single card so the investment is not a sound one.
One feature we really like on this card is its use of coloured lights to help guide you when installing it. First up are the two auxiliary power connectors which are backlit so they glow red if there is no connection (or if you've tried to plug a six-pin PCI-Express plug into the eight-pin socket) and turn green when the card is correctly connected. The display outputs have had a similar treatment with the primary display being illuminated by a blue LED and another LED repeating the power status indication on the back panel, which is very useful because it enables you to quickly check you've plugged everything in correctly without opening up your PC.
The arrangement of the auxiliary power connectors is a little peculiar as, just like the PCBs inside the card, they face each other. The result is that the little clips that hold the plugs in are crammed in the middle making them a real pig to remove. It's a small issue that will only be of concern when troubleshooting, upgrading, or, in our case, when you have to regularly swap out graphics cards for testing!
Another complaint we have is with the multi-monitor support. Essentially you can't run multi-monitor with the card running in SLI mode so surround gaming is impossible. By turning off SLI, you can use multi-monitor setups for desktop work but overall it isn't exactly an elegant solution. In contrast ATI has managed to enable multi-monitor support in not just its dual-GPU HD 3870X2 but all Crossfire setups.