The last AOpen graphics card we tested was based on the GeForce 5900XT and impressed us at the time with its great mid-range performance. This card is very much a different kettle of fish, as here AOpen is showcasing nVidiaâ€™s top-of-the-line GeForce 6800 Ultra chipset. While the 5900XT card featured a distinctive custom fan design this card is based on nVidiaâ€™s reference design. This isnâ€™t necessarily bad news though. The reference design is generally there for a good reason and is something that nVidia will have settled upon after lots of R&D. For one thing the card is much lighter than the Leadtek, which is really weighed down by its large heatsink and fan. This makes the AOpen easier to handle and install. If you need to move your PC, it also makes it less likely to come out of its housing. Additionally, while it might be a reference design it is effective, and I could feel the air being expelled at the rear of the card over the heatsink from a couple of feet away.
As this card keeps to the reference design itâ€™s no surprise that the clock speeds are completely stock too, with the GPU running at 400MHz and the 256MB of memory being 550MHz GDDR3, giving an effective clock of 1,100MHz. Being an unadulterated design and an early sample to boot we werenâ€™t expecting much in terms of overclocking but as youâ€™ll see we were pleasantly surprised.
A TV Out is located at the rear with cables for S-Video and for composite video supplied. As a further sweetener AOpen has bundled some games - Painkiller, SpellForce and Arx Fatalis. The first of these is a well known title thatâ€™s got plenty of good reviews but the other two arenâ€™t likely to sway your purchasing decision.
As with all 6800 Ultra cards the AOpen features dual DVI outputs with adapters for use with standard D-SUB connections. This means that you can hook up two DVI LCD monitors at the same time and get optimum quality from each. While most of us wonâ€™t be able to enjoy such a luxury itâ€™s a great option to have. It also requires two power connectors running from different rails of a decent power supply. nVidia has lowered its initial over-the-top 480W specification to a more reasonable 350W, but if you want to overclock youâ€™ll need to keep the PSU nice and beefy.
When you first power up the system with the card installed, the fan spins at full speed which makes quite a high pitched whine. Thankfully this settles down to a slower speed once in Windows and the noise is much reduced. The fan didnâ€™t speed up during benchmarking or game playing making it easy to live with.