Asus doesnâ€™t pull any punches with its V9999 Gamer Edition (GE), although we found the model name to be a statement of the obvious. After all, if youâ€™re buying a GeForce 6800 graphics card then youâ€™d better be a gamer.
The box is simply enormous, and comes complete with a carrying handle, and thereâ€™s a fair amount in the package, so letâ€™s cover that before we get on to the card itself. In addition to an S-Video-to-composite video cable and a DVI-I-to-VGA adapter, thereâ€™s a stack of software and a USB webcam. The latter was unexpected, and the logic is that youâ€™ll want to use your cam with the bundled Asus GameFace software while youâ€™re playing games online. Well perhaps you will and perhaps you wonâ€™t, but we donâ€™t see that a webcam is the sort of thing that should guide your buying decision for a high-end graphics card.
The software package looks impressive at first glance, but one of the CDs contains demos, and although the full versions of DeusEx Invisible War, Gun Metal and Battle Engine Aquila are of some interest theyâ€™re neither current nor particularly popular. Similarly Asus DVD and Medi@Show SE 2.0 fail to get the juices flowing, so the strength of this package really comes down to the graphics card.
Well, the card is certainly attractive. All the hardware is on the front of the board and as a result the cooling solution is quite restrained compared to some of the other cards. The twin slot design has a blue light inside the fan casing, and the heatsink uses a combination of fins and short posts to cool the memory chips. During testing the card remained cool to the touch and the noise from the cooling fan caused us less annoyance than the fan on the Opteron did.
This is the only card in the round-up to have dual Molex power connectors, just like a 6800 Ultra, so after the initial tests that Lars carried out we were confident that the Asus would overclock like a dream. After all, 256MB of DDR3 memory was bound to give the Asus an edge, wasnâ€™t it?
To start with we installed the Asus SmartDoctor monitoring software which includes the Asus HyperDrive utility. This allows you to choose one of three settings to tune the card for 3D gaming, to minimise CPU usage or to keep the temperature within set limits.
The gaming mode uses dynamic overclocking so we have no idea what core and memory speeds it employs, but the results were unimpressive. The Doom3 score dropped by 5fps and 3DMark05 crashed repeatedly. When we used Coolbits the drivers overclocked to a core speed of 400MHz and a memory speed of 1.1GHz, but our test results came out the same as our original baseline run. This wasnâ€™t looking good for the V9999GE, so we didnâ€™t expect much when we loaded up the Beta 65.73 drivers, however our test scores positively leapt forward. In Doom3 we saw a 12 per cent improvement while 3DMark05 score rose by eight per cent, but there was better news to come. After a certain amount of messing around we enabled Coolbits and then the HyperDrive utility, and the results were quite astonishing. Our final Doom3 score of 78.6fps was a full 30 per cent faster than the initial score of 60.3fps, and similarly 3DMark05 improved from 3,144 to 3,834 which is a 22 per cent improvement.
The Asus gives you the potential to unlock a hefty performance boost over other models of GeForce 6800 but you pay plenty for the privilege and donâ€™t get much help from the software that Asus supplies.
Thereâ€™s no doubt that the Asus has strong overclocking potential due to the generous complement of fast memory, but edging ahead of other 6800 cards in the performance stakes doesnâ€™t come cheap. And although the box is large, and full of extras, thereâ€™s nothing there to really entice.