Since launch, the availability of 7800 GTX cards at retail has been almost as impressive as the performance of the hardware itself. A contributing factor to the early healthy supply was that the board manufacturers stuck to the reference design. Not surprising really, considering that itâ€™s costly to make changes to an already functional design. However, the 7800 GTX has been out for some weeks now and of the two cards on review here, one of them does differ from the reference design.
This is the memorably named Asus EN7800GTXTOP/2HDTV/256/OSP/A. As far as model name goes, itâ€™s not exactly a classic. Fortunately, Asus also has a shorter name for the card â€“ the Extreme N7800 GTX TOP. This card differs from the reference design by dint of the fact that it sports a different cooler, called the Arctic Cooling NV Silencer 5 (Rev. 3).
This cooler brings both advantages and disadvantages with it compared to the reference cooler. Letâ€™s start with the advantages. The cooler is quieter than the reference cooler, due to the much larger fan. Additionally, hot air is expelled out the back of the card and therefore out of the case, rather than being blown inside the case, which should mean cooler running systems. The disadvantages are that by changing the cooler, Asus has turned the card into a two-slot design. This means that you wonâ€™t be able to use the adjoining slot and limits its use in smaller systems.
Iâ€™m not too happy with the way that the rear memory plate is held in place by only four plastic push-pins. Itâ€™s a small issue, but one of the pins doesnâ€™t fit properly and is pushed into the fan shroud on the cooler. A fifth pin is missing and shouldâ€™ve been used to hold the memory heatsink in place securely. Utilising some sort of plastic screws would have been a more favourable solution.
The card follows sports two DVI connectors and offers ViVo support. However, the cooler hasnâ€™t been added for its low noise alone, as Asus have clocked up the TOP cards quite significantly. Our sample was clocked at no less than 490/1362 for the core and memory. This is not a guaranteed speed and some might be lower but only by a few MHz. This actually affects the overall performance of the card less than you would think, but more on this later.