As the card is essentially an overclocked 8800 GTS 512, it requires more power than that card so, rather than one, it has two six-pin PCI Express power connectors along its top edge. The extra power this provides should also give more headroom for further overclocking of the card, if that’s your thing.
Also tucked away on the top edge of the card is a socket for an S/P-DIF digital audio connector. This can be used to tap into your computer’s sound card (or onboard audio) to pass an audio signal out the card’s DVI ports, along with the video signal. When a DVI-to-HDMI converter is then used this enables you to use a single HDMI cable to pass audio and video out from your computer to a TV or Home Cinema setup. It’s not as elegant a solution as AMD employs – its method doesn’t require an extra cable – but it does in fact provide more options, which is always a good thing.
Incidentally, the reference designed card has two dual-link DVI outputs that are both HDCP capable so you can use this card to connect to a TV or monitor (or indeed both) and watch protected Blu-ray discs. There’s also an analog video output that, when used with the included dongle, gives you component and composite video output.
So, all in all, despite its questionable origins, this is a card that in terms of features, has a lot going for it over and above its predecessor. All that remains to see is how it performs and where it fits in the current market based on price.
The specific card we were sent for review is the Asus EN9800GTXTOP, which comes with the core, shader and memory clocks pre-overclocked to 755MHz, 1840MHz, and 1175MHz, respectively. Aside from this – and an Asus sticker – the card is identical to the reference design, so our conclusions about this card can be applied to the 9800 GTX as a whole. For testing we used the included Asus overclocking tool to under-clock the card to standard speeds as well as running it at out-of-the-box speeds.
Asus doesn’t provide any free games with this card, which is a bit of a shame, but you do get a rather nice leather CD wallet and a couple of driver/utility and quick guide CDs to fill it with. A DVI-to-VGA converter, an S-Video to component dongle, and a dual molex to six-pin power converter are all included, so there’s enough to get you started. However, there’s no SLI connector and, considering the card has two digital outputs and the ability to pass-through audio, it would be nice to see a DVI-to-HDMI converter in there as well. Also, as the card requires two PCI Express power connectors, two dual-Molex converters for those of us with ageing power supplies would be handy. None of these issues would put us off buying this card but it’s worth noting.
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