Asus and Powercolor were the first board partners to get cards to us for review. Powercolor’s card is running stock clocks while Asus’ is from its T.O.P. range, which means it comes overclocked to 680MHz(core) and 2,100MHz(memory) straight out of the box. This understandably means the Asus card will cost a little more but the choice is there if you want a tad more performance.
Both cards come with the exact same bundle that includes converters for DVI-to-HDMI, DVI-to-VGA, S-video to composite, and S-video to component as well as a CrossfireX connector. Neither include any free games or other software but considering the approximately £120 asking price this is hardly surprising.
As a result of the cut down clock and memory speeds the cards consume less power and consequently kick out less heat than HD 4870. This means ATI has been able to use a single slot cooler for its reference design, which both cards we’re looking at today have utilised.
While this seems to make sense, ATI obviously never tried to swap out one of these cards after an extended gaming session because, my god, they get hot! Even ATI’s own Overdrive software reports that the cards are running at 80 degrees Celsius and above. Not that we experienced any stability problems, at least with Powercolor’s card. However, the Asus card, which was fine for most of our testing, didn’t fare so well. During Race Driver: GRID testing the card would regularly crash out and we eventually had to abandon testing with the Asus card. I asked an Asus representative about this and he informed us that indeed the reference cooler isn’t sufficient for reliable performance when the card is overclocked so retail versions of the T.O.P. card will use Asus’ Glaciator cooler instead.
(centre)”’An Asus nVidia 9600GT card utilising the Glaciator cooler”’(/centre)
Now we’ve not seen a card with this cooler before so we can’t vouch for its abilities. However, from what we were told it enables the card to run nearly 20 degrees Celsius cooler than the reference design and, from reading around, the general opinion appears to be that this is also a very quiet and efficient cooler. Of course the obvious problem is that it will make the card semi-dual-slot, i.e. it won’t take up two PCI brackets, so you can still install a USB or audio panel, but you won’t be able to fit another full-size card in alongside.
One additional power connector is required to get the card going and this is situated in the normal position on the back edge. Likewise the Crossfire connectors are up top where you’d expect and outputs are the standard two dual-link DVI and combined S-Video/Composite/Component sockets.