ASUS ENGTX295 (2DI/1792MD3)
The fastest GeForce graphics card yet.
- Trumps the Radeon HD 4870 x2 for speed and performance, Quad SLI capable, gleefully obnoxious bragging rights
- Exorbitant price tag, may be too large to fit into some cases
The Asus ENGTX295 is the fastest graphics card on the market bar none. Those who can afford it will not be disappointed by its blistering performance (er, provided they can make it fit inside their PC that is).
Price$ 999.00 (AUD)
While ATI continues to dominate the mid-range GPU market, NVIDIA is still Mr. Big when it comes to high-end graphics cards. Its top-shelf offerings continue to deliver the best results in 3-D gaming and it remains the brand of choice for many hardcore enthusiasts. Asus’ EXGTX295 is the latest premium model to sport the NVIDIA logo, delivering the most advanced GPU specifications yet.
With strong overclocking opportunities, native HDMI output support and an unprecedented 1.792GB of onboard memory, it easily justifies its extravagant price tag. It is currently being billed as the world’s fastest graphics card, with results that confidently outclass the ATI Radeon HD 4870 x2. That’s your cue to start salivating.
As is becoming the norm for high-end graphics cards, the EXGTX295 adopts a dual-GPU approach to attain that all-important boost in performance. While the card only takes up one PCI-E slot, it actually contains two 55nm graphic processing units on separate PCBs (printed circuit boards), which are connected via an internal SLI bridge. What this essentially means is that it delivers an SLI configuration on a single card, thus freeing up room in your PC (if you have a compatible motherboard, you can combine two EXGTX295s for a Quad SLI setup).
So with no further ado, let’s take a look at what makes this card so unashamedly badass. As its name implies, the EXGTX295 is based on NVIDIA's latest GTX 295 chipset, which falls into the same family as the GeForce GTX 260 and GeForce GTX 280 (recent examples of these cards include the ENGTX280 TOP (HTDP/1G/A) and GTX260 (GV-N26-896H-B)). Some of the tastier highlights include 480 stream processors, a 448-bit memory interface (per GPU), 1792MB of GDDR3 memory and NVIDIA PhysX support. Its memory and core clock speeds, meanwhile, stand at 1GHz and 576MHz, respectively. This makes the EXGTX295 the most powerful graphics card on the market, although it’s important to note that the above specifications are spread across two GPUs. (It would therefore be more accurate to class the 1792MB of onboard memory as "896MB x 2", for example).
For a change of pace, Asus has eschewed the obligatory female cyborg/elf/ninja artwork in favour of a magical knight on horseback. (In other words, it’s less sexy, but equally nerdy.) Presumably, this overtly equine design was chosen as a reference to ‘horsepower’, although it’s possible Asus just wanted to see if it could fit a life-sized horse on there. Kidding aside, this is unquestionably the biggest graphics card that we’ve ever laid eyes on. With dimensions of 267x95x36mm and weighing well over a kilogram, it truly is a monstrous piece of hardware.
If your PC chassis is already crammed with additional hard drives and doodads, getting this behemoth to fit could be an exercise in futility. We therefore recommend measuring the inside of your case before snapping one of these babies up. For power consumption, Asus recommends a 680 Watt PSU (which means you’ll need something even beefier if you’re planning on a Quad SLI setup). An extravagantly sized fan spans the entire length of the card, ensuring optimum cooling during taxing applications. This is bolstered by a range of louvers that expel excess heat.
To test this card, we ran a series of benchmarks using a Vista 32-bit machine equipped with 1GB of DDR2 RAM, a 750GB Barracuda ES hard drive and a 2.66GHz Intel Core 2 Quad CPU. In the game F.E.A.R. the EXGTX295 returned an average frame rate of 189 frames per second (fps). This was significantly faster than Asus’ previous top-of-the-range card, the ENGTX280 TOP (HTDP/1G/A), which only averaged 154fps. The DirectX 10 version of Call of Juarez ran at an average frame rate of 74fps. Again, this was much faster than the GTX280 card, which returned a result of 50.9fps — a difference of 23.1fps.
When we ran the resource-heavy game Crysis, the EXGTX295 averaged a very respectable 38.9fps. When we compare this result to the ATI ATI Radeon HD 4870 x2’s average of 23.9fps, there can be no doubt over which is the fastest model. Of course, fastest doesn’t necessary translate to best value. With an RRP of $1000, the EXGTX295 is $300 more expensive than the HD 4870 x2. Whether it offers $300 worth of improvement is debatable.
On the plus side, the EXGTX295 sales package comes with some rather nice extras, including a leatherette disk folder, a DVI to VGA converter, a speed setup guide, an audio cable, a DVI to HDMI adaptor and a game download discount voucher valued at US$25. When you’re paying this kind of money it’s nice to get a few goodies thrown in, so three cheers to Asus for not being stingy blaggards.
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