ASUS ENGTX280 TOP (HTDP/1G/A)

A view from the top

ASUS ENGTX280 TOP (HTDP/1G/A)
  • ASUS ENGTX280 TOP (HTDP/1G/A)
  • ASUS ENGTX280 TOP (HTDP/1G/A)
  • ASUS ENGTX280 TOP (HTDP/1G/A)
  • Expert Rating

    4.00 / 5

Pros

  • Unmatched in speed and performance, three-way SLI for x3 processing power, included goodies and software, low power consumption

Cons

  • Prohibitively expensive, no HDMI adaptor

Bottom Line

The Asus ENGTX280 TOP (HTDP/1G/A) is the fastest and most powerful graphics card we've ever had the pleasure of testing. However, at its current price point, some users may be better off with a multi-GPU solution, via Crossfire or SLI.

Would you buy this?

Special Offers

The Asus ENGTX280 TOP (HTDP/1G/A) is an enthusiast-level graphics card based on NVIDIA's 10th generation of GeForce GPUs (graphics processing units). According to Asus, this overclocked model offers a 12 per cent performance boost over the standard GTX 280 board, which currently sports the most powerful GPU on the market. This places the ENGTX280 TOP (HTDP/1G/A) at the upper-end of the 3-D food chain. However, at $699, it is perhaps a little overpriced when compared to some of its inferior competitors. Nevertheless, if you're a hardcore gamer requiring the best performance that money can buy, you definitely won't be disappointed.

GT200 architecture

Before we review Asus' current take on the GTX 280, let's take a look at the reference board's new architecture. If you were disappointed with NVIDIA's ninth generation of GeForce graphics cards — which were a minor evolution at best — then the GeForce 200 Series should definitely make amends. With a whopping 1.4 billion transistors, it is currently the largest chip that NVIDIA has ever produced. (By contrast, the 9800 GTX — NVIDIA's previous big daddy — only had 754 million transistors). The flagship GTX 280 version sports 240 stream processors and a 512-bit memory bus, plus a full gigabyte of GDDR3 memory. In practice, this allows gamers to max out settings and resolutions in the latest games while still maintaining playable frame rates.

As mentioned above, Asus has also made some additional tweaks to the reference board for an added boost to performance. The core clock has been increased from 602MHz to 670MHz, while the memory clock now sits at 2.4GHz (up from 2.2GHz). The shader clock has also received a substantial boost, leaping from 1296MHz to 1460MHz. Having not tested the standard GTX 280 board, we can't comment on how significant these speed boosts are in practice, but for the record Asus claims an improvement of 12 per cent. In any event, the ENGTX280 TOP is certainly the fastest graphics card we've ever looked at. No other card has come close to matching it in our benchmarks.

Benchmark results

In 3DMark06, the ENGTX280 TOP received an overall score of 12725. This was a somewhat unspectacular improvement over Gigabyte's GeForce 9800 GTX (GV-NX98X512H-B), which received an overall score of 12074 — a difference of just 651 marks. Thankfully, our gaming tests delivered more favourable results.

When we ran the game F.E.A.R., the ENGTX280 TOP returned an average frame rate of 154fps (frames per second.) The 9800 GTX, on the other hand, only managed 80fps on the same test bed. In the system-hogging DirectX 10 game Crysis, the ENGTX280 TOP averaged 37.32fps, which is one of the fastest results we've seen from this game with maximum settings enabled. (ATI's current flagship offering, the ATI Radeon HD 4870, was almost half as fast; it managed an average frame rate of just 20.5fps.) The DX10 version of the game Lost Planet: Extreme Conditions returned a phenomenal frame rate of 97.5fps, compared to the 9800 GTX's 32fps. In our Call of Juarez DX10 demo, the ENGTX280 TOP averaged 50.9fps; an improvement of nearly 20fps over the 9800 GTX.

It's clear from these results that the ENGTX280 TOP is one serious performer, but it's also prohibitively expensive. For the same price, you could buy two ATI Radeon HD 4870s and combine them in a CrossFire configuration. It might therefore be advisable to wait a few months until this card comes down in price. On the plus side, Asus has thrown in a leather CD booklet and mouse mat in an attempt to sweeten the deal. The product also ships with ASUS' Gamer OSD utility, an overclocking tool that allows you to adjust clock speeds in-game as well as capture videos of game footage. (Curiously though, Asus has neglected to include an HDMI adaptor in the sales package.)

Design & power consumption

GeForce graphics cards are typically a bit larger than their Radeon equivalents, and the ENGTX280 TOP is no exception. With overall dimensions of 110x270x38mm, it's going to be a tight fit for smaller PC cases — especially if you plan to set up an SLI configuration. Furthermore, the card requires both an 8-pin and 6-pin PCIe power connector to run, which makes installing multiple boards all the more cumbersome. (With that being said, most prospective buyers of the ENGTX280 TOP will own a gaming PC with plenty of room for components.)

If you're conscious about power consumption, then the ENGTX280 TOP (HTDP/1G/A) will give you another reason to smile. Despite being one of the most powerful cards on the market, its idle power consumption stands at just 25 Watts. (This is thanks to the inclusion of clock-gating circuitry, which shuts down certain parts of the GPU during non-peak usage.)

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