ASUS ENGT430 Reviewccokeman - October 11, 2010
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The ASUS ENGT430 is based on NVIDIA's Fermi modular architecture and is the latest card to spin out of the confines of their R&D labs. This series of cards is marketed towards the majority of the PC market that are not hard core gamers. But rather, people who use their computers for everyday chores such as photo and video editing, casual gaming or manipulating HD content. This type of PC is more commonly known as the Digital Media PC and is much more numerous than the full-on gaming PC by a factor of over two times. As mentioned, the GT430 is based on NVIDIA's GF 108 Fermi core. This card is diminutive in size but is equipped with the latest technologies and offers full DirectX 11 support. This card also supports many of the NVIDIA core technologies such as CUDA, PhysX and 3D Vision. On the front of the ENGT430 you see the large heat sink that covers the majority of the PCB. In front of the heatsink are the covered chokes and solid capacitors that run cooler and more efficiently while minimizing power loss for long-term stability and hopefully some overclocking headroom. This card (much like its larger brethren) is equipped with ASUS's Double Overcurrent protection that uses a fuse in addition to the OCP to add a second layer of electrical protection. This fuse is visible on the front side of the PCB just to the left of the fan power connection. The back side contains nothing but decals and small surface mount components. In the as-delivered configuration, the ENGT430 uses the standard mounting bracket.
Connectivity comes in the form of a single Dual Link DVI connection, a single VGA port and single HDMI port. With the 260 driver release, NVIDIA has added bitstreaming support for Dolby True HD and DTS HD Master Audio over HDMI as well as the HDMI 1.4 standard. If you are planning on using this card as part of your HTPC, you are down to a single connection to get the job of transferring high definition video and sound. The back end of the card is missing a power connection. This card really does not need one to get the job done and pulls all of its required power through the PCIe slot on the motherboard. With a 49 watt TDP the recommended power supply is 300 watts in size. Something just about any modern pre-built computer would likely be equipped with as a minimum. Something else missing is an SLI bridge connection on the PCB as SLI is not supported on this series. The heat sink sits partially off the back end of the PCB allowing more airflow across the assembly for cooler operating temperatures.
The heat sink used on the ENGT430 is a non-reference design that uses a small 40mm fan to provide airflow to help dissipate the thermal load of the GF 108 GPU. The heat sink is a finned aluminum piece that extends off the back end of the card. The thermal paste used on this card is reminiscent of some of the pads used on cards I reviewed a while back, where it is almost impossible to remove. The thermal pad allows the heatsink to do its job but makes the process of removing the heat sink to replace the thermal paste a real chore.
The fan used is made by Delta and is part number EFB0412HHA that is rated for operation at 7000 RPM with a noise penalty of 33dBA. This Delta fan is a "Dust Proof" design that is said to improve the lifespan of the card by not faltering in a dusty environment (which we all live in). The fan is twice-sealed to keep dust out and this design is said to increase the lifespan of the fan by as much as 25% with a MTBF of 50,000 hours. Fan failure can take out a video card prematurely so this enhancement is a welcome addition to this card from ASUS.
A feature seen on this card is the inclusion of a set of low profile brackets that allow you to put the ENGT430 into a low profile HTPC case without having to chop up the existing bracket to make it work. This does however, mean that you will be using two expansion slots instead of just one (you have to relocate the VGA port from the single bracket to the port on the low profile bracket). This feature opens up chassis selection options so that you can use something that fits into your entertainment rack without standing out like a sore thumb.
The graphics core used on the ENGT430 is a latest variant of the Fermi architecture, the GF 108. This GPU is built using a 40nm build process and contains 585 million transistors, a far cry from the three Billion in the flagship GTX 480. The GF 108 GPU consists of one Graphics Processing Cluster with two streaming multi processors, 96 CUDA cores,16 texture units and four ROP units. If you pay attention to the picture of the GPU, you can see what looks like liquid at all four corners. This is not liquid but glue and is another of ASUS's enhancements to their video card lineup called "GPU Guard". What this process does is increase the structural rigidity of the video card by as much a 238% over the life of the card. When not equipped with a type of cooler that prevents board flex, this technology is used instead to provide a similar type of protection. A change to GDDR3 was made for this series of cards. The GT 430 is equipped with a total of 1GB of on-board memory running through two 64bit controllers (128bit bus). The memory on this card is made by Hynix with part number H5TQ1G63BFA. This memory is rated for operation at 800MHz using 1.5v. I will be curious to see how high this memory will clock. Clock speeds on the combo come in at 700MHz on the "Fixed Function Units", 1400MHz on the 96 CUDA cores and 800MHz on the 1GB frame buffer.
Let's face it, ASUS has put together a neat little card that additionally has features like proprietary Xtreme Design tweaks to make it a card designed to perform better and last longer.