Asus ENGTX260 Matrix Reviewccokeman - May 26, 2009
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Just because you put that shiny new graphics card into your computer does not mean that it will work as intended right off the bat. For that to happen you need to install the drivers to make it work correctly. To do this, insert the supplied driver disc, or better yet, go on over to nVidia's website to download the latest drivers for your specific operating system and hardware. This way you have the latest game and performance fixes. Start the install by choosing the auto run feature if using the disc or double clicking the file you downloaded from nVidia and it will run. Make the choices that are applicable and then click finish and you will need to restart the computer to finish the installation process.
Once the drivers are installed you have access to the nVidia control panel. Here is where you can adjust the performance and visual quality settings to the level you like. The first tab is labeled "3D Settings." The first section "Adjust image settings with Preview" offers pretty granular adjustments for performance vs quality. The second section allows for fine adjustments by and adjusting by application. A new feature in this section is Ambient Occlusion. This feature is added with the 185 series drivers. What this feature does is simulate shadows where ambient lighting should be blocked by an object. Something as simple as a pay phone on a wall will have its shadow cast on the wall when rendered with this option enabled. You can see examples of this in use on the Extras page. The last part of this section is the option to enable or disable PhysX.
The second section is strictly about managing the display. Setting the resolution, flat panel scaling, custom resolutions and managing the color profiles are all done here.
Last in line on this installation is the video and television settings. If you had the Geforce 3D Vision installed on your system this option would be available to you.
Asus has included a couple of handy applications to make the experience of owning the ENGTX2260 Matrix a little more satisfying. The first is iTracker, which allows you to not only monitor temperatures, but power consumption. Another of its uses is for overclocking the Matrix. For this it is well equipped, allowing clock speed adjustments for the memory, shader cores and the GPU. Fan speed adjustment can be set up using defined temperature profiles or you can manually adjust the speed. Additionally there are several predefined overclocking profiles but these offer little in the way of a really measurable performance increase. One thing that we all do is up the voltage to stabilize the overclocks on the CPU and system memory so it makes sense that the GPU can benefit as well. Under the user defined tab you can adjust the clock speeds fan control and adjust the voltage to suite your needs.
Gamer OSD is a handy little tool to let you record in game video or screen shots. There are three distinct tabs. The first is capture mode that allows you to capture or record a video in game. The second tab allows the user to setup hot keys for common tasks used with the app.The last tab is used to view the movies and screen shots you have captured.
There are a few technologies that can be used with nVidia graphics cards to take advantage of the massive performance potential designed into the company's cards. First off there is CUDA, a programming language that takes advantage of the parallel computing power of the nVidia GPU. There are already many applications that take advantage of this technology. Badaboom from Elemental Technologies uses the technology to reduce the time it takes to convert media files between different formats. There is Arcsoft's Total Media Theatre that uses CUDA technology to upscale video to HD levels by leveraging the performance of the GPU to increase the frame rate to a steady 30 plus FPS. When run in the compare mode, CPU usage peaks in the high 80+ percent range and offers reduced performance. When using CUDA technology to get the GPU to do the work, the CPU load drops to the 2 to 3% range, resulting in far superior performance.
One of the other application that uses the technology is one that is near and dear to our hearts, Folding@Home. What this program does, is use the parallel computing power of the nVidia GPU to simulate protein "folding." What is this, you ask? Well, when proteins don't fold correctly the result is some really heinous diseases such as cancer, Alzheimer's, BSE (Mad Cow), and Cystic Fibrosis. By simulating how chains of amino acids fold or misfold, researchers hope to find cures for these diseases and more. You can find more information here. If you decide to join the ranks of the people looking for a cure, make sure you select team 12772.
One enhancement that nVidia has had success with is PhysX technology. This technology is used to enable a more realistic gaming experience. Glass that shatters and stays in the environment instead of just fading away into the floor, curtains and cloth that move realistically and react to impacts and the wind, realistic smoke and bullet fragments and ricochets that do more than just flash on a wall. All of these things are visual enhancements that PhysX acceleration brings to the table. As of the end of 2008, there were three major game manufacturers committed to developing games using PhysX technology. These manufacturers are Take Two Interactive, Electronic Arts and THQ. As time goes by there are even more jumping on the Physx bandwagon. One of the latest is Cryostasis from 1C games. Developed by Action Frames and distributed by 505 games, this game takes Physx effects to a new level with water that is simulated using smoothed particle hydrodynamics.