Asus ENGTX275 Review

ccokeman - 2009-06-15 22:30:08 in Video Cards
Category: Video Cards
Reviewed by: ccokeman   
Reviewed on: July 9, 2009
Price: $249.99

Introduction:

When the dual-PCB GTX 295 debuted back in January, you knew right away that nVidia was more than likely going to make a card that fell between the GTX 280 and GTX 260 to capture that price and performance point. If it was not obvious, you just were not thinking hard enough! Lo and behold, April 2, 2009 the GTX 275 made its debut at a price point below that of the GTX 280/285, offering performance almost on par with it and meant to compete with ATI's HD4890 launched at the same time. Coincidence? I think not! But here we are two months later with ASUS's rendition of the GTX 275.

The ASUS ENGTX275 is a combination of the GTX 260 and GTX 280, using 240 shader cores under the heatspreader from the GTX 280 and 896MB of GDDR3 memory running on a 448-bit BUS straight from the GTX 260. Clock speeds on this ASUS variant are the stock clock speeds of 633MHz on the core, 1404MHz on the shader processors and 1134MHz on the memory. One thing the ASUS variant features is the use of their "Ultimate Armaments". These "armaments" are basically components used to improve on the reference design and provide a video card that can run cooler, longer and more efficiently. Let's take a look and see if the ENGTX275 construction is a benefit and whether or not it allows for more overclocking than the reference design.

Closer Look:

The ASUS ENGTX275 features the same artwork used on the ENGTX285 TOP from ASUS I looked at just a few short months ago. The front panel features a medieval warrior challenging an opponent to battle. Once you get away from the artwork, which looks much like something Frank Frazetta might have painted, some of the features of the ENGTX275 can be seen. These include the fact that this card is built with ASUS's "Ultimate Armaments" to improve reliability, efficiency and reduce the thermal output of the components. HDMI is supported via an adapter and the card can make use of nVidia's Physx technology. The rear panel contains additional information about the features of the ENGTX275, as well as the included software utilities, including Smart Doctor and the Gamer OSD. Once you open the packaging you find that it is just a sleeve that houses the inner box holding the card and bundle.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The inner package is in black and features the ASUS logo in gold. This box is split up into compartments housing the documentation and driver disk, the adapters and last, but not least, the ENGTX275.

 

 

 

Documentation for the ENGTX275 includes a driver and utilities disk, a disk that has the manual in multiple languages, a quick setup guide, a coupon for 10% off a game, and information about connecting the card using the digital SPDIF output to deliver sound via HDMI. Lastly is the information about ASUSs Xonar audio cards. For connectivity, you get a dual 4-pin to 6-pin PCIe power adapter, the 2-pin SPDIF cable, an HDTV output, DVI to D-sub and HDMI adapters. With this pacakge, you should be able to make a connection to practically any display of your choosing.

 

 

Now that you have seen how the card is delivered and what is included with the ENGTX275, it's time to look at the card to see what sets it apart from the rest.

 

Closer Look:

The ENGTX275 is a full size video card for use in 16x PCIe slots and is PCIE 2.0 compatible. Built upon the GT200 core, the ENGTX275 has 240 shader cores and 896MB of GDDR3 memory on a 448-bit BUS. Clock speeds are nVidia reference default speeds of 633MHz on the core, 1404MHz on the shaders and 1134MHz on the GDDR3 memory. The cooling solution used on the ENGTX275 looks to be the reference design used all the way back to the 8800GTS. If it works, why change it? The cooling solution will take up two slots, while the card physically uses only one. The front of the ENGTX275 features the same artwork seen on the front panel of the packaging, giving some continuity throughout the design. The black PCB makes for a sinister looking card when combined with a motherboard or system painted in black.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Getting the ENGTX275 connected to the display of your choice can happen in several ways. The ENGTX275 features two Dual-link DVI outputs; the yellow one is used when making a connection via HDMI coupled with the DVI to HDMI adapter supplied by ASUS. The rear of the card is covered with the heatsink shroud and is open to allow air to flow through this area. If run in SLI mode, the front face of the card is obstructed, making this airflow option pretty much mandatory. ASUS has protected the outputs to keep anything from damaging them while in transit. Just an extra little touch to keep the card safe.

 

 

By popping the cooler off the card (sounds so easy, doesn't it?), you can take a look at the details of the card to find out just what kind of components are used in its construction. ASUS has built this card with what it calls the "Ultimate Armaments". Just what is this? It is using higher quality components than the reference design to deliver what should be a card that lasts longer, getting you more value for your dollar. Lower RDS(on) mosfets that run cooler, solid capacitors, covered chokes and shielded DVI connections are part of the program. The shielded DVI connections even have the ASUS logo embossed on them.

 

 

Like just about every gamer-class card, the ENGTX275 uses additional power over what is supplied via the PCIe slot. The ENGTX275 is no different; it uses two 6-pin PCIe ports for power. Next to the power connections is the digital sound input to be used with the HDMI adapter. On the front end of the card you can see by the dual SLI bridge connections that the ENGTX275 is capable of running in Tri-SLI mode for an increase in performance.

 

 

Once you strip away the cooling and thermal paste you can get a good look at the massive GPU core. The GT200 core used on this card is a B3 revision using 240 shader cores, 28 ROPs and 896MB of GDDR3 memory. The memory used on the ENGTX275 is from Samsung and is rated for operation at 1200MHz, which this set did handily. Cooling is handled by the reference cooler that looks virtually untouched externally from those used for several lines now. The cooling solution is a hybrid copper-aluminum piece using heatpipes from the copper contact plate to the aluminum fin array.

 

 

 

Let's see if the "Ultimate Armaments" make a difference in the short term by overclocking it, and long term by putting this card into the farm, folding for a cure 24/7!

 

Closer Look:

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. In doing so, you guarantee that you have the latest game and performance fixes available. Start the install by choosing the autorun feature if using the disc or double clicking the file you downloaded from nVidia. 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 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 are the video and television settings. If you had the Geforce 3D Vision installed on your system, this option would be available to you as well.

 

 

Once the drivers are installed, you can move on to the utilities to install those most appropriate for your usage. ASUS Smart Doctor is a tool that can be used as a monitoring tool, as well as an overclocking tool. The adjustments are made by clicking the Settings tab. This window has four tabs: Settings, Monitor, Fan Control and Hyper Drive.

 

 

 

 

Gamer OSD is a handy little tool to let you record in-game video or screenshots. There are three distinct tabs. The first is capture mode, which allows you to capture or record a video in game. The second tab allows the user to set up hot keys for common tasks used with the app. The last tab is used to view the movies and screenshots 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 them. 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+ 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 applications that uses the technology is one that is near and dear to our hearts here at OCC, 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 disease, 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.

 

 

 

Specifications:

Graphics Engine
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 275
Bus Standard    
PCI Express 2.0
Video Memory
DDR3 896MB
Engine Clock
633 MHz

Shader Clock

1404 MHz
Memory Clock
2.268 GHz ( 1.134 GHz DDR3 )
Memory Interface
448-bit
CRT Max Resolution
2048 x 1536
DVI Max Resolution
2560 x 1600
D-Sub Output
Yes x 1 (via DVI to D-Sub adaptor x 1 )
DVI Output
Yes x 2 (DVI-I)
HDMI Output
Yes x 1 (via DVI to HDMI adaptor x 1 )
HDTV Output
(YPbPr) Yes
HDCP Support
Yes
TV Output
Yes (YPbPr to S-Video and Composite)
Adapter/Cable Bundled
1 x DVI to D-Sub adaptor
1 x DVI to HDMI adaptor
1 x HDTV-out cable
1 x Power cable
1 x S/PDIF cable
Software Bundled
ASUS Utilities & Driver
Note
The card size is 4.376 inches x 10.5 inches

 

Features:

ASUS Features:

Graphics GPU Features:

 

 

 

All information courtesy of ASUS @ http://www.asus.com/product.aspx?P_ID=BfSAh52Gi44cG8uQ&templete=2

Testing:

Testing the ASUS ENGTX275 will consist of running the card through the Overclockersclub.com suite of games and synthetic benchmarks and comparing it against many popular competitors to gauge its performance. The games used are some of today's popular titles to give you an idea on how the cards perform relative to each other. The system specifications will remain the same throughout the testing. No adjustment will be made to the respective control panels during the testing with the exception of the 3DMark Vantage testing where Physx will be disabled in the nVidia control panel. I will test the ENGTX275 at both stock speeds and then overclocked to see how much additional performance is available when you choose to overclock the card. Comparisons will be made against the performance of its contemporaries on both sides of the fence.

 

Comparison Video Cards:

 

Overclocking:

Overclocked settings:

To get the most out of any video card, you have to keep it cool! With that rule in mind and not having an LN2 pot hanging around, the only option I had was to increase the fan speed to 100% to keep the ENGTX275 as cool as possible during testing. After bumping the fan speed up, I started by pushing the GPU core up in 20MHz steps until it would lock up in testing. I followed suit with the shaders and memory to find their limits. Once the limits were found, it was a matter of getting the three parameters to work together. I ended up with solid increases on all three speeds. 731MHz on the core is a 98MHz increase over the stock 633MHz. The shaders offered a bump of 124MHz and the memory was the big winner with a huge bump of 172MHz. This overclock delivered solid increases in performance allowing this card to deliver performance almost equal to that of the ENGTX285 TOP, a factory overclocked card also from ASUS.

 

  1. Far Cry 2
  2. Crysis Warhead
  3. BioShock
  4. Call of Duty: World at War
  5. Dead Space
  6. Fallout 3
  7. Left 4 Dead
  8. 3DMark 06 Professional
  9. 3DMark Vantage

 

Testing:

Far Cry 2:

Featuring a new game engine named Dunia, this game looks to be another one to stress your video card. Built specially for Far Cry 2, this engine allows for real-time effects and damage. This next generation first-person shooter comes to us from Ubisoft, surprisingly - not from Crytek. The game is set in a war-torn region of Africa where there is a non-existent central government and the chaos that surrounds this type of social environment. If you have seen the movie Blood Diamond, you know the setting. Ubisoft puts the main storyline of the game into focus with these statements: "Caught between two rival factions in war-torn Africa, you are sent to take out "The Jackal," a mysterious character who has rekindled the conflict between the warlords, jeopardizing thousands of lives. In order to fulfill your mission you will have to play the factions against each other, identify and exploit their weaknesses, and neutralize their superior numbers and firepower with surprise, subversion, cunning and, of course, brute force." In this Far Cry game, you don't have the beautiful water, but instead the beauty and harshness of the African continent to contend with. Most games give you a set area that can be played through, while Ubisoft has given the gamer the equivalent of 50km2 of the vast African continent to explore while in pursuit of your goals. The settings used are just a few steps below the maximum in-game settings and offer a good blend of performance vs. visual quality.

 

Settings:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The ENGTX275 is a card that runs at factory default clock speeds so the results are almost spot on with the other GTX 275 cards in the testing. Compared against the Sapphire Vapor-X 4890, the maximum FPS differential is 2 at both 1920x1200 and 2560x1600. It falls short against the ASUS ENGTX285 TOP, even when overclocked.

 

 

Testing:

Crysis Warhead is a standalone expansion pack situated in time with the storyline of the original Crysis. As Sergeant "Psycho" Sykes, you have a secret mission to accomplish on the far side of the island. Along the way there are EMP blasts and Aliens to contend with, as you hunt down the KPA chief. This game uses an enhanced version of the CryEngine 2.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The scores here in Crysis Warhead are very similar between the HD 4890s and the GTX 275s across all four resolutions.

 

Testing:

BioShock is one of the creepier games you can play. The building of a perfect Utopian society undersea gone horribly wrong. Its inhabitants driven mad with the introduction of tonics and genetic modifications. Now Rapture is just a shadow of its former glory with little girls looting the dead of what little they have left while being shadowed by guardians known as "Big Daddys". It is a demanding game that will make your hardware scream for mercy. This first-person shooter allows for an infinite number of weapons and modifications to provide a unique experience each time it is played. The environment, as well as the storyline, will wrap you up for hours on end.

 

Video Settings:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The ENGTX275 offers performance in line with the other cards in its class. When compared to the latest from ATI, the GTX 275 outperforms the HD 4890 across the board. BioShock is a game that is getting older now, but is still useful based on the fact that it shows a distinct performance difference with each class of video cards.

Testing:

Activision's Call Of Duty: World at War goes right back to the bread and butter of the franchise - WWII FPS action. In this rendition, you start off in the South Pacific and move through a series of missions that flip back and forth between the Russian front and the island hopping advance toward the Imperial Japanese homeland. Included is a mission on Peliliu Island, arguably one of the more difficult and costly battles in the Pacific theater. The gameplay in the single player mode is rather short, but the game makes up for this shortcoming in online gameplay. If you thought COD4 looked nice, this game is amazing with the graphics maxed out playing at a large resolution. This game just may be my reason to move to a 30-inch monitor. I will use Fraps to measure a section of gameplay in the Semper Fi map on Makin Island to compare performance of these video cards.

Settings:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Call of Duty: World at War shows the ENGTX275 performing better than the HD 4890 in 3 out of 4 resolutions, but still a large margin below the ENGTX285 TOP. The difference between the capabilities of the ENGTX275 and 260 are clearly evident.

 

Testing:

In Dead Space, as part of the crew of the USG Kellion you are headed on a repair mission to repair a ship in distress. Things go from bad to worse, starting with the crash landing of the seemingly silent and "dead" ship, the USG Ishimuru. Offering a non-traditional, over-the-shoulder viewing angle, the game gets right into the action as soon as the ventilation systems are activated. From there things get worse with the appearance of the Necromorphs. Survival now becomes a primary concern for the primary character Isaac Clarke. Survive and you may find the loved one that was aboard the Ishimuru.

Settings:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Performance in Dead Space is playable in all four resolutions with the maximum in-game settings. As a game that works better with nVidia cards, the performance of the ATi's top single GPU card falls short against the ENGTX275. Overclocking yields significant improvements, driving performance up to the level of the factory overclocked GTX 285.

 

Testing:

Fallout 3 takes place after the nuclear holocaust that nearly wipes out civilization and leaves the world an irradiated mess. The vault, or fallout shelter, you are born in is Vault 101, situated in the Washington DC, Maryland and Virginia area. The premise of the game is that the Vault has been sealed for 200 years and now your father has opened the vault and escaped without a trace. The Overseer believes you are involved, so you must escape as well into the wasteland that was once our nation's capital. I find myself looking for landmarks since I am familiar with the streets of Washington DC.

Settings:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The ENGTX275 holds a consistent 2+ FPS lead over the performance of the HD 4890 in all four resolutions. Fallout 3 does not show a lot of separation between cards in a similar performance envelope.

 

Testing:

Left 4 Dead is a new release from Valve that leaves you as part of a group of survivors in a world where an infection has rapidly turned the populace into a zombie horde. Your goal is to make it to a rescue point, all while fighting what seems like overwhelming odds. Along the way there are safe houses where you can replenish your weapons and health. The movie "I Am Legend" comes to mind to set the stage for this game. But unlike the movie, there are four characters and not just a lone gun and his faithful companion. The horde is not at all like the typical slow walking, foot shuffling zombies. These zombies are quick and work with pack mentality. You have but one job; survival!

Settings:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Even at 2560x1600, the ENGTX275 offers playable frame rates above those delivered by the HD 4890s. In all four resolutions, there is a definite performance advantage with nVidia cards.

 

Testing:

3DMark06 is one of the benchmarks that always comes up when a bragging contest begins. 3DMark06 presents a severe test for many of today's hardware components. Let's see how this setup fares. The settings we will use are listed below.

 

Settings:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

From 1280x1024 to 1920x1200, the HD 4890 offers up higher benchmark scores. Not until 2560x1600 does the ENGTX275 pull ahead of the HD 4890. Overclocking brought the ENGTX275's performance up to that delivered by the GTX 285. At 1280x1024, the ENGTX275 is a bit CPU-limited, so I bumped the CPU up to 4.1GHz and the clock speeds on the card and promptly hit 21,000 points in this benchmark; a 4,000 point jump.

 

Testing:

Featuring all-new game tests, this benchmark is for use with Vista-based systems. "There are two all-new CPU tests that have been designed around a new 'Physics and Artificial Intelligence-related computation.' CPU test two offers support for physics related hardware." There are four preset levels that correspond to specific resolutions. "Entry" is 1024x768 progressing to "Extreme" at 1920x1200. Of course, each preset can be modified to arrange any number of user designed testing. For our testing, I will use the four presets at all default settings.

 Settings:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The performance of the three GTX 275 video cards clearly stands out from the rest of the crowd. Performance of the reference GTX 275 and the ENGTX275 are almost identical, while the overclocked version performed slightly better.

 

Conclusion:

The ASUS ENGTX275 is a card that performs well, and for the majority of tests does better than the HD 4890, its direct competition. The ENGTX275 is built using the latest construction technologies that incorporate ASUS's "Ultimate Armaments". These are meant to deliver a video card that works longer, cooler and more efficiently. Whether the "Ultimate Armaments" does what ASUS claims is still up in the air, as the long term reliability cannot be measured in the time frame available for this review. But rest assured, it will go into a folding rig to test this theory out, running maxed 24/7 to see if I can indeed find the limits of the construction. When it came to overclocking the ENGTX275, I was pleased with the results I was able to get from this card; 730MHz on the GPU core, 1525MHz on the shaders, and 1306MHz on the memory, making this the highest overclocking GTX 275 I have used. While not absolutely stellar results, the clock speed increase is stable in all the games tested, not just a really pretty screenshot. I can OC this card quite a bit higher, but it is far from the stability needed to run through an extended benchmark session. By overclocking, I was able to come close to the performance delivered by the ASUS GTX 285 TOP. Pretty solid gains! Priced at around $250, the ENGTX275 is about $25 to $35 higher than the HD 4890s that are currently available. Pricing is almost a wash and with nVidia constantly cutting prices, the GTX 275 may be next. The utilities that ASUS provide are functional and work well. Smart Doctor allows you to overclock this card just as well as any other utility out there. Its options are clear and easy to understand for the novice, yet provide good functionality for the more experienced person. The ASUS ENGTX275 offers the expected performance at stock levels and shows substantial performance gains when pushed. There probably is not a game out that cannot be played with the ENGTX275 with the right combination of settings to allow you a great mix of playable frame rates and the eye candy we so love.

 

Pros:

 

Cons: