Asus ENGTX285 TOP Review

ccokeman - 2009-01-13 14:21:00 in Video Cards
Category: Video Cards
Reviewed by: ccokeman   
Reviewed on: January 15, 2009
Price: $399

Introduction:

Here we are again, another video card launch from Nvidia. Anyone notice a pattern emerging or is it just me? ATI has enjoyed some success with its 4000 series cards but Nvidia has not laid down. The company has enjoyed success with its GTX 260 cards, followed by the GTX 280, and most recently the GTX 295. Currently, Nvidia is once again holding the performance crown and is now adding another card to its arsenal of firepower. Today we will be looking at the GTX 285 and we will find out exactly where this card fits into the mix when it comes to performance and pricing.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Closer Look:

The front panel features the Asus logo, the card name and several of the features of the GTX285. There is an advertisement for coupons that allows a 10% discount on five games with the purchase of the GTX 285. The warrior on the front looks like something straight from the mind of Frank Frazetta. The back panel lists the features as well as several included proprietary applications for use with the GTX 285. The front panel flips up to go into greater detail about the functionality of the Gamer OSD and Smart Doctor applications.

 

 

Once you open the box it looks as though Asus made some huge changes in the way the contents are sent to the consumer. Gone is the nondescript white box and in its place is a black ridged box with the Asus logo in gold. That theme continues through the accessory boxes with the GTX285 hidden under the documentation box. The ENGTX285 is packed tightly in foam and wrapped in an anti-static bag to prevent any shipping or ESD damage.

 

 

 

Asus usually includes a fairly decent bundle with its high end cards and this one is no different. Included with this bundle are the driver and manual discs as well as a leather mouse pad with the Asus logo. The hardware includes a dual 4-pin Molex to 6-pin PCI-E adapter, S/PDIF sound cable to go from the motherboard to the GPU, an HDTV dongle, DVD to D-Sub adapter and last, but not least, the DVI to HDMI adapter.

 

 

Let's get a little more intimate with the ENGTX285.

 

Closer Look:

If you know what the GTX 280 looks like then you have an idea as to how the GTX285 looks like as they are nearly identical from the outside view. What's not obvious are the differences that lie under the reference heatsink. The biggest of which is the switch to a 55nm process that should make the GTX285 more efficient than the GTX 280 by reducing power consumption. The ENGTX285 TOP features 240 Stream Processing Cores and 1GB of GDDR3 that runs through a 512bit bus. The clock speeds for this card come in at 670MHz on the GT200 core, the 240 Stream Processors run at 1550MHz and the memory runs at an astounding 1300MHz. The reference design heatsink will take up an additional expansion slot.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The GTX285 features the same connectivity options as the rest of the GT2xx series cards save the 295. That being two dual link DVI ports and an HDTV out. The rear of the card is mostly unchanged, although the heatsink assembly now extends almost through the rear of the GTX285. This still leaves airflow to each card a little less than optimal in an SLI or TRI SLI configuration. The ENGTX285 includes a DVI to HDMI adapter so that you can output the video as well as the sound through a single connection as long as you connect the S/PDIF connection to the digital sound out header on the motherboard or sound card. The heatsink assembly can be seen through the fan assembly, something a little new here.

 

 

One thing that stands out like a sore thumb in comparison to the GTX 280 are the power connections. Whereas the GTX 280 used 8-pin and 6-pin PCI-E connectors to provide power, the GTX285 uses a 2x6-pin arrangement. That alone shows that the extra power is not needed with the smaller process on the GT200 core. Next to the power connector is the 2-pin S/PDIF input connection. The Asus ENGTX285 TOP is TRI SLI capable just as the rest of the GT200 series cards are. The dual bridge connections are covered to protect them while not in use. With the clock speeds this card is running, SLI or TRI SLI should offer a substantial increase in performance.

 

 

Asus has covered all of the connection points except the power and SLI bridge connections with a protective cover. These, of course, should be removed before you try and install the GTX285 in your system.

 

 

Let's get this beast installed and see if it provides an improvement over the previous generation.

 

Closer Look:

No matter what, you will need to install a new set of drivers to get this card to function as it is intended to do. The drivers included on the disc are 180.47, so I downloaded and installed the latest drivers. The Asus driver and utility disk is where you can find the driver if you choose to use the driver that comes with the GTX285. The utilities that are available for install are the Gamer OSD, Smart Doctor and the the Video Security suite. You can choose to install all or none of them. I chose the Gamer OSD and Smart Doctor as those applications would prove most beneficial for my purpose.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Gamer OSD is an application that allows you to view video and capture screen shots either in game or while watching a movie.

 

Smart Doctor is an application that allows you to tailor the monitoring of your card to your specific needs while providing added functionality. Unfortunately, the power monitoring function did not work for me. I have shown all of the tabs available under this application so you get a general idea of what it looks like.

 

 

 

If the default level of performance or visual quality is not up to your expectations, you can use nVidia's Control Panel to modify some options in this regard. There are a bunch of different tabs where adjustments can be done, though I will only take you through a few of the ones I find important to gamers among us. The Manage 3D Settings tab allows the Global (all situations) settings to be tailored to your liking, whether you want to gear the system toward performance or quality. Under this tab are some game specific settings as well. There are also pre-made profiles that can be adjusted to activate all the eye candy or to minimize the settings in order to get higher framerates, although that most likely won't be a problem with the pair of cards on the bench today. The choice is all yours. This is also where you activate SLI.

 

 

 

Specifications:

GPU
GTX 285
Fabrication Process
55 nm
Number of Transistors
1.4 Billion

Graphics Clock (Including dispatch, texture units, and ROP units)

 
670 MHz
Processor Clock (Processor Cores)
1550 MHz
Processor Cores
240

Memory Clock (Clock rate / Data rate)

1,300 MHz / 2,600 MHz
Memory Interface
512 bit
Total Memory Bandwidth
171.5 GB/s
Memory Size
1 GB
ROPs
32
Texture Filtering Units
80
Texture Filtering Rate
51.8 GigaTexels/sec
HDCP Support
Yes
HDMI Support
Yes (Using DVI-to-HDMI adaptor)
Connectors
2 x Dual-Link DVI-I 1 x 7-pin HDTV Out
RAMDACs
400 MHz
Bus Technology
PCI Express 2.0
Form Factor
Dual Slot
Power Connectors
2 x 6-pin
Max Board Power
183 watts
GPU Thermal Threshold1
105° C

 

Features:

Testing:

At OverclockersClub.com, we use a set of benchmarks to stress the graphics card. We will use a series of gaming benchmarks, some that are more seasoned, to show how well the GTX285 really compares to some of the other enthusiast video cards on the market. I will be using both single and multiple GPU models to compare the performance of the Asus ENGTX285. All driver settings and clock speeds will be left at factory defaults for both the CPU and GPU in an effort to minimize or eliminate any variables that could impact the results. The test system used in this review is listed below. After testing the card at stock speeds, I'll overclock it to see what kind of performance can be gained. In the past our test systems have been run at the default clock speeds of the installed processor but with the latest video cards showing little improvement when run with the CPU and memory at the stock settings, we have done just what we should have a while back. That is to overclock our processor to a safe, achievable overclock with our new test setup. Going forward, all of the testing will be run on this platform. The processor is an Intel Core I7 920 that has had a little bump up to 3.0GHz with six gigabytes of system memory. All testing is done with the default settings in the respective control panels. For this round of testing, our drivers have been updated to 180.87 for the Nvidia cards and Catalyst 8.12 for the ATI video cards used in this review. The exception being the testing done with the GTX295 and GTX285, which are using the latest 181.20 driver.

 

Comparison Video Cards:

 

Overclocking:

Overclocked settings:

The Asus GTX285 TOP is a factory overclocked video card and that usually means little headroom exists above the clock speeds that the manufacturer has tested and guaranteed. This is the case in this example as well with only a 37MHz increase over the 670MHz core clock speed and 40MHz on the GDDR3 memory. I was just a bit disappointed with the clock speeds that I was able to get from the card. Increasing the fan speed did not give me any higher clocks so I ran the benchmarks at the clock speeds listed above. Initially, the overclocking looked promising but I had to drop the clock speeds down to the point where it would pass 3DMark 06 at 723/1350MHz. The game stable overclock was 5.5% on the GPU core and less than 5% on the memory, which is already set to run at a massive 1300MHz.

 

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

 

 

Unfortunately, our testing at 2560x1600 was not accomplished in time for this review. The monitor was set up and ready to go but when I powered it up it was just a kaleidoscope of colors. The monitor appeared to have had a nice bit of hidden damage in shipping and was just not replaced in time for this article. Look for a followup with testing at 2560x1600.

 

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 version of the 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 GTX 285 performs better than the best performing single GPU card by at least five frames per second at the top end of the scale.

Testing:

Crysis Warhead is a standalone expansion pack situated in time with the story line 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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

At the settings used in the testing, the GTX 285 still delivers less than playable frame rates in all three solutions. No surprises on that regard. By reducing the eye candy you can get this game playable with some AA.

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 story line will wrap you up for hours on end.

 

Video Settings:

 

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bioshock is a little bit of a letdown with the GTX 285 as it was slower than its predecessor, the GTX 280, in this test. After five runs that repeated almost identical numbers, I decided that this was no fluke.

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 high 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 the performance of these video cards.

Settings:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As a dual card the GTX 295 is the fastest card in this pack. No surprise there, but the GTX 285 with its single GT200 core comes in as the fastest single GPU card.

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 as starting with the crash landing and 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.  In one frame a Necromorph is visible right before an attack from behind.

Settings:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The GTX 285 performs well in Dead Space. It beats all of the single cards as well as the HD4870x2 in this gaming test.

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 scores in this benchmark are very close between all of the upper end video cards. On the ENGTX285 the difference from 1280x1024 and 1920x1200 is 3FPS.

Testing:

Left For 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. You goal is to make it to a rescue point, all the 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 zombie. These zombies are quick and work with the pack mentality. Your job: survival!

Settings:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The ENGTX285 from Asus exceeds the level of performance of the single GPU cards tested as well as the 9800GX2 in all three resolutions tested.

Testing:

3DMark06 is one of the benchmarks that always comes up when a bragging contest is begun. 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:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The scores laid down by the GTX 285 exceeded those of all of the single GPU cards and at the 1920x1200 resolution was less than 300 points from the performance of the 9800GX2.

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:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There is not a single GPU card that runs as fast as the Asus ENGTX285 TOP in the Vantage testing. At 1920x1200 the GTX 285 is within 400 points of the HD4870x2.

Conclusion:

The Asus ENGTX285 did what it was supposed to do, become the fastest single GPU run through the OverclockersClub suite of gaming benchmarks. Other than an anomaly in BioShock, this card ran faster than the competition. It should have been, it is after all an overclocked version of the GTX 285. The fan seemed to be not as loud as in the past but it could be just my old ears not hearing as well as they once did. When the driver controlled the fan speeds I had an idle temperature of 38 degrees Celsius and a load of 78 Celsius, both pretty good temperatures for a high end card. Much better than the ATI barn burners when the fans are driver controlled. When I moved the fan to 85% the idle temperature dropped by one degree Celsius while the load temperature dropped an amazing 31 Celsius under load to 47C.

The only gripes I have are the lack of overclocking headroom and the $400 price tag. Sure, it's an overclocked card but I am always looking for a card that has that little bit more when it comes to overclocking. I saw gains of 5.5% and less on the card between the GPU and memory clocks. Not much, but it is something. Asus has included a couple of utilities that the consumer will find useful in the Gamer OSD and Smart Doctor. The Asus ENGTX285 is the card to go with if a single GPU video card is the answer to your graphics problem. It's cool running and delivers on the performance front, not to mention the fact that it will deliver the latest high definition content to your television. Asus and Nvidia have delivered on all counts this time, with the exception of price.

 

Pros:

 

Cons: