ASUS MATRIX GTX285 Reviewccokeman - September 3, 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 continues to develop utilities that help the end user get the most functionality from their hardware purchase. Included with the MATRIX GTX285 is the latest evolution of the iTracker software. This newer version, iTracker2, offers some added functionality that is not available for use with just any card. Examples are the ability to change the memory sub timings for added performance as well as voltage adjustments to help get the most out of the card. Both items that usually are reserved for the more advanced enthusiast. When you open the software up you are greeted with the GUI that lists a variety of things. First off you have the sliders to adjust the GPU, Shader and memory clock speeds as well as the voltages applied to the GPU and memory. The GPU voltage maxes out at 1200mV with the memory maxing out at 2150mV. There are a total of eight presets you can use. Optimized, Gaming , Default, Low Power and four user defined.
The fan setting is limited to three different settings, Auto lets the drivers do all the work managing the thermal load. Manual lets you tweak the fan speed setting to maintain the fan at a certain level and lastly, you can set up a profile under the temperature section that expands on the manual control by dictating what fan speed you want at what temperature threshold.
Right next to the clock speed sliders you will see what looks to be a memory chip. By selecting this option you are brought to the memory tuning section. There are again a series of presets that can offer that last bit to reach your performance goals. Performance, Default and OC are the three options. By manually configuring the subtimings I saw an increase of just over 200 points when running 3DMark Vantage Extreme test.
The Setting tab gives a few basic changes to how iTracker2 is launched. Additionally, you have the ability to change the skin color between five different colors.
Along the top right under the close button, or X, is the monitoring tab. Here you can configure which parameters you would like to monitor. The range includes temperatures to voltages to fan speeds. Each can be monitored.
Last, but not least, we have the feature that really can make the need to constantly reset the overclock settings each time you boot or use a hard to use program to change the VGA BIOS. The additional bonus is that ASUS has made the process easy to use but they do suggest that you verify the stability of your settings before flashing. The worst fear is that you will brick your investment. Remember the Safe Mode button I showed you earlier? That is the fail safe so even if you have a bad flash, recovery is available at the push of a button. To get started you need to find the combination of GPU, Memory, Shader clocks voltages and memory timings that are stable. By stable I mean the ability to play games for hours at a stretch without a driver or hardware failure. To get started, use one of the sser configured profiles and choose the profile management button on the bottom left of the GUI. Once in this menu choose the profile you want to flash and click the details tab at the bottom of the GUI. This gives you a snapshot of the settings you are going to flash to the BIOS. If everything is correct, click the video card in the bottom of the window and you are on the way to a successful flash. Agree to the flash and when the BIOS flash is over the system will need to be rebooted to complete the job.
Once the computer reboots you can go check your work. If the BIOS flash was successful you can verify it by opening the iTracker2 software. If the flash was successful the clock speeds and voltages shown will be those you flashed. I used GPUz to verify what I was seeing in iTracker2 and if you look at the default clock speeds in GPUz they are the same in both default clock and GPU clock windows. Success! Reflashing to stock clocks is accomplished the same way. No fuss, no muss.
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. Upcoming games that will use PhysX technology include Batman Arkham Asylum, Darkest of Days and Resident Evil 5.