Reference card strikes again! ASUS hasn't even gone to the trouble of putting its name on the heatsink. The only way to delineate that this is an ASUS card and not, for example, MSI's is a small sticker on the back that has the model number on it. In all other respects it's a reference card that we've seen countless times before. There's two schools of thought here. One is that reference cards require no IHV modification at all, bar slapping a sticker on the back. This should keep costs down as the cooler and PCB do not have to be re-engineered. Also, the reference model, whilst bland in the extreme, is a well-proven design. The second school of thought demands that ASUS should produce its own design that betters the reference in some way. £350+ of your money is screaming out for it. As an example, take a look at GeCube's RADEON X850 XT Uniwise's custom cooler that transforms a regular RADEON X850 XT into a single-slot card. I prescribe to the latter thinking, especially when the vendor in question is as large as ASUS and the card a GeForce 6800 Ultra. The back of the card continues the boring reference theme to the letter.
The supersized cooler uses heatpipe technology to help cool the RAM chips underneath. Cooling surface area is expanded by having long pimples on this part of the heatsink.
The card's heavier than it looks. Most of the weight is added by a thick cooper heatsink that sits in direct contact with the GPU. The fan then blows across the block and out to the fins on the right-hand side. When in full-blown 3D time and under prolonged load, the fan's louder than an equivalent ATI RADEON X850's, too. GeForce 6800 Ultra GPU was introduced with an AGP interface last year, so the PCI-Express version uses NVIDIA's HSI bridging chip which is integrated right on to the GPU itself. Lower GeForce 6-series models, and I'm thinking of the AGP version of GeForce 6600 GT, use an off-chip solution that bridges the other way, that is, PCI-Express to AGP.
Heatsinks and cooling is conspicuously apparent everywhere you look on the card. The extra power of a PCI-Express x16 slot allows NVIDIA/ASUS to use a single PCIe connector.
The double-height cooler necessitates taking up the adjacent slot in a regular motherboard. That's precisely why Ultra models aren't suitable for small form-factor PCs. Just this fact is one of the main reasons why I'd hoped that ASUS would develop its own cooling solution that made the card into a single-slot affair. ASUS' excellent fan-controlling feature found on its ATI hardware is also missing here. Further, there's no VIVO capability here, so it's regular video-out. Dual-DVI is an expected bonus at this price point.