ASUS EAX1800XT TOP
Not quite the reference board, eh? Whereas the reference design cools the GPU with a blower-style cooler that draws air across the GPU from the case, exhausting it from your chassis, ASUS have engineered a cooler that circulates in-chassis air and pushed it out over the voltage regulators, much like an NVIDIA reference cooler.
The fan's design means it's much quieter than the reference cooler is and despite circulating warm air exchanged from the GPU by the cooler to the chassis, it still cools better than the reference cooler does according to our tests. What you'll also spot is a similar power system to the EN7800GT Dual. That's right, the EAX1800XT TOP is shipped with its own power supply, ASUS deciding to use one to provide spot-on power at the pre-overclocked levels the card ships at. More on both of those things in due course.
The end result is that it's a fair bit bigger than a reference X1800 XT, making it unsuitable for some PC cases. On top of that, the card isn't the easist to install due to what we think is a poor bracket design, retained by only a single screw mount. That single screw hole and the strength of the metal mean the heavy card will bow down towards the bottom of the chassis it's in, presumably putting more stress than you'd like on the PCB area around the PCI Express interface pins.
Further, if you have a tool-free chassis that uses clips to retain the add-in boards, you might also be out of luck with this product, even if you have the room for it to live in.
The photograph above shows the aluminium fins of the main heatsink mass, across which air flows out into your chassis, across the black heatsink cooling a line of switching VRM components. If you look closely you can also see the base of the copper structure which handles GPU cooling. A two-slot product, just like the reference design, the EAX1800XT TOP is a bit of beast in terms of its physical attributes.
The backplane shows you the port for the external power supply, along with the pair of DVI ports that each can carry a dual-link digital signal for driving large digital displays. We don't have a hard time imagining the EAX1800XT TOP driving a pair of those new Dell 30 inch LCD behemoths, for example. Video output is taken care of with a port that'll output S-Video, composite or component video depending on the cable you attach to it.
You can see how much futher past the regular ATX backplane space the EAX1800XT TOP protrodes, too. It's a tall, long, wide bit of kit.
The default clock speeds of 695MHz GPU and 800MHz memory are some way ahead of the default 625/750 on the reference product, giving the 'TOP main frequency boosts of 11% and 6% respectively.
Those extra clock are what mandate the cooler change and potential requirement for an external PSU. We say potential because the board can still be powered by a PSU, so long as that PSU is capable of supplying everything needed. If we're honest, there's more than a few high-end PSU models that we've recommended in recent times, via our monsterous PSU roundup, that have the stones to keep the 'TOP happy.
ASUS are very proud of the bundle assigned to the EAX1800XT TOP, citing a value add of over $100, so let's have a closer look.