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by Tarinder Sandhu on 29 December 2004, 00:00

Tags: Asus Extreme AX800 XT PE/2DHTV, ASUSTeK (TPE:2357)

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Card appearance

Currently, the X800 XT PE is right at the top of ATI's consumer-level graphics card tree. Boasting 16 rendering pipelines and a 256-bit memory interface, it maintains its premier status by being clocked in 520MHz core and 1120MHz memory. Regular X800 XTs are identical in every way other than lower frequencies of 500MHz/1000MHz. That's why Platinum models enjoy a price premium of up to £100 over a basic, no-frills XT. Value for money plays second fiddle to extreme performance at this end of the market.

I took a look at an ASUS Extreme AX800XT/2DT card a couple of months back. Clocked in at 500MHz/1000MHz and sporting a native PCI-Express interface like all R423 parts, its PCB layout and component location is startlingly similar to the XT PE model. I urge you to play a game of spot-the-difference and come back to me if you can identify more than a handful of changes between these two premium GPUs. This is precisely why XT PE cards are just enhanced XT models. You simply pay through the nose for faster GPU and memory speeds.

A well-designed PCB makes the AX800 XT PE/2DHTV a far smaller card than the competition's GeForce 6800 Ultra, a card which ships with a cooler that forces the take-up of two slots. You can see the physical differences between this card and Gainward's wannabe GeForce 6800 Ultra here. ASUS has allowed its fastest ATI-based card to be used in practically any system. It doesn't take up any more room than, say, a GeForce 3 did. That's excellent design and engineering for you, and a place where ATI always scores a win over NVIDIA.

Power requirements are also identical to an XT's. Remember that ASUS has only raised the core speed to by 20MHz over the 500MHz-rated X800 XT. The excellent copper-based cooler incorporates a large-ish fan whos speed can be controlled by the bundled SmartDoctor software. Drawing yet another parallel to the XT model, ASUS adds in a touch of class by using blue LEDs into the fan's central section. Certainly looks good if you've got a windowed case.

Yum. Dual-DVI goodness on show again. This time, however, ASUS adds a very small twist to this Platinum Edition package. The full card name should give it away.

The venerable Rage Theater VIVO ASIC is trotted out for one last hurrah, one that was conspicuously missing from our review. It's certainly no All-In-Wonder chip, but it does allow for basic Video-In/Video-Out work.

Memory bandwidth is perhaps the defining factor between XT and XT PE cards. ASUS uses Samsung's 1.6ns-rated (1200MHz) GDDR3 DRAMs that have been populated on many top-end NVIDIA and ATI graphics cards. It's up to the partner to determine final clock speed, but experience tells us that 1120MHz, this card's RAM speed, is ASUS being wholly conservative.