ASUS EN8600GT OC Gear
- Fast default performance, runs quietly
- OC Gear's interface lacks read-outs for temperature and speed, relying instead on indicator lights
Overall, the EN8600GT, with the OC Gear module, offers a convenient way to overclock and monitor your card's performance, but it costs $50 more than ASUS' regular EN8600GT graphics card. The extra cost, and only very slight performance advantages when overclocking, mean it's worth sticking to the regular EN8600GT instead
Price$ 279.00 (AUD)
When it comes to graphics cards, choosing one card over another is usually determined by price. However, ASUS wants to make you think about that decision a little longer. Its EN8600GT OC Gear card ships with a separate module that allows you to play with some of the card's features manually. By that, we mean that it lets you overclock the clock speed of the card, and adjust the fan speed, by physically turning a knob.
This module is called OC Gear, and it's designed to sit in a free 5.25in drive bay. It connects to an internal USB pin-header on the motherboard and requires ASUS' Gamer OSD and SmartDoctor software packages to be installed. Once up and running, the OC Gear will light up to expose speed, frames per second (fps), temperature, fan speed and volume indicators. Unfortunately, only the fps figure is an actual read-out, the speed, fan, volume and temperature are all represented by incremental bars that light up in different intensities to let you know how fast and hot the card is running. Also, the memory speed can't be controlled via the module, only via SmartDoctor.
The graphics card itself is based on the NVIDIA 8600GT graphics processing unit (GPU), and has 256MB of GGD3 RAM as well as two DVI ports (with HDCP compliance). The default clock speed of the GPU is 540MHz, while the memory runs at 1400MHz. In 3DMark06, and running on an Intel Core 2 Extreme QX6700-based system with 1GB of RAM, the card scored 4601, which is a relatively high score. However, it's not a card that can be used to play the latest games at the highest resolutions, so if you have a large LCD monitor, such as a 22in, or even a 19in, playing the most recent titles at the native resolutions of those monitors will lead to sluggish frame rates. Indeed, in the FEAR test, the card scored 32fps at a resolution of 1280x960, with 4x antialiasing (AA) and 16x anisotropic filtering (AF). Even without AA, it scored 33fps. Turning down the resolution to 1024x768, the card recorded a much smoother 47fps.
Using OC Gear, we were able to change the GPU speed of the card from an in-game environment. At this point, we got a little overzealous and maxed out the speed, which in turn, crashed our PC. We were able to get stable performance from the card when running the GPU speed at 600MHz. It scored 4838 in 3DMark06 at this setting. The fastest result from FEAR was 34fps, at 1280x920 with 4x AA, and this was with the GPU clock at 700MHz, so it's not a noticeable boost. ASUS claims that the OC Gear module can be used with other ASUS cards, as long as SmartDoctor and Gamer OSD are installed, and this is true as we used it with an ASUS 8800GTS. Physically, the graphics card has quiet fan and a heat sink cooling the chip, and it doesn't require a supplemental power connector.
Overall, the EN8600GT, with the OC Gear module, offers a convenient way to overclock and monitor your card's performance, but it costs $50 more than ASUS' regular EN8600GT graphics card. The extra cost, and only very slight performance advantages when overclocking, mean it's worth sticking to the regular EN8600GT instead.
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