MSI has long pushed the boundaries of invention with its ever-evolving range of laptops but it has now pulled off a world first with the new MSI Creative 17.
ASUS EAH3870 TOP/G/HTDI/512M
- Excellent DirectX 9 gaming performance, HDCP-capable HMDI output, requires only one PCI Express power cable
- DirectX 10-based games are sluggish at high resolutions
This card will handle any DirectX 9-based game on the market, but it's still not as fast as cards based on NVIDIA's high-end 8800 GPU in DirectX 10-based games. However, DX 10-based games are still playable with this card at resolutions lower than 1920x1200 and is a good value card.
Price$ 269.00 (AUD)
Despite having a boring product name, the ASUS EAH3870 TOP/G/HTDI/512M graphics card will bring nothing but excitement to anyone who buys it. It's based on ATI's new Radeon HD 3870 GPU (graphics processing unit), which runs cooler and faster than the Radeon HD 2900 GPU, yet it can be purchased for $379.
For more information on the 3870 GPU and how it compares to the 2900, refer to our review of the Sapphire Radeon HD 3870. The ASUS shares the same technology as the Sapphire, but it does trump it in the performance stakes.
This card has 512MB of GDDR4 RAM to go along with the 3870 GPU as well as two DVI ports and TV-out port. The 'TOP' part of the product name stands for Top Overclocking Performance, and that's where this card is different to other 3870-based cards on the market: it runs a faster GPU speed -- 851MHz, as opposed to the standard speed of 775MHz. This gives the TOP a little more oomph for processing and rendering the pixels that you see on the screen. Its memory is also slightly faster than the norm -- 2286 compared to 2250 for a standard card -- which lets the card retrieve image data from the memory that little bit quicker.
Physically, ASUS has used a double-width cooler for this card, which takes up two slots in a PC and it also requires a 6-pin PCI Express power cable to be connected. The card runs very quietly when it's idle, thanks mainly to a very slow spinning fan, but when it's under a full load, it really cranks up and will definitely contribute to the overall noise pollution of a typical system.
In our DirectX 10-based tests, the card put up strong numbers, especially in the Crysis benchmark. It scored 19fps (frames per second) in this test, compared to the Sapphire's 11fps, which is a tremendous result. However, it was slightly slower than the Sapphire in the Lost Planet: Extreme Condition test, where it scored 15.9fps compared to 16.65fps. These tests were run at a resolution of 1920x1200 on a Samsung SyncMaster 245B monitor with all the DirectX 10 features turned on. While the results themselves aren't a hallmark for smooth gameplay, they are much better than what ATI's 2600-series mid-range cards can achieve in the same tests, and it's just about on par with what the 2900-series cards can do (the 8750 has a narrower memory bus, which is why it doesn't out-gun the 2900).
In our DirectX 9-based tests, the card was stellar. It scored 64fps in FEAR, at a resolution of 1600x1200 and with 4x AA (antialiasing), while in Half-Life 2 it scored 128fps at a resolution of 1920x1200 and using maximum quality settings. These results are faster than what the Sapphire achieved in the same tests and they clearly show that this card will easily play DirectX 9-based games at high resolutions and with all detail settings maximised.
ASUS supplies the card with a utility -- SmartDoctor -- for monitoring the temperature of the card, and the same utility can also be used to overclock the card even more. In an idle state, the card's temperature was reported to be 44 degrees Celsius, but this didn't change when the card was under a full processing load. Perhaps the cooling system on this card is that good!
For home theatre users, the card ships with HDCP-enabled DVI ports, which, with the supplied DVI-HDMI adapter, can be used to connect to a big-screen TV via HDMI. Audio also travels through the card, so users won't have to run separate audio cables to their receiver or TV.
Rounding out the package is a copy of the game Company of Heroes, which is a stressful game to run using any graphics card. On the EAH3870 TOP/G/HTDI/512M, running at a resolution of 1920x1200, and with a mixture of low-, mid- and high-end settings, the game's built-in performance test scored 46fps, which is a playable result.
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Ultimately this laptop has achieved everything I would hope for in a laptop for work, while fitting that into a form factor and weight that is remarkable.
This smart laptop was enjoyable to use and great to work on – creating content was super simple.
It really doesn’t get more “gaming laptop” than this.
As the Maserati or BMW of laptops, it would fit perfectly in the hands of a professional needing firepower under the hood, sophistication and class on the surface, and gaming prowess (sports mode if you will) in between.
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