Asus EN8600GT OC GEAR graphics card

Graphics Cards
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THE CARD AND HEATSINK

The card is based on the nVidia Geforce 8600GT, which supports DirectX 10, HDCP, as well as dual DVI output. It's a popular choice for budget gaming and high definition multimedia playback, though it lacks a HDMI port. The board itself has a very clean layout with capacitors out of the way and plenty of room around the heatsink. It's a small card so it should have modest power and cooling demands.

With fins spread out radially and the fan blowing down the center, the cooler bears a striking resemblance to the old Thermaltake Crystal Orb and Zalman flower heatsinks. The heatsink's fins are tall - high enough to interfere with the slot directly below the card, and are loosely spaced which is ideal for a low airflow. The fan is larger than what you'd normally find on a video card — a good sign as the larger the fan, the higher the airflow to noise ratio.

OVERCLOCKING GEAR CONTROLLER

The OC Gear panel is a slick looking device with a very shiny surface and a large control knob that's easy to handle. After the panel is attached to an internal USB header, it is mounted in a 5.25" bay. It will not function, however, until the OC Gear driver as well as Asus' SmartDoctor utility are installed. To display frames per second, Gamer OSD is also required. When we installed the software bundle off of the provided disc, Gamer OSD refused to install, claiming it was only supported by Windows Vista. Fortunately, the latest version from the Asus website worked perfetly. It should be noted that SmartDoctor displays much of the same information as the OCG unit, albeit with a less elegant presentation, and it has a semi-customizable fan control feature.


GPU temperature displayed. There are sliders for both core and memory frequency manipulation. A status message in the upper left hand corner kindly lets us know that the video card is "OK."



Fan RPM displayed.



The SmartCooling feature allows for automatic fan throttling based on manually preset temperatures.

Once XP restarted, the OC Gear panel lit up like a Christmas tree. It's a pleasing blend of warm colors: yellow, orange, and red. The display shows graphical representations of the current volume, GPU core frequency, GPU temperature, and video card fan speed. It's a fairly simple and intuitive device. The knob is pushed inward to select the function you wish to adjust. Then you simply rotate the dial until it reaches the desired level - a few turns clockwise and an another bar is illuminated.


Volume, GPU frequency, GPU temperature, and fan speed are displayed. Additional bars light up as settings are increased.

Unfortunately there is no way of telling exactly what each function is set to as the numerical display is only for displaying the frame-rate when a game is running. The GPU core frequency is adjusted in only 5Mhz increments, so it's a fairly safe to overclock this way unless you get overzealous. nVidia's nTune utility confirmed that all changes made using the panel did in fact take. In addition, changes in software settings, whether using nTune, SmartDoctor, or ATI Tool, were also reflected in the panel display. You can use hardware, software, or both to tweak the card: They do not conflict with one another.



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