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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
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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