Showdown: EAH3850 TOP VS EN8800GS TOP

Today we are testing the new ASUS EAH3850 TOP and EN8800GS TOP graphics cards in a head to head comparison. These $200 US graphics cards deliver serious performance and come with overclocked factory settings, and improved cooling solutions. We expect more from GPU manufacturers this time around. The most recent card we have with us today is the GeForce 9600 GT, which tunes in great. But alas, there is tons of competition on the other brim as the HD 3850 and 3870 graphics cards have also been able to remain very competitive. Currently the Radeon HD 3870 is priced between $190-$200 US while the GeForce 9600 GT costs roughly $170-$180 US, and both produce very similar results.

With everything to boot, the Radeon HD 3850 happens to feature an improved design and factory overclocking. The ASUS EAH3850 TOP/G/HTDI/512M/A looks as though it is the best Radeon HD 3850 graphics card we have seen to date, but this enhanced ASUS version does not come cheap. The EAH3850 TOP is no ordinary Radeon HD 3850 graphics card, featuring high speed 0.8ns GDDR3 memory clocked at 1.9GHz, along with a heavily overclocked core and an improved cooling design. The default Radeon HD 3850 specifications include 1656MHz memory and a 668MHz core frequency. ASUS smacked on their big boots and has boosted the core frequency by 9%, as the EAH3850 TOP comes clocked at 730MHz. The memory frequency has boosted by 15% which will also improve the performance of this Radeon HD 3850 graphics card, giving customers the largest bang for their buck. ASUS also designed a custom cooler for the EAH3850 TOP, which not only performs better than the standard single slot cooler, but is quieter as well. Unlike the standard reference cooler, the ASUS “Glaciator” fan and heatsink combo does not accommodate for the eight memory chips that are clocked at 1900MHz. Luckily, there is a cooler over the circuitry. So props to them for that. The EAH3850 TOP measures 21cm long by 9.7cm tall, 2cm shorter than the Radeon HD 3870 and GeForce 8800 GT graphics cards. In the package ASUS has included a D-Sub adapter and a HDMI adapter, while the card supports dual DVI out and a TV output (S-Video to Composite) onboard. It also supports HDCP and HDTV, and comes with an HDTV-out cable, which is handy for you capture freaks out there that do not think TiVo is a great option.

Just like the EAH3850 TOP, the EN8800GS TOP features an improved cooling design with overclocked settings for the core and memory. The GeForce 8800 GS is designed to operate at 550MHz, while the GDDR3 memory specification is 1.6GHz. Once again ASUS has boosted the core speed by 9% reaching 600MHz, while the memory frequency has been increased by just 6.25% reaching 1.7GHz. ASUS clarifies that this overclock will allow their GeForce 8800 GS graphics card to produce over 10,000pts in 3Dmark06. Not a bad deal at all. Since the GeForce 8800 GS supports just 384MB of memory, there are just six chips onboard. Known as the Hynix HY5RS123235B FP-11 chips, they are designed to operate at 1.8GHz according to Hynix, which is surprising given that ASUS is only running them at 1.7GHz on the EN8800GS TOP. So, it becomes interesting to see how much further the EN8800GS TOP is pushed before stability becomes an issue.

Our featured benchmark is Crysis for this card. We will let the pictures do all the talking.

Overall the EAH3850 TOP took lead by 20%, which equates to 3 fps. Not really worth the extra blow of cash, but it does what it says.

Here, again the TOP takes lead while the GS falls behind.

What next? Time to overclock the puppies to see the big difference in core stability.

The ASUS EN8800GS TOP core overclocked, definitely. Just not what we hoped as it reached 2.17GHz. Not bad, but not that amazing given the core features. The ASUS EAH3850 TOP is limited by the Catalyst drivers that capped at 790MHz for the core. Damn. We discovered the reason a bit after, and found the EAH3850 TOP to overclock pass the 840MHz core speed.

Both graphics cards are impressive, as both make use of the ASUS Glaciator fan and heatsink, while the EAH3850 TOP sits on a nice red PCB the EN8800GS TOP gets a blue PCB. There is nothing remotely generic about these two products including the price. But, the winner by far is the EAH3850 TOP on this one.

I'm all about one thing: reviews that are easy to understand and make sense of.

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