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Asus V9280S - getting acquainted
This year has seen ATI come out from the performance closet with the launch of their Radeon 9700 PRO unit. There is no question that the Radeon 9700 PRO (review) has been unchallenged in terms of performance for the last 4 months but with Comdex starting on Monday (18 November) it is fairly probable that NVIDIA will launch their latest unit, NV30.

NVIDIA haven't been waiting for the NV30 to launch some sort of attack at ATI's current position. Although no "new" product has been launched that is intended to topple the Radeon 9700, instead a number of "upgrades" to current models has resulted in performance gains for their Titanium and MX series. A few weeks back we looked at a couple of factory overclocked Geforce 4 Ti4200 units which performed well and once some "home" overclocking was performed on them, both managed to beat a Geforce 4 Ti4600 quite considerably. Today we look at the Asus V9280S which is also based on the Geforce 4 Ti4200 GPU and supports the 8x AGP bus. It is also known as the NV28.

Asus were one of the first perceived motherboard-only manufacturer to make VGA cards (we say perceived because at the time Asus products that were available in the UK were mainly motherboards however they did make other products at the time). Their cards were more cost effective than their competitors and coupled to very acceptable performance levels, Asus was endeared to gamers and enthusiasts alike. With their large retail packages, including 3D glasses and other gizmos they gained a good reputation fairly quickly and went on to produce more high quality products. This is their latest, the V9280S.

Putting the V9280S against an "original" Ti4200 from Asus we see that there isn't a great deal of difference between the two units. The NV28 isn't a new GPU from NVIDIA, it's merely a progression from the original.

Asus V8420S
Asus V9280S
Engine clock
260 MHz
250 MHz
Memory Clock Memory
550 MHz
600 MHz
Memory Bandwidth
up to 8 GB/sec
8GB/sec
Fill Rate (AA Samples/sec)
4.0 billion
4.0 billion
Triangles/sec
113 million
113 million
Operations/sec
1.03 trillion
1.03 trillion
Effective memory clock rate
550 MHz
600 MHz
RAMDAC
350 MHz
350 MHz


As you can see, there is nothing that is ground-breaking new technology. Asus have taken this opportunity to increase the frequency of the memory, although a 10 MHz decrement to the GPU's frequency is not so welcomed - nothing a little overclocking can't solve.

Although the original Ti4200 had memory bandwidth of up to 8 Gb/sec, with the help of increased memory speeds and greater bandwidth presented with the AGP 8x support (formally known as AGP 3.0) is it now a definite 8GB/sec. It isn't a great surprise either that Asus set the memory to run at 600 MHz, in our tests with their V8420 we were able to overclock the memory to speeds in excess of 670 MHz with no cooling present on the memory. This time around Asus have cooled their BGA RAM with large heatsinks at the front and a heat spreader at the rear.

Asus recently put a renewed effort in getting their products noticed over their competitors. They started with packaging their products in larger, more vibrant boxes. The V9280S comes in a large, predominantly red box which has a great deal of information on it's reverse side about the main product inside. Interestingly, Asus claim on the box that the V9280S is 20% faster than a generic Geforce 4 Ti4200. Sadly we didn't have a "generic" Ti4200 in our labs at the time of this review, however it'll be interesting to see how it fairs against the two "super" Ti4200s we currently have in front of us.

  

Amongst the manuals you get four games, interestingly Morrowind is included (review) - not something you expect to showcase a VGA card. Still, a great title for you RPG fans. Also included is a port replicator which is great news for budding movie makers. Asus aptly call it "multimedia".


Going from left to right the connectors are :- S-Video in, composite in, S-Video out, composite out. The length of cabling allows easy desktop mounting.

  

Some will take a fancy to the dark black PCB contrasting against the golden heatsinks and Asus have done a fair amount in packaging the V9280S up as a retail unit rather than something only aimed at hardcore enthusiasts. The golden heatsinks should aid in overclocking and from closer inspection of the heatsink that is placed over the GPU, it seems to have some form of copper heatpipe running through the fins.

Moving on from the package itself, we look a little closer at the technologies in the Geforce series of cards.