So here it is. The launch of nVidia's heart-stopping, earth-shattering, revolutionary Asus EN8800 Ultra graphcs card.

Well, you'll have to forgive us for not going into paroxysms of delight, for that isn't the whole truth. In fact, the Asus EN8800 Ultra is little more than a slight re-tweaking and polishing up of the old Asus 8800 GTX. Sort of an 8800 GTX Take Two. And it's expensive. Very expensive. To the tune of £494, which seems pretty steep given that the GTX can be snapped up for £100 less.

So what's new?

Well, with the Asus EN8800 Ultra we're principally we're talking about higher clock speeds. The 575MHz core clock on the GTX has been ratcheted up to a slightly more impressive 612MHz – not a huge jump granted, but progress nonetheless.

And the 8800 GTX's 900MHz memory clock (1.8GHz if you take into account the effect of DDR RAM) has been bolstered to a fairly outstanding 1.08GHz (again, 2.16GHz with DDR) on the Asus EN8800 Ultra.

Add the sizzling 384bit memory interface, and the Asus EN8800 Ultra is capable of memory bandwidth of 103.7GBps (gigabytes per second). This figure is a significant improvement over the 86.4GBps put out by the 8800 GTX, although it is bettered by the humble Radeon HD 2900 XT's 105.6GBps.

And that, in essence, is the difference between the Asus EN8800 Ultra and its predecessor. Of course, there's still plenty about the 8800 GTX that's lip-smackingly good. The 128 stream processors still work very nicely, and both the GTX and Asus EN8800 Ultra have gorgeous graphics quality, 128bit HDR rendering, and some antialiasing features that prove to be refreshingly easy on system resources. It's also a colossal card, so measure up and make sure you have enough space for it.

It stands to reason that this card will cut effortlessly through tomorrow's DirectX 10.0 games. We obviously can't test this theory now – since there aren't any proper DirectX 10.0 games we can throw at the Ultra – but with this much power onboard the Asus EN8800 Ultra is a good buy for somebody who wants to buy a card now, that will work as flawlessly as possible with the future of gaming.

See also: Asus EN8500GT Silent graphics card, ECS Elitegroup N8500GT-256DY+ graphics card and PNY GeForce 8600 GTS 256MB graphics card .

How does it perform?

Turn the page to find out >>

If your monitor or flat-panel doesn't have a resolution of at least 1,600x1,200, there's probably little point in you purchasing the Asus EN8800 Ultra. You should settle instead for the 640MB 8800 GTS or the Radeon HD 2900 XT, and console yourself with the knowledge that you were wise to save the extra money.

If you are testing the Asus EN8800 Ultra at a resolution of 1,024x768 or 1,280x1,024, the difference between the Asus EN8800 Ultra and the GTX is rather small. Tested across such games titles as Company of Heroes, FEAR and Stalker, the Ultra generally put 3-5fps (frames per second) between itself and its predecessor. In FEAR, this gap widened to 15 or more fps. Only at a resolution of 1,600x1,200 did the gap go out to double figures, and even then it was rarely more than 12fps-15fps.

You can actually get an overclocked version of the 8800 GTX that produces almost as much speed as the Asus EN8800 Ultra, so it's worth keeping an eye open for one of them – they'll prove a much better financial deal.

Asus EN8800 Ultra: Specs

  • nVidia GeForce 8800 GTX
  • 768MB GDDR3 RAM
  • 384bit interface
  • PCI Express
  • DirectX 10.0
  • nVidia GeForce 8800 GTX
  • 768MB GDDR3 RAM
  • 384bit interface
  • PCI Express
  • DirectX 10.0

OUR VERDICT

After the months of anticipation, the Asus EN8800 Ultra does feels like an anticlimax. However, it is still the next logical step for nVidia. Provided you want to play games at higher resolutions, it just about justifies the extra price premium. But we wouldn't recommend that existing 8800 GTX owners hurry to upgrade. And we'd also recommend that you look for an overclocked version of the 8800 GTX first.

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