The Asus GeForce EN8800 GT is the powerful but relatively low priced graphics card that today's mainstream gamers have been crying out for.

It's a strange fact that, while the price of PC systems may have fallen through the floor (as our Budget PCs section shows, a £500 PC can now have some pretty stunning hardware on board), the relative price of graphics cards has gone up.

Whether you blame the disappointing batch of new cards released in the sub-£150 category (product ranges like the GeForce 8600 and Radeon HD 2600 have struggled to show any real performance in DirectX 9.0, let alone the newer and more intensive DirectX 10), or the increasing demands of the hottest new games (titles like Bioshock and Crysis will push your PC to its limits), there's no doubt that you'll now have to be prepared to pay a little more if you want stonking graphics. Click here for reviews of all the latest graphics cards.

The Asus GeForce EN8800 GT is the powerful but relatively low priced graphics card that today's mainstream gamers have been crying out for. But we have to add ‘relatively' because, in truth, this product's £190 price tag will still seem like a steep price to many. Of course, one look at how the 8800 GT compares to the competition, and most self-respecting gamers will have no hesitation in find a way of meeting the cost.

At first glance, the Asus GeForce EN8800 GT doesn't seem that impressive. Compared to some of the colossal cards we've seen, the GT is rather modest in size. That's partly down to this card having been built using a 65nm manufacturing process. Indeed, the main meat of the card has shrunk by a third. You'll still need an extra power connector for the 8800 GT, but it won't now consume most of your case in a single step.

And because the chip itself is smaller, the card can run cooler. This, in turn, means that speeds can be ramped up. The Asus GeForce EN8800 GT has a core clock speed of 600MHz rather than the 500MHz of the 8800 GTS. Similarly, the memory clock speed has been bumped to 900MHz – a good 100MHz up on the GTS.

However, not everything has seen an improvement, and the memory bus has actually fallen from 320bit to 256bit. Consequently, this means that the Asus GeForce EN8800 GT's memory bandwidth tumbles to just 57.6GBps – a good 6.4GBps away from the 8800 GTS.

You do get more stream processors however - 112 rather than the 96 packaged with the GTS. It's worth noting that, compared to the ATI Radeon HD 2900 XT, all of these figures seem less impressive still. You do at least get a decent amount of memory with the Asus GeForce EN8800 GT, and these early versions should pack 512MB.

The Asus GeForce EN8800 GT does have one eye on the future though, and its PCI Express 2.0 support means that it'll be well-equipped to maximize bandwidth in the future. Of course, you will need a suitably enhanced PC and components line-up, so this certainly isn't something that'll shine right now. But there is more potential to come from this card.

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And that's great news, since the Asus GeForce EN8800 GT is already a mighty impressive product. We put it through its paces by pitting it against a bunch of popular gaming titles that include Stalker and Fear and, for DirectX 10 tests, Company of Heroes and World In Conflict.

What's stunning is that the Asus GeForce EN8800 GT isn't just a match for the Radeon HD 2900 XT (itself faster than the 8800 GTS cards), but it actually beats it, despite the 2900 XT setting you back about £40-£50 more. The GT generally thumped the Radeon, and in DirectX 10, it frequently stretched away from the Radeon by 10 frames or more.

Frankly, if you want a card that's going to stand up to tomorrow's games titles, the Asus GeForce EN8800 GT is very much the best bet unless you're spending an extra £150 or so on a GTX or Ultra. Incidentally, the tests show that the 8800 GT isn't actually that far behind the GTX either, despite those cards costing considerably more.

Graphics cards framerates

Asus GeForce EN8800 GT: Specs

  • Graphics Processor nVidia GeForce 8800 GT
  • Installed RAM 512MB GDDR3
  • Core Clock 600MHz
  • Memory Clock 900MHz (1.8GHz DDR effective)
  • Manufacturing process 65nm
  • Stream Processors 112
  • Memory Interface 256bit
  • Interface PCI Express
  • DirectX 10.0 support yes
  • DVI yes
  • video in/out no/yes
  • Graphics Processor nVidia GeForce 8800 GT
  • Installed RAM 512MB GDDR3
  • Core Clock 600MHz
  • Memory Clock 900MHz (1.8GHz DDR effective)
  • Manufacturing process 65nm
  • Stream Processors 112
  • Memory Interface 256bit
  • Interface PCI Express
  • DirectX 10.0 support yes
  • DVI yes
  • video in/out no/yes

OUR VERDICT

The Asus GeForce EN8800 GT is clearly intended to take the place of the 8800 GTS cards. With that in mind, the GT's only real competition is the Radeon HD 2900 XT. Given that the GT costs considerably more, but still cruises ahead in the games tests, there's obviously no real contest. It'll be the new year before we see an AMD/ATI card that tries to improve upon the HD 2900 XT, so the Asus GeForce EN8800 GT would appear to have the Christmas market to itself. It looks great, it runs beautifully in DirectX 9.0 and it manages pretty well even in DirectX 10.0. Not every gamer will be happy that they have to lash out almost £200 to get a good graphics card, but for them there's always the upcoming 256MB version of this card. In the meantime, the rest of us can get on with seeing games run pretty much exactly as they're supposed to. Which, frankly, makes this card quite a triumph.

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