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ASUS V9999 Gamer Edition (GeForce 6800)
By Vincent Chang
Category : Graphics
Published by Vijay Anand on Thursday, 21st April, 2005
Rating : 3.5 out of 5 stars  

A Sheep in Wolf's Clothing

Product differentiation has always been a commonly adopted strategy for companies, especially in a highly competitive business like the graphics card industry. Manufacturers in this industry are usually restricted in the amount of innovation they can pursue, as they are dependant on the two major graphics chipset makers – ATI and NVIDIA, for their technology. The result is that many manufacturers tend to play it safe and follow the reference designs given. They end up competing on price, building up a brand name or as is usually the case, through product differentiation. Differentiation can range from the minor (flashy packaging) to the more radical (having two GPUs on the same card). Today, we have an example of a product that inclines towards the more radical end of the differentiation spectrum with the ASUS V9999 Gamer Edition (GE), an NVIDIA GeForce 6800 that is more than what it seems. ASUS is a manufacturer that has built up a reputation for its product quality and performance and hence has became a favorite of hardware enthusiasts. For this card, ASUS sought to enhance the standard NVIDIA GeForce 6800 by boosting it with every trick in the book, short of changing the graphics processing unit (GPU). ASUS has claimed on its website that the V9999GE is up to 25% faster than its competitors based on the same 6800 GPU. Let's see if that is just so much marketing spiel.

A GeForce 6800 on steroids: the ASUS V9999GE.

The ASUS V9999GE is a rather long card built on a 10-layer PCB and uses high speed DDR3 memory, compared to the six layers for a normal GeForce 6800 and standard DDR memory. The extra layers contribute to a higher manufacturing cost and this is usually only necessary for GeForce 6800 Ultra boards. In fact, the V9999GE could be easily mistaken for the Ultra version because their own GeForce 6800 Ultra, the ASUS V9999Ultra Deluxe and the V9999GE look considerably alike. Both sport a similar cooling solution, with a massive heatsink and aluminum RAMsinks. ASUS may have felt that the V9999GE needed more cooling given that they were pushing the limits of the 6800 GPU and hence they have outfitted the V9999GE with an almost identical PCB, memory parts and cooler design as their Ultra card.

A massive cooler covers most of the card.

There are also two Molex power connectors on the V9999GE, again a characteristic found usually on the Ultra.

The twin black Molex power connectors usually found only on GeForce 6800 GT / Ultra cards.

Unlike the vanilla GeForce 6800 which has only a frame buffer of 128MB, the V9999GE comes with twice that amount at 256MB. The memory is cooled by aluminum RAMsinks integrated with a heat pipe unit.

A closeup of the aluminum RAMsinks; the heat pipe runs underneath.

The standard GeForce 6800 is clocked by default at 325/350MHz for its core and memory but the V9999GE is at 350/500MHz, which is actually equivalent to that of the GeForce 6800 GT. Of course, the V9999GE is still using the normal 6800 GPU so it only has 12 pixel rendering pipelines compared to the 16 pipelines that the 6800 GT possess. This and the fact that the 6800 GT has one more vertex shader unit are the only major differences between the V9999GE and a GeForce 6800 GT. Later in our benchmarks, we shall examine if the fundamental weaknesses due to the GPU will hold back the performance of the ASUS V9999GE against a full GeForce 6800 GT and likewise, we shall see just how much more advantage it has over standard GeForce 6800 cards. Those who wish to know more about the GeForce 6800 series can refer to our previous article here for a thorough briefing: Q3 2004 High-End GPU/VPU Shootout (AGP)

The copper heatsink sits over the GPU within a large plastic and aluminum enclosure.

Flip the card over and you'll see the distinctive black crossed shaped retention bracket.

We found the usual set of I/O connectors at the rear of the card, from the DVI-I connector to the analog VGA output to the mini-DIN connector for TV-output. ASUS did not see fit to include video capturing capabilities for the V9999GE considering that this card is targeted at gamers who would prefer gaming performance to extra features that would increase the price for an already costly card.

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