Articles: Graphics

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PCB Design and Specifications

This graphics card looks like a scaled-down copy of the ASUS ENGTX460 DirectCU TOP we reviewed earlier. This is quite natural as both belong to the same series and represent the fastest models in their respective product lines.

Of course, being a less advanced solution, the ENGTS450 TOP looks somewhat simpler and more compact. Like on its senior cousin, the cooler casing is larger than the PCB. With the cooling system taken off, we can see the following:

First of all we can see a 4+1 power system which is more powerful than the one of the Zotac GeForce GTS 450 AMP! There is a 4-phase voltage regulator rather than a 3-phase one like on most other GeForce GTS 450 products. Its power transistors are covered with a small heatsink while the components of the memory voltage regulator lack such cooling. Interestingly, ASUS doesn't use its hyped tantalum capacitors everywhere on the ENGTS450 TOP, obviously due to their high cost. You can spot three such capacitors on the reverse side of the PCB whereas the face side carries a row of traditional and cheap polymer capacitors.

The intelligent part of the voltage regulators is represented by two chips from uPI Semiconductor. The uP6206 and uP6101 are responsible for GPU and memory power supply, respectively.

Both controller are located on the reverse side of the PCB, the uP6206 being even covered with a rather heavy aluminum plate. An elastic thermal pad serves as a thermal interface for them.

Like the earlier reviewed card from Zotac, this one has two empty memory chips on each side of the PCB. It indicates that the theoretically possible 192-bit memory access is not implemented here.

There are eight 1Gb GDDR5 memory chips on board. They are manufactured by Samsung Semiconductor and, despite the TOP suffix in the product name and unlike the memory of the Zotac GeForce GTS 450 AMP!, these are K4G10325FE-HC05 chips rated for a frequency of 1000 (4000) MHz. This is also the frequency the memory chips are actually clocked at by this card, delivering a peak memory bandwidth of 64 GBps. As usual, we have two power-saving modes in which the memory frequency is lowered to 324 (1296) MHz or to 135 (540) MHz.

The GPU of our sample of the ASUS card was manufactured on the 26th week of 2010. The marking is not indicative of any culling although the graphics core is pre-overclocked quite greatly compared with the reference card’s parameters. Its frequency is 925 MHz, the shader domain frequency being 1850 MHz, which is an indication of high frequency potential of the GF106 chip. This is in fact a record for the Fermi architecture, even though it is not too impressive considering the relative simplicity of the GF106. As you can learn from our reviews, we managed to overclock a GF104-based card to 900/1800 MHz after software-based volt-modding. As a matter of fact, ASUS used volt-modding, too. The GPU voltage of the ENGTS450 TOP is as high as 1.125 volts in 3D applications. This is going to increase the card's power consumption as we will check out in the next section of this review. The GPU configuration is standard with 192 ALUs, 32 TMUs, and 16 RBEs. The card lowers its GPU frequencies to 405/810 and 51/101 MHz in its two power-saving modes.

The ASUS ENGTS450 TOP is somewhat more conservative than the Zotac GeForce GTS 450 AMP! in terms of interfaces as it is equipped with a 15-pin D-Sub connector. This port is hardly necessary these days since analog connection can be established with an appropriate DVI-I adapter. The card supports SLI and Surround Gaming technologies (the latter in 2D mode only, without stereo glasses). It can output audio over HDMI in all modern formats (including multichannel HD audio).

The cooling system represents a simplified version of the ASUS ENGTX460 TOP’s cooler.

The heatsink is smaller, the fan is 80 millimeters large and has a simpler impeller design, and there are only two instead of three heat pipes (but they are still 8 rather than 6 millimeters in diameter). The direct-touch technology is implemented properly: the pipes are finished well and fitted seamlessly into the grooves of the cooler's aluminum base. The trace left by the thermal grease indicates that the pipes have full contact with the surface of the GF106 die. This is especially important since this chip lacks a heat-spreading cap like the GF100 or the GF104. The overall quality of the cooling system is just as high as that of its senior cousin, and its performance should be sufficient to cool even a greatly overclocked GF106. Let’s check this out right now, though.

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