What impressed us most about the ASUS EAX1800XT TOP is its custom cooler. The reference Radeon X1800 XT 512MB uses a two-slot cooler that produces undesirable noise levels harking back to the past. Compared to NVIDIA's top cards like the GeForce 7800 GTX, the difference is quite palpable, with the Radeon X1800 XT winning this unwelcome honor. The ASUS EAX1800XT TOP similarly takes up an adjacent PCI slot when installed but more importantly, the noise has been reduced impressively. In fact, it even seems slightly quieter than the GeForce 7800 GTX.
This is achieved with a giant aluminum cooler with a copper base plate for the GPU, courtesy of the cooling specialists at Arctic Cooling. A black plastic shroud covers most of the cooler along with a 60mm fan. Like the reference design, there is a lengthy heatsink strip for the row of power transistors at the end of the card. The cooling efficiency is also pretty good, with our temperature measurements for the ASUS EAX1800XT TOP a fair bit lower than the reference board.
All that fancy cooling on the EAX1800XT TOP is nothing but a single-minded bid to overclock the Radeon X1800 XT 512MB from its default 625MHz / 1500MHz DDR to an impressive 700MHz / 1600MHz DDR. Unfortunately we hit the limits of the card pretty soon after that, as the most we managed was only 720MHz for the core and 1620MHz DDR for the memory, a rather small and disappointing jump in frequency.
With most high-end graphics cards requiring more power than the PCIe slot can offer, they usually have a Molex power connector to tap directly from the system's power supply unit. The caveat is that the power supply has to be at least a high quality 350W unit to provide sufficient power. For those who do not meet this requirement, there is no need to rush out and get a new PSU. ASUS has a simple solution: a stand-alone power adaptor exclusively for the EAX1800XT TOP.
ASUS has also thrown in a veritable feast of goodies for buyers of its EAX1800XT TOP. Jaded as we were with ASUS's strategy of overloading their bundles with quantity though not necessarily quality, we still had to take our hats off this time. Looking through the list of items below, we are sure you get the idea. Besides the ample collection of cables that most people would probably leave untouched in their plastic wrappings, there are also four full games, including the recent King Kong PC game based on Peter Jackson's new movie. We also found a number of media creation and DVD playback applications from CyberLink but rebadged with the ASUS brand.
The surprise of the package though, belonged to the USB XitePad gamepad. Having tried the King Kong game, we felt that it has some elements of gameplay where the gamepad would be more suitable than the usual keyboard/mouse combo. ASUS has previously included web cameras with its graphics cards but this decent vibration gamepad is a more appropriate choice.
Below is the extensive list of items that you should find in the package: