Now that ATI's mainstream DirectX 10 graphics cards have been officially launched, the low-end and mid-range segments are looking increasingly crowded, with NVIDIA having up to four different SKUs, each with variable configurations for memory type and size. ATI too has three major SKUs for its Radeon HD 2400 and 2600 series altogether, with comparable leeway for vendors to customize their products. Throw in the fact that ATI has generally priced its products a notch lower than competing NVIDIA SKUs to compensate for their lower performance and it seems that there could be quite the dilemma for consumers looking for a new mainstream graphics card.
It is however a welcome dilemma as having more choice is almost always better for consumers, provided they do their research of course, and not rely solely on brand names or hastily formed first impressions. The crowded field also means that vendors have greater incentive to distinguish its products by adding more features and inevitably, the list of the usual methods include having overclocked versions, non-standard coolers, and in case of some, like the recent XFX GeForce 8600 GT Fatal1ty we saw , both. For those who have no use for these frills, there's always the reliable way of falling back on price as the decisive factor.
ASUS is one of these vendors who have chosen to issue a silent, passively cooled version of the GeForce 8600 GT - the ASUS EN8600GT Silent. Equipped with a custom heatpipe based cooler, ASUS claims this card runs cooler than generic boards by an average of seven degrees Celsius. Our first though was this: a passively cooled graphics card running cooler than a fan-based one? Now that's something we have to see for ourselves, though we aren't too sure if the generic boards that ASUS is referring to here are the reference models or an equivalent passively cooled card. Does it live up to the marketing? Well, we'll show you how it does after the usual specifications below, which show that this ASUS is a standard clocked GeForce 8600 GT with 256MB of DDR3 memory.