Zotac has carried the dragon theme across from its box onto the card's heatsink shroud – whether or not it's to your tastes is one thing, but it's good to see some continuity in the design. The heatsink itself, while very similar to the reference design, is actually a different design—although very little has changed.
The obvious difference is the fan – the hole in the shroud has been enlarged from 45mm to 60mm and the fan's diameter has also increased from 60mm to 70mm. At least, according to my shaky caffeine-induced measurements...
The fan itself is clear and has been given the LED treatment – there are three orange LEDs in the centre of the fan. This complements the flaming dragon artwork on the shroud pretty well.
That's not the only change to the shroud though, as the whole thing seems to have undergone a bit of a redesign. I'm not sure whether this is for the good or not, but you'd be fooled for thinking that the shroud is exactly the same as the reference design.
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Underneath the shroud, there are more changes – the array of fins is pretty unchanged, but the actual plate that comes into contact with the DRAMs and GPU core is a slightly different shape. From what I can see, there are a couple of extra heatpipes underneath – we'll have a look to see if the design changes make any difference to cooling performance!
Aside from these physical changes, the underlying PCB on the Zotac GeForce 8800 GT 512MB AMP! Edition looks to be the same as the reference design. The good thing to note here is that, while Zotac has made some changes, it's kept the acoustics down—the card is no louder than a standard GeForce 8800 GT—and has also retained the single slot cooling solution.
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There are some significant clock speed enhancements on Zotac's AMP! Edition, with the company pumping up the core, shader and memory clocks from 600/1500/1800MHz to 700/1674/2000MHz. These are pretty impressive increases and are some of the highest we've seen on a GeForce 8800 GT – they should help to improve performance compared to a standard GeForce 8800 GT 512MB across the board.
Of course, the question I'm sure many of you want to know the answer to is whether or not it will manage to match the GeForce 8800 GTS 512MB. That will have to be answered when we get to the benchmarks, but I suspect that there will be scenarios where Zotac's card will prevail although in anything remotely shader-heavy, it's more than likely going to fall behind.
On the PCI bracket, there are two dual-link DVI ports that both support HDCP at resolutions up to 2560x1600—just like any other GeForce 8800 GT—and there's also an HDTV-out DIN connector.
Zotac currently offers a two-year warranty that covers parts and labour on all of its products. In Europe, this is handled by PC Partner’s European service centre (in the UK) and is a fairly standard warranty in the region. This is a transferrable warranty and you're able to install a third party cooling solution on the card without voiding it – that's good to hear, but Zotac does warn that it is not liable for damage caused by a ham-handed third party heatsink installation.
We’d like to see something a little longer and that’s something we’ve certainly been passing back to Zotac. There were rumours of an extended warranty period, but those are yet to materialise some six months after the initial indication that a longer warranty might be on the cards. As always, we'll keep you updated on any news on this front.