ASUS raises PhysX stakes with 256MB PPU

Written by Geoff Richards

March 29, 2006 // 8:19 p.m.

Tags: #256mb #ageia #asus #bfg #geoff #heatsink #launch #layout #may #pcb #physics-card #physx #ppu #ram #richards

Manufacturing giant ASUS today announced their own physics accelerator card based on the AGEIA PhysX processor. This brings the number of board partners to two, with BFG Technologies already shipping inside selected systems from Alienware, Dell and others, as we reported last week.

The big news is that while the BFG card has 128MB of on-board memory, the ASUS card announced today sports 256MB. Some might assume that this would make the ASUS card "better" but in reality, nobody really knows at this point in time. It might merely be marketing spin, like a lowly GeForce 6200 paired with an utterly pointless 512MB of RAM.

We will certainly be putting both cards head-to-head when retail cards are released in May.

For now, it is interesting to note the differences between the two boards: the ASUS is definitely not the same layout as the BFG just with higher capacity memory chips. If you want to play Spot The Difference, you can click the images below for larger versions.

The first difference you notice is the heatsink. ASUS has employed a larger, focused-flow design similar to that used on graphics cards; indeed, not so dissimilar to the Thermaltake heatsink used by AGEIA on early prototypes first seen 12 months ago. We also expect this to cool the RAM chips through direct contact with the aluminium heatsink. BFG make do with a cheaper, radial-finned design - clearly enough to cope with the 30-odd watts the PPU kicks out. There is also good direct airflow over the naked memory chips.


ASUS PPU (left) is 256MB and features a different heatsink and different PCB layout to the 128MB BFG (right)
Click for full size
Looking more closely at the physical layout and components used, there are some clear differences. You can see a different number of capacitors, in slightly different locations, on the PCB. We aren't hardware engineers, so won't pretend to understand the importance of the various extra components (or indeed the bits missing) from one design compared to another.

One thing's for sure: with two major players in the market, coupled with increased competition from Havok FX running on NVIDIA SLI (and ATI X1000-series cards for that matter), things are going to get really interesting over the next 12-18 months.

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