Asus EAH3850 Trinity Page: 1
Introduction
 
Asys Trinity - Overview
Just over a month ago pictures of Asus' concept card, the "Trinity" started surfacing around the internet. With only 10 put into production, select few media publications have been given the honor of  seeing one in the flesh. However, yesterday ASUS were kind enough to make their way down to Overclock3D HQ with the card for a quick benchmarking session coupled with a nice cuppa tea!
 
For those of us who haven't been following the coverage of the Trinity, the card is essentially three RV670PRO (3850) Notebook GPU's slapped on to a rather large PCB. The card also comes compete with a whopping 1.5GB of GDDR3 and four DVI ports. ASUS have stressed that this card will never, ever, ever, ever go into production and for that reason, the card should only be taken at face value for it's technological merit rather than compared to any other graphics cards currently on the market.
 
To be honest, this is quite a relief as the card is mammoth in size (comparable to the Sapphire X1950 Pro Dual "Concept" card) and proved totally impossible to fit in the Antec Nine Hundred encased test system we'd set up especially.
 
Below are some extracts from ASUS' recent PR release about the card:
 
ASUS Trinity SpecsASUS Unveils World’s First Onboard Triple RV670PRO Graphics Card
ASUS, producer of top quality graphic solutions, has today unveiled the world’s first on-board triple GPU solution with the concept model ASUS EAH3850 TRINITY/3DHTI/1.5G graphics card. With three RV670PRO GPUs onboard, users can enjoy an astonishing 139% improvement in speeds when compared to single-GPU solutions. Additionally, the EAH3850 TRINITY is equipped with a MXM module for upgrade possibilities and two exclusive extra DVI outputs. It also features a specially designed water cooling solution – ensuring efficient heat dissipation for stable performance. On top of all this, the ASUS EAH3850 TRINITY is equipped with a world-exclusive large onboard memory size of 1.5GB – designed to provide feature-rich DirectX 10 gaming and the best multimedia playback at ultra-high resolutions and maximum quality settings.

Unparalleled Performance with Just One Card
As the world’s first onboard triple GPU solution, the ASUS EAH3850 TRINITY/3DHTI/1.5G is able to elevate 3DMark06 scores from 4880 to 11662 – an astonishing 139% speed improvement when compared to the single-GPU solutions *. Gamers can now truly feel the exhilarating rush of extreme gaming performance only with the ASUS EAH3850 TRINITY.
 
Exclusively Designed Hardware Features
The EAH3850 TRINITY comes with the MXM module design that allows users to obtain the flexibility to upgrade the MXM VGA module in regards to GPU and memory size with lower costs. The EAH3850 TRINITY also utilizes a specially designed water cooling solution that effectively dissipates heat away from the three GPUs through heatpipes that are specially connected to the main board of the graphics card instead of the GPUs. Due to the fact that the water cooling solution works exceptionally well even with upgraded GPU and memory, the hassles of displacing the thermal module when upgrading the MXM VGA module is avoided for minimized upgrading costs. On top of all this, the EAH3850 TRINITY is equipped with two extra DVI outputs for a maximum of four-display video outputs.
 
Probably the most exciting feature of the Trinity aside from its Thermaltake liquid cooling solution *ahem* is the MXM module design. This would essentially allow users to upgrade the GPU and Memory installed on the graphics card without needing to purchase an entirely new card. Obviously this has several flaws in that the most expensive parts of a graphics card are indeed the GPU and Memory, so very little savings would be had by upgrading these components singularly rather than purchasing an entirely new graphics card. Obviously driver support could be a royal PITA too. However, as we're looking at an engineering sample here, all of what we've just said is pretty much irrelevant.


Asus EAH3850 Trinity Page: 2
Pictures
 
To say that ASUS were protective of the card is an underestimate! While physical touching of the card was allowed under close supervision, when we reached for our screwdrivers to get right down into the guts of the card, our hands were promptly slapped! Never less, we did still manage to get a few quick snaps of the card up-close....
 
ASUS Trinity Top-Down Asus Trinity GPU's
 
Asus Trinity Top GPU Asus Trinity Top GPU Side
 
Asus have utilized two methods of cooling for each of the three daughterboard on the Trinity. The GPU is cooled by two heatpipes, while the memory modules are passively cooled by an L-shaped aluminium heatsink.
 
Asus Trinity Back Cooling Asus Trinity Bottom Rear Heatpipes
 
Each of the heatpipes from the three GPU's connect to a large waterblock at the back of the card. The water simply flows through the block, taking away the heat from the copper plate mounted to the block. While the solutions may not be very attractive, it certainly does a reasonable job at keeping the card cool... apart from when the flexible black rubber tubes get kinked!
 
Asus Trinity - Thermaltake Cooling Asus Trinity - Thermaltake Cooling
 
The pump, reservoir, radiator and 120mm fan are all contained within a separate unit that occupies two 5.25" bays. However, due to its length we had a hard time fitting it in anything much smaller than a full-tower case.


Asus EAH3850 Trinity Page: 3
Test Setup
 
To ensure that all reviews on Overclock3D are fair, consistent and unbiased, a standard set of hardware and software is used whenever possible during the comparative testing of two or more products. The configuration used in this review can be seen below:
 
Processor
• Intel Core 2 Quad Q6600 "G0" 2.4GHz 2x 4MB @ 3.16ghz

Motherboard
• Asus Rampage Formula X48 DDR2

Cooling
• OCZ Vendetta 2 + Stock Fan

Memory
• Cellshock PC2-6400 DDR2 2GB Kit (5-4-4-15)

Graphics Card(s)
Asus EAH3850 "Trinity"
Asus EAH3850 X2

Hard Disk
• Hitachi Deskstar 80GB 7K80 SATA2 7200RPM 8mb

Operating System
• Microsoft Windows Vista Ultimate (Latest Updates)
 
After experiencing problems with fitting the Trinity inside an Antec Nine Hundred along with several cases of Vista misbehaving, a DVD-RW deciding that it didn't like our Call Of Duty 4 disk and a hard disk failure, our initial plans to run a selection of four games at various resolutions pretty much went out of the window. In the end we had to settle for the following benchmarks:
 
3D Benchmarks
• 3DMark05 @ Default Settings
• 3DMark06 @ Default Settings

3D Games
• Quake 4 @ 1600x1200 / 4xAA / 4xAF / Ultra Settings
• Bioshock @ 1600x1200 / Highest Settings
• F.E.A.R @ 1600x1200 / 4xFSAA / Maximum Settings
 
 
3DMark053DMark06
 
3DMark is a popular synthetic gaming benchmark used by many gamers and overclockers to gauge the performance of their PC's. All 3DMark runs were performed a total of 5 times with the highest and lowest results being removed and an average calculated from the remaining 3 results.
 
Asus EAH3850 Trinity - 3DMark05
 
Asus EAH3850 Trinity - 3DMark06
 
 
Quake 4
 
Quake 4 is a game built on the Doom 3 engine. Benchmarking was performed using Quake4Bench and a custom timedemo recording along with 4xAA, 4xAF settings at a resolution of 1600x1200 for maximum stress on the GPU. The benchmark was set to run a total of 5 times, with Quake4Bench automatically calculating an average result at the end of the run.
 
Asus EAH3850 Trinity - Quake 4
 
 
F.E.A.R
 
F.E.A.R. is a game based on the Lithtech Jupiter EX engine. It has volumetric lighting, soft shadows, parallax mapping and particle effects. Included in the game is a benchmark facility that taxes the entire PC system. This benchmark was run a total of 5 times, with the highest and lowest results being excluded and an average being calculated on the remaining 3 results.
 
Asus EAH3850 Trinity - F.E.A.R
 
 
BIOSHOCK
 
Bioshock is a recent FPS shooter by 2K games. Based on the UT3 engine it has a large amount of advanced DirectX techniques including excellent water rendering and superb lighting and smoke techniques. All results were recorded using F.R.A.P.S with a total of 5 identical runs through the same area of the game. The highest and lowest results were then removed, with an average being calculated from the remaining 3 results.
 
Asus EAH3850 Trinity - BIOSHOCK
 
 
Result Observations
 
While we would have ideally liked the place the Trinity against several other cards, performing a head-to-head comparison with the Asus 3850X2 gives us a clear indication of just how much use games are able to make out of that third GPU. As we can see from the graphs above, the Trinity pretty much slaughters the 3850X2, taking a 27% lead in BIOSHOCK and an almost unbelievable (but thoroughly re-producible) 34% increase in F.E.A.R. Quake 4 on the other hand, didn't seem to take much advantage of the extra GPU/memory and only showed a 4FPS increase.


Asus EAH3850 Trinity Page: 4
Final Thoughts
 
Asus TrinityWhile the Asus Trinity might be able to push out some decent benchmarking results and offer users the ability to upgrade the GPU/Memory on the card, Asus implicitly state that it will never go into mass production - and in all honesty, that makes us quite happy. Don't get me wrong, the Trinity is a great bit of kit, and something that ASUS will undoubtedly be able to win many willy-waving competitions against other ATI AIB's with, but the practicality of such a card (mainly thanks to its bulky cooling solution) means that it wouldn't stand a chance in the real world.
 
However, one area that the MXM modular GPU technology could certainly show promise is in HTPC's. Where HTPC users are normally limited for choice with what cards can be used in low-profile enclosures, an MXM module integrated on to an M-ATX motherboard could possibly (if the support was there) give users the ability to pick and choose from a much wider range of GPU's, and upgrade without worrying about possible fitting issues.
 
 
The Good
• Pretty decent results for three mid-range notebook GPU's slapped together.
• MXM design allows for upgrading of GPU (not that we'll ever see an MXM module again...maybe).
 
The Bad
• Its huuuuuge!
 
The Ugly
• Thermaltake cooling..
 
 
In three words: silly, sexy, cool.
 
 
Overclock3D Innovation Award 
 
 
Thanks to ASUS for making this review possible. Discuss this review in our forums.