I can't even remember why I was digging around in these boxes but it sure was worth it. Like finding an old box buried in the back of the garage, discovering an old card gets my geek organ wagging in nostalgia. Normally, as a responsible company, ASUS vacuums up all the old kit for recycling to make space for the next generation, so the sad truth is that items like this rarely survive. After recently chatting to a 10 year veteran of ASUS, he claims the Extreme N6800GT-DUAL/2DT/512M (to give it its official name) never made it into real production, but evidently its seeds laid root to products like the MARS and ARES we know today, which is why we're doing this little retrospective.
As no official production was made, the box is not retail. For reference the box is larger than those used by the GENE microATX series! The instructions were also.. brief.
Anyone remember these?
Before the advent of digital switches that automated the process of PCI-Express lane switching (16x/1x or 8x/8x), you needed to manually flip a piece of PCB before you dropped in the second graphics card. This one above was for the P5ND2 SLI, which used the nForce 4 Intel chipset - the first with SLI (with the A8N SLI Deluxe as the AMD equivalent).
The two heatsinks are all aluminum and they predate the use of copper heatpipes - so no DirectCU technology here. That fan uses just a 2-pin connector rather than the modern-day 4-pin with PWM control, which means it's 100% fan speed, 100% of the time! This is because the 6800 core had no idle frequency/voltage reduction, so it ran at the full 400MHz all day long.
Wow, the things we take for granted now!
This curly support bracket certainly looks funky, but it has an important role in strengthening the PCB and preventing it from bending under its own weight, which is of particular concern to one this size. The design here maybe crude yet effective, and it's these early efforts that have seeded the bracket on all ASUS DirectCU cards like this one.
The power hardware consisted of two 6-pin connectors - one for each GPU/memory - and 5+2 phase VRMs. As you can see we've also improved the cable ergonomics to no longer put one connector half way down the PCB! Cable management has come a long way since then (provided you had a case wide enough to put the side panel back on)!
Anyone else remember S-Video out in the years before HDTV or even Blu-ray (and HD DVD)? Still, we had dual display and proper, dual-link DVI ports back then!