This content was originally featured on Amdmb.com and has been converted to PC Perspective’s website. Some color changes and flaws may appear.
If faced with two nearly identical Radeon 9800XT cards for the same price, would you go for the box with games or software you already have or for the other that has software you may want to use or games you want to play? Not only is bundled software important to a purchase decision, it may also affect the price of the product as well. Though testing bundled sofwtare can be tedious at time, sometimes you find that little gem in the pack that makes it all worth while. Let’s see if Asus has something special for us in their package!
There are 8 CDs that come with the Asus Radeon 9800XT TVD:
CD 1 – Drivers
Of all the CDs reviewed here, this CD is definitely the “coolest” of them all. Okay, the drivers and DirectX 9.0a are not exciting, but the other utlities on the CD are pretty useful!
- Asus Smart Doctor is a overclocking and videocard monitoring utility. With this program you can adjust your memory and core speeds, monitor your video voltage, temperature, and fan RPM. In the setup options of the Smart Doctor, you can adjust the thresholds of warnings on the different measurements. For the fan control, you can also manually configure how the fans throttle up and down depending on the temperature which is very useful as each person’s temperature and noise tolerance is different. Unlike MSI’s overclocking and temperature monitoring utility, the interface to Asus’s tool is very clean and functional – there aren’t any unecessary animations or noises.
There are two problems with this utility however. First, the overclocking utlity only goes up to 440 MHz core and 770 MHz memory which isn’t much if you’re really looking to push your hardware.You will need to download a different utility like PowerStrip if you want to get more overclocking out of the card (which is what I did for the overclocking trials done later in this review). The second problem is that the monitoring tool is prone to crashing the computer while running a game. I managed to crash Halo twice in 10 minutes because the monitoring tool was running in the background. When I disabled Smart Doctor, everything runs smoothly.
- Asus Video Security is
a neat little tool that allows you to turn your video card and video camera
into a security system. This program will monitor for changes between two
video snapshots and when there’s enough difference, it will alert the user
in different ways. Video Security can email you an alert, sound an alarm
(through the speakers), or execute a specified program in response. Though
you can use a regular camera through Video-in, you can also use a webcam
as long as it uses DirectShow. This is great news as I don’t think you want
to put your $600 MiniDV camera outside to monitor your front porch when a
$20 webcam will do. 😉
I tested this software by playing Face/Off (directed by John Woo) as the video source and had the software alert me whenever the image in the movie changed. As you can see by the output below, it caught Nicholas Cage doing some dramatic blinking.
The Asus Video Security interface (Left).
Example of captured output (Right).
The real power of this utility comes from its ability to execute any specified program the user specifies. By letting my mind wonder a bit, I devised some alternative uses for this program:
- Monitor the doorway to your store. When the “alarm” trips, you can have Video Security execute WinAmp and play a random greeting or chime… or take some snapshots if you’re paranoid. 🙂
- Monitor the traffic in a hallway or on a road. Each time the alarm trip, you can execute a simple program that increments a counter. This could be useful for principles of schools trying to catch students skipping class.
- Monitor a baby in a crib without having to enter their room.
In the proper hands, this little piece of software can be very powerful and I think those of you with the equipment should take advantage of this functionality.
- Asus Digital VCR is what we’ve all come to expect from TIVO units. It has the ability to record specified channels at any given time through a schedule. The only catch is that you must have a TV Tuner installed in your computer in order to take advantage of any of the special features like 16-channel surfing and the time-shift theatre. However, even if you don’t have a TV tuner, you can still use it like a VCR and have your TV signal routed through an external tuner (like a TV converter or a VCR).
The Asus DVCR interface.
Programming a recording schedule.
Something I find useful for this program is to have it automatically digitize old media for you. By setting up a schedule, you can time a recording to coincide with the duration of your old VHS home movies. This is a handy way of digitizing your old library without having to be there to hit “stop”.
- Asus Game Face is
one of those programs in the bundle you wonder about it’s usefullness. The
premise of this software is allow a user to videoconference with friends
in a game so you can see and hear their expressions. Though I did not have
the opportunity of testing this program (I don’t know anyone who’s actually
running this software), I would suspect it will take some bandwidth from
your game depending on your conferencing quality settings. It is for this
reason I can’t see this program being particularly useful as most of us want
lag-free gameplay rather than videoconferencing.
Oh and here’s something disturbing and humourous from Asus’ online literature on Game Face:
“Play on the job:
Have you ever tried to play games in the office, but are afraid that your boss might pop up from behind? GameFace helps you in this area as well. Simply point the web cam to your boss’ office and activate the GameFace feature when you are playing. Your boss’ every movement will show up on your screen immediately. Never get caught again.”
If this is what Asus advocates on their website, does anyone at Asus get anything done?! 😉
CD 2 – Power Director ME
Power Director is a very simple yet capabale video authoring software. You can import and capture movies, audio, and images into a presentation and put transitions between each different media type. One of the nice things about this software is that you can export your movies as MPEG-2 format, unlike some other software which requires an upgrade (and extra money) to get that functionality.
However there are some limitations with the “SE” version of this software notably no master audiotrack and no QuickTime export. To have these features and others require you to upgrade to the commercial version of the software. Also this software can’t run at 800×600 or lower (not that any of you will be running at 800×600 on a Asus Radeon 9800XT anyway). All in all, the program is functional and worth looking at if you don’t already have movie-making software.
CD 3 – Asus DVD
Asus DVD XP is their branded version of CyberLink’s PowerDVD XP. All the features you’d find in typical DVD software, so there’s nothing too outstanding to report here. However, this version of DVD player only supports 2-speaker stereo and SPDIF. So if you’re looking for Dolby or 5 speaker features, you’d have to upgrade to the commercial version.
CD 4 – ULead PhotoExpress & Cool3D
- ULead PhotoExpress isn’t what I expected. I was thinking it was a simple photo editor like JASC PaintShop Pro but I was totally wrong. PhotoExpress is an application that can do batch image adjustments like rotations and other “quick” transformations. It also has a “Project” feature that allows you to quickly create labels, posters, name tags, and even origami/paper toys from templates using your existing media. It even has an import and digitize feature. There’s so much in this software it almost feels like many different applications in one.
However, I can’t feel that this program is just “fluff”. It doesn’t do anything you can’t already find for free on the Internet already. Personally there’s nothing in this program that makes me want to use it, but the batch conversion feature and the CD Labels may appeal to some of you.
- ULead Cool3D continues in the tradition being particularly useless. Cool3D is basically a quick & dirty program that does 3D effects on objects and text. You can then export your 3D objects as an image or as AVIs. Honestly, I can’t see any particular use for this program, especially for those customers who will be dishing out $500 USD for a Asus 9800XT.
I think we can conclude that most of you can turn this CD into a coaster.
CD 5 – MediaShow
Of all the software bundled with the Asus Radeon 9800 XT, this CD and the software contained within is absolutely the worst! Medi@Show is basically a slideshow program that allows you to put videos, images in a sequence and have audio play along with it. That in itself isn’t bad, but it’s the way this is done that makes it nearly useless.
First, the program can only run in 1024×768 or 800×600. Anything higher and the program simply does not run! Instead of putting the program in a window like most other programs, it pops up an error dialog saying that you should change your desktop resolution.
Second, the interface is so “slick” that it strips away any ease-of-use and functionality. Everything on the interface looks metalic and menus “slide-in/out” when you mouse over it. Because the developers chose a movie-theater metaphor for their UI, it’s not really clear as to what you’re supposed to do or how to go about making presentations. But once you figure out how to put images into a presentation there’s no way to re-order the sequence of images. I strongly suggest you avoid this software and go with something like ACDSee or PowerPoint.
Bundled with the Asus Radeon 9800XT/TVD are three game CDs: Battle Engine Aquila, Gun Metal, and 6-in-1 Games CD. I won’t go into any details about the games since you can find more thorough game reviews scattered around the web (or you can always ask the opinion of our Games Forum members). Both Battle Engine Aquila and Gun Metal are ports of XBox games to the PC and judging by the reviews, these games are mediocre at best. The 6-in-1 CD contains demo versions of Splinter Cell, Warcraft 3, Big Mutha Truckers, Breed, Colin McRae Rally 3, and TOCA Race Driver. Ironically, these crippled games/demos are probably better than the other 2 games CD included in the Asus bundle. As an aside… is it me or does “Battle Engine Aquila” sound like an ominous TacoBell combo? 😛
I suppose the sad state of Asus’ game package doesn’t matter to those of you who don’t care much about bundled software, but personally I would have liked to have seen some better games. Their competitor MSI manages to put in Ghost Recon and Morrowind, which are two excellent games, into their bundles. Why can’t Asus do similar? The point of a bundled game is to add value to the existing product without having to spend a lot, and it seems Asus missed the mark on this one.