Unlike the original GeForce 256 based card that ASUS produced, the V6600 SDRAM, the V7700 does not use a pure reference design but rather a slightly modified version. The V6600 SDRAM was solely a reference design based board: that was it. It was not until the V6600 Pure came along did we see ASUS stray from the reference design and produce a proprietary design capable of including advanced features such as video-in and hardware monitoring. With the V7700, ASUS's entrance into the GeForce 2 GTS market is slightly different: although the card is based on the NVIDIA reference design, it incorporates a hardware monitoring chip into free space on the back of the PCB. This feature alone provides the extra edge we spoke of earlier, keeping ASUS afloat in the GeForce 2 GTS market.
Powered by the same Winbond W83781D chip found on the V7700's younger brothers, the V6x00 series cards, the V7700 is able to decode information sent to it by not only the hardware monitoring fan but also from an internal temperature probe and voltage monitor. As far as we have seen in the lab, ASUS is the only manufacturer to implement such a feature in a GeForce based card. The importance of hardware monitoring can not be understated: not only does the Winbond chip allow for dynamic overclocking by raising core and memory speed until the card gets too hot, it also allows for a watchful eye to be kept on the fan speed preventing disaster. It took a proprietary board design to do this with the V6x00 series card, but this design also allowed for video-in to be implemented. In the case of the V7700 series cards, it has yet to be seen if the upcoming V7700 Deluxe will continue to stick to the reference design, but it seems highly likely: the only reason that the reference design was not used in the case of the V6x00 series was because there needed to be space for the hardware monitoring chip as well as the video-input chip. Since ASUS has found a way to mate the Winbond W83781D chip onto free space on the back of the reference design, and since video-in and video-out are both controlled by a snap on daughter card, it seems unlikely that a new design needs to be made. It is much simpler for ASUS to stick with the reference design with the Winbond chip on the back and design a video-in/out daughter board by themselves, making this the most likely scenario.
The .18 micron GeForce 2 GTS GPU is cooled via a circular heatsink and fan. Although the fan may look dramatically different that those found on most GeForce 2 GTS cards, the idea behind it and the functionality of the heatsink remain the same. In fact, it seems that the surface area of the circular heatsink may actually be smaller that of the generic square heatsinks. The heatsink is attached to the GPU surface via a properly applied layer of thermal grease, allowing for maximum heat transfer. Unlike the GeForce 256, heat is not a major concern for GeForce 2 GTS cards due to the .18 mircon die used in the chip, as described in the overclocking section. With this in mind, the heatsink and fan combination used in the V7700 is very similar to others out there, with the added bonus that the V7700 uses thermal grease not less efficient thermal glue found in the majority of video cards out there.
The DDR SGRAM chips are the same ones found on all other 32 MB GeForce (256 or 2 GTS) DDR cards. Running at a default speed of 333 MHz, the Infineon chips are actually clocked at their speced speed. As discussed in our ELSA GLADIAC GeForce 2 GTS review, it seems that Infineon has finally met speced ratings when it comes to memory quality. The GeForce 256 memory clock was set at 300 MHz (150 MHz DDR) even though the RAM was of the same brand and speed as found on GeForce 2 GTS cards. We often had problems overclocking the memory clock above the 166 MHz DDR mark, suggesting that NVIDIA would stray away from this number when setting the GeForce 2 GTS memory clock speed. As it turns out, the new batches of Infineon RAM found on GeForce 2 GTS cards consistently perform better than the same type RAM chips on older GeForce 256 cards. How much better is left to be seen in the overclocking section, but at least we know that the RAM should have no problem running at its speced speed of 166 MHz.
As far as video-out goes, it does not come with the card nor does it appear that an upgrade will be available. Even though adding video out would be as simple as snapping a daughter board in place, ASUS did not precut a hole for the S-Video connector into the mounting bracket of the card. This suggests that ASUS wishes to target the V7700 at users who have no need for video out, leaving the higher costing V7700 Deluxe to fill the needs of both video-out as well as video-in users.