Product: nVIDIA 9800 GX2
Company: nVIDIA
Authour: ChrisRay
Editor: Charles 'Lupine' Oliver
Date: March 20th, 2008
Conclusion



We've approached this review a little differently, so will do our best to hit it from every angle.  We'll look at the HDTV gaming experience, followed with some comparisons against the competing SLI options on the market, and finish up with our overall impressions on the new 9800 GX2.

HDTV Gaming on Modern Hardware:

While the prominent display resolutions on the market remain 1280x1024 and 1680x1050, the prices of HDTV displays are dropping in price and modern users increasingly have the option of simply connecting their computers directly into their LCD/Plasma HDTV sets. Users who intend on doing this will definitely need a high end display setup, as even a single 8800 GTX is unable to provide a consistent experience at 1920x1080.  We're pleased to report, however, that a single 9800 GX2 is  up to the task. In this case the more graphic power you have the better. What is the point in having an high definition setup if you must consistently compromise on quality?

SLI Comparisons:

  • 8800 GTX SLI vs. 9800 GX2

    We found the performance of these cards to be mostly a wash. If you currently own a 8800 GTX you should consider upgrading to a second 8800 GTX to obtain similar, and in some cases superior, performance due to the additional frame buffer. The scale tips toward the 9800 GX2 for anyone buying a complete solution today, and these users should avoid the 8800 GTX SLI path. Consider this: a 9800 GX2 consumes a total of 197 watts of power, while dual 8800 GTX cards consume nearly twice that, which results in nearly twice the amount of total heat outputted in your system. The G80 hardware also does not offer the advanced PureVideo engine, limiting its versatility. With the 9800 GX2 aiming to work in any chipset, it simply makes more sense to buy a single 9800 GX2 single card than dual 8800 GTX SLI cards at this time. The only hurdle might be power supplies, but newer power supplies coming onto the market and the adapters being provided this shouldn't be too much of an issue.


  • 8800 GT SLI vs. 9800 GX2

    This fight is a tougher draw for the 9800 GX2. The 8800 GT cards are cheaper and can be easily SLI'd to provide performance that is usually 10-15% slower than a single 9800 GX2. For future upgradability, however, the 8800 GTs in SLI will not have the QUAD SLI upgrade path offered by dual 9800 GX2 cards, and still offers slightly inferior performance. Power and heat becomes a non-issue here as dual 8800 GT cards have very similar thermal and power characteristics to a single 9800 GX2. Both solutions also offer similar PureVideo functionality. The 9800 GX2 is the faster solution and does offers the luxury of being used on non nForce chipsets for those not wishing to upgrade their motherboard, which certainly impacts the value of this solution for some.


  • 8800 Tri SLI vs. 9800 GX2 Quad SLI

    With the Quad configurations still in testing, we will refrain from making any direct recommendations regarding this. Rage3D plans to provide a Quad SLI performance preview and configuration guide, giving us an opportunity to measure it against 8800 GTX Tri SLI. Stay Tuned.

Overall Impression:

We were admittedly a bit dubious about a 9800 GX2 when we first heard about it. Likewise, we cannot issue a final verdict until we get a chance to completely test Quad SLI. Clearly this card uses SLI technology and will have similar performance to many of the current SLI configurations. However, being a single card solution gives it the advantage of working with any chipset. We're also impressed with the unique cooling solution, resulting in a card that is quieter than both 8800 GTX SLI and 8800 GT SLI configurations.

The dual PCB design of the 9800 GX2 doesn't appear to be an important factor, with the card consuming the same number of PCI slots as an 8800 GTX or 8800 Ultra which use much larger coolers.  Frankly, unless you take the card apart you wouldn't know its a dual PCB solution. It The LEDs only add to the superior packaging and great presentation. Our verdict?  As a single card, the 9800 GX2 offers reason for much optimism from the enthusiast community. While some would prefer a single monolithic GPU, the 9800 GX2 achieves a level of performance currently out of reach to the monolithic design; results perhaps especially important to those opting for non nForce platforms. Our biggest concern is the 512 Meg limitation of the GPU which, under some circumstances, may be a very real bottleneck.

Final Reflections

After some reflection upon all the hardware we have tested, it occurs to us that we really do have a lot of options right now. Nvidia has a solid spread of performance/price ratios and many ways of achieving those goals. We simply cannot remember a time in recent history when so many options have been available at so many price points. And this really hits home: there really is a little something for everybody right now, with excellent value in the plethora of solutions currently available. Even the sub $200 market is well covered with 9600 GT and 9600 GT SLI, which we were unfortunately unable to include in this round of tests.

Sneak Peak: And of course... a sneak peek at things to come..


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