For quite a while now, the 8800 GTX and 8800 Ultra have been the fastest single GPU cards around. In spite of the fact that we haven't seen any faster single GPU solution introduced, it is only recently that the rest of the lineup has become compelling on either the NVIDIA or AMD front. Aiming high is a good thing for those who can afford it, but until the technology makes its way into cheaper products most of us won't see the benefit.

It costs quite a bit of money to develop and produce single GPU solutions of ever increasing die size and complexity. It's a problem of engineering rather than science: yes faster hardware could be built, but it doesn't matter how fast your product is if people who are interested can't afford it. There are trade offs and diminishing returns to consider when designing hardware, and production cost and market value always have something to say about what type of performance a company will be able to target with a given product.

NVIDIA's G80 is a huge chip. Yes, they owned the market for a long time with it, but its cost to build was high and it was an expensive part for end users to own as well. AMD finally pulled out a wild card with the 3870 X2, and rather than putting their money into a large high cost chip, they combined two GPUs onto one board for their high end offering. Sure, NVIDIA had a single board dual GPU product a couple years back (the 7950 GX2) - and ATI tried that as well back in the Rage MAXX days - but we haven't seen a similar solution from their DX10 lineup until today.

With G9x coming in as a glorified die shrink to G80, NVIDIA took the opportunity to move away from huge die size and shift to the cheaper option of combining two GPUs on a single board for its highest end part. It is less expensive to make use of two chips, even if their combined size is larger than a monolithic one because yields are so much better. NVIDIA is able to get more chips per wafer and a higher percentage of those will be good compared to a large design.

Of course, in spite of a cheaper to produce solution, the increased performance of this solution over previous high end has earned the 9800 GX2 a pretty heft price premium. At a retail price of at least $600 US, these bad boys will not be making their way into everyone's systems. There is always a price for having the best of the best.

As we mentioned, NVIDIA has done single card dual GPU in the past. But this board is different from both the 7950 GX2 and it's current competitor, the 3870 X2. Let's take a look at the board and see just what the differences are.

The 9800 GX2 Inside, Out and Quad
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  • chizow - Tuesday, March 18, 2008 - link

    Heh ya he's posted similarly all over the video forums as well. Not sure what he's whining on about though, the GX2 is what everyone expected it TO BE based on already known and readily available 8800GT SLI benchmarks. Even though the core is closer to a G92 GTS with 128 SP, the core and shader clocks are closer to the stock 8800GT.

    Pricing isn't far off either; its about 2x as much as TWO G92 GTS, slightly more than TWO G92 GT. But here's the kicker, you don't need SLI to get the benefits of SLI, just as you didn't need a CF board for CF with the 3870 X2. With an SLI board, you can use TWO of these cards for what amounts to QUAD SLI which isn't an option with any other NV solution and certainly much cheaper than the previous high-end multi-GPU solution, Tri-SLI with 8800 GTX/Ultra with a 680/780 board and a 1000W+ PSU.

    For those with SLI capable boards, ofc its more economic to go with 2x 8800GT or 9600GT or even 8800GTS in SLI. For those who have ATI/Intel boards this offers the same thing the X2 did for NV board owners. For those with native SLI boards this offers the highest possible configuration for either camp but its going to cost you accordingly. Sure its not cheap now, but high-end never is. Expect prices to fall but if you buy now you're going to pay a premium, just as all early adopters do.
    Reply
  • Methusela - Tuesday, March 18, 2008 - link

    I don't see any power draw comparisons in the review. Isn't this important? What about heat and sound output? Reply
  • Genx87 - Tuesday, March 18, 2008 - link

    According to Hardocp the 9800X2 draws 196 watts at idle and 365 at load. The 3780x2 draws 151 idle and 381 at load. Reply
  • Griswold - Tuesday, March 18, 2008 - link

    Which part of "For this test we used a wattage meter plugged in at the wall that measures total system power" did you not understand? No, these cards do not suck that much power, its the whole system that draws 365W and 381W at load. Reply
  • Methusela - Tuesday, March 18, 2008 - link

    Derek, I'm shocked you didn't include SLI 8800gt 512mb in the test. Isn't this essentially the same thing as what's inside the 9800gx2, but would cost a lot less? Reply
  • Deusfaux - Tuesday, March 18, 2008 - link

    No, it'd make more sense to test with GTS 512 SLI.

    Even more sense if they were underclocked to 600 mhz core and 1600 shader, and overclocked to 1100 mem, to match the gpus in this card.
    Reply
  • chizow - Tuesday, March 18, 2008 - link

    I agree an 8800GT SLI comparison would've made more sense, although there is the 9600GT SLI and also 8800 GT benches in there to compare with single card performance. Hopefully it was just an oversight on Derek's part and not something sinister like some NV enforced embargo. After all, the 9800GX2 is simply 2 G92 cores at stock GT speeds in SLI. But NV has tried hard to keep consumers in the dark about product differentiation and reviewers all seem willing to tow the line. Reply
  • DigitalFreak - Tuesday, March 18, 2008 - link

    Over at Hardocp, they compare the GX2 with 8800GT SLI and 8800GTS 512 SLI Reply
  • Genx87 - Tuesday, March 18, 2008 - link

    Wow at load the 3870x2 draws more power than this while delivering about 60-70% of the performance? Reply

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