Techical Specs and The Test

First off we'll break down the technical specifications of the card. Of course, this part has two GPUs on it, so in order to get an idea of what each of the GPUs under the hood of the 9800 GX2 have in them, just divide most of these numbers by two. If the same number of transistors were shoved into a single piece of silicon, performance would be much higher (and it would cost a ton more and heat a small village).



Clearly the GPUs on this card are not a huge leap forward. Putting the two together is what makes this card what it is.

Our test setup is the same Skulltrail system we used in other recent graphics hardware reviews. Remember that isolating the graphics subsystem is important, as removing the CPU as a bottleneck gives us a better indication of the differences in performance between graphics cards. This time, we are also lucky in that the top of the line graphics hardware is meant to be paired with a top of the line system. Skulltrail fits the bill here, though NVIDIA would recommend the 790i in this case.

We would agree that a more gaming oriented board would be a better fit for most, even at the high end as the extra CPU processing power is only going to make a real difference in niche situations. In our case, the ability to run CrossFire and SLI in the same system trumps everything else.

Test Setup
CPU 2x Intel Core 2 Extreme QX9775 @ 3.20GHz
Motherboard Intel D5400XS (Skulltrail)
Video Cards ATI Radeon HD 3870 x2
ATI Radeon HD 3870
NVIDIA GeForce 9600 GT 512MB
NVIDIA GeForce 8800 GT 512MB
NVIDIA GeForce 8800 Ultra
NVIDIA GeForce 9800 GX2
Video Drivers Catalyst 8.3
ForceWare 174.53
Hard Drive Seagate 7200.9 120GB 8MB 7200RPM
RAM 2xMicron 2GB FB-DIMM DDR2-8800
Operating System Windows Vista Ultimate 64-bit SP1

The 9800 GX2 Inside, Out and Quad Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare Performance
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  • andylawcc - Wednesday, March 19, 2008 - link

    okay, thanks for explaining. I never phantom myself playing at resolution beyond 1600x1200. It's just cost too much to get "one notch" above 1920x1200 with the extra cost for monitor and video card.
  • Le Québécois - Tuesday, March 18, 2008 - link

    Having 2 8800 GT in SLI, I know there are some games that either don't show any amelioration for SLI(not a problem here) or become really unstable to the point of being unplayable. One title that comes to mind now is Colin McRae:DiRT. I have to disable SLI every time I want to play it. Even some of the fixes suggested on the official nVidia forum don't works for me.

    Now I don't want tech support;)...

    I just want to know what would happen with a games like that and the 9800GX2 (or the 3870 X2 for that matter) since those cards "sli" configuration can't be disable since the driver doesn't see those cards as dual card configuration but rather one single card.
  • Tephlon - Wednesday, March 19, 2008 - link

    Sorry to be kind of off topic by not answering your question specifically- I actually don't own either card and can't comment on their specific operation.
    But your concern is quite valid, in fact the SLI issues seem to become more complicated with the hybrid "two cards in one" solutions than that of a normal two-card SLI setup.

    "...since those cards "sli" configuration can't be disabled since the driver doesn't see those cards as dual card configuration but rather one single card."

    Unless I just missed it in the review, there's nothing to make me believe this is actually true. It's certainly not true for nvidia's previous dual-card, the 7950gx2. While the term 'single card' makes it sound as if it would actually operate as a single card, both the OS and the Drivers see the 7950gx2 twice, as two cards. Within the drivers, you disable SLI the same as if there were two physical cards in the system, sli'd together. It RELIES on this to function at it's full potential... or, in other words, is literally nothing more than just two cards sli'd, only crammed into one slot. Again, there's nothing to make me believe this wouldn't be true for the 9800 GX2 as well.

    This is actually the reason why I can never see myself owning one of these cards, maybe even ever do SLI in general, again.
    One annoyance that I discovered from owning the 7950gx2, is that while it is 'technically' two cards strapped together by SLI, nvidia doesn't consider it as such. It uses SLI profiles, and relies heavily on driver tweaks and support to optimize it's use with games, but if you try to join the SLI Club to get some support/feedback for your card, they tell you you aren't SLI and boot you out the door.
    Nearly every game that came out needed special driver tweaks and profiles to make the game actually run at all, not to mention work correctly using both gpu's. It turned into a "wait 6 months after a games' release for new drivers" type situation. I very seldom could make this $600 powerhouse run a game the way it should right out of the box, or even within the first several weeks of release.
    I spent the majority of my time at lans tweaking sli profiles to try to make a game run instead of playing it. Your investment starts to look really worthless really quick when the guy next to you has a $200 value gamer card of the same generation, and can run the game as good as you because you're waiting on driver updates to make both cards work correctly together for the game.

    In my opinion, it became a situation of getting all the pains of SLI (tinkering/struggling with SLI profiles, etc) with very few of it's perks (blazing speed/high-end gamer respect and support).

    And while my performance seemed decent while the card was the newest, greatest thing, it started to fade the instant the 8 series landed. As new products/sli configurations are released, they become the priority, and my then slightly-dated but serious hunk of technology got thrown under the bus. I swear the support for a game as simple as WoW is worse now for the 7950gx2 than it ever was.
    The cards simply seem to become 'not a priority', to the point where you wonder where your 600 dollars went. This seems to be especially true for these complicated, highly driver/profile reliant 'dual cards'.

    I bought the 7950 GX2 because even though the reviews had phrases like "the card currently doesn't support that feature (but that will be fixed in a future driver)" (sound familiar?), it was scoring well and seemed like a solid, high-end product that would kick some games' asses, and for less than two 7800 GTs could do at the time (by 60 bucks or so).

    I think the 'buy one now and be able to throw a second one in in a year for less' theory is starting be debunked. The card's prices hardly ever drop enough fast enough, and by the time you're ready for a second card, the new series is out with a single card that will out perform two of what you own now... and all without the pain of SLI issues.

    I dunno, for me, I think from now on I'll do the best true single card solution available for the time, and leave all the Dual gpu/sli issues to the people who enjoy configuring their machines more than playing on them.
  • Donkey2008 - Tuesday, March 18, 2008 - link

    "hmmm by hooflung, 6 hours ago - If AMD is competitive at 1680x1050 and 1900x1200 for ~200+ dollars less would the conclusion have been less favorable and start to nitpick the sheer awkwardness of this card?"

    I agree and if you look at the charts carefully (which most people don't), you'll see that the 3870x2 is dead on, if not better, then the GeForce 8800 Ultra (the card it is meant to compete against) in performance at every resolution. Yet the 3870x2 is also hundreds of dollars cheaper and runs at a very similar power threshold.

    Although these tests are not about performance-per-dollar or who has the better value for high-level gaming, they are about who has the biggest schlong. I'll admit that.

    Anyway, there is no way you can love and admire computer hardware as much as frequent visitors to Anandtech without realizing the sheer majesty of different companies raising the bar with truely groundbreaking products (I.E. Intel's Pentium CPU, the original Nvidia Geforce, AMD's Athlon 64, ATI's 9700 Pro).

    Although a very impressive piece of work by Nvidia, this product is not one of them.

    PS - I own and use a 8800 GTS in my home system.
  • karioskasra - Tuesday, March 18, 2008 - link

    Yes, they owned the market for a long time with it, but it's cost to build was high and it was an expensive part

    it's = its
  • AcydRaine - Tuesday, March 18, 2008 - link

    Way to test on a system that nobody has. For sure to show typical results.....
  • Spacecomber - Tuesday, March 18, 2008 - link

    The point of using skulltrail is that it allows both crossfire and sli to be tested on the same system. What better way to compare amd and nvidia multicard solutions?

    The goal of the article is to see how the video card solutions stack up against each other, not to to determine what results you'll get in your particular system.
  • Pemalite - Tuesday, March 18, 2008 - link

    [quote]MD 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. Even though NVIDIA was first out of the gate with a single board dual GPU product (the 7950 GX2), we haven't seen a similar solution from their DX10 lineup until today.[quote]

    I think that part of the article is a little bit... wrong.
    AMD-ATI were the first to release a single card, Dual GPU solution in the form of the RAGE Fury MAXX. (Released in 1999).
  • araczynski - Tuesday, March 18, 2008 - link

    unfortunately at that price point i don't care how miraculous it is.

    looks like the 8800gtsG92 will be in my box next. unless i hear they plan on releasing an affordable 9800gt/gts?
  • Malory - Tuesday, March 18, 2008 - link

    I had read elsewhere that even for a single card, they had to enable SLI support via the Nvidia console for this card to work.

    Was that the case here? If so I asume that means that games which have no or little support for SLI wouldn't really gain much from this 'single' card.

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