More Single Card Dual GPU Madness: NVIDIA's Flagship 9800 GX2by Derek Wilson on March 18, 2008 9:00 AM EST
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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.
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iceveiled - Tuesday, March 18, 2008 - linkProbably the reason why a dual 8800 GT wasn't tested is because the mobo in the setup doesn't support SLi (it's an intel mobo)....
chizow - Tuesday, March 18, 2008 - linkIts Skull Trail which does support SLI (they actually mention a GX2 SLI, ie Quad SLI, review upcoming). More likely NV put an embargo or warning on direct 8800GT/GTS comparisons so the spotlight didn't shift to artificial clock speed and driver discrepancies. After all, they do want to sell these abominations. ;)
madgonad - Tuesday, March 18, 2008 - linkYou clearly aren't paying attention to the market. A lot of people who cling to their PC gaming experience would also like to move their PC into the living room so that they can experience the big screen + 5/7.1 surround sound like their console brethren. The new Hybrid power and graphics solutions will allow a HTPC to have one of these Beasts as a partner for the onboard graphics. When watching movies or viewing the internet, this beast will be off and not making heat or noise. But once Crysis comes on, so does the discrete video card and it is off to the races. I have been waiting for the market to mature so that I can build a PC that games well, holds all my movies, and TiVos my shows - all in one box. All that I am waiting for is a Bitstream solution for the HD audio - which are due in Q2.
JarredWalton - Tuesday, March 18, 2008 - linkThat's true... but the HybridPower + SLI stuff isn't out yet, right? We need 790g or some such first. I also seem to recall NVIDIA saying that HybridPower would only work with *future* NVIDIA IGPs, not with current stuff. So until we have the necessary chipset, GPU, and drivers I for one would not even think of putting a 9800 GX2 into an HTPC. We also need better HDMI audio solutions.
Anyway, we're not writing off HTPC... we're just saying that more the vast majority of HTPC users this isn't going to be the ideal GPU. As such, we focused on getting the gaming testing done for this article, and we can talk about the video aspects in a future article. Then again, there's not much to say: this card handles H.264 offload as well as the other G92 solutions, which is good enough for most HTPC users. Still need better HDMI audio, though.
casanova99 - Tuesday, March 18, 2008 - linkWhile this is most likely a G92 variant, this isn't really akin to an SLI 8800GT setup, as the 8800GT has 112 shaders and 56 texture units. This card has 256 (128 * 2) shaders and 128 (64 * 2) texture units.
It seems to match more with a 8800GTS 512MB, but with an underclocked core and shaders, paired with faster memory.
chizow - Tuesday, March 18, 2008 - linkWhile this is true, it only perpetuates the performance myths Nvidia propagates with its misleading product differentiation. As has been shown time and time again, the differences in shaders/texture units with G92 have much less impact on performance compared to core clock and memory speeds. There's lots of relevant reviews with same-clocked 8800GT vs GTS performing nearly identically (FiringSquad has excellent comparisons), but you really need to look no further than the 9600GT to see how overstated specs like shaders are with current gen GPUs. If you dig enough you'll find the info you're looking for, like an 8800GT vs 8800GTS both at 650/1000 (shocker, 9800GTX is expected to weigh in at 675/1100). Problem is most reviews will take the artificial stock clock speeds of both and compare them, so 600/900 vs 650/1000 and then point to irrelevant core differences as the reason for the performance gap.
hooflung - Tuesday, March 18, 2008 - linkWell, I am really disapointed in this review. It seems almost geared towards being a marketing tool for Nvidia. So it might be geared towards HD resolutions, what about the others resolutions? 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? Also, I find it disturbing that 9600GTs can do nearly what this thing can do, probably at less power ( who knows you didn't review power consumption like every other card revier ) and cost half as much.
To me, Nvidia is grasping at straws.
Genx87 - Tuesday, March 18, 2008 - linkEh? Grasping at straws with a solution that at times is clearly faster than the competition? This is a pretty solid single card offering if you ask me. Is it for everybody? Not at all. High end uber cards never are. But it definately took the crown back from AMD with authority.
hooflung - Tuesday, March 18, 2008 - linkA single slot solution that isn't much better than a SLI 9600GT setup at those highest of high resolutions. Not for everyone is the understatement of the year. Yes I can see it is the single fastest on the block but at what cost? Another drop in the hat of a mislabeled 8 series product that is in a package about as illustrious as a cold sore.
This card is a road bump. The article is written based on a conclusion that Nvidia cannot afford, and we cannot afford, to have a next generation graphics processor right now. To me, it smacks of laziness. Furthermore, gone are the times of 600 dollar graphics cards I am afraid. I guess Nvidia employees get company gas cards so the don't pay 3.39 a gallon for gasoline.
How does this card flare for THE MAJORITY of users on 22" and 24" LCDs. I don't care about gaps at resolutions I need a 30" or HDTV to play on.
Genx87 - Tuesday, March 18, 2008 - linkSounds like you have a case of sour grapes. Dont get so hung up on AMD's failings. I know you guys wanted the x2 to trounce or remain competitive with this "bump". But you have to remember AMD has to undo years of mismanagement at the hands of ATI's management.
600 dollar cards keep showing up because they sell. Nobody is forcing you buy one.