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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  • iceveiled - Tuesday, March 18, 2008 - link

    Probably 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 - link

    Its 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 - link

    You 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 - link

    That'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 - link

    While 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 - link

    While 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 - link

    Well, 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 - link

    Eh? 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 - link

    A 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 - link

    Sounds 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.

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