Graphics Cards Guide
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It seems that not a month passes by without NVIDIA announcing a new product in its growing range of graphics cards. For 2008 at least, we have already seen the debut of the mainstream GeForce 9600 GT along with the new flagship, the dual GPU powered GeForce 9800 GX2. If one includes the introduction of NVIDIA's new Hybrid SLI technology at the beginning of the year, it's a steady rate of an NVIDIA headline each month (and like addicts, we keep lapping it up).
Continuing this trend for April, we have the GeForce 9800 GTX making its appearance today. With that 'GTX' suffix, one should have a rough idea what this new graphics card is positioned at. Yes, it is the designated heir to the high-end GeForce 8800 GTX and while the GeForce 9800 GX2 is expected to retain its perch at the apex of NVIDIA's hierarchy, this new GTX is no pushover and could spring some surprises of its own.
Like the other members of the GeForce 9 family so far, the GeForce 9800 GTX makes use of the 65nm G92 core. An optimized core based on the groundbreaking unified shaders architecture on the GeForce 8, the G92 has now appeared in numerous NVIDIA products (GeForce 8 and 9 series) and going by the dominant market share of NVIDIA now, it may even turn out to be one of the bestselling cores ever. For the GeForce 9800 GTX, the full complement of 128 stream processors on the G92 are available, giving it the same quantity as the GeForce 8800 GTX/Ultra and the GeForce 8800 GTS 512MB. The clock speeds are however pushed higher than ever, with the GeForce 9800 GTX clocked at 675MHz for the core and a whopping 2200MHz DDR for its standard 512MB GDDR3 memory. Compared to its predecessor however, it does have a smaller memory bandwidth and less memory. You can see how it stacks up against some of the other high-end graphics cards both old and new in the table below:
|Model||NVIDIA GeForce 9800 GTX 512MB||NVIDIA GeForce 9800 GX2 1GB||ATI Radeon HD 3870 X2 1GB||NVIDIA GeForce 8800 Ultra 768MB||NVIDIA GeForce 8800 GTX 768MB||NVIDIA GeForce 8800 GTS 512MB||ATI Radeon HD 3870 512MB|
|Core Code||G92||G92-450 x 2||R680 (RV670 x 2)||G80||G80||G92||RV670|
|Transistor Count||754 million||1508 million||1332 million||681 million||681 million||754 million||666 million|
|Stream Processors||128 Stream Processors||256 Stream Processors||128 Shader units (640 stream processing units)||128 Stream Processors||128 Stream Processors||128 Stream Processors||64 Shader units (320 stream processing units)|
|Stream Processor Clock||1688MHz||1500MHz||825MHz||1500MHz||1350MHz||1625MHz||775MHz|
|Texture Mapping Units (TMU) or Texture Filtering (TF) units||64||128||32||64||64||64||16|
|Raster Operator units (ROP)||24||48||32||24||24||24||16|
|Memory Clock||2200MHz GDDR3||2000MHz GDDR3||1800MHz GDDR3||2160MHz GDDR3||1800MHz GDDR3||1940MHz GDDR3||2250MHz GDDR4|
|DDR Memory Bus||256-bit||256-bit||256-bit||384-bit||384-bit||256-bit||256-bit|
|Ring Bus Memory Controller||NIL||NIL||512-bit||NIL||NIL||NIL||512-bit|
|PCI Express Interface||PCIe ver 2.0 x16||PCIe ver 2.0 x16||PCIe ver 2.0 x16||PCIe ver 1.0 x 16||PCIe ver 1.0 x16||PCIe ver 2.0 x16||PCIe ver 2.0 x16|
|Molex Power Connectors||Yes (2 x 6-pin)||Yes (6-pin, 8-pin)||Yes (6-pin, 8-pin)||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Multi GPU Technology||Yes (SLI)||Yes (SLI)||Yes (CrossFireX)||Yes (SLI)||Yes (SLI)||Yes (SLI)||Yes (CrossFireX)|
|DVI Output Support||2 x Dual-Link||2 x Dual-Link||2 x Dual-Link||2 x Dual-Link||2 x Dual-Link||2 x Dual-Link||2 x Dual-Link|
|HDCP Output Cable||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Street Price||US$299 - 349||US$599 - 649||~US$419 - 439||US$649||~US$359 - 455||~US$245 - 339||~US$185 - 229|
While our first instinct is to dub the GeForce 9800 GTX an extremely overclocked GeForce 8800 GTS 512MB, there are some differences that distinguish it from its close relative. For one, like the GeForce 8800 GTX and Ultra, the new GeForce 9800 GTX is the only card from the G92 generation to support 3-way SLI (using NVIDIA's new AFR mode in Windows Vista). Of course, with the GeForce 9800 GX2 technically capable of Quad SLI, 3-way SLI may find its glamour much diminished. Obviously, there are pros and cons to both approaches, with power, heat and space, the urgent issues to consider besides raw performance.
The other difference is the support for Hybrid SLI technology on the GeForce 9800 GTX, notably the HybridPower component. In case you haven't been following NVIDIA's latest buzzword, this technology allows the GTX to be shut down completely in the presence of a HybridPower compatible motherboard and instead have the onboard graphics take over the rendering for less intensive tasks like surfing the net. More information about this can be found in our relevant links section at the bottom of this page. On paper, this feature may lead to some energy savings but it's still early days and getting our hands on such a motherboard isn't happening yet.
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