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Zogis GeForce 9800 GTX review: Zogis GeForce 9800 GTX

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Nvidia's new GeForce 9800 GTX 3D graphics chip is the spiritual successor to the GeForce 8800 GTX. That latter chip has been the PC gamers' watermark for excellence since it came out at the end of 2006. The difference this time around is while the 8800 GTX debuted with a $600 price tag, our Zogis GeForce 9800 GTX review card comes in about $330. Whether this card is for you will depend on the number of 3D card slots you have in your PC, as well as the games you play. Single-slot PC owners who play lots of Call of Duty 4 and Bioshock will find a lot to like in this card. Anyone considering SLI, or fans of Team Fortress 2, should look to other options.

7.0

Zogis GeForce 9800 GTX

The Good

Fast performance compared with other 3D cards in its price range; HybridPower design should use less power on supporting Nvidia motherboards (as soon as the software is ready).

The Bad

Pairing up two lower-end cards gives SLI-capable motherboard owners more bang for the buck; requires two connections to your PC's power supply.

The Bottom Line

Nvidia's new GeForce 9800 GTX chip is fast enough, but if your PC is SLI-capable you can spend just a little more and get a significantly better high-resolution gaming experience. Consider your options carefully before upgrading to this card.

  GeForce 9800 GTX GeForce 8800 GT
Price $300 - $350 $200 - $250
Manufacturing process 65nm 65nm
Core clock 675MHz 600MHz
Stream processors 128 112
Shader clock speed 1,688MHz 1,500MHz
Memory 512MB 512MB
Memory speed (data rate) 1.1GHz 900MHz
Memory Interface 256-bit 256-bit

The GeForce 9800 GTX is basically a ramped-up version of the less expensive GeForce 8800 GT chip that came out earlier this year. In fact, as you can see from our comparison chart, the two chips aren't that different technically, and their price-to-performance difference makes the 9800 GTX's potential upgrade scenarios complicated.

3DMark06
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
1,280x1,024  
Nvidia GeForce 9800 GTX
12,637 
Nvidia GeForce 8800 GT
12,044 

Crysis
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
1,600x1,200 high quality  

Bioshock
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
2,048x1,536, high quality  
Nvidia GeForce 8800 GT SLI
87 
Nvidia GeForce 8800 GTX SLI
67 
Nvidia GeForce 9800 GTX
56 
Nvidia GeForce 8800 GT
46 

Call of Duty 4
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
1,600x1,200, high quality  
="" class="g4" rel="follow">Nvidia GeForce 9800 GTX SLI
122 
Nvidia GeForce 8800 GT SLI
111 
Nvidia GeForce 9800 GTX
66 
="g4">Nvidia GeForce 8800 GT
60 

Team Fortress 2
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
2,048x1,536, max. quality, 4x anti-aliasing, 8x anisotropic filtering  
="" class="g4" rel="follow">Nvidia GeForce 8800 GT SLI
52 
="g4">Nvidia GeForce 8800 GT
52 
Nvidia GeForce 9800 GTX
52 

As proven by our tests results, provided with care and diligence by our cohort Sarju Shah at GameSpot, a single GeForce 9800 GTX is faster than a single GeForce 8800 GT when you put them side by side. That's why we recommend the 9800 GTX if your PC has only one graphics card slot (except for players of Team Fortress 2). If your PC is SLI capable, though, we'd strongly suggest you consider picking up two 8800 GTs instead. True, you'd have to spend about $70 more, but we think the dramatic performance gains with two 8800 GTs on Bioshock and Call of Duty 4 show that it's worth it to spend that little bit extra, especially if you have a large monitor capable of playing games at 1,600x1,200 or higher resolutions.

The exception to this scenario is Team Fortress 2. Whether it's the code, the drivers ,or the hardware, we can't say, but the popular online shooter shows a clear preference for ATI's Radeon HD 3870 X2 card. That two-chip card ranges from $400 to $450, so it's more expensive than even two GeForce 8800 GTs. But on that game it also outperforms even two GeForce 9800 GTX cards. A single 9800 GTX can certainly play it well, even at high resolutions, but if you're a dedicated TF2 player and you're after the highest frame rates, your choice is clear.

We mentioned SLI above for the 9800 GTX, and it's definitely an option to use the 9800 GTX in a two-, or even three-card configuration. Two 9800 GTX's will cost you about $660, and we'd only recommend it for those with 24- or 30-inch LCD monitors and their high resolutions. The good news is that those two cards are indeed faster than the $600 GeForce 9800 GX2, Nvidia's own two-chip card design that came out just last week.

Of course when you bring up SLI you need to consider your overall system configuration, as well as the graphics cards themselves. Although its performance is respectable for its price, it's actually a bit high maintenance to install even a single GeForce 9800 GTX in your PC. Nvidia recommends a 450 watt power supply for a single 9800 GTX, a 750 watt power supply for two of them in SLI mode, and a 1,000 watt supply for three of them. That's about what we expect these days in terms of wattage, but we're surprised that just one GeForce 9800 GTX requires two six-pin inputs from your PC's power supply.

A typical 450 watt PSU should have the appropriate free connections, and Zogis is kind enough to include the plug adapters, but if one 9800 GTX requires two connections, imagine the mess of cables if you tried to build a three-way SLI system with this card. We're willing to forgive the two-chip 9800 GX2 and its requirement for two power inputs, but we're not quite used to the idea of a 3D card with a midrange price tag requiring two power supply inputs.

Aside from the possible hardware entanglement from such power demands, Nvidia offers some solace if you're concerned about the actual amount of power this card requires. If you own an NForce 700-series motherboard with an integrated graphics chip, this card (as well as the 9800GX2) will support Nvidia's HybridPower capability, which lets your PC switch to the motherboard's integrated 3D chip when you're not gaming or performing other tasks that require a graphics card. Nvidia is still working on the software side of the HybridPower equation, so we were unable to give it a try. But assuming it works, we appreciate Nvidia's attempts at conservation.

7.0

Zogis GeForce 9800 GTX

Score Breakdown

Cabin tech 6Performance tech 8Design 7