So, what do I want out of my next laptop and what must it include?
Gigabyte GeForce 9800 GTX (GV-NX98X512H-B)
Good value high-end GPU
- Good performance for the asking price, supports three-way SLI for x3 processing power
- Does not represent a huge leap from previous generation, outperformed by ATI's rival twin-GPU HD3870 X2, no DirectX 10.1
When judged on its own merits, the Gigabyte GeForce 9800 GTX (GV-NX98X512H-B) is a hard card to fault. However, the emergence of similarly priced dual-GPU cards has taken some of the shine off its performance.
Price$ 499.00 (AUD)
The Gigabyte GeForce 9800 GTX (GV-NX98X512H-B) is a high-end graphics card featuring NVIDIA's latest 9 series GPU. With an RRP of $499, it can be viewed as a semi-affordable alternative to its 9800GX2-flavoured cousins (such as the Asus EN9800GX2). However, those who are willing to step outside the NVIDIA camp may want to consider ATI's Radeon HD3870 X2 instead. This twin-GPU card offers a superior performance for a slightly higher premium, and represents the better buy.
The 9800GTX is currently the most powerful graphics card with a single GPU on the market. However, that's not to say it offers a revolutionary upgrade over NVIDIA's previous generation. Indeed, the 9800 series shares the same GPU core as the 8800GTS, with an identical number of stream processors and 256-bit memory interface (the shader, memory and clock speeds, meanwhile, have received substantial boosts). The end result is a slightly more powerful card that barely justifies its new naming scheme. Nevertheless, those who leave their disappointment at the door will discover a solid gaming card for the asking price.
The Gigabyte (GV-NX98X512H-B) is basically identical to NVIDIA's 9800GTX reference board design, yet it still offers plenty of bang for the mainstream gamer's buck. The 65nm GPU comes equipped with 128 stream processors running at 1.69GHz and a 675MHz core clock speed. Its GDDR3 memory stands at 512MB, with a memory clock speed of 1100MHz (2.2GHz effective). With its 256-bit bus, this works out to a maximum theoretical memory bandwidth of 70.4GBps.
When it came to our benchmarks, the (GV-NX98X512H-B) fell roughly between the 8800GTS and ATI Radeon HD3870 X2 in terms of performance. In 3DMark 06, it received an overall score of 12074. While this is a solid result in its own right, it's worth noting that the Sapphire Radeon HD3870 X2 scored 13436 when using the same testbed. In our DirectX 9 and DirectX 10 gaming tests, the (GV-NX98X512H-B) was also outmatched by the Radeon HD3870 X2. When running the game FEAR, the Gigabyte card averaged 80 frames per second, whereas the HD3870 X2 managed 144fps. In the Call of Juarez DX10 demo, the (GV-NX98X512H-B) averaged 30.3fps. This was significantly lower than the HD3870 X2's 50.9fps. It's clear to see from these results that the HD3870 X2 is better suited to gamers, despite being several months older.
In terms of connectivity, the (GV-NX98X512H-B) sports the usual options, including TV-out, DVI ports and D-sub (via adapter). The 9800GTX also supports Tri-SLI setups on Vista machines, allowing three 9800GTX cards to be linked together. For those who can afford it, this multi-GPU solution will ramp up your PC's processing power substantially, though it will still be outperformed by two HD3870 X2s (requiring a motherboard based on the 790 chipset).
As mentioned above, the 9800GTX shares the same basic architecture as the GeForce 8800GTS. One of the downsides of this is that the card won't be compatible with Microsoft's Shader Model 4.1 or DirectX 10.1. This is bound to irritate hardcore gamers, though its actual relevance to gaming — if any — is currently unproven. (If you're anxious to stay ahead of the loop, however, the HD3870 X2 does offer DX10.1 and SM 4.1 support).
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