XFX GeForce 9800 GTX review

£228
Price when reviewed

A few months ago, the mid-range GeForce 9600 GT ushered in Nvidia’s new family of graphic cards – now it’s joined by the 9800 GTX. From the model number you might expect this card to set a new standard in performance (as did the 8800 GTX, which this new card replaces), but the reality is a little more mundane.

XFX GeForce 9800 GTX review

The first thing to realise is that the GeForce 9800 parts are built around the same G92 core as the 8800 GT, released last October. It’s a powerful GPU, but technologically it’s no longer particularly new or interesting. Indeed, it’s apparent on paper that the GeForce 9800 GTX is only an incremental improvement on its predecessor.

It has just 16 more stream processors (128 against the 8800 GT’s 112) and, while it runs faster internally, the margin isn’t huge: the core clock has been raised from 600MHz to 675MHz, the shader clock is up from 1.5GHz to 1.68GHz and the RAM clock has risen from 1.8GHz to 2.2GHz.

The practical effect of these increases is as you’d expect: the 9800 GTX is certainly faster than an 8800 GT, but if a game’s unplayable on the older card the 9800’s extra oomph won’t magically turn it into an enjoyable experience. In Crysis, for example, the 9800 GTX averaged a decent 32fps at 1,600 x 1,200 with High detail settings, against the 8800 GT’s 27fps.

Of course, when it comes to 3D gaming, any increase in frame rates is welcome. But the price gap between the 9800 GTX and its forebear is out of all proportion to the slight difference in performance. This XFX model currently sells for around £198 exc VAT – almost double the cost of a 512MB 8800 GT card. Given the similar internals, there’s no obvious reason for this disparity other than marketing. If you’re going to spend this much, it might make more sense to invest in the similarly priced ATi Radeon HD 3870 X2: in our Very High Crysis test, that card got the frame rate up to 21fps, 4fps faster than the 9800.

Prices will inevitably fall after launch, of course, and it’s been hinted that there’s plenty of headroom for increased clock speeds, so expect future models to offer better performance as well.

But when you look at the competition, the GeForce 9800 GTX looks misjudged. It isn’t a slow card by any means, but anyone expecting something groundbreaking will be disappointed. It simply won’t be a smart purchase without a price cut or a speed boost – or ideally both.

Core Specifications

Graphics card interfacePCI Express
Cooling typeActive
Graphics chipsetNvidia GeForce 9800 GTX
Core GPU frequency675MHz
RAM capacity512MB
Memory typeGDDR3

Standards and compatibility

DirectX version support10.0
Shader model support4.0

Connectors

DVI-I outputs2
DVI-D outputs0
VGA (D-SUB) outputs0
S-Video outputs0
HDMI outputs0

Benchmarks

3D performance (crysis) high settings32fps

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