The GeForce 9800 GTX graphics card proved to have high overclocking potential thanks to its 12-layer PCB and thought-through design. The extreme overclocking pushed the performance of the G92 chip up to the next level, enabling it to compete with more advanced solutions. Unfortunately, these performance benefits are still not enough. Let’s check out the summary diagrams.
The graphics card is often not the main performance-limiting component at a display resolution of 1280x1024. Therefore the performance gain from overclocking the core of the GeForce 9800 GTX to 875/2188MHz looks small. The card beats the Radeon HD 4870 in seven out of the 16 tests (the card is tested twice in TES IV: Oblivion – in open and closed scenes). And there is no practical gain in six out of these seven tests. It is only in Crysis that the speed increase is apparent to the naked eye An off-the-shelf GeForce 9800 GTX+ wouldn’t deliver even such performance benefits and wouldn’t be a serious opponent to the Radeon HD 4870. It may even have little advantage over the Radeon HD 4850.
ATI’s new cards are stronger at 1600x1200, the overclocked GeForce 9800 GTX looking even humbler against the Radeon HD 4870 than at 1280x1024. From a practical point of view, only one out of the six wins of the overclocked card is valuable (in S.T.A.L.K.E.R.). Purchasing the junior Radeon seems a wiser choice than overclocking your GeForce 9800 GTX as you have to modify and overclock the latter too hard and too dangerously to achieve tangible benefits.
As the resolution grows higher, the numbers of tests won by the overclocked GeForce 9800 GTX decreases to five. Like in the previous case, the only real win is S.T.A.L.K.E.R. On the other hand, the Radeon HD 4850 can deliver acceptable performance everywhere the modified GeForce 9800 GTX can, excepting the same S.T.A.L.K.E.R., but without any overclocking. The games that prove too heavy for the Radeon, namely Call of Juarez, Crysis and Lost Planet, prove too heavy for the GeForce 9800 GTX, too.
Our experiments didn’t go without consequences for our GeForce 9800 GTX. The card began to hang the system up after a while. The graphics core must have been irrevocably damaged somehow during the tests at the increased voltage. That’s why extreme overclocking is a dangerous sport – for the equipment if not for the sportsman himself (well, liquid nitrogen may be harmful to the overclocker, too).
So, although the volt-modding and overclocking of the GeForce 9800 GTX ensures a considerable performance growth, it brings about but small practical benefits even if you disregard the greatly increased power consumption and heat dissipation. If you could run the overclocked card continuously, the Radeon HD 4870 would still be a better buy. The Radeon HD 4850 is also good across a majority of tests. The GeForce 9800 GTX+ has lower GPU clock rates than the ones we achieved with our 9800 GTX and would have lower performance. Considering that it is more expensive than the Radeon HD 4850, we don’t think it a good buy.
As for the extreme overclocking thing at large, it is still only good for enthusiasts seeking for new records. Graphics cards can’t be used continuously in such a harsh operation mode just as our failed card confirmed. Extreme overclocking is a hobby, and not a cheap one we should guess, but some people appreciate a new performance record more than the money spent to achieve it.