Nvidia GeForce 9: New Name, Old Capabilities
The GeForce 9 series began with the GeForce 9600 GT 512MB graphics card based on the G94 processor. It proved to be quite a good product. As we noted in our reviews, it was faster than the GeForce 8800 GT 256MB and occasionally than the more expensive GeForce 8800 GT 512MB. This made it even more confusing for the customer because all the three cards are available today at prices from $150 to $200.
The second product and the flagship in the GeForce 9 series is the GeForce 9800 GX2 1GB graphics card with two G92 chips on board. Traditionally, a new flagship must deliver higher performance than a previous one, and that was true thanks to optimizations in the ForceWare driver for two GPUs in AFR modes.
The last announced product in the new series was the above-mentioned GeForce 9800 GTX 512MB based on the G92 chip. Having slightly higher frequencies than the GeForce 8800 GTS 512MB, the new card acquired support for 3-way SLI and SLI HybridPower technologies and a 27-centimeter 12-layer PCB with two PCI Express power connectors.
Although the number 9 in the series name implies some new capabilities, the GeForce 9800 GTX and GX2 cards do not actually differ on the hardware level from the GeForce 8800 GT 256MB, 8800 GT 512MB, and 8800 GTS 512MB because all of them are based on the G92 chip. The latter has only one significant difference from the G80 (the heart of the first generation of GeForce 8800 cards) in the user’s eyes: a more advanced video-processor that supports hardware decoding of HD video encoded in H.264 and VC-1 formats and post-processing of HD video.
Although the GeForce 8 and 9 series have identical capabilities, the GPU developer’s support of his products may be a significant factor for the user. The latest official GeForce 8 WHQL driver for Windows Vista 32 was released on the 20th of December, 2007. The latest WHQL driver for GeForce 9 became available on the 1st of April, 2008. Nvidia doesn’t update drivers for an older series after a new series is released, so the lack of up-to-date drivers for GeForce 8 is not a surprise.