Articles: Graphics

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The GeForce 9800 GTX graphics card didn’t have a very happy fate. This follower of Nvidia’s GeForce 8800 GTX and Ultra was meant to rule in the $349 category but actually had to compete with the dangerous Radeon HD 4850 which was originally targeted into a cheaper market sector. As a result, many traits of this Goliath – such as its large dimensions, dual-slot cooler, expensive 12-layer PCB design and two power connectors – proved to be inappropriate, transforming into drawbacks. In contrast, the Radeon HD 4850, like the modest David, had a short 23cm PCB, a compact single-slot cooler and one power connector and delivered higher performance at a much lower price across a number of games.

Nvidia had to cut the price of the GeForce 9800 GTX even though the manufacturing cost of the reference card was quite high to start with, yet even this measure could not solve the performance problem. Even if the GeForce 9800 GTX cost the same money as the Radeon HD 4850, the latter looked preferable in a potential customer’s eyes. As Nvidia didn’t have anything else to pit against ATI’s RV770 processor, the only way was to squeeze some more performance out of the G92 chip. This attempt resulted in the GeForce 9800 GTX+ which differed from its predecessor with higher clock rates: 738/1836MHz against 675/1688MHz. This resembled what Nvidia had done with the GeForce 8800 Ultra earlier.

However, the manufacturing cost of the GeForce 9800 GTX+ would still have been too high if its reference design had been used. The reference PCB had been developed for quite a different price category and for the rather expensive 65nm version of the G92 chip. In contrast, the RV770 was originally manufactured on 55nm tech process and had a smaller size (260 against 330 sq. mm) and, accordingly, lower manufacturing cost than the G92 while being more complex. Trying to keep its positions in the mainstream sector, Nvidia hurried to transition its existing cores to 55mm tech process. Thus, the new card got a new heart – the G92b chip. The new revision doesn’t differ from the older G92 in anything save for the tech process, but the GeForce 9800 GTX+ has become more profitable to make.

Although Nvidia claims that the transition to the new tech process is complete in the mainstream sector (see this news story for details), you can still meet GeForce 9800 GTX+ with the older version of the core in shops. But in this review we’ll be dealing with the 55nm G92b processor. To perform this test we’ve got two GeForce 9800 GTX+ cards from Palit Microsystems, a well-known maker of inexpensive graphics cards who has also begun to produce prestige solutions under the Gainward brand. Besides gaming tests, we will also compare the power draw of the G92b as opposed to the G92.

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