Weight, Power Consumption and Final Thoughts
In recent months, the physical WEIGHT of the graphics cards has become a concern.  Some system builders have had problems building and shipping computers with these new dual-GPU cards and are forced to install additional retention mechanisms than the single screw into back panel and the PCI Express connection.  I have seen several systems shipped with zip-ties holding the graphics cards in place!

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As we expected, the new GeForce 9800 GX2 is heavier than any other graphics card we had in the office.  At over two and half pounds, the bulky design of the graphics board and the sandwiched heatsink’s density take it beyond even the AMD HD Radeon 3870 X2 card that itself was much heavier than anything previous to it. 

Power Consumption

You might be able to guess based on the elaborate cooling that this video card has that it is not going to be light on power consumption.  

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The results here are some what impressive in that the peak power consumption of the 9800 GX2 is only a couple of watts more than the peak power consumption of AMD’s 3870 X2.  At idle however, the NVIDIA cards do use much more power than AMD’s and in fact we see that both the NVIDIA 9800 GX2 and 8800 Ultra are very comparable in this area.


Those of you expecting the 9800 GX2 to be the complete and dominant performance leader in the high end graphics card segment should be realizing that that is not the case.  In some cases, the performance of the 9800 GX2 is very impressive, especially in games like Bioshock and Call of Duty 4 where SLI scaling is very good with performance improvements at 60% or more compared to AMD’s top graphics card.  Even games like Lost Planet and Crysis see great performance advantages over the AMD HD 3870 X2 card – but looking at the 9800 GX2 at 2560×1600 will get you a mixed bag of results: either it works great or horrible as there seems to be no middle ground.

In other games performance is flat.  In a few instances in fact the single GPU 8800 Ultra turn out to be faster than the new 9800 GX2 at higher resolutions.  In reality this is likely due to multi GPU scaling issues and not necessarily architectural differences between the two cards.  But anyway you look at it, better performance is better performance and thus the 9800 GX2 can’t really claim to be the top performing graphics card all around.  It might still be the best performing card overall for most readers know depending on what games actually play and at what resolutions.

AMD did not hold the performance crown and the GPU market for very long and I’m sure that was really what NVIDA’s goal was with this release.  There’s really no new technology and this card; it is a combination of two preexisting G92 cores in a new custom board design and that are just damned fast.


As I said above, the 9800 GX2 doesn’t really offer anything really knew when compared to NVIDA’s previous offerings.  Support for HDMI output is always welcome and we’re glad to see India finally include this as a permanent fixture on the 9800 GX2 and the ability to route your audio through the card and through a single HDMI connection is great.  It is still not as good as what AMD has done with an integrated sound controller on their hd 2000 and 3000 cards but it is close.

The ability to enabled or disable SLI in the driver control panel would at first appear to be a positive over AMD’s inability to do so until you realize that AMD is still the only company that allows you to continue to have multiple monitors connected to your multi GPU graphics system without the requirement to manually enable multi GPU graphics every time you want to play a game.  So while NVIDA’s inclusion of this option might at first appear to be a positive, I can’t help but feel that it is merely a result of their continued SLI driver problems.

Noise and Heat

The sound levels produced by the XFX 9800 GX2 card were fairly reasonable and in line with what we saw from AMD’s dual GPU graphics card.  During initial boot up the card can definitely make some noise however, I never heard the top speed whine during hours of game play.

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Check in next week kids…

One thing that card it did do reliably was get hot!  Even though the unique containment cooler design of the card keeps most of the areas cool to the touch, there are still some places where finger burnings can occur.  I’ll be very curious to see how well these cards hold up in smaller chassis when placed in a pair for Quad SLI.

Pricing and Availability

If there’s one area of complaint this is probably it.  With an MSRP quoted from nvidia starting at $599 and going up to $649 this is easily going to be the most expensive card on the market.  And the difference is not minimal: you can buy in AMD 3870 X2 for $450 or so giving AMD $150 of wiggle room even if we go by NVIDIA’s low estimate.  Damn.

Is the extra performance you get out of the 9800 GX2 in the benchmarks and gaming results we saw today worth that much extra money?  While this is a very personal question between you and your wallet I’d have to say it is a definite maybe.  In talking with XFX I’m reasonably certain that the prices for these cards will be at the $599 price point but I think that in NVIDIA’s complicated board design and cooler design has forced them to raise the price of the car to higher than they or their partners would have liked.

If this card were priced at $499 I don’t think anybody would be able to complain about its performance and price when compared to AMD’s products.  You can actually find GeForce 8800 GTS 512MB cards for under $275 right now meaning you can build a similarly performing graphics configuration for $550 by just combining two of these in SLI.  Of course this does not give you the option for Quad SLI down the road and you will be required to use up four motherboard slots rather than two.

UPDATE: I just saw that these cards are showing up at Newegg.com already:

Final Thoughts

The NVIDIA GeForce 9800 GX2 pulls me in different directions.  On one hand it is the top performing graphics card in most cases but that performance comes at quite a price.  In a graphics market that has been dominated by incredible price/performance value cards like the 8800 GT and HD 3870 that are both selling at about $200, it’s hard to see anyone wanting to spend $600 on any single card, even with performance this impressive in many titles.  That doesn’t mean that nobody will of course, and I still think NVIDIA will have moderate success with this product line once we can fully demonstrate Quad SLI and its performance.  So for now let gamers with large credit cards start their engines but most of our readers will likely be idling to see what comes next.

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