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Nathan Edwards Jun 23, 2008

PNY XLR8 GeForce 9800 GTX

At A Glance

Bitte

Supports three-way SLI and HybridPower.

Bitter

Immaterial performance boost over G92-based 8800 GTS.

If you’re already gaming with a G92-based 8800 GTS, there’s very little reason to move up to a G92-based 9800 GTX such as PNY’s XLR8. The architecture in both GPUs is nearly the same, with 128 stream processors, a 256-bit interface, and 512MB of GDDR3. Slightly faster clock speeds yield only a modest bump in performance.

The most important difference between these two architectures is the fact that you can build a rig with three 9800 GTX cards, thanks to the presence of three SLI edge connectors on the top of the board (the 8800 GTS has only one, so it’s limited to two-way SLI). The new card also consumes more power and requires two six-pin connections to your PC’s power supply (the 8800 GTS requires only one).

The 9800 GTX also supports Nvidia’s HybridPower technology, which will be of interest only to consumers who own a motherboard that also supports HybridPower (currently, that means a motherboard outfitted with an nForce 730a chipset). When running less graphics-intensive applications (surfing the web, using productivity software, or watching a movie, for example), HybridPower will shut down the videocard in the PCI Express slot and rely instead on the integrated graphics built into the motherboard.

PNY bumped the 9800 GTX’s clock speeds just a wee bit beyond Nvidia’s reference design: The core runs at 725MHz (from a stock 675MHz), the shaders at 1.813GHz (from a stock 1.688GHz), and the memory at 1.160GHz (from a stock 1.1GHz). These tweaks mark the extent of PNY’s customization, as the card features a reference-design cooler. All 9800 GTX cards are equipped with two six-pin power connectors and two SLI edge connectors; the 8800 GTS has one of each.

In our benchmark tests, PNY’s implementation of the 9800 GTX proved to be roughly 10 to 15 percent faster than a stock 8800 GTS—a performance delta that we don’t think justifies a price premium that ranged from $50 to $75 at press time. Adding a second 9800 GTX to run in SLI mode resulted in a 34-percent boost in Crysis performance (at 1920x1200 resolution with 2x AA and all other values set to high), but even with SLI, the game remains just barely tolerable at those settings. And that’s unfortunate, because we imagine most people won’t see how exquisite this game can look because there just isn’t any hardware available today that’s capable of delivering it.

So what if you’re moving up from an older GPU architecture? AMD still doesn’t have anything worthwhile for the hardcore gamer, and frankly, we’d still stick with the cheaper G92-based 8800 GTS. Aside from making three-way SLI a possibility and supporting HybridPower, the 9800 GTX has no significant new features worth the extra dough

Vista Benchmarks

PNY 9800 GTX (G92)
Leadtek 8800 GTS (G92)
3DMark06 Game 1 (fps)
31.2
27.6
3DMark06 Game 2 (fps)
24.8
24.8
Crysis (DX10) (fps)
31.9
30.0
Unreal Tournament 3 (fps)
70.7
70.4
Best scores are bolded. Cards tested with an EVGA 680i SLI motherboard, Intel 2.93GHz Core 2 Extreme X6800 CPU, and 2GB of Corsair DDR RAM. Benchmarks performed on ViewSonic VP2330wb monitors.
THE VERDICT

PNY XLR8 GeForce 9800 GTX

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