Asus EN9800 GTX Review

ccokeman - 2007-07-30 21:46:34 in Video Cards
Category: Video Cards
Reviewed by: ccokeman   
Reviewed on: April 3, 2008
Price: $299.99

Introduction:

The 9 series graphics cards from Nvidia were released to the world just over a month ago. The launches started with the mid range 9600GT, progressed to the multi GPU, single PCI-E slot solution with the 9800GX2, making quad SLI a reality. Each of these cards outperformed the previous cards they replaced in the Nvidia lineup. The 9600GT replaced the 8600 series and gained an impressive 70%+ in performance based on my testing. With both of those launches, speculation about the performance of the unreleased 9800GTX was everywhere on the web. Let the speculation end, because the 9800GTX is here.

The Asus EN9800GTX features a GPU clock speed of 675MHz, a shader clock speed of 1688MHz, 512MB of high speed GDDR3 memory running at 1100MHz. Using 128 stream processors running at 1.69GHz, this card should perform above the level of its predecessor, the G80 based 8800GTX. Not only does the EN9800GTX have the performance tools needed by gamers, it has the High Definition crowd covered with Pure Video enhancements, and for the energy conscious, Hybrid power makes saving power a reality. Will the EN9800GTX be all it's expected to be? Let's find out.

Closer Look:

The 9800GTX comes in a large box with plenty of room for both the video card and the accessory bundle. The front panel showcases the fact that this card has 512MB of DDR3 memory and is PCI-E 2.0 ready. Included software utilities are the Gamer OSD, a utility that offers real time overclocking and benchmarking and capturing in-game screen shots. Smart Doctor is both a monitoring and overclocking tool that allows the user to set up software based overclocking protection. The rear panel shows some of the specifications and expands on the software utilities mentioned on the front panel in several languages. The phrase on the front panel is "Rock Solid- Heart Touching," kind of appropriate that the phrase fits the Warrior Queen on the front of the box.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Opening up the package allow access to the 9800GTX and the included bundle of accessories. The card is encased in a foam block easily protecting it from the wrath of the shipping companies. The bundle is stored between the two levels of the box.

 

 

The bundle that is included with the 9800GTX includes a quick setup guide, the manual on a disc, the driver disc, one DVI to D-sub converter, S-video to component adapter and a dual 4-pin molex to PCI-E power adapter. The power adapter is not the ideal solution for bringing power to the 9800GTX, but there are people that still do not have a power supply with two dedicated PCI-E power connections.

 

 

That's a quick look at how the card comes to the consumer and what you get for your $299.

 

 

Closer Look:

The Asus EN9800GTX is a man sized video card that is designed to be used in a single PCI-E 16x slot. It requires two 6-pin power connections to be able to overclock this card. The EN9800GTX features clockspeeds of 675MHz on the GPU core, 1688MHz on the shader clock and 1100MHz on the high speed GDDR3 memory that runs through a 256bit memory bus and uses 128 stream processors at 1.69GHz. The dual slot cooling solution is the Nvidia reference design. The artwork that Asus has chosen to use on the EN9800GTX mirrors the cover and shows the Warrior Queen in all her glory.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The connections available to the end user include two DVI ports that are dual-link DVI capable, as well as a single S-video port. The S-video connection can be used with an S-video cable or with the included S-video to component dongle. The hot air that is generated by the the EN9800GTX is exhausted out the rear of the case via the opening in the I/O plate. The back end of the card features openings that allow cool air into the heatsink fan and to help cool the card.

 

 

The 9800GTX uses two 6-pin power connectors to bring power to the video card. If only one connection is used then the overclocking features will not be available. Just below the power connections is the digital audio port. This allows the onboard high definition audio to be used via an HDMI connection. This is accomplished via an HDMI to DVI adapter. The two SLI bridge connections on the 9800GTX provide the ability to to run Tri-SLI. This feature is only available on the GTX and higher series of single GPU video cards (8800GTX, 8800 Ultra).

 

 

Pulling the cooling solution off of the card provides a look at the components used in its construction. The tail end of the card is where the voltage regulation occurs, while in the center section of the EN9800GTX houses the GPU and GDDR3 memory.

 

 

The cooling solution used on the EN9800GTX is the standard Nvidia reference heatsink. It uses a composite copper/aluminum design that uses several heatpipes connected to the aluminum finned sink to remove the heat generated by the GPU and memory. The thermal paste used on the GPU core is about the consistency of peanut butter and is used quite liberally in this application.

 

 

The GPU core is actually a G92 based processor manufactured on the 65nm process and has 754 million transistors to make all those images come to life. A shim is used around the GPU core to prevent damage to the GPU core. The 512MB of GDDR3 memory used is manufactured by Samsung and is rated at 1200MHz. Looks like the expectations are that this card will be overclocked.

 

 

 

Installation:

Just replacing the video card will not give you the performance that the new video card can deliver. You must install the drivers for that to happen. To do that just pop the included driver and utility disc into the optical drive of your choice and wait for the auto-run feature to start the installation GUI. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Choose the VGA Drivers tab to install the drivers for the EN9800GTX. Follow the installation, choosing the the appropriate prompts and the installation will be completed after a system restart.

 

 

Once the drivers are in, then there is the installation of the included software. These programs offer overclocking and monitoring features, as well as the ability to use the EN9800GTX in a security system. The Asus Smart Doctor program gives the user the ability to increase or decrease the clock speeds on the 9800GTX. Unfortunately, the program would not open and operate with the GTX. The Gamer OSD is great for print-screen captures. The last software is used in conjunction with a video capture device. Without a camera or capture device present the program will not open.

 

 

 

Configuration:

The configuration of the of the EN9800GTX can be performed in the Nvidia Control Panel. Changes to the resolution, clockspeed adjustments, A.I. settings and so much more is accomplished here.

 

 

Specifications:

 

Fabrication Process

65 nm

Number of Transistors

754 million

Core Clock (Including dispatch, texture units, and ROP units)

675 MHz

Shader Clock (Processor Cores)

1688 MHz

Processor Cores

128

Memory Clock (Clock rate / Data rate)

1100 MHz / 2200 MHz

Memory Interface

256 bit

Total Memory Bandwidth

70.4 GB/s

Memory Size

512 MB

ROPs

16

Texture Filtering Units

64

Texture Filtering Rate

43.2 GigaTexels/sec

HDCP Support

Yes

HDMI Support

Yes (Using DVI-to-HDMI adaptor)

Connectors

2 x Dual-Link DVI-I 1 x 7-pin HDTV Out

RAMDACs

400 MHz

Bus Technology

PCI Express 2.0

Form Factor

Dual Slot

Power Connectors

2 x 6-pin

Max Board Power

156 watts

GPU Thermal Threshold1

105° C

 

Features:

 

Testing:

At OverclockersClub.com, we use a series of benchmarks to stress the graphics card. We will use a series of newer, as well as a few more seasoned, gaming benchmarks to show how well the Asus 9800GTX compares to some of the other enthusiast video cards on the market, using both single and dual GPU models to show the performance that can be gained from that type of solution, if any. To see how an 8800GT fares in this comparison, take a peek at the review of the Asus EN8800GT TOP. All driver settings and clockspeeds will be left at factory default settings on both the CPU and GPU to minimize or eliminate any variables from impacting the results. The test system used in this review is listed below. After testing the card at stock speeds, I will overclock the video card to see what kind of performance can be gained. All testing is done with the default settings in the respective control panels as well as default settings in the BIOS of the motherboard used in this test.

Comparison Video Cards:

 

Overclocking:

Overclocked settings:

The Asus EN9800GTX went straight up to 852MHz on the GPU core, 1250MHz on the memory and the shader clock topped at 2106MHz. Regardless of the utility used (Smart Doctor, Riva Tuner 2.08, Ntune), I achieved the same result. All of these results are significant gains over the stock speeds. An increase of 177MHz on the core equates to a 21% increase in core clockspeed. A 20% increase in shader clockspeed (442MHz), as well as a 12%, or 150MHz, increase on the memory is nothing to shake your head at either. The performance potential is huge with the 9800GTX series of cards. With increases in clockspeeds like this, the expectations are high, so let's see how well it performs.

Benchmarks:

  1. Crysis
  2. Knights of the Sea
  3. Bioshock
  4. Call of Duty 4
  5. World in Conflict
  6. Call of Jaurez
  7. 3DMark 06 Professional

 

 

Testing:

Crysis is a new addition to the gaming benchmark suite used at OverclockersClub.com. This game is one of the most anticipated and system intensive games to be released to the gaming community. The Crysis single player demo includes both a CPU and GPU benchmark to test the performance of the processor and video card installed in the system.

 

Settings:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The 9800GTX performed better than all of the single GPU cards tested in Crysis. At 1024 x 768 it performed worse overclocked than at stock; on the rest of the resolutions it performed better than the baseline number. In the two lowest resolutions, the GTX performed better than the multi GPU solutions. The performance hit on the 9800GTX at the two highest resolutions drops the performance below that of the X2 cards.

 

Testing:

PT Boats: Knights of the Sea is a new DX10 title that features its own proprietary graphics engine currently in development. The game is a combination of real time strategy and simulation. You have the ability to control the entire crew or just a single member. Play as the German, Russian or Allied navies and prove your mettle on the open seas.

 

The settings we will use are below:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The 9800GTX outperforms the whole test suite of single GPU cards until the 1920x1200 resolution. At this level, the 8800GTS has the same performance as the 9800GTX while the 8800GTX just squeaks past by one frame per second.The multi GPU cards do not fare well in this benchmark. Even so, at 1680x1050 the GX2 takes a slight advantage that it gives up at 1920x1200.

 

Testing:

Benchmark: BioShock

BioShock is one of the newest games on the market. It is a demanding game that will make your hardware scream for mercy. This first-person shooter allows for an infinite number of weapons and modifications to provide a unique experience each time it is played.

 

Settings:

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

At the lowest resolution, the 8800GTS performed better than the 9800GTX, As the resolutions increased, the performance of the 9800GTX increased over the 8800GTS and GTX. The HD3870X2 seems better suited for Bioshock as the level of performance drops off the least as the resolutions scaled upwards.

 

Testing:

Call of Duty 4 : Modern Warfare is the latest successor in the Call of Duty series. This iteration of the game is fought in many of the world's hot spots with modern armaments and firepower. You can play as either a U.S. Marine or British S.A.S. trooper.

 

The settings used are listed below:

   

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This game caused some performance issues with the 9800GTX. The 8800GTS outperformed it in three out of four resolutions. The 9800GTX did beat its predecessor in three out of the four resolutions. The XFX 9800 GX2 showed why it is a $600 card in Call of Duty 4. With the multi GPU setting enabled in the control panel, the GX2 just flat out outperformed all of the comparison cards.

 

Testing:

World In Conflict is a newly released DX10 real time strategy game that simulated the all out war that the world hopes never comes. The difference in this RTS game is that it is not the typical generate wealth and build type of game. You advance by conquering your foe.

 

The settings we will use are listed below:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Even with a large overclock, performance barely increased. The 8800GTS took three out of four resolutions in this benchmark. Kind of surprising, but with the similar feature set it can be expected. Multi GPU solutions seem to take a serious performance hit in this game

 

Testing:

Call of Juarez is a DirectX10 First Person Shooter set in the Wild West of the late 1800s. The game is inspired in part by the movies of the Wild West genre of the seventies and eighties. The game can be played as both single player and multiplayer. The game focuses on realistic graphics and gameplay designed to take advantage of the latest video cards on the market.

 

The settings we will use are listed below.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Staying just ahead of the 8800GTS and 8800GTX, the EN9800GTX outperforms the single GPU field. Not by much, but small gains in this benchmark are enough to show the performance increase. The GX2 and HD3870X2 both performed better than the single cards until 1920x1200, when the 9800GTX beat them by one frame per second.

 

Testing:

Benchmark: Company of Heroes (Opposing Fronts)

Company of Heroes (Opposing Fronts) is the latest chapter in the Company of Heroes series. The scene is WWII. The Mission is Operation Market Garden, the first Allied attempt to break into the Third Reich. Play as the British or Germans. This real time strategy game is brought to us by Relic entertainment.

 

Settings:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The 9800GTX is beat by the 8800GTS at 1024 x 768 and 1280 x 1024. The 8800GTX was outperformed in every resolution. The 9800GX2 again holds a performance edge on the suite of cards. The ATI based X2 card was beat by the 9800GTX at the two highest resolutions.

 

Testing:

3DMark06 is one of the benchmarks that always comes up when a bragging contest is begun. 3DMark06 presents a severe test for many of today's hardware components. Let's see how this setup fares. The settings we will use are listed below.

 

Settings:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Asus EN9800GTX outperforms the entire suite of single GPU video cards in all four resolutions in the 3DMark06 testing. Really, the closest card to the 9800GTX is the G92 based 8800GTS. With two cards that share very similar specs, it's no wonder the performance is as close as it is. The multi GPU cards just walk away from the field in the 3DMark testing. This is the expected outcome, but it shows the power of a multi GPU solution versus a single solution.

 

Conclusion:

Expectations are sometimes greater than reality. The expectation was that the 9800GTX would offer an incredible increase in performance just like the G80 8800GTX did almost two years ago. The reality is that while the EN9800GTX does offer an increase in performance over the 8800GTX, it does not offer the world domination type of increase in performance that its predecessor did. What it did do extremely well is overclock like there's no tommorow. 20% increases in the GPU and shader clock speeds, as well as a 12% increase in the memory speed. The bottom line on overclocking is that if you need more performance, it is quick and easy to go and get it. Just bump up the speeds and frag to your heart's content. When the G80 8800GTX came out, the prices were close to double the cost of the 9800GTX. The price of admission for this card is between $299 and $349, quite a difference for a just launched card. During the overclocked testing, I will usually let the fan speeds stay automatically controlled just to see how well the drivers control the cooling of the card. Under the auto control, the temps never rose over 70 degrees Celsius during the testing. With the fan manually set to 100%, the temperatures never rose above 58 degrees Celsius. What this shows is that under the auto control, the temps were very reasonable. Manual control will still be better for pushing the limits.

If just one card won't do, SLI is always an option to increase the video performance in the games you play. Not only is the EN9800GTX SLI capable, it is one of three video cards in Nvidia's lineup that can run Tri-SLI. The other capable cards are the 8800GTX and 8800Ultra. The Tri-SLI takes care of the hardcore gamer, but what about the person who wants the best of both worlds, low energy consumption and high performance when gaming? The 9800GTX has a feature called Hybrid power, and what it does is allow the onboard video to do the low power graphics work and then when intensive graphics performance is needed, the discrete video cards come online to add the additional performance. What this requires, of course, is a hybrid SLI capable motherboard with onboard graphics.

So where does the EN9800GTX fit on the Nvidia performance ladder? It is the highest performing, single GPU card in its arsenal. In a direct head-to-head against the G80 8800GTX, it outperformed the previous generation card in 29 out of 32 benchmarks. The fact is that the 9800GTX is faster by a large margin in some games and marginally faster in others. Faster is still faster in my book, regardless of the FPS difference. When the 8800GTX cards were introduced, the price tag for the highest level of performance was a tough pill to swallow at $600+. On the other hand, the EN9800 GTX is a steal at $299. An introductory price half of its predecessors, better performance in most instances, better HD capabilities, Tri-SLI capability, Hybrid SLI capable, all wrapped up in a single solution. What else could you want?

 

Pros:

 

Cons: