Foxconn GeForce 9800GTX Review

ccokeman - 2006-11-17 12:56:56 in Video Cards
Category: Video Cards
Reviewed by: ccokeman   
Reviewed on: May 14, 2008
Price: $295.99

Introduction:

The 9 series of GPUs from Nvidia were released just a scant few months ago. The 9600GT was an impressive improvement over the 8600 series it replaced. The 9800GX2 was next on the release docket. Performance was there and then some. You just needed a system that could keep up. Many waited holding their breaths for a successor to the 8800GTX crown. When the 9800GTX was released, it was game on. Performance numbers on the 9800GTX have been shown across the Internet with each card differing slightly in its performance based on the system specs used. The 9800GTX has a little something for everyone. Tri SLI capability, High Definition gaming with an HDMI to DVI adapter and, with the right motherboard, Hybrid SLI and Hybrid power for the "green" energy saving features that are in demand today.

The Foxconn 9800GTX features a GPU core clockspeed of 685MHz, a shader clock of 1713MHz, 1100MHz on the 512MB of high speed GDDR3 memory, and 128 Stream processors that run at 1.69GHz. The GPU core is built on a 65nm process and has 754 million transistors packed into that small patch of silicon. Just how will the Foxconn 9800GTX perform? Does it have the tools to take the performance crown from the current single GPU King of the Hill, the G80 8800GTX? Let's find out.

 

CloserLook:

Foxconn's packaging is quite a bit toward the flashy side. Tha'ts not a bad thing, as it brings attention to the packaging. The front of the package shows that this is the standard overclocked 9800GTX. The front also highlights the SLI and PureVideo HD aspects of the 9800GTX. On the front panel, Foxconn shows off some of the awards that have been given to its products. The rear panel expands on the SLI capabilities as well as the Hybrid Power capabilities. By opening the flip up front cover, you get a glimpse of the 9800GTX, as well as additional information on the build quality. Foxconn stresses the Truth in Engineering as part of its SWORD philosophy. Additionally, the latest awards given to Foxconn are shown under this panel.

 

 

Once the box is in your hands, you can pull it open to find a plain white box that holds the card securely under a window. Opening this package, the Foxconn 9800GTX needs to be removed from the clear plastic box that surrounds the card. In a compartment under the card is the accessory bundle.

 

 

The bundle of accessories includes the manual and two discs, one contains the drivers and Foxconn software while the other disc contains Drive Clone 3 and Virtual Drive 11.5. The hardware that comes with the 9800GTX includes two DVI to D-sub adapters, an HDTV out dongle and a two 4-pin molex to 6-pin PCI-E power adapters.

 

Now that I know how the card is distributed and what it comes with, it's time to dig a little deeper into the card itself.

 

Closer Look:

The Foxconn 9800 GTX Standard OC is a PCI-E 2.0 compliant video card that is to be used in a x16 PCI-E 1.0 or 2.0 slot. It features GPU clockspeeds of 685MHz on the G92 core, speeds of 1100MHz on the 512MB of GDDR3 memory and shader clockspeeds of 1713MHz. The cooling solution used is a dual slot reference design, something that all of the 9800GTX video cards OverclockersClub has reviewed have come equipped with. On the front of the card is the Foxconn logo.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Connectivity for the 9800GTX is by way of two DVI ports that are Dual Link capable, and with the HD out that is used with the included dongle. Hot air is exhausted out the rear of the case through the vent on the front side of the card. A small LED can be seen just to the left of the vent. This will let you know if the power connections are seated correctly in the sockets, red for no, green for yes. Pretty simple and effective. The rear of the card is open to allow incoming air to help cool the power circuits on the back end of the card.

 

 

Looking from the rear to the front of the 9800GTX, there are three items of interest. First would be the power connections. To use this card, you must connect two PCI-E 6-pin power connector to the board. Moving toward the front is the HDMI sound connection. An interconnect cable from the motherboard is made to this connection if an HDMI to DVI adapter is used and sound is to be supplied via the HDMI connection. The last items are the dual SLI bridge connections. The 9800GTX is TRI SLI capable, hence the two connections instead of one. There are only three models in Nvidia's arsenal that support this capability, the 9800GTX and the 8800GTX and Ultra.

 

 

The dual slot cooler is the reference design that has been on each 9800GTX I have tested. It is a copper/aluminum composite piece that uses heatpipes to transfer heat from the copper contact surface to the aluminum fin assembly. Each memory IC has a contact pad to ensure cooling for all of the heat generating components on the card. Continuing the tradition of the thick thermal paste, this Foxconn model comes with the same generous application of the TIM on the GPU core.

 

 

The memory on the Foxconn 9800GTX is supplied by Samsung and is rated to 1200MHz, 100MHz over the stock setting of 1100MHz, leading one to believe that the headroom above the rated memory speed is there for the taking. The GPU core is a G92 based part, the same as the 8800GTS. It is manufactured using a 65nm process and has 754 million transistors.

 

 

After the card is installed, it's time to get the drivers and programs that Foxconn has included installed.

 

Closer Look:

After you put that brand spanking new, latest and greatest video card into the motherboard, you need some additional work to make it put out the really pretty pictures. First up, once you have restarted the magic box and gotten into the operating system, you will need to install the drivers for the video card so that it can deliver those mind numbing graphics that are oh so important nowadays.

 

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Once the disc spools up, the Foxconn installation GUI pops up. The installation GUI has three separate tabs. The first contains the drivers for Windows XP and Vista, in both 32 and 64 bit flavors. The Utility tab contains the Foxware utility as well as Direct X 9 and Adobe Acrobat. Foxlight is for motherboards that have an onboard set of LEDs. The Manual tab is, of course, just what it implies. The soft version of the manual is here if you don't want to dig through or lose the paper manual.

 

 

Installing the drivers from the GUI is as easy as just selecting the driver and following the onscreen directions. A reboot is recommended.

 

 

 

Foxconn has included a proprietary utility to monitor and overclock the 9800GTX. The software is installed from the Utility tab in the installation GUI. The software, called Foxware, contains three tabs to choose from when using this utility. The Information tab identifies the graphics processor, the core and memory clockspeeds, lists the driver revision, as well as the amount of memory on the video card. The Frequency tab allows the user another avenue to overclock the 9800GTX in increments as small as 1 MHz. The Temperature tab is used to monitor the core temperature, as well as set alarms depending on the temperature.

 

 

Last, but not least, the configuration of the Foxconn 9800GTX can be fine tuned in the Nvidia control panel. The PureVideo settings, basic performance characteristics and resolution can be adjusted with this tool. nTune can be incorporated into the control panel the further enhance the usability of the Nvidia control panel for both overclocking and monitoring of the 9800GTX.

 

 

Let's look at the specs and see how it performs.

 

Specification:

 

GPU: 
 NVIDIA GeForce 9800GTX
Core:
G92
CoreClock:
685MHz
Pixel Pipeline:
128 Stream Processors
Vertex Pipeline:
128 Stream Processors
RAMDACs:
400MHz
Memory Type:
GDDR3
Memory Size:
512MB
Memory Clock:
2200MHz
Memory Interface:
256bit
Graphics Bus Technology:
PCI Express 2.0
Cooler:
Fansink
Connectors:
Dual Dual-Link DVI + HDTV_Out
Special Features:
PCI Express 2.0
NVIDIA® SLI™ Support
Dual Dual-Link DVI Support
HDTV Out Support

 

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 Foxconn 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:

After reviewing Foxconn's 9600 GT we found that it was indeed a player when it came time to play the overclocking game. With the expectations set so high, I was just a little disappointed in the fact that I was not able to push the 9800GTX as far as the Asus or XFX cards we have already looked at. Needless to say, not every card is going to exceed the limits by a like amount, so as the saying goes, your mileage may vary. The good news is that the Foxconn 9800 GTX does indeed provide a nice bit of headroom above the stock clockspeeds of 685MHz on the GPU core and 1100MHz on the memory. So if you look at the final results as a percentage, the overclocking results are pretty impressive. The increase on the GPU core came in at 152MHz, or about 18.5%, and the increase in the memory speed amount came to 116MHz, or just over 9%. The performance potential is there, you just have to go look for it. At this point, Nvidia's driver package does not allow for the fan speeds to stay at 100% when manually changed. Having tried several utilities to do this, the results just did not stick. So maximizing the overclocking capability will mean requirig that driver issue be resolved.

 

Benchmarks:

  1. Crysis
  2. Knights of the Sea
  3. Bioshock
  4. Call of Duty 4
  5. World in Conflict
  6. Call of Juarez
  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 Foxconn 9800GTX took the two lowest resolutions, even performing better than the dual GPU cards. Once the resolution reached the 1680x1050 threshold, the dual GPU cards came into their own. The 9800GTX did still finish ahead of the other single GPU solutions by a wide margin.

 

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:

 

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Once again, the Foxconn 9800GTX takes the two lowest resolutions. At 1680x1050, it falls to the 9800GX2 and at 1920x1200, it falls into a tie with the 8800GTX that it replaces.

 

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:

 

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In Bioshock, the 9800GTX has the single GPU cards covered in three out of four resolutions. It is outperformed by the G92 8800GTS at 1024x768. Surprisingly, it is staying competitive with the multi GPU solutions throughout this test

 

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:

  
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The 8800GTX still shows that it has the muscle to get the job done in Call of Duty 4. The 9800GTX is outperformed by the 8800GTS in all four resolutions.

 

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:

 

 

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

The 8800GTS wins all four resolutions. In fact, the 9800GTX is outperformed by both single GPU solutions at all resolutions.

Testing:

Call of Juarez is a DirectX 10 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.

 

   

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Once again, the 9800GTX outperforms the single GPU cards. The 3870X2 fell to the 9800GTX at the 1920x1200 resolution.

 

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:

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

With this benchmark, we have mixed results. The 9800GTX beats the 3870X2 in all four resolutions, but the 8800GTS gives it more than a run for its money.

 

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:

 

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

As expected, the 9800GTX outperforms the single GPU field. Against the single GPU cards, the 9800GTX came out on top in 21 out of 32 tests. This represents roughly 68% of the tests. Against the dual GPU cards, this comparison is far from even. The closest comparison there was the 3870X2.

 

Conclusion:

So what's the upside to the 9800GTX over the 8800GTX? Performance-wise, it did not provide the world dominating performance increase that the G80 8800GTX did when it was first introduced. As enthusiasts, many times if the performance increase on the replacement for a successful product (video card in this case) is not considerable, then the product is considered a flop by many of those same enthusiasts. But the 9800GTX is nowhere near the flop side of the fence. Sure, the performance increase over the G92 8800GTS and G80 8800GTX is not as significant as the world would like to see, but it still is an increase. The Foxconn 9800GTX came out on top in roughly 68% of the benchmark tests run when compared to the single GPU cards. The multiple GPU cards were shown to see just how well the 9800GTX performed against them. Surprisingly, the GTX kept pace when overclocked and actually competed with both dual GPU cards in the benchmarking when at the maximum overclock.

It is now almost two months past the launch date for the 9800GTX and the pricing is still in the $285 to $360 range, depending on the manufacturer. This price point is about half of what the 8800GTX sold for as little as six months ago and is less than its current going rate of about $380. Performance for the dollars spent makes the 9800GTX a wise investment. If the performance of one card is not enough, the 9800GTX is able to be used in a Tri SLI configuration, much like the G80 8800GTX and Ultra. According to Nvidia, the cards scale well as a multi GPU setup with Tri SLI providing a 2.5x performance increase as an added bonus.

Overclocking the 9800GTX results in a nice performance boost, eclipsing the performance of the multi GPU solutions in several of the game benchmarks. The clockspeed increase on the GPU core of 152MHz and the increase on the memory of 116MHz represent 18.5% and 9% increases, respectively. If you need additional performance, it's there for the taking. With the drivers not cooperating when I set the fan speeds manually, temperatures were automatically controlled. Even so, the highest temperature I witnessed was 69 degrees Celsius coming out of an extended run of Call of Duty 4 at max settings with a resolution of 1920x1200. One thing I noticed, or more accurately, failed to notice, was the noise from the fan on the Foxconn card. As with the others I have tested, when automatically controlled it stays dead silent and kept the temperatures respectable even under load.

The 9800GTX is Hybrid Power compatible, meaning that when used in conjunction with a Hybrid SLI/Power capable motherboard, the 9800GTX can be turned off in non-demanding 2D graphic situations, while still offering all of the 3D performance needed when called upon. It's just one way to reduce the overall power consumption of the system. Saving power is a good thing in today's climate of escalating energy costs. Able to offer an increase in performance over the previous generation of cards, offer the energy savings we need, multiple GPU scaling for a massive increase in performance, High Definition capabilities, the 9800GTX can be all things to all people. Add in that it comes at an attractive price point well below that of the 9800GX2, and you have it all, price, performance and flexibility.

 

Pros:

 

Cons: