Gigabyte 9800GT Reviewccokeman -
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Just because that shiny new graphics card physically fits in the PCIe slot on the motherboard, does not mean it's going to give you the pretty pictures and flowing graphics we have grown accustomed to having. No, Johnny, there is another step involved. You need to install the drivers or instructions to tell the video card how it is supposed to work, as well as when it should run at the maximum settings or slow down to conserve energy and reduce the heat signature. This you do, by starting with the installation disk included with the card. Since in many cases the drivers have been updated in the time frame between manufacturing and purchase, it is usually best to download the drivers straight from the manufacturers website. That way you are guaranteed that the latest performance and bug fixes have been addressed.
You can start off by inserting the driver disk into the optical drive of your computer and letting the autorun feature bring up the installation GUI. From this GUI you can choose to install Direct X 9, the display driver, the Gamer HUD, a Yahoo toolbar, open the readme file or browse the disk for a manual install.
The first option is to install Direct X 9. This should already be on your system but make sure the version is the latest. Next would be the installation of the drivers. Choosing this option opens the Nvidia driver installation GUI. Follow through the installation answering the questions when prompted and follow up with the the required system reboot to finalize the installation.
Once the installation is complete, you can modify the performance or visual quality of the signal sent to the display. Under 3D Settings, you can adjust the video quality via a preview that offers three options, or you can manually set up a general profile, and set up individual profiles for many of the games on the market today. Setting the Multi GPU mode can be used to turn off multi GPU mode (SLI), so that multiple monitors can be utilized. This, of course, can only be used when two 9800GT video cards are installed on a motherboard supporting that function. Each subsection allows for adjusting certain parameters, and can be explored and manipulated to give the best viewing experience.
Gigabyte has included a compact application to maximize the overclocking that can be achieved with the 9800GT. The Gamer H.U.D. - or Heads Up Display for those unaware of the acronym - has several functions. As a monitoring tool, you can view the temperature and GPU usage to the right of the clock speed window. Beneath these two windows a scrolling message reads of your video card specifications.
By disabling the 2D/3D switch under the clock speeds, you can manually adjust the clock speeds and voltage to the GPU core. This voltage starts off at 1.15 and works its way to 1.4 volts - just what's needed to help this card perform at its maximum. The maximum adjustment goes far beyond what would be normally attainable, but it does not hurt to try.
Once the sliders for the GPU, shader core and memory have been set, it's time to apply the settings and to test them out. But first you have to agree to the disclaimer about how the increased voltage should not be set too high and may cause damage to your components.
Now let's get to testing out this 9800GT and see if it compares favorably with the 8800GT and the rest of our test bench video cards.