MSI N9800GT Review

Propane - 2008-09-25 20:40:14 in Video Cards
Category: Video Cards
Reviewed by: Propane   
Reviewed on: October 13, 2008
Price: $144


It used to be that if you needed a new video card there were only a few choices to choose from. There would be the ultra high end card, the mid range card, and the card for people who want to save money. While these same categories exist today, there are many more cards that fit into each category. This is great for the consumer because now we can weigh what features we want and have a smooth gradient of options to choose from, anywhere from the inexpensive cards to the 600 dollar cards that double as a room heater.

The MSI N9800GT is one card that fits into the mid range category, even though it has a high end name. The N9800GT has all the features of a 9000 series card and is based on the G92b chipset which is made on a 55nm fab. This card will support DirectX 10, however it is not entirely DirectX 10.1 compliant. With a core clock speed of 600MHz and a memory clock speed of 900MHz, this card is already pretty fast. It has 754million transistors which eat up 105watts of power, enough to run a normal house lightbulb. The question that this review will answer is whether or not that 105watts of power is worth it or if it is better spent on other hardware.

Closer Look:

The N9800GT comes in pretty standard video card packaging, and the box has a lot of attractive designs on it. The front shows that it is a MSI N9800GT with 512MB DDR3 RAM, that it is hybrid power ready, as well as Phys-X ready. The nVidia PureVideo HD and the nVidia GeForce logo are also present. The back of the box lists a lot of specifications and features and lists the entire product name (N9800GT T20512).















Opening up the box reveals the video card in a protective pocket in a piece of foam as well as in a protective anti static bag. The cardboard pouch contains all of the accessories which we will take a look at on the next page.


The MSI N9800GT comes with a wide plethora of accessories that can be used for various purposes. Three cables are included which provide the ability to use the video card along with a television or computer monitor with component / s-video inputs.



Also, two adapters come with the N9800GT. One is the now standard DVI to VGA while the other is a rather new DVI to HDMI that I, personally, have not seen before, but am glad to see start coming out.



The last of the accessories are the documentation and software CD. Two quick start guides are included and the CD contains a nVidia driver. There isn't a lot special about these but they are still worth mentioning.



Now let's take a closer look at the actual card.

Closer Look:

The MSI N9800GT card itself is red in color and has a rather large cooling solution with 4 heatpipes on it. The cooler is actually the two slot design so the cooling should be more than sufficient for the GPU. The back plate has two DVI connectors, an S-Video / HD video output, and a nice MSI engraved into the cooling slots. Additionally the cooler has a MSI design on it that looks rather nice.




















The card is standard 16x PCI-E and has a standard 6 pin power connector and an SLI connector.



MSI's cooler can be easily detached from the card via 4 spring loaded screws on the back. Closer inspection of the heatsink shows that it only covers the GPU and not the RAM or capacitors. It also takes up valuable room above the RAM that could be used for after market ramsinks. The four heatpipe design of the cooler really stands out, especially since most CPU heatsinks have around 4 as well.




As with all hardware, for the operating system to be able to communicate with it with the best efficiency it can, a driver will have to be used. Drivers for video cards are often updated so they should be downloaded from the GPU manufacturer's website (in this case,, however the card manufacturer should have included a driver on the included CD, and that is the case with the MSI.

Inserting MSI's included CD into your computer will autorun a launcher, giving you several choices of what to do. MSI chose to go with a tabbed layout for this launcher interface. The tabs are along the top and take you to various subpages such as driver, utility, website, maunal, and Cyberlink. The driver tab allows you to install the nVidia driver, the utility tab allows you to install MSI Utility, the website tab provides you with several links to various helpful pages on the web, the manual tab has a few different pages to with helpful information, and finally, the Cyberlink tab lets you install the bundled PowerDVD program.



















The nVidia control panel, a front end to the driver, gets installed with the driver and allows you to adjust many different settings on your video card including performance vs quality ratios, clock speeds, and several other very handy settings.



MSI DualCoreCenter:

The utility that MSI includes to assist you in overclocking their N9800GT is called DualCoreCenter. DualCoreCenter is a small app that can hold several different preset or user set profiles to run your video card under. Either this card didn't support all the features of DualCoreCenter, or DualCoreCenter is still in production though because some options were grayed out for me. The main screen gives you a quick overview of your settings and has an advanced mode button which you can use to unlock an option to take a look at a more detailed statistics dialogue.




You can also set up your user profiles which let you change all the settings to what you want them to be. These user profiles can be quickly switched on the fly depending on what situation you are in.





NVIDIA GeForce 9800GT
GPU clock speed
Processor clock speed
Shader Cores
112 Unified
DirectX support
10/SM 4.0
Open GL support
Memory Type
Memory clock speed
Memory Bus
256 bit
Hybrid Power
Pure Video HD
Dual Link DVI, HDTV,HDMI(Via Adapter)
Audio Input for HDMI
Maximum resolution
2560x1600(Digital) 2048x1536(VGA)




To test the graphics cards at, a series of benchmarks are used to stress the hardware and see what it is capable of. These benchmarks range from the older game, Bioshock, that is tried and true, to the latest benchmarking program from Futuremark, 3DMark Vantage. To help keep the playing field even and the results easy to understand, all comparison cards will be single GPU versions and all driver settings and clock speeds will be left at factory defaults for both the CPU and GPU. The test system used in this review is listed below. First I will test the card with these default settings, then I will take a look at how well it overclocks. The drivers used in this test are 177.79 for the Nvidia cards and the Catalyst 8.8 for the ATI cards.

Comparison Video Cards:


Overclocked settings:

I was able to push the MSI N9800GT to its limits and then some it seemed. Even though it comes from the factory overclocked doesn't mean you cant squeeze a little more out of it, and by a little more, I mean a lot more. With results almost reaching that of Gigabyte's 9800GT, this was very impressive indeed. This could be due in part to MSI's attention to use high quality parts since the card came from the factory with a decent overclock. I was very pleased with these results, even if it did make the card run hotter. But the addition of the heatpipe cooling solution keeps the temperatures in check. With increases of 100+ MHz on the GPU core and memory and an almost 300MHz increase in the shader core the MSI 9800GT has got some serious performance potential.


  1. Crysis
  2. Knights of the Sea
  3. BioShock
  4. Call of Duty 4
  5. World in Conflict
  6. Call of Juarez
  7. Company of Heroes: Opposing Fronts
  8. 3DMark 06 Professional
  9. 3DMark Vantage



Crysis, a very hardware demanding first person shooter, has been out for quite some time now. In that time, there has yet to be a single or multi GPU setup that can run the game at maximum quality settings. While the MSI N9800 is not likely to break this record, it should preform pretty nicely. The Crysis single player demo includes both CPU and GPU benchmarks to test the performance of your processor, video card, and other hardware.























The N9800GT held its ground against the other cards in the price range, usually falling in the middle of the pack.



PT Boats: Knights of the Sea is a newer game that has decided to make its own DirectX 10 based graphics engine and is still in development. The game is a combination of Real Time Strategy and Simulation which makes you prove your worth as either a Russian, German, or Allied naval commander on the seas.


Video Settings:




















Performance in Knights of the Sea is slightly better than the 8800 counterpart.



Bioshock, another modern first person shooter, was one of the first games to support the Direct X 10 standard. It is a demanding game that will push your hardware to its limits especially as you crank up the resolution. Let's take a look at how the MSI N9800GT does against the taxing Bioshock.


Video Settings:




















Bioshock didn't seem to agree with this card as much as Crysis did. Framerates were lower than the other cards in almost every test, however the game was still very playable at all resolutions.


Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare is the current successor to the Call of Duty throne. 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 US Marine or British SAS trooper, but since this game does not feature an in-game test, I will run through a section of the game and measure average FPS using Fraps, a framerate counter and video recording utility.


Video Settings:




















The N9800GT's framerate in Call of Duty 4 is above that of the refresh rate of most monitors which should make the gameplay appear smooth and crisp, which was reflected within my gameplay.



World in Conflict, a real time strategy game that simulates a world war, is another game that led the way into Direct X 10 support. Detailed explosions and tons of polygons make this game another game that can grind even the greatest hardware to a slow speed at the highest resolutions. It should provide us with a pretty good look at how the N9800GT preforms.


Video Settings:



















As has been seen before, the lower resolutions don't really do this card justice, but as the resolution approaches 1920x1200, its comparative performance looks pretty good.


Call of Juarez is a Direct X 10 first person shooter set in the late 1800's. The game focuses on realistic graphics and gameplay by using bleeding edge techniques designed to take advantage of the latest video cards on the market.


Video Settings:




















Again, as the resolution is increased, the MSI N9800GT does better and better compared to the other cards.



Company of Heroes: Opposing Fronts is the latest chapter in the Company of Heroes series. The scene is WWII and the mission is Operation Market Garden, the first Allied attempt to break into the Third Reich. You can play as the British or Germans. This Real Time Strategy game is brought to us by Relic Entertainment.


Video Settings:




















Since this game is not an first person shooter, the frame rate of 27 at 1920x1200 should be acceptable to most eyes and not effect game play too much.



3DMark06 is a benchmark produced by Futuremark, a company that specializes in the benchmark niche. 3DMark06 presents a severe test for many of today's hardware components. Let's run the MSI N9800GT through the gamut of tests and see how it fairs.






















For some reason, the N9800GT didn't do very well compared to the other cards. This seems to be an isolated experience with respect to the other benchmarks, so maybe there was a local factor to the card that was involved.



Just added to the Overclockersclub suite of benchmarks is the newest from Futuremark, 3DMark Vantage. Featuring all-new game tests, this benchmark is for use with Vista based systems. "There are two all-new CPU tests that have been designed around a new 'Physics and Artificial Intelligence-related computation.' The second CPU test offers support for physics related hardware." There are four preset levels that correspond to specific resolutions. 'Entry' is 1024x768 progressing to 'Extreme' at 1920x1200. Of course, each preset can be modified to arrange any number of user designed testing but for this review, we will leave those settings at their default values.




















The performance of the MSI N9800GT here was, again, very respectable when compared to the other cards in its price range.


New video cards are coming out all the time, and there will always be something better the next day, but as for right now the MSI N9800GT is a very nice card. The MSI proved itself quite nicely in our benchmarks and overclocking tests, and for the money, it feels like it is a pretty solid card. The fact that it is overclocked from the factory makes it even more appealing because you don't have to do any work on your own to unlock some of that extra performance that overclocking can give you.  However, if you choose to overclock the N9800GT anyway, the rewards can be worthwhile by giving you a nice increase in preformance for no additional monetary cost. While this card, as all 9800 series cards, is basically a 8800 with a few added features such as PureVideoHD and Hybrid power, the price point reflects that appropriately, which makes this a very attractive card for those on a budget. All in all, I was very pleased with this card and MSI. Even though it isn't the ultra high end solution we would all love to be running in our systems, it is a great video card to give you high-end results and great gameability with a smaller impact on your wallet.