Palit 9800GTX+ Review

TheScavenger - 2008-10-09 22:15:22 in Video Cards
Category: Video Cards
Reviewed by: TheScavenger   
Reviewed on: November 13, 2008
Price: $164.99

Introduction:

Video card technology has moved at an unprecedented pace in the past 18 months. New product releases by nVidia were quickly followed by new product releases from ATI and vice versa. ATI was competitive at particular price points but nVidia always seemed to have the upper-hand in overall performance. ATI's 3870 and 3850 just couldn't overcome the graphics processing power of nVidia's 8800GT and 8800GTS. Everything changed in June of 2008 when ATI released the 4000 series.The 4870 and 4850 quickly showed their dominance in performance and price. In addition, these new ATI cards had one thing that nVidia's didn't, a 55nm manufacturing process. In response, nVidia dropped the price of its 200-series cards and released a 55nm version of the 9800GTX called the 9800GTX+. Not only did the 9800GTX+ include a die shrink compared to its predecessor but it also came with a higher core and shader clock speed. In this review I will be looking at how Palit's 9800GTX+ competes with its ATI counterparts and the 9800GTX.  Palit is known worldwide as an enormous manufacturer of video cards but has just recently emerged at a more visible level in the west.

Closer Look:

The packaging for the Palit 9800GTX+ is in typical Palit fashion. Frobot, the company's mascot, is shown prominently on the front cover along with nVidia's color of choice, green. The front of the box also has a brief description of the 9800GTX+'s features. A label stating "Gamer's Choice" adorns the front of the box as well. Will the 9800GTX+ live up to the hype? The back of the box has a brief list, in twelve languages, detailing some technical specifications of the 9800GTX+. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Opening up the outer box doesn't reveal a whole lot. Inside the outer box there is a white box that holds the the video card and accessories. The video card itself is held inside of another padded white box. The accessories are individually wrapped.

 

 

 

Palit bundles the 9800GTX+ with a wide variety of install documentation, power and connectivity accessories. Among the power accessories are a 6-pin PCI-E to 8-pin PCI-E power adapter and a Molex to 6-pin PCI-E power adapter. The connectivity accessories include a DVI to VGA adapter, a DVI to HDMI adapter and a S/PDIF cable that connects to the 9800GTX+ from a digital audio out connector. Also included is a drivers CD.

 

 

 

 

Now that we've made it through the accessories and packaging, it's on to the fun part, the video card!

Closer Look:

The 9800GTX+ is a die shrunk version of the 9800GTX. In other words, the manufacturing process has been reduced from 65nm to 55nm. Like the 9800GTX, the 9800GTX+ is built off of nVidia's highly popular G92 architecture.  The heatsink and fan shroud carries over to the 9800GTX+ from the 9800GTX as well. However, the GPU core and shader clocks have been increased 65MHz and 144MHz respectively.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The connection end of the 9800GTX+ has two DVI ports, a single TV-out port and a power indicator light. When the card has sufficient power the light blinks upon booting. The other end of the 9800GTX+ has a large opening that functions as a vent for the cooling fan.

 

 

 

 

There are two connections for SLI bridges on the 9800GTX+. This feature would allow a potential three way SLI configuration. Also, two PCI-E power connectors are required to power up the 9800GTX+. The small connection between the power connectors and the SLI bridges is for S/PDIF audio. This connection allows digital audio to travel through the video card and out through an HDMI capable. Use of an HDMI adapter is necessary to use this feature.

 

 

Never have I seen a heatsink so securely fastened to a PCB. There are 14 spring loaded screws and three normal screws pinning the 9800GTX+ together. The 9800GTX+ stock heatsink is a huge array of aluminum and copper. Every important component on the PCB appears to be cooled by the heatsink

 

 

 

After removing the heatsink and shroud from the video card we get a good look at nVidia's choice of component placement on the PCB. The G92 core is ringed by eight memory modules. The complex power circuitry is located below the two PCI-E power connectors on the right side of the PCB. The thermal paste is applied excessively, which is typical of most video cards. I am sure the GPU core temperatures could benefit from reapplication of thermal paste.

 

 

 

The Palit 9800GTX+ is built around the ubiquitous G92 core, which has been die shrunk to a 55nm manufacturing process. Memory for the 9800GTX+ has been sourced from Samsung. Interestingly, although the 9800GTX+ memory comes rated at 1100MHz, this particular GDDR3 memory is rated at 1200MHz.

 

 

 

Let's take a look at the drivers and programs that Palit has provided with the 9800GTX+.

Configuration:

After the 9800GTX+ is physically installed, an appropriate driver must also be installed to take adavantage of the card's capabilities. There are two ways to tackle this. You can either download the appropriate driver directly from nVidia's website or you can install the driver from Palit's highly simplified drivers CD.

After inserting Palit's drivers CD into your optical drive the autorun feature will start the install GUI. There are few options in the GUI menu. The first two menu options allow the user to install either DirectX 10 drivers or install Direct 9.0c. The third and fourth menu options will let you browse the CD and view a basic help menu.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Select the "Install Drivers" button to begin installing the 9800GTX+'s driver. Once the installer is finished you will be prompted to restart the computer. A restart is required to complete the install.

 

 

Every aspect of the 9800GTX+'s settings can be controlled using nVidia's Control Panel. Basic options such as display resolution and color settings can be adjusted in the "Display" tab. Also, a simple slider can be used to adjust the game image settings from "Performance" to "Quality" in the "3D Settings" tab.

 

Specifications:

Fabrication Process
55 nm
Number of Transistors
754 million
Core Clock
740 MHz
Shader Clock
1836 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

47.2 GigaTexels/sec

HDMI Support
Yes
Connectors
2x Dual-Link DVI
RAMDACs
Dual 400 MHz
Bus Technology
PCI Express 2.0 x16
Form Factor
Dual Slot
Supplementary Power Connectors
6-pin x2
Minimum Power Supply
450W
Maximum GPU Temperature
105C


Features:

 

 

Testing:

 

At OverclockersClub.com, we use a set of benchmarks to stress the graphics card. We will use a series of newer gaming benchmarks, as well as some that are more seasoned, to show how well the Palit 9800GTX+ compares to some of the other enthusiast video cards on the market. I'll be using single GPU models exclusively to show just how much the Palit 9800GTX+ brings to the table. All driver settings and clock speeds will be left at factory defaults for both the CPU and GPU in an effort to minimize or eliminate any variables that could impact the results. The test system used in this review is listed below. After testing the card at stock speeds, I'll overclock it 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. For this round of testing, our drivers have been updated to 177.79 for the Nvidia cards and Catalyst 8.8 for the ATI video cards used in this review. Will the additional clock speed on the GPU core and shaders be enough to add some much needed horsepower to your gaming rig? Let's find out.

 

Comparison Video Cards:

 

Overclocking:

Overclocked Settings:

Although I am pleased with the overall performance of the Palit 9800GTX+, I am slightly disappointed by its overclockability. Although, the card has decent clocks from the factory I still expected more. Its core, memory and shader clocks could only be increased by 84MHz, 72MHz and 162MHz, respectively. This marginal increase is a lot lower than another 9800GTX+ reviewed by OCC.  The 9800GTX+ clocks in this review were adjusted using Rivatuner 2.11 and temperatures were monitored by GPU-Z 0.2.8. To reach my final overclock, I bumped up the GPU and memory in 25MHz increments and tested stability using 3DMark06. The GPU core clock and shader clock were linked until I hit instability above 1998MHz on the shader. I then unlinked the two and was able to get the GPU up to 824MHz. The stock cooling solution did a fantastic job of controlling temperatures at clock settings. I never saw the GPU core rise above the upper 60s at load, which is 20-30 degrees cooler than the 9800GTX+'s direct competition, the 4850.

 

 

Benchmarks:

  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

Testing:

Crysis has been out for quite some time now. In that time, there's yet to be a single or multi-GPU setup that can fully showcase the graphics performance of the game. The Crysis single player demo includes both CPU and GPU benchmarks to test the performance of your processor and video card.

Settings:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In Crysis, the 9800GTX+ edged out the HD 4850 in the low resolution tests but the tables turned as the resolution increased. The 4850 beat the 9800GTX+ at 1680x1050 and 1920x1200.

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.

 

Video Settings:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  

 

 

 

 

 

The 9800GTX+ was on par or above every other card in this test besides the GTX260. Interestingly, the 9800GTX+ and the 9800GTX performed identically.

Testing:

BioShock is one of the most haunting games out. In this game, the building of a perfect Utopian society undersea gone horribly wrong. Its inhabitants driven mad with the introduction of tonics and genetic modifications. Now Rapture is just a shadow of its former glory with little girls looting the dead of what little they have left while being shadowed by guardians known as "Big Daddys" 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. The environment as well as the story line will wrap you up for hours on end.

 

Video Settings:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  

  

 

 

 

 

 

Once again, the 9800GTX+ outperforms the 4850 at low resolutions but falls short at higher resolutions. The ATI cards pull ahead of the nVidia cards as the resolution increases.

Testing:

Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare is the successor to the Call of Duty crown. 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. 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 2.9.6.

 

Video Settings:

   

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  

 

  

 

 

 

 

 The 9800GTX+ and 4850 are even at every resolution in this test. Interestingly, the 9800GTX+ beats the older 9800GTX at every resolution except the highest.

 

Testing:

Released in July of 2008, World in Conflict is a real-time strategy game that simulates the all-out war 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. Instead, you advance by conquering your foe with limited opportunities to replenish your troops..

 

Video Settings:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
 

  

 

 

 

 

Once again, the 9800GTX+ performs well against its competition. Also, the 9800GTX+ outperforms its older counterparts in every test.

Testing:

Call of Juarez is a DX10, first-person shooter set in the Wild West of the late 1800's. The game is inspired, in part, by the movies of the Wild West genre of the seventies and eighties. The game can be played in both single player and multiplayer modes. The game focuses on realistic graphics and gameplay designed to take advantage of the latest video cards on the market.

 

Video Settings:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The 9800GTX+ is way behind the 4850 in all four Call of Juarez tests. The ATI cards clearly dominate this particular competition.

Testing:

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.

 

Video Settings:

 

 

 

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  

 

 

 

 

 The 9800GTX+ outperforms the 4850 in the low resolution tests but comes up short as the resolutions increase. Also, the older 9800GTX beats the 9800GTX+ at higher resolutions as well.

Testing:

 3DMark06 is the industry standard for synthetic benchmarks. 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 9800GTX+ performs admirably in the first synthetic benchmark. It is on par with the more expensive cards up until the 1920x1200 test.

Testing:

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.' CPU test two 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. For our testing, I will use the four presets at all default settings.

 

Settings:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In the Entry level test the 9800GTX+ performed admirably against its competition. It was all downhill when the resolution increased as the 4850 beat the 9800GTX+ by almost 500 point on the Extreme setting.

Conclusion:

Pressure from the success of ATI's HD 4850 created the need for nVidia to release the 9800GTX+ in order to be competitive in this particular market. While the 9800GTX+ is a great performer, it doesn't quite reach the level of an HD 4850 in every test. In addition, the 9800GTX+ tends to suffer at higher resolutions and is a little bit more expensive than an HD 4850. On the other hand, the cooling setup on the Palit 9800GTX+ is very impressive. Idle temperatures were in the upper 40s while the load temperatures never exceded the upper 60s. Since the typical load temperature of a reference 4850 is in the 80s, the 9800GTX+ is the clear winner in this department.

Overall, the Palit 9800GTX+ has become competitive in its price segment by trading shots with ATI's HD 4850. The reduction in size of the manufacturing process has reduced temperatures but not the overclockability of the card. There isn't enough of a performance increase from the 9800GTX to justify buying a 9800GTX+ if you already have a 9800GTX. However, for a new buyer the Palit 9800GTX+ would be an excellent choice as a mid-range card.

 

Pros:

 

Cons: