Palit 9800GX2 Review

ccokeman - 2008-06-05 12:36:59 in Video Cards
Category: Video Cards
Reviewed by: ccokeman   
Reviewed on: August 6, 2008
Price: $299-$559 USD

Introduction:

Someone once said that having two of something is usually better than one. I can't really remember who, but it sticks in my head to this day. Maybe it was during one of those long talks that generally are there just to pass the time and not have much in the way of meaningful conversation. In this case, the "two of something" would be the dual G92 GPUs on the 9800GX2 from Palit. What if you wanted to run in SLI mode but the motherboard you have does not support SLI, nor do you have the option of Crossfire because of the fact your motherboard has only one 16x PCIe slot. Of course there is the option of purchasing a new motherboard, but the funds are there for one and only one item. The 9800GX2 is a valid solution to this problem. It features two graphics processor cores mounted on two separate boards that interconnect and are output through just a single PCIe 16x interface. This card is your perfect solution... SLI performance in a single package. Some say the pricing of such a card when compared to the cost of two discrete video cards does not make a wise decision. In reality, the pricing does (kind of) equal out to the equivalent of two G92 based 8800 GTS video cards.

The Palit 9800GX2 features 256 stream processors (128x2) which is 16 more than the king of the hill GTX280's 240. The GPU core clock speed is set at 600MHz with the 1 gigabyte of GDDR3 memory (512MB x2) clocked to 1000MHz. Sporting those kinds of credentials, the 9800GX2 should provide some stout competition for the GTX280. With the recent price drops by Nvidia on the GT200 series of video cards, is the performance of the 9800GX2 still high enough to compete with a card that is priced in the same $450 range or has the X2 outlived its usefulness. Lets take a look and find out.

Closer Look:

The front of the retail packaging includes the product description showing that this is part of the Palit/Nvidia 9 series lineup. Over the traditional Nvidia green is the image of the Frobot (Frog/Robot) Kind of an interesting combination but he looks ready for war. The front also includes some of the specifications of the 9800GX2 such as PCIe 2.0 support, Dual link DVI and HDMI capabilities, 1GB of memory and the inclusion of the game "Tomb Raider Anniversary". The rear panel lists basic technical specifications in twelve different languages. As one of Nvidias larger partners in the "Global" market, this is a necessity. Our buddy the Frobot is again highlighted on the side panel along with a Vista certification.

 

 

 

Opening the package up leads to a nondescript white box and cardboard surround. Not to much to get excited about there. Under the box containing the Palit 9800GX2, you will find the bundled accessories. Included are a quick start/installation guide, the driver disk, Tomb Raider Anniversary game, a DVI to D-sub adapter and the HDMI sound input cable. Not a big bundle but what is there is useful.

 

 

Enough with the small talk lets look at the 9800GX2 and see what it has to offer.

 

Closer Look:

The Palit 9800GX2 is a big video card. If your case does not have at least eleven inches of room between the expansion slots and the hard drive cage, you better start shopping for a new case. The 9800GX2 by design is going to take up two expansion slots even though it only physically occupies one 16x PCIe slot. The heatsink is sandwiched between the two pcbs and has the fan used in a blow through design. The housing is made of metal and is adequately vented to help reduce heat build up inside the housing. The card uses two G92 based cores built on a 65nm process and is clocked to 600MHz on the cores 1100MHz on the 1GB of GDDR3 memory and 1500MHz on the shader cores. Again our buddy the Frobot is front and center ready to take on whatever comes his way.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The top of the 9800GX2 has some additional venting that will discharge some hot air into the chassis so case ventilation has to be high on the list of things to do before the installation of the 9800GX2. The bottom shows the 16x interface as well as the electronic certifications and recycling warnings.

 

 

The front end of the 9800GX2 houses the interface connections to the display. The two DVI ports can be run in a Dual Link mode and the HDMI port can be used to go to an HDTV or monitor that supports the 1080p standard. To get the most out of this connection, use the included SPDIF in cable that can be connected to the sound output source from your motherboard or sound card. The vent that discharges heat from the two GPUs is really not that large and is mostly ineffective. More of the air is vented into the chassis via the top venting than out the rear of the card. The back end of the card is vented to allow the cool air in the chassis to be used for cooling the card. Since this card uses a sandwich type construction with the heatsink between the two PCB's the more air pulled through the card the better.

 

 

Along the top side of the 9800GX2 you will find the power connections, the HD Audio-In port and the SLI Bridge connection. The power requirements for this card include at a minimum a 500 watt power supply with at least one 8 pin(6+2)and one 6 pin PCIe connection. The HD sound input connection is next to the 6 Pin power connection. This allows HD sound to be output through the HDMI out connection. The 9800GX2 can be run in SLI mode with the 2 onboard GPU's. To gain more performance a second 9800GX2 can be added to an SLI capable motherboard to enable Quad SLI. Four GPUs should provide an incredible increase in performance at high resolutions with all the eye candy turned on.

 

 

Configuration:

The proper setup of any new piece of hardware begins with the installation of the drivers. Without the drivers, the full functionality of this high end card is lost. So rather than lose out on the immense capabilities of the 9800GX2, start out by inserting the supplied driver disk into any optical drive on your computer and wait for the auto run process to start. Once started, the Installation GUI gives you several options to choose from.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The first option is to install the drivers. By choosing this option the installation starts with the DirectX installation, then moves to the Nvidia driver installation GUI. After both items install, the program requires a reboot to complete the installation of the drivers.

 

 

Three other options are available excluding the exit feature. The browse disk option allows the end user to look through the read me files and allow for a manual installation. The help feature is there if you have installation issues or need help in troubleshooting problems.

 

 

Palit has included the Game "Tomb Raider Anniversary" as an added bonus to the package. On the driver disk is a software application called Muveenow 2.1. This application is used to make movies from picture and other media clips. A trial version is included and if this software is for you a full version can be purchased through a link on the GUI.

 

 

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 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. Each subsection allows for adjusting certain parameters and can be explored and manipulated to give the best viewing experience.

 

 

Now lets see what the 9800GX2 from Palit has to offer in terms of performance.

 

Specifications:

Bus interface
PCI Express 2.0 Support
Memory:
1024MB (512MB x 2
Memory Interface:
512bit (256bit x 2)
Core Clock:
600MHz
Shader Clock
1500MHz
Memory Clock:
2000MHz (1000MHz x 2)
Stream Processors
256 (128 per GPU)
Memory Bandwidth (GB/sec)
128
Texture Fill Rate (billion/sec)
76.8
Pure Video
PVHD
Direct X
10
Max DVI Resolution
2560x1600
Max VGA resolution
2048x1536
HDR
128 Bit
Standard Memory Configuration
1GB
Vista Certified
Yes
SLI Ready
Yes
Multi  Monitor
Yes
Nvidia Hybrid Power support
Yes
Minimum Power supply size
500 watts

 

Features:

 

 

Testing:

At OverclockersClub.com, we use a series 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 9800GX2 compares to some of the other enthusiast video cards on the market. We'll be using both single and dual GPU models to show the performance that can be gained from a dual card solution, if any at all.  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.

Comparison Video Cards:

 

Overclocking:

Overclocked settings:

On air with no voltage mods, it seems that the maximum clock speeds that can be achived are right in the neighborhood of 766MHz on the GPU cores and 1105MHz on the GDDR3 memory. I say this after benchmarking two reference design cards from different manufacturers that basically overclocked identically. The difference between the two cards clock speeds can be counted on one hand. The 166MHz overclock on the GPU core offers an increase in performance in many of the game benchmarks tested. Keeping the cores cool by manually increasing the fan speed to 100 percent does help in achieving a higher overclock, just not more that 766MHz on the core in this case. 166MHz on the core and 105MHz on the memory are respectable overclocks when it comes down to it. When the CPU speed is ramped up the 9800GX2 takes off. This card from Palit performed almost identically the the XFX model I looked at several months ago. Scores of close to 19000 in 3DMark06 with the CPU at 3.6GHz show the potential of the card. While you can always hope for more ultimately what you get on air is what you get.

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

 

Testing:

Crysis has been out for quite some time now. In that time there has 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:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Palit 9800GX2is the faster card in three out of four tests. At 1920x1200, the two GX2 cards score identically showing that equal clock speeds on reference cards will give nearly identical performance. The 3870X2 was outperformed in every resolution.

 

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 performance of the 9800GX2 is equaled or bettered in Knights of the Sea by the single GPU GTX280. Again the 3870X2 is outclassed in all four resolutions.

Testing:

BioShock is one of the creepier games on the market. 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:

 

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The GTX280 hangs close to the Palit 9800GX2 at the lower resolutions but falls by about 20 frames per second at the two higher resolutions. The 3870X2 is again just out classed by the GX2. Performance comparisons to the XFX9800GX2 show the performance to be almost identical.

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 2.9.3.

 

Video Settings:

   

 

 

  

 

  

 

 

 

 

 

While every card compared offers frame rates that are easily playable at all of the tested resolutions the The GX2 just flat out offers the most FPS out of the bunch. Close to 200 FPS at the maximum settings is simply phenomenal.

Testing:

World in Conflict Released last year 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:

 

 

 

 
 

  

 

 

 

 

 

World in Conflict has proven to be a game that is not multi GPU friendly. The GTX280 out performs the GX2 in this test while the 3870X2 keeps somewhat close at the higher resolutions.

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 single GPU ATI cards are the cream of the crop in this benchmark when the resolution is cranked up.

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:

 

 

 

  

 

  

 

 

 

 

 

At the highest resolution, the Palit 9800GX2 scored ten FPS less than the XFX model. After verifying the score over five test runs through the benchmark, the score did not deviate from the initial findings. Performance is still better than the Red dual GPU solution.

Testing:

3DMark06 is one of those benchmarks that always comes up when a bragging contest breaks out. 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 Palit 9800GX2 offered the highest 3Dmark scores from 1280x1024 on up to 1920x1200 out of the Nvidia cards tested. The HD3870X2 out-scored every card at every resolution. Kind of surprising from a card that is outperformed in almost every benchmark.

Conclusion:

The Palit 9800GX2 did not disappoint. After testing a previous 9800GX2 and seeing how well it overclocked, I was looking forward to this offering from Palit. On the overclocking front, I was able to squeeze increases of 166MHz out of the GPU core, 105MHz out of the memory, and 400+MHz from the shader cores. These increases are almost identical to the last 9800GX2 that OverClockersClub tested. The performance of the Palit 9800GX2 when overclocked keeps the performance slightly better to comparable with the king of the kill of single GPU cards, the GTX280. Since the price drops from Nvidia have reduced the financial hit of the GT200 series as well as the cost of the 9800GX2 coming down from the $650 dollar introduction price, the GX2 offers up some serious performance for the dollars you have for your graphics purchase. Put two of these cards in an SLI configuration to get Quad SLI and you should have a pretty interesting comparison between the GT200 series cards to see where the performance falls. Performance against the ATI HD3870X2 was outstanding in most of the benchmarks. In 3DMark06 the 9800GX2 was beaten by the HD3870X2 in all four resolutions. A weak point for sure even though the scores of the 9800GX2 were higher than every card but the 3870X2.

For the energy conscious crowd, having two GPUs is obviously going to use more power. There is just no way around it. An increase usage of 55 watts from my standard test system was noted when the system was under load. A small price to pay for better performance, but in the long run justifying the additional costs is up to the end user. Having two GPUs is of course going to give you twice the heat as well, thankfully Nvidia has designed a heatsink that works. The highest temperatures measured in my dungeon were 72 Celsius under load with the fan controlled by the drivers. By manually controlling the fan speed, noise was increased, but temperatures took a nose dive at 100% fan speed, dropping to 55 degrees Celsius under load in my 26 degree Celsius room. The amount of heat discharged into the case as well as out the back of the expansion panel can provide an increase in case temperatures, so installation of this card into a well ventilated chassis should be mandatory.

The HDMI output is a nice feature to have available. No adapter or dongle just hook straight into the card. Just think, High Definition gaming and movie viewing on that new  1080p plasma screen. Call of Duty 4 on the big screen is going to be sick. With this ability, the Palit 9800GX2 could be the perfect addition for your home theater computer. So after the dust cleared, the 9800GX2 has not outlived its usefulness as a performance video card. It performs well and is available at a price point that more people can live with. SLI for the masses, HD gaming, Quad SLI capable, what more do you need in a video card?

 

Pros:

 

Cons: