Sparkle Calibre P980X+ ReviewRHKCommander959 - April 5, 2009
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The 9800GTX+ line is built on the 55nm fabrication process and sports 128 shader processors and GDDR3. Looking at the card, the prominent feature is the dual heat pipe, non-reference cooler. Sparkle offers the heat sink for sale separately for use with other video cards. The unicorn logo and Calibre branding adorn an ornament in the center, with dual fans to each side also branded with Calibre and the website address www.calibrestyle.com.tw. A few smaller heat sinks are also visible. The rear of the card has the voltage regulation circuitry neatly laid out with the heat sink using pushpins, and a few groupings of circuits for the memory and core. The board also retains mounting holes from the design, so it shouldn’t be hard to find better memory cooling solutions and mount them. The main heat sink is bolted in and equalized with springs. The card is Tri-SLI ready with dual SLI ports available.
Viewing the card from the side gives view to the low profile voltage regulation and memory heat sinks sitting neatly under the heat pipe mechanisms. The audio input for this card is located between the dual SLI ports and the 6-pin power plugs. The sides are less interesting than some other cards with all of the more important things on the top and bottom.
The card comes with HDMI, VGA, and DVI ports and should easily sync with most setups, except dual monitor applications using DVI and users of the video out port. The rear shows the voltage regulation heat sink, and the capacitors around it. The four-pin fan cable plugs in next to the 6-pin power connections.
The card supports regular SLI and Tri-SLI with its dual SLI ports. The model and serial number are located on a bar-coded sticker near the SLI ports. The dual 6-pin PCI Express power plugs are located at the rear of the card, and point away from the motherboard when installed, making it easy to install the cables in cramped cases. The small two-pin audio header with white casing is near those, and is used to provide the audio portion of the HDMI digital signal.
The heat sink can be arranged into a multitude of shapes thanks to its unique rotating capability, which uses the heat pipes wedged between the heat sinks' housing to act as a pair of hinges. Each heat pipe assembly is independently controlled and moved into place using clamps that lock into holes in the housing unit – one for flat low-profile expansion slot size, and the second to prop the units into a V-shape, requiring more space, but possibly providing better cooling for the motherboard and core by allowing the fans to breath with less restriction.
The G92 core of the 9800GTX+ is smaller than the prior 65nm models by nature, but is not protected by an integrated heat shield or large shim around the chip, but rather a smaller shim around the core. Eight memory modules with aluminum heat sinks surround the core, each with a density of 64MB.
Here the heat sink with its three different mounting holes is visible. The copper base is flat enough, but not perfectly smooth, so performance could be increased with some lapping. Three screws hold the base together against the heat pipes, two hold the Calibre badge in place, and three hold each fan in place. The clamps have one each to hold them onto the heat sinks. The housing block has spires dotted along it to help dissipate heat while it reaches the heat pipes, possibly helping with the cooling. The fan wires run along the center trough, and are held down out of the way of the black Calibre cover with a small black bit. The Calibre badge protects the fan wires but more importantly it is there to look good.
The heat pipe assemblies are held in place by the clamping pressure from the base, and adjust the fan angle by using the spring-loaded forceps. Heat is dissipated from the fins via the 3W EverFlow fans. These fans produce airflow of 20.24CFM at a noise level of 31.8dB(A). The speed is 3600RPM and they give a static pressure of 1.87mmH20.
Let's reassemble the card and get it installed!