With cutting-edge, graphically demanding games like Assassin’s Creed and Fallout 3 shipping for the PC this year, and Crysis already bringing PCs to their knees today, gamers with older GeForce 6/7 series GPUs and Radeon X800/X1K series cards have been upgrading their PCs at a frenetic pace. Fortunately both AMD and NVIDIA have (lately) been doing a good job of supplying the market with relatively inexpensive high-performing GPUs like the GeForce 8800 GT and Radeon HD 3870, in fact graphics cards based on both of these GPUs were sold out for much of last year.
These cards, as well as the GeForce 9600 GT and Radeon HD 3850, have revolutionized the amount of performance gamers can get from a mainstream graphics card. Thanks to their 256-bit memory interface and high clock speeds, these cards are capable of delivering over two times the performance of prior mainstream graphics cards, and under the right circumstances can give high-end GPUs costing over $400 a run for their money at significantly lower price tags.
With these mainstream GPUs delivering such incredible price/performance ratios, gamers and hardware enthusiasts with bigger budgets have been eagerly awaiting the debut of new high-end graphics cards: after all, if AMD and NVIDIA can rewrite the rules when it comes to mainstream performance, they should be able to do the same at the high-end of the market right?
Unfortunately this assumption has so far proven to be incorrect.
Both AMD and NVIDIA’s latest GPU refreshes were a bit of a disappointment. With the Radeon HD 3870 X2, AMD merely slapped two RV670 GPUs on one card, bumped up the clocks slightly, and called it a day, while NVIDIA’s GeForce 9800 GX2 follows the same formula, fusing two G92 GPUs onto one card. And while the GeForce 9800 GX2 is the fastest single graphics card on the market today, even it plays second fiddle to a pair of GeForce 8800 GTS 512MB cards running in SLI.
With this in mind, gamers looking for a high-end card to truly displace the GeForce 8800 GTX and Ultra have been anxiously awaiting today’s release of the GeForce 9800 GTX.
If you fall into this category we’re going to cut to the chase – the 9800 GTX isn’t the GPU you’ve been waiting for. It’s yet another G92 variant, which was an evolutionary progression of NVIDIA’s G80 GPU used in the GeForce 8800 GTX/Ultra last year.
So what clock speeds has NVIDIA chosen for this G92 release? Take a look at the speeds and feeds in this chart:
|GeForce GPU Comparison|
|GeForce 9800 GX2||GeForce 9800 GTX||GeForce 8800 Ultra||GeForce 8800 GTX||GeForce 8800 GTS 512MB||GeForce 8800 GT||GeForce 9600 GT|
|# of Stream Processors||256||128||128||128||128||112||64|
|Core Clock Speed||600MHz||675MHz||612MHz||575MHz||650MHz||600MHz||650MHz|
|Shader Clock Speed||1500MHz||1688 MHz||1500MHz||1350MHz||1625MHz||1500MHz||1625MHz|
|Memory Clock Speed||1000MHz||1100MHz||1080MHz||900MHz||970MHz||900MHz||900MHz|
|Memory Size||2 x 512MB||512MB||768MB||768MB||512MB||512MB||512MB|
|Texture Fill Rate||76.8 Gigatexels/sec||43.2 Gigatexels/sec||39.2 Gigatexels/sec||36.8 Gigatexels/sec||41.6 Gigatexels/sec||33.6 Gigatexels/sec||20.8 Gigatexels/sec|
As you can see, NVIDIA configures the GeForce 9800 GTX with 128 stream processors and a 256-bit memory interface, just like the GeForce 8800 GTS 512MB. The key difference is that the core clock speed on the 9800 GTX is 675MHz, 25MHz higher than the 8800 GTS 512MB. Like previous GeForce GPUs, the stream processors run 2.5 times faster than the core clock, resulting in a shader clock speed of 1688MHz, a figure which is 63MHz higher than the 8800 GTS 512MB.
To say we’re disappointed by these clocks is an understatement. There are GeForce 8800 GTS 512MB cards with higher clocks than the 9800 GTX! Fortunately the GPU’s memory is clocked at 1100MHz, an improvement of 130MHz over the GeForce 8800 GTS 512MB, but this is still a slimmer improvement than we expected.
The other aspect of the 9800 GTX that stands out in the chart above is the price. According to NVIDIA, the GeForce 9800 GTX is supposed to sell for $299-$349, which is the exact same figure we’ve been given for the GeForce 8800 GTS 512MB! Don’t believe the estimated MSRP for the 9800 GTX in the chart above though, all the board partners we’ve asked have said that their cards will carry an MSRP of $349.99. Now certainly actual street prices could be higher or lower than the MSRP we’ve been given, but we have a feeling that 9800 GTX board prices will be closer to $350 than they’ll be to $300.