GeForce 9800 GT Roundup (EVGA, ASUS, Gigabyte & Palit)

by Michael "SKYMTL" Hoenig     |     September 2, 2008

The Current Nvidia Lineup

Here it is; the new Nvidia lineup in all its glory and there are some pretty significant changes that we can see right off the bat. The most notable of these changes is the discontinuation of the short-lived 9800 GX2 as Nvidia’s flagship product which is now replaced by the GeForce GTX 280 and to a lesser extent the GTX 260 as well. The rest of the Nvidia high to mid-range lineup stays pretty much the same with cards like the 8800GT and 9600GT receiving some pretty steep price cuts of late. There has also been the addition of the 9800 GTX+ and the 9800GT of which the former uses the new 55nm manufacturing process. Dropped from the lineup are quite a few cards including the 9800GTX in favour of the plus model. The 9800GT on the other hand is basically an 8800GT with a few features thrown in for good measure and uses either 65nm or a new 55nm core.

Some of you (ok, MANY of you) are probably wondering why Nvidia is pushing their partners to transition to the 9800GT if it is the same thing as the venerable 8800GT and believe it or not, we were wondering the same thing…and still are. All indications point towards the lineup being completely devoid of any 8-series cards by the end of the year which is a pretty laudable goal. However, we would have MUCH rather seen the 8800GT become the 9800GT once the 55nm core was in ALL of the cards.

You all may have seen a trend within the last few weeks of rapidly falling GT200-series prices in the face of rising competition from ATI’s new cards and because of this these cards have actually become somewhat affordable. Granted, nearly $450 for a single GTX 280 is no small chunk of change but it sure beats the astronomical $680 it was released at. The same goes for the GTX 260 but to a somewhat lesser extent with price cuts bringing it in at a shade over $300 putting it in direct competition with the HD4870 from ATI.

Sitting at the top of this new lineup is the GTX 280 which is equipped with 1GB of GDDR3 memory working at 2214Mhz (DDR) and is basically on-par with what we saw with the GX2. Also gone are the days were we see a 256-bit memory interface on something that is deemed a “high-end” product since the GTX 280 now uses a 512-bit interface. This should eliminate many of the claimed bottlenecks of the narrower interface used on cards like the 9800 GTX. The core speed (which includes the ROPs and TMUs) operates at 602Mhz which is quite interesting since many pundits claimed that with the switch to a 65nm manufacturing process we would see a rapid incline in clock speeds. This has not happened with the core of the G2T00 series it seems.

Looking at the “little brother” GTX 260, it seems that there was quite a bit of pruning going on with lower clock speeds and less memory being the flavour of the day while also being combined with less processor cores. This in effect lowers its price and makes it easier to produce in volume but at the same time it could offer significant performance decreases when compared with the GTX 280.

To keep with their new parallel processing mentality, Nvidia has changed the name of their Stream Processors (or shader processors depending on your mood) to “processor cores”. There are 240 of these so-called processor cores in the GTX 280’s GT200 core which operate at 1296Mhz with those on the GTX 260 operate at a bit more mundane 1242Mhz. This speed is once again quite a bit less than what we are used to seeing with past Nvidia products but considering the number of processors, we can consider this a brute force approach rather than the finesse which comes with faster speeds.

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