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

by Michael "SKYMTL" Hoenig     |     September 2, 2008

9800 GT Features

By now some of you may be wondering how this card really differs from the 8800 GT since at face value the 9800 GT is just another G92-based card with a few extra features thrown in. Things get a bit complicated however since some 9800 GT cards have certain features while others do not. Truth be told, nearly all 9800 GT cards are nothing more than 8800 GT cards with a simple BIOS flash performed but board partners are able to add a number of technologies to differentiate their cards from a run of the mill 8800 GT. Let’s take a look at some of these features and trust me, it gets confusing so hang onto your hats and pay attention since EVERY ONE of these features except the PhysX processing and Purevideo HD is OPTIONAL so some 9800 GTcards may have none while others may have every one of the following features.


Optional Full HDMI Output


All 9800 GTcards come with the option for full HDMI output over a DVI to HDMI adaptor. Notice we said “option”? Well, unlike their ATI-supporting counterparts, Nvidia board partners are not required to provide an HDMI adaptor but some in this review do. In order for the 9800 GT to be fully compliant, the manufacturer must include an S/PDIF audio connector along with the adaptor in order to pass audio signals to the card which will in turn pass down the HDMI cable. It is still possible for a card to support HDMI without the S/PDIF connector but you will only get video instead of a combination of video and high definition audio.


Purevideo HD


To put it into a nutshell, Purevideo HD is Nvidia’s video processing software that offloads up to 100% of the high definition video encoding tasks from your CPU onto your GPU. In theory, this will result in lower power consumption, better feature support for Blu-ray and HD-DVD and better picture quality.


In addition to dynamic contrast enhancement, Purevideo HD has a new feature called Color Tone Enhancement. This feature will dynamically increase the realism and vibrancy for green and blue colors as well as skin tones.


HybridPower


By far, the most interesting feature supported by the 9800 GT is Nvidia’s new HybridPower which is compatible with HybridPower-equipped motherboards. It allows you to shift power between the integrated GPU and your 9800 GT so if you aren’t gaming, you can switch to integrated graphics to save on power, noise and heat. What is interesting about this is that some of these new 9800 GT cards will be labeled as “HybridPower Compatible” or have the HybridPower moniker in their product names while other will not. Make sure you look at the specs for the card you are looking at very closely if this feature is a selling point for you.


While we have not seen if this technology works, it is definitely an interesting concept since it should allow for quite a bit of flexibility between gaming and less GPU-intensive tasks. There has been more than once where I have been working in Word in the summer where I wished my machine would produce less heat so I wouldn’t be roasting like a stuffed turkey. If this technology can deliver on what it promises, this technology would be great for people who want a high-powered graphics card by night and a word processing station by day.


This technology even works if you have 9800 GTcards working in SLI and once again you should (in theory) be able to shut down the two high-powered cards when you don’t need them.


All HybridPower-equipped motherboards come with both DVI and VGA output connectors since all video signals from both the on-board GPU and any additional graphics cards go through the integrated GPU. This means you will not have to switch the connector when turning on and off the power-hungry add-in graphics cards. All in all, this looks to be great on paper but we will have to see in the near future if it can actually work as well as it claims to. In terms of power savings, this could be a huge innovation.


PhysX Technology


About two years ago there were many industry insiders who predicted that physics implementation would be the next Big Thing when it came to new games. With the release of their PhysX PPU, Ageia brought to the market a stand-alone physics processor which had the potential to redefine gaming. However, the idea of buying a $200 physics card never appealed to many people and the unit never became very popular with either consumers or game developers. Fast forward to the present time and Nvidia now has control over Ageia’s PhysX technology and will be putting it to good use in their all their cards featuring a unified architecture. This means that PhysX suddenly has an installed base numbering in the tens of millions instead of the tiny portion who bought the original PPU. Usually, a larger number of potential customers means that developers will use a technology more often which will lead to more titles being developed for PhysX.

Since physics calculations are inherently parallel, the thread dispatcher in the unified shader architecture is able to shunt these calculations to the appropriate texture processing cluster. This means a fine balancing act must be done since in theory running physics calculations can degrease rendering performance of the GPU. However, it seems like Nvidia is working long and hard to get things balanced out properly so turning up in game physics will have a minimal affect on overall graphics performance.
 
 
 

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