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

by Michael "SKYMTL" Hoenig     |     September 2, 2008

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

Usually, when a new graphics card is released it is impossible to ignore all the reviews and flurry of forum posts that are kicked up in its wake. There are however those odd times when a card sneaks itself into the market without nary whimper from the usual sources and the things literally start showing up at retailers without rhyme or reason. This generation of Nvidia cards has seen several almost-silent releases with the 8800GS and 9600GSO which had reviews here and there but not much was made of their appearance. Today we will be looking at another card which has popped up in at retailers without the usually marching bands and fireworks: the 9800 GT.

Knowing many of you who read these reviews, we think it is safe to say that the release of the 9800 GT has gone largely unnoticed by the majority of tech-savvy consumers. It will without a doubt add even more confusion to the already-crowded Nvidia lineup but it also represents (in some cases) a minor evolution of the now-legendary 8800 GT. Truth be told, many of the G92 cores on the 9800 GT cards on the market have initially been 65nm but supposedly as time passes, there will be some 55nm products released as well. The interesting thing about these cards is that while their reference design is identical to that of the 8800GT 512MB, many of Nvidia’s board partners have decided to go with a non-reference approach straight off the line. This will differentiate them from the 8800 GT cards they are replacing while giving some value-added features along the way. However, as you will see along the way in this review, the 9800GT product range has already become the Wild West with some board partners using “unlocked” cores while others are using standard cores. If you are scratching you head now, wait till you read a bit further.

The raison-d’être of the 9800 GT is a bit of a mystery considering it is being offered in two distinct flavors of core architecture: 55nm and 65nm. With the recent deep price cuts to the 8800 GT cards, it is safe to say that the 9800 GT has come into being to try to liquidate yet more 65nm GPU cores so Nvidia can fully move their lineup to the more efficient and higher profit margin 55nm manufacturing process. Unfortunately, as mentioned there is an overlap with the 9800 GT cards since some hold the older 65nm core while others may use 55nm core, but how will consumers know which one they are getting? The long and short of it is that in many cases they won’t. After talking to a number of manufacturers, some don’t even plan on labeling the 55nm cards as such but hopefully that will change.

Since there have not been many reviews of this card which will eventually replace the 8800GT, we have decided to take a fundamentally different approach this time around and get enough samples to do a full-fledged roundup. A number of companies were more than happy to step up to the plate so today we will present you with cards from Gigabyte, ASUS, Palit and EVGA. While all of these board partners have fundamentally different policies and warranties, they usually all release a reference version and eventually move on to either overclocked or non-reference designs. What makes this roundup a bit different is that NOT ONE of these cards is the same; some have custom PCBs, others are overclocked and one has the underpinnings of an 8800GTS 512MB. So, I guess you could say that this will be one interesting review.

While we could talk and talk about what is new about these cards, let’s save that for another section and get on with this.


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