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EVGA 9800 GTX+ 512MB Video Card Review

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SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
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EVGA 9800 GTX+ 512MB Video Card Review




Price: Click here to compare prices
Model Number: 512P3N873AR
TechWiki Info: EVGA 9800 GTX+ 512MB
Availability: Now
Price: Approx $220
Warranty: Lifetime


We have all had our pockets first picked by rising gas prices, then have received a swift kick in the balls by gutted investments and finally getting a slap to the face by the rising prices of damn near everything. This beatdown has led nearly every industry to the realization that the average consumer either can’t or just doesn’t want to afford the best of the best anymore. We see this playing out quite well in the computer component industry with falling prices and more value-oriented products. Gone are the days of the $800 GPU; they have been replaced by efficient, lower-cost products which appeal to a broader market while still achieving performance numbers to be proud of.

Manufacturers like Nvidia and ATI have perfectly seeded this changed market with a plethora of graphics cards which won’t put you out of your rent money since they focus on a “bang for buck” factor everyone seems to be happy with. Let’s be honest, the $150 to $250 price range is the place to be right now as evidenced by the massive number of products all clustered within a mere $100 price bracket. ATI has their new HD 4830 and HD 4850 while Nvidia has the 9600 GT, 9800 GT and 9800 GTX+. Most of these cards have been reviewed by Hardware Canucks but there has always been one notable absentee: the 9800 GTX+.

Even though I am sure many of you know exactly what the 9800 GTX+ is all about (seeing that it was released months ago), I am going to bore you with a quick glossing over of its background. Basically, Nvidia had an excellent card on the market with the 9800 GTX until ATI released their HD 4850 and rained all over the parade. An answer was needed and the boys in green wanted to show that they too could release a 55nm chip (remember, the 9800 GTX used the 65nm manufacturing process). While power consumption and heat production are not supposed to go down significantly when making the jump from 65nm to 55nm, the change allowed the newly minted 9800 GTX ”+” to be clocked higher than the outgoing 9800 GTX. This meant better competition against the HD 4850 while keeping cost increases to a minimum by sticking with a tried and true architecture. The new Plus version of the 9800 GTX has been a hit ever since.

In this case we will be looking at EVGA’s stock clocked 9800 GTX+ which carries with it a price of around $200, putting it into direct competition with the HD 4850. If the price isn’t enough to get your attention, EVGA’s Lifetime Warranty and Trade Up program are sure to sway you in their direction since at this time there are no ATI board partners which offer either service on a consistent basis. But for some of us, performance is everything so it will be interesting to see how this card stacks up.

Fortunately for us, the current financial situation makes the GTX+ prime pickings for a huge swath of consumers either looking to upgrade their system or build a whole new setup. Coupled with the latest drivers from both Nvidia and ATI, we can now show you exactly how the competitors perform against each other using up to date software. Let’s check it out.

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SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
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The Current Nvidia Lineup

The Current Nvidia Lineup


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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 9800 GT 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 9800 GT 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.

The 9800 GTX+ on the other hand is basically an overclocked 9800 GTX with a 55nm core versus the less efficient 65nm manufacturing process used on the older card. Other than that, there really isn’t that much to distinguish this card from its forefather. Nvidia needed a quick fix to compete with the HD 4850 and while the 9800 GTX did quite well in most regards, something else was needed. Thus, the “+” version was born with higher clocks and a bit more muscle in the way of higher clock speeds.

Into this equation the GTX 260 with 216 shader processors was recently introduced and is positioned slightly above the standard GTX 260 in terms of both price and supposedly performance. Not only does this new card get the extra shaders but there is also a slight bump in the texture filtering units from 64 to 72. It may seem odd to have a card like this seeing the light of day but there has already been some speculation that the cores used on these cards are failed GTX 280 cores which Nvidia would like nothing more than to insert into a competing position against the HD 4870. Other than the bump in shaders and TPUs, all of the other specifications for the GTX 260 216 are a mirror image of the standard card. What does strike us as interesting is the fact that this more powerful card is priced less than the GTX 260 was selling for just a short while ago.

Meanwhile, 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 GT X. 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.
 

SKYMTL

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9800 GTX+ Features

9800 GTX+ Features


3-Way SLI

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As multi-GPU solutions become more and more popular Nvidia is moving towards giving consumers the option to run as many as 3 graphics cards together in order to increase performance to insane levels. Before the release of the 9800 GTX+, the only cards available for 3-way SLI were the 8800GTX and 8800 Ultra which meant shelling out over $1500 for trio of cards. Luckily for all of those who want the highest performance possible, Nvidia has made the 9800 GTX+ 3-way SLI compatible which means you would “only” have to shell out around $900 to $1000 for three of these cards. Let’s push these mind-numbing prices aside for a moment and just bask in the possibilities…


Optional Full HDMI Output

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All 9800 GTX+ cards come with the option for full HDMI output over a DVI to HDMI adaptor. Notice we said “option”? This GPU has integrated HDMI support but it is up to the manufacturer to provide the necessary hardware for this to be possible. While every 9800 GTX+ card will come with an SPDIF input connector on the card itself, manufacturer has to choose whether or not to include a DVI to HDMI dongle so the card can output both sound and images through a HDMI cable. Coupled with the fact that the GTX fully supports HDCP, this feature can make this card into a multimedia powerhouse. Unfortunately, in order to keep costs down we are sure that there will be quite a few manufacturers who will see fit not to include the necessary hardware for HDMI support. With this in mind, make sure you keep a close eyes on the accessories offered with the 9800 GTX+ of you choice if you want full HDMI support.


Purevideo HD

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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.

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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

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By far, the most interesting feature supported by the 9800 GTX+ is Nvidia’s new Hybridpower which is compatible with HybridPower-equipped motherboards like the upcoming 780a and 750a units for AMD AM2 and AM2+ processors. It allows you to shift power between the integrated GPU and your 9800 GTX+ so if you aren’t gaming, you can switch to integrated graphics to save on power, noise and heat.

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While we have not seen if this 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.

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This technology even works if you have 9800 GTX+ cards 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.

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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.
 

SKYMTL

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Why Buy an EVGA Card?

Why Buy an EVGA Card?


Many of us know EVGA by name since their cards are usually some of the best priced on the market. Other than that, there are several things which EVGA has done to try to differentiate their business model from that of their competition. Not only do they have an excellent support forum and an open, friendly staff but it also seems like they have a love for their products you just can’t find many other places. Passion for one’s products goes a long way in this industry but without a good backbone of customer support, it would all be for nothing. Let’s take a look at what EVGA has to offer the customer AFTER they buy the product.


Lifetime Warranty

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Every consumer wants piece of mind when it comes to buying a new computer component especially when that component costs you over $600. In order to protect your investment, EVGA offers their customers a lifetime warranty program which is in effect from the day you register the card until…well…the end of time. The only caveat is that you must register your card within 30 days of purchase or you will only be eligible for their new 1+1 warranty. So as long as you don’t get lazy or forget, consider yourself covered even if you remove the heatsink. The only thing that this warranty doesn’t cover is physical damage done to your card. For more information about the lifetime warranty you can go here: EVGA | Product Warranty

Even if you forget to register your card within the 30 days necessary to receive the lifetime warranty, EVGA still offers you a 1+1 warranty which covers your product for two years. For more information about this warranty, you can go here: EVGA | EVGA 1+1 Limited Warranty


Step-Up Program

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While some competitors like BFG now offer trade-up programs as well, EVGA will always be known for having the first of this type of program. This allows a customer with an EVGA card to “step up” their card to a different model within 90 days of purchase. Naturally, the difference in price between the value of your old card and that of the new card will have to be paid but other than that, it is a pretty simple process which gives EVGA’s customers access to newer cards. As is usual certain conditions apply such as the cards being in stock with EVGA and the necessity to register your card but other than that it is pretty straightforward. Check out all the details here: EVGA | Step-Up Program


24 / 7 Tech Support

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Don’t you hate it when things go ass-up in the middle of the night without tech support around for the next dozen hours or so? Luckily for you EVGA purchasers, there is a dedicated tech support line which is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. As far as we could tell, this isn’t farmed out tech support to the nether regions of Pakistan either since every rep we have spoken to over the last few years has had impeccable English. Well, we say that but maybe EVGA hunted down the last dozen or so expats living in Karachi.
 

SKYMTL

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Packaging and Accessories

Packaging and Accessories


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If you like lime green then you will love this packaging design since the green just oozes from it. Not only will it catch your eye in a store but EVGA has used the space very well by conveying all of the necessary information (complete specifications, clock speeds, warranty information, etc.) while being constrained by a relatively small amount of space.

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We all know that companies needed to quickly implement the 9800 GTX+ and here we have another indication of this. EVGA basically stuck a “+” sticker to their standard 9800 GTX packaging and called it a day. This doesn’t really bother us since I am sure it saved money in the short term but it can also cause an inattentive consumer to mix up similar looking boxes which actually hold different products.

While the box itself may be small, the way EVGA protects their cards against damage is absolutely top-notch. The card is suspended in a hard plastic blister pack to make sure it arrives in one piece and let me tell you; this packaging saved this card’s life as you can see by the dents in the plastic.

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Since this is a stock-clocked card without any bangs or whistles, we weren’t expecting much from the accessory package and we were spot on. You get the basics with some standard documentation, a driver CD, some case stickers, a Molex to PCI-E adaptor and a TV-Out connector. The only other thing you get which isn’t pictured is a single DVI to VGA adaptor. Even though the 9800 GTX+ has the capability to output high definition audio with an S/PDIF cable, EVGA has chosen not to include one with their reference card.
 
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SKYMTL

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A Closer Look at the EVGA 9800 GTX+

A Closer Look at the EVGA 9800 GTX+


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It looks like a regular 9800 GTX, it even smells like one too but as you will see in a bit, lurking under that heatsink is something a bit different. All in all though, which you are looking at is a carbon copy of a stock 9800 GTX with a funky new sticker on it.

When we first reviewed the 9800 GTX, we mentioned that its heatsink shroud looked a good deal more feminine than previous cards and even compared with the GT-200 series, this observation still stands for the GTX+. This shroud completes a dual-slot cooler setup which runs the entire length of this 10.5” card.

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EVGA has used every possible area on this card for brand recognition and the fan hub doesn’t escape the treatment. Meanwhile, the side of the card holds the S/PDIF connector as well as the two PCI-E 6-pin power connectors. As already mentioned, with the switch to 55nm, the core will consume a bit less power than its 65nm brother but due to the clock speed increase, this power savings is completely negated. Thus, a pair of power connectors is still needed.

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The backplate of the 9800 GTX+ holds nothing out of the ordinary; just a pair of DVI connectors and a signle TV-Out connector. Meanwhile, this card is equipped with Nvidia’s double SLI connector so if you have the proper motherboard and enough money, up to three of these cards can be linked together in SLI.

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Even when taking a fine toothed comb to the 9800 GTX+ in order to find the differences between it and the standard 9800 GTX, it is next to impossible to tell the two apart. There is a single capacitor with a slightly higher uF rating but that is about it.

The real change is apparent which you take a look at the actual core used on this card. Whereas the GTX used the G92-420-A2 core, the GTX+ uses the 55nm G92-420-B2 core which has a visibly smaller footprint.
 
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SKYMTL

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Test System & Setup

Test System & Setup

System Used

Processor: Intel Core 2 Quad Extreme QX9770 @ 3.852Ghz
Memory: G.Skill 2x 2GB DDR2-1000 @ 1052Mhz DDR
Motherboard: DFI LanParty DK X38 T2R
Disk Drive: Pioneer DVD Writer
Hard Drive: Hitachi Deskstar 320GB SATAII
Fans: 2X Yate Loon 120mm @ 1200RPM
Power Supply: Corsair HX1000W
Monitor: Samsung 305T 30” widescreen LCD
OS: Windows Vista Ultimate x64 SP1


Graphics Cards:

EVGA 9800 GTX+
Sapphire Radeon HD 4850 512MB
Palit Radeon HD 4870 512MB
EVGA Geforce GTX 280
EVGA GTX 260 Core 216 Superclocked
BFG GTX 260
BFG 9800 GTX
EVGA 9800 GT 512MB


Drivers:

Nvidia 178.24 WHQL
ATI Catalyst 8.10


Due to the unpredictability of some beta drivers in Windows Vista x64, we have decided to only use WHQL drivers for all graphics cards other than the one being tested.


Applications Used:

3DMark06 Professional
3DMark Vantage
Enemy Territory: Quake Wars
Devil May Cry 4 Demo
Crysis
Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare
Prey
World in Conflict


*Notes:

- All games tested have been patched to their latest version

- The OS has had all the latest hotfixes and updates installed

- All scores you see are the averages after 4 benchmark runs

- If the game did not support 2560 x 1600 resolution, the closest resolution to that was used
 
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SKYMTL

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3DMark 06

3DMark 06


While some may wonder at the use of still including 3DMark06 in the tests it gives us a good idea of the basic limitations of a graphics card. Since the standard test runs at 1280x1024 there will be a fair amount of CPU bottlenecking with higher-end cards and remember that in many cases a higher 3DMark score does not equate better performance. Here we have also included tests with AA and AF enabled

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Much like we have seen in the past with Nvidia cards, the 9800 GTX+ performs extremely well when there is no AA turned on but then the gap with the competition narrows a bit when the image quality settings are pushed. All in all this is to be expected due to ATI’s superior AA implementation with their new cores but remember, this is just a synthetic test and doesn’t usually mean much when it comes to actual gameplay.
 

SKYMTL

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3DMark Vantage

3DMark Vantage


3DMark Vantage is the follow-up to the highly successful 3DMark06. It uses exclusively DX10 so if you are running Windows XP, you can forget about running this benchmark. However, it presents us with a truly stressful test of any modern graphics card so we have decided to begin including it in our testing procedure.

Overall Score

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GPU Score

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It seems that with the speed increase, the 9800 GTX+ is able to make a bit of headway against the HD 4850 in 3DMark Vantage but still can’t quite compete when it comes to the GPU score. On the other hand, the overall score is improved quite a bit from Nvidia’s PhysX implementation.
 

SKYMTL

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Prey / Enemy Territory: Quake Wars

Prey


Even though Prey may be a bit older game compared against many of the other ones we are testing, it still provides a workout of even the best graphics cards on the market. This time we have enabled its Graphics Boost feature (Gboost in the charts) and run through a custom timedemo.

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Prey is an older game but when we pump the resolution the $200 cards really start to sweat. The 9800 GTX+ can’t keep up with the HD 4850 in this game but it does once again show some minor improvements over the older 9800 GTX.


Enemy Territory: Quake Wars


Enemy Territory: Quake wars is the latest iteration of the wildly popular Quake franchise from ID Software. While it was met with luke-warm reviews by both the media and the gaming community, it remains an extremely popular online game. In this test we set up a 15 minute timedemo on the Refinery level while the framerates were recorded in-game.

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ET: QW shows us a game that really benefits from having Nvidia hardware in your system. Things start to turn around once AA is turned on and the resolution increases, things become less rosy for the EVGA 9800 GTX+.
 
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