Logo   Banner   TopRight
TopUnder
Transparent
Gigabyte and Palit GeForce 9800 GT Face Off
Transparent
Date: Sep 26, 2008
Section:Graphics/Sound
Author: Robert Maloney
Transparent
Introduction

NVIDIA's current list of graphics products reads like a mathematician's crib sheet; there are no fewer than 10 active SKUs in their GTX 200- and 9000-series of graphics cards.  It's generally understood that higher model numbers typically mean better peformance, but the subtleties behind the GSO / GT / GTX / GX2 monikers are enough to confuse even the most stalwart tech gurus.  NVIDIA admits to creating some buyer confusion, and plans on making things easier from here on out with the model type coming first (GTX meaning high-end) and the part number corresponding to the performance level second, with higher numbers obviously equalling better performance (ie, a GTX 280 is faster than a GTX 260).

Adding to this confusion, however, are cards like the GeForce 9800 GT.  Unlike the prevailing theory that higher numbers mean newer / better performing products, the 9800 GT is actually little more than a rebranded 8800 GT with support for HDMI audio output and HybridPower.  HDMI audio output is achieved using a secondary audio cable, like the current cards in the GTX 200 series.  And HybridPower is an interesting feature in which your video card is turned off when not needed in favor of a low-power IGP, but it requires a compatible motherboard and for now they only come AMD-flavored.  Currently 9800 GT and 8800 GT cards share the same 65nm GPU, but rumor has it a 55nm version will be arriving soon. What that means in terms of clock frequencies and power consumption remains to be seen, but for now most 9800 GT and 8800 GT cards share similar GPU and memory clocks as you'll see in the specifications below...

NVIDIA GeForce 9800 GT
Features & Specifications
GPU Engine Specs:

Processor Cores 112 
Graphics Clock (MHz) 600 MHz
Processor Clock (MHz) 1500 MHz
Texture Fill Rate (billion/sec) 33.6 

Memory Specs:
Memory Clock (MHz) 900 MHz
Standard Memory Config 512  MB
Memory Interface Width 256-bit GDDR3 
Memory Bandwidth (GB/sec) 57.6 
Feature Support:
NVIDIA SLI®-ready* 2-Way
NVIDIA PureVideo® Technology* HD
NVIDIA PhysX™-ready*
NVIDIA CUDA™ Technology
HybridPower™ Technology*
GeForce Boost  
Microsoft DirectX 10 
OpenGL 2.1 
Bus Support PCI-E 2.0 x16 
Certified for Windows Vista
Display Support:
Maximum Digital Resolution 2560x1600 
Maximum VGA Resolution 2048x1536 
Standard Display Connectors Dual Link DVI
HDTV 
Multi Monitor
HDCP*
HDMI* Via adapter
Audio Input for HDMI S/PDIF 
Standard Graphics Card Dimensions:
Height 4.4 inches
Length 9 inches 
Width Single-slot 
Thermal and Power Specs:
Maximum GPU Tempurature (in C) 105  C
Maximum Graphics Card Power (W) 105  W
Minimum System Power Requirement (W) 400  W
Supplementary Power Connectors 6-pin 




Above are the complete specifications and feature-set of the GeForce 9800 GT.  Due to the fact that we’ve already covered the underlying technology employed in the G92 GPU powering the 9800 GT, we’re not going to rehash those details again here.  If you need a refresher, please check out our release piece on the
8800 GT, where we cover all of the main features and inner workings.  The two cards from Gigabyte and Palit that we will look at today share all of the above characteristics with the sole exception of Palit's Super+ 1GB, which ships with a larger frame buffer.
 
Transparent
Gigabyte's GV-N98TZL-512H


 

We'll start off with Gigabyte's 512MB GeForce 9800 GT the GV-N98TZL-512H, the card sporting a Zalman fan squarely above the GPU and as is typical of Gigabyte, an uncomplicated box with a female warrior carrying a large gun.

Gigabyte's package contents include the 9800 GT based card itself, a multilingual installation guide (actually mislabeled as 9800 GTX+ on the cover, but all inserts are clearly for the GT model), a driver/utility CD-ROM, 2 DVI-I to D-Sub adapters, a single DVI-I to HDMI adapter and a PCI-E power cable.  The manual is very well written and laid out, covering all aspects of using the card that are typically omitted or skimmed over by others.  For instance, a section is devoted simply on the use of the adapters and cables including the S/PDIF cable for HDMI audio, although said cable was not found in the box.  Another section covers each tab of the NVIDIA ForceWare control panel to help with setting up and tweaking the card.

     


The GV-N98TZL-512H's appearance is dominated by the large copper and aluminum heatsink from Zalman, which uses a large fan and heatpipes to increase heat dissipation.  Those with a keen eye will notice this is the same cooler that we saw on the Gigabyte GV-NX88T512HP 8800 GT we reviewed back in March.  Zalman's VF830-ALCU Quiet VGA Cooler, as it is more formally known, is clamped down tightly over the large die rising perhaps a 1/2 inch or so off of the PCB and transferring heat away from the core using two heatpipes that arc downwards and then back up through a series of copper fins.  These in turn are air-cooled by the fan embedded within.  Heatsink weight has been minimized, weighing in at a total of 140g, by using extremely thin fins which are less than a half of a millimeter thick.  The lighter weight load eliminates excessive force on the card and slot.

     

512MB of GDDR3 memory linked to the GPU via a 256-bit interface comes by the way of Samsung, using BGA modules marked as K4J52324QE-BJ1A.  This memory is rated for operation of as high as 1000 MHz (2000 MHz effective).  The memory does not receive any direct forms of cooling, although the majority of the chips are located underneath the footprint of the cooler's fins and do get some residual airflow.

     


Power is regulated by a series of solid capacitors with ferrite core chokes and lower RDS(ON) MOSFETS specially designed to produce lower switching resistance for faster current charging and discharging.  This reduces heat and provides a better and more stable flow of energy.

     

Typical of most mid-range cards, two DVI-I connectors and S-VIDEO out make up the output options with the adapters included in the bundle filling out the missing options.  Gigabyte ships this card with protective covers over all exposed ports and pins except for maybe the main connector itself.  Compared to higher-end products like the 9800 GTX+, the GV-N98TZL-512H is much shorter and should be able to fit into any chassis.

     

The GV-N98TZL-512H is Gigabyte's 512 MB model, and like Palit, they also offer a 1GB model, the GV-N98TZL-1GH.  Common sense tells us that having more memory should help performance at higher resolutions.  Our tests today will help find out if there's much benefit in paying extra for double the memory buffer with cards in this class.

Transparent
Palit's GeForce 9800 GT Super+ 1GB

Palit's packaging is somewhat different than most.  Their trapezoidal, high-gloss green box features not a barely-clad female warrior nor some WoW-spawned denizen, but a robotic frog nicknamed "Frobot".

There's really not much else to see on the front or back except for two decals - one stating the model as a 1GB variant of the 9800 GT and the other promoting the bonus game included: Tomb Raider Anniversary.  Contents include a barebones Quick Installation Guide, VGA Driver CD-ROM, DVI-I to HDMI and DVI-I to VGA adapters, and PCI-E power cable and a S/PDIF audio cable.  Ironically, the installation guide does not cover the actual installation of the card (however easy it might seem), only covering the driver install instead.

     

That crazy frog also makes his way onto a vibrant orange plastic cover that completely envelops the card.  It's hard to imagine that the cover actually benefits the card in any way other than possibly protecting the fan or channeling some air around the cooler.

     

Like the Gigabyte card, Palit's 9800 GT is a dual-slot solution, even without the orange shroud, as the card sports a similar-looking aluminum heatink with copper based cooler, in this case with the heatpipes running through the center of the heatsink up to the top and then down again through the side fins.  The main block is huge, almost running from the top to the bottom of the card with small channels cut in for the heatpipes.

     

1GB of memory is divided equally on the front and back sides of the card, with 512MB hidden under a black plate on the front which only covers the RAM, and the other 512MB cooled by a large heat plate on the back.  A line of solid capacitors and chokes lie underneath the furthest end of the cooler with a small heatsink placed directly on the nearby MOSFETS.  The heatsinks make good contact with all of the memory chips using a small thermal adhesive pad as the spacer.

     

Everything else is as expected; a 6-pin power connector is found at the end fitting into a notch in the plastic cover, a single SLI connector at the front (extra SLI connectors are only found on high-end models like the GTX) and S/PDIF audio input also nearby.  Two DVI-I connectors and S-Video are found on the double-wide bracket.

     

1GB of DDR3 comes from Qimonda using their HYB18H512321BF-10 chips.  Like the Samsung modules, these are also rated to run at 1000MHz, so there should be some headroom to play with when we get to overclocking.

Transparent
Test System and 3DMark06 Results

HOW WE CONFIGURED THE TEST SYSTEMS:

We tested all of the graphics cards used in this article on either an ASUS Striker II Formula nForce 780i SLI motherboard powered by a Core 2 Duo E6800 dual-core processor and 2GB of low-latency Corsair RAM. The first thing we did when configuring the test system was to enter their BIOS and set all values to their "optimized" default settings. Then we manually configured the memory timings and disabled any integrated peripherals that wouldn't be put to use. The hard drive was then formatted, and Windows Vista Ultimate and the latest DX10 update was installed. When the installation was complete, we then installed the latest chipset drivers available, and installed all of the other drivers necessary for the rest of our components.  Auto-Updating and System Restore were also disabled and the hard drive was defragmented.

The HotHardware Test System
Core 2 Powered


Processor
-

Motherboard -



Video Cards -






Memory -



Audio -

Hard Drive
-

Hardware Used:
Core 2 Duo E6800 (3GHz) 

Asus Striker II Formula
nForce 780i SLI chipset


Sapphire Radeon HD 3870 ATOMIC
Diamond Radeon HD 3850
EVGA GeForce 8800GT OC
PNY GeForce 8800 GTS 512
Gigabyte GV-N98TZL-512H
Palit GeForce 9800 GT Super+ 1GB



2048MB Corsair PC2-6400
2 X 1GB


Integrated on board

Western Digital Caviar SE16

250GB - 7,200RPM - SATAII



OS - 

DirectX -

Video Drivers
-





Synthetic (DX) -

Synthetic (DX) - DirectX9 -

DirectX10 -
DirectX10 -
DirectX10 -
OpenGL -

 
 
 
Relevant Software:

Windows Vista Ultimate

DirectX 10

NVIDIA Forceware v177.19 (98xx)
NVIDIA Forecware v175.19 (88xx)
ATI Catalyst v8.7


Benchmarks Used:
3DMark06 v1.0.2
3DMark Vantage
Half-Life 2: Episode 2
Company of Heroes
Crysis
PT Boats: Knights of the Sea
Enemy Territory: Quake Wars*

* - Custom Test
(HH Exclusive demo)

Performance Comparisons with 3DMark06 v1.0.2
Details: www.futuremark.com/products/3dmark06


3DMark06
3DMark06 is the most recent addition to the 3DMark franchise. This version differs from 3Dmark05 in a number of ways, and includes not only Shader Model 2.0 tests, but Shader Model 3.0 and HDR tests as well. Some of the assets from 3DMark05 have been re-used, but the scenes are now rendered with much more geometric detail and the shader complexity is vastly increased as well. Max shader length in 3DMark05 was 96 instructions, while 3DMark06 ups that number to 512. 3DMark06 also employs much more lighting and there is extensive use of soft shadows. With 3DMark06, Futuremark has also updated how the final score is tabulated. In this latest version of the benchmark, SM 2.0 and HDR / SM3.0 tests are weighted and the CPU score is factored into the final tally as well.


If we look at the overall score for our collection of graphics cards, we see that the two 9800 GTs are running more in line with the HD 3870 from Sapphire than they are with the overclocked 8800 GT from EVGA or PNY's 8800 GTS 512.  And, although they share the same clock speeds for GPU, Shader, and Memory, we found that Gigabyte's version of the 9800 GT outmuscles Palit by just over 100 points.



 

Taking a closer look at the individual Shader Model scores, we still see that the 8800 GTS 512 and 8800 GT are running first and second.  Gigabyte claims the third spot in both Shader Model runs, edging out the Palit card by a few points each run through.  Whereas NVIDIA typically does better in SM 2.0 than 3.0. we see quite the reverse with ATI-branded cards.  The Radeon HD 3850 and HD 3870 run the SM 3.0 tests better, with the HD 3870 we used in this round outperforming the Palit 9800 GT, and almost completely catching up to Gigabyte as well.
 

Transparent
3DMark Vantage

Futuremark 3DMark Vantage
Synthetic DirectX10 Gaming


3DMark Vantage

The latest version of Futuremark's synthetic 3D gaming benchmark, 3DMark Vantage, is specifically bound to Windows Vista-based systems because it uses some advanced visual technologies that are only available with DirectX 10, which y isn't available on previous versions of Windows.  3DMark Vantage isn't simply a port of 3DMark06 to DirectX 10 though.  With this latest version of the benchmark, Futuremark has incorporated two new graphics tests, two new CPU tests, several new feature tests, in addition to support for the latest PC hardware.  We tested the graphics cards here with 3DMark Vantage's Performance preset option, which uses a resolution of 1280 x 1024.

 

The DX10-based 3DMark Vantage, the latest iteration of Futuremark's benchmarking application, shows us larger sepearations between the cards, although the relative order remains the same as before.  For example, the 8800-based cards are closely knit at the top, the HD 3850 again in a distant last place, and the other three cards jockeying for position in between.  As far as the mid-range battle goes, the GV-N98TZL-512H is the clear winner, nearly 170 points better than Palit and twice that amount over the HD 3870. 




In the first GPU test, Gigabyte easily beats Palit by almost a full frame per second, equalling a 6% difference between the two.  Differences are minimal, however, in the second GPU Test, with the scores nearly identical between the two 9800 GTs.

Transparent
Half-Life 2: Episode 2

Half Life 2: Episode 2
DirectX9 Gaming Performance


Half Life 2:
Episode 2

Thanks to the dedication of hardcore PC gamers and a huge mod-community, the original Half-Life was one of the most successful first person shooters of all time. And courtesy of an updated game engine, gorgeous visuals, and intelligent weapon and level designs, Half Life 2 became just as popular.  Episode 2 - the most recent addition to the franchise - offers a number of visual enhancements including better looking transparent texture anti-aliasing. These tests were run at resolutions of 1280 x 1024 and 1600 x 1200 with 4X anti-aliasing and 16X anisotropic filtering enabled concurrently.  Color correction and HDR rendering were also enabled in the game engine as well.  We used a custom recorded timedemo to benchmark all cards for these tests.


 

When it comes to Half-Life 2, there's really no comparison between the Radeon HD 38xx cards and a GeForce 8800 or 9800.  The deltas between the two sets of cards is huge, with the GeForce obviously being the card of choice - when playing DX9-based games at least.  The faster clock speeds on the 8800 GT and 8800 GTS 512 keep the two just a few fps above the two 9800 GTs, with Gigabyte edging out Palit by a frame or so during each run.

Transparent
Company of Heroes: Opposing Fronts


Company of Heroes
Details: www.companyofheroesgame.com


Company of Heroes

Relic Entertainment's World War II era real-time strategy game Company of Heroes was originally released as a DirectX 9 title for Windows.  But recent upates to the game have incorporated support for new DirectX 10 features that improve image quality and enhance the game's finer graphical details.  The game features a built-in performance test which which we used to attain the results below. Our Company of Heroes tests were run at resolutions of 1280 x 1024 and 1600 x 1200 with 4X anti-aliasing and all of the game's image-quality related options set to their maximum values.

 

Again, we see that Gigabyte has the edge over Palit, although the differences were a bit on the small side.  If anything, we see Palit closing the gap at the higher resolutions, possibly influenced by the larger memory buffer.

Transparent
Crysis

 




Crysis
Details:www.ea.com/crysis/index.jsp


Crysis

If you're at all into enthusiast computing, the highly anticipated single player demo of the hot, new, upcoming FPS smash-hit Crysis, should require no introduction. Crytek's game engine visuals are easily the most impressive real-time 3D renderings we've seen on the computer screen to date.  The engine employs some of the latest techniques in 3D rendering like Parallax Occlusion Mapping, Subsurface Scattering, Motion Blur and Depth-of-Field effects, as well as some of the most impressive use of Shader technology we've seen yet.  In short, for those of you that want to skip the technical jib-jab, Crysis is HOT.  We ran the SP demo with all of the game's visual options set to 'High' to put a significant load on the graphics cards being tested.

   

In Crysis, we had expected to see Palit's 1 GB memory buffer come into effect, but we saw no realization of the effects of that extra memory - at least at these resolutions. While the deltas in performance between these two cards are quite small, the edge still winds up going to the GV-N98TZL-512H.  Still, we see that these cards are not going to beat out the older 8800 GT and GTS 512, limiting their upgrade path potential.

Transparent
Enemy Territory: Quake Wars

 


Enemy Territory: Quake Wars
Details: www.enemyterritory.com


Enemy Territory:
Quake Wars

Enemy Territory: Quake Wars is Based on id's radically enhanced Doom 3 engine and viewed by many as Battlefield 2 meets the Strogg, and then some.  ET: Quake Wars also marks the introduction of John Carmack's "Megatexture" technology that employs extremely large environment and terrain textures that cover vast areas of maps without the need to repeat and tile many small textures.  The beauty of megatexture technology is that each unit only takes up a maximum of 8MB of frame buffer memory.  Add to that HDR-like bloom lighting and leading edge shadowing effects and Enemy Territory: Quake Wars looks great, plays well and works high end graphics cards vigorously.  The game was tested with all of its in-game options set to their maximum values with soft particles enabled in addition to 4X anti-aliasing and 16x anisotropic filtering.

 

Our only OpenGL-based game, Enemy Territory: Quake Wars really doesn't offer up anything really new to chew on.  The two 8800 cards are again at the top, this time with EVGA's overclocked 8800 GT claiming the top spot at both 1280x1024 and 1600x1200.  Following behind by 7-8 fps are our two 9800 GTs, with Gigabyte's model holding from a 1.5 to 3 frame per second lead over Palit's, depending on the game resolution settings.

Transparent
Overclocking Results

 

Overclocking the 9800 GTs
Raising the bar even higher


GIGABYTE GamerHUD

Gigabyte provides their own overclocking utility, called GamerHUD, with their 9800 GT.  This nifty little application allows the user to not only raise GPU, Shader, and Memory clocks using sliders, but the GPU Voltage as well, which might be able to get Gigabyte cards an extra advantage that others won't have in the overclocking department.  Voltages can be raised in .05v steps, but as the 'Apply' button warns, changing these values "might crash the system or cause damages", so we didn't get too crazy here.  Real-time temperature and usage graphs in the upper right give the user some feedback as to how their card is faring, although these can obviously not be checked while a benchmark or game has focus.

Starting at 600/1500/900 for the GPU, Shader, and memory speeds, respectively, we found that we could keep on pushing each clock speed higher and higher without and bump in voltage up until we hit 760 MHz on the GPU.  Here, we bumped the voltage to 1.20V, which allowed us an additional 10 MHz increase on the GPU, but that was it.  Anything beyond that speed, whether or not we raised the voltage, resulted in 3DMark Vantage crashing, but all crashes were handled gracefully by Vista after a failed OC attempt.  Our final speeds: 770 MHz for the core, a 1625 MHz Shader clock, and 1050 for the memory at 1.20V.  All told, great increases across the board, raising our 3DMark Vantage score by nearly 12% and frame rates by 16-17%.


RivaTuner v2.09

In direct contrast to our results with GamerHUD and the Gigabyte GV-N98TZL-512H, overclocking the Palit GeForce 9800 GT Super+ 1GB was a bit more frustrating.  Figuring that we had a good baseline to start with, we set out in earnest by immediately halving our former increases using RivaTuner as our tool of choice.  We were met with a blue screen of death unfortunately. 

Deciding to take it a bit slower, we tried tamer clock speeds and started the ball rolling once again.  We found that the memory was the first stumbling block as the Qimonda memory wasn't up to the same challenge as the Samsung variety found on Gigabyte's model.  At a 960 MHz clock (1920 MHz effective), we starting seeing some anomalies in 3DMark and had to clock back to 955 MHz to clean this up.  Soon after, we hit the GPU's ceiling, barely reaching 700 MHz.  Trying to hit 700 MHz or faster typically resulted in BSODs, spontaneous reboots, and other driver-related crashes.  Considering the two cards have the same core and similar cooling apparatuses (seemingly even better on Palit's card), we would have expected closer overclock numbers, but that wasn't the case.

FINAL OVERCLOCKING RESULTS
   

Gigabyte GV-N98TZL-512H
GPU: 770 MHz  Memory: 1050 MHz

Palit GeForce 9800 GT Super+ 1GB
GPU: 695 MHz  Memory: 955 MHz

 

With our overclocked cards running stable, we decided to give 3DMark Vantage another run-through to see what kind of frame rate increases we might be looking at.  
 

The gains we saw on the Palit GeForce 9800 GT Super+ 1GB were good, gaining two fps in the first GPU test, and just over a frame in the second.  More importantly, these increases brought the Palit 9800 GT more in line with the similarly overclocked 8800 GT from EVGA.  While we were pleased with these results, we were even more impressed by the new numbers seen with the Gigabyte GV-N98TZL-512H.  The speed increases we achieved on the core, shader, and memory clocks gave us about a 16-17% boost in performance, easily surpassing all other cards in our face off.

Transparent
Performance Summary and Conclusion

 

Performance Summary:  Based solely on their benchmark results, the 9800 GT cards we tested didn't bring anything new to the table.  Both cards were able to handle the Radeon HD 3850 and HD 3870, but they only hung alongside the 8800s.  Comparing the Gigabyte and Palit cards head-to-head, the 1GB Palit card had a slight edge in a couple of tests, but more often than not the Gigabyte card finished slightly out in front.
 


Gigabyte GV-N98TZL-512H

Gigabyte stayed the course with the GV-N98TZL-512H.  Instead of overclocoking the card or increasing the size of its frame buffer, Gigabyte's focus was on providing a powerful, quieter cooling solution.  Performance at default clock speeds was in-line with expectations, although in direct comparison with Palit's Super 1+ GB it was typically the better performer of the two.  Overclocking was the real shining moment for Gigabyte.  Using GamerHUD, with its additional voltage settings made overclocking a quick, easy, and ultimately rewarding experience and we can't argue with 12% increases in frame rates. At about $140, the GV-N98TZL-512H is somewhat more expensive than some other 9800 GT cards, but it's excellent cooler and overclocking performance may make it worth the extra investment.

  • Zalman cooler provides ample cooling with low noise output
  • Great overclocking results
  • Good Price
  • Same GPU as the 8800 GT
  • Requires two slots



Palit GeForce 9800 GT Super+ 1GB

While the Palit GeForce 9800 GT Super+ 1GB and GV-N98TZL-512H had similar clock speeds, Palit's offering has double the frame buffer memory.  Unfortunately, that extra memory didn't equate to increased performance in any of our tests.  What we found was almost a dead heat between the two, with the slight advantage, however, almost always falling in Gigabyte's favor.  Throw in the tame overclocking results and the higher price point of the GeForce 9800 GT Super+ 1GB ($160) and it's a tough sell in light of the competition.

  • Large frame buffer
  • Comes with a free game: Tomb Raider Anniversary
  • Also requires two slots.
  • Larger memory buffer didn't equate to better performance



Content Property of HotHardware.com