Performance Summary and Conclusion
Performance Summary: Thanks to its factory overclock, the ASUS EN9800GTX TOP outperformed a stock GeForce 9800 GTX across the board and compared favorably with our reference systems. There are times when the reference 8800 GTX can beat out the reference 9800 GTX, but the EN9800GTX TOP's faster clock speeds give it an edge most of the time. If performance is your bag and you're in the market for a relatively affordable NVIDIA GPU, then you should definitely lean towards an overclocked version of the 9800 GTX, like the EN9800GTX TOP, in order to make sure it outperforms its predecessor.
Those of you expecting that the 9800 GTX would smack the 8800 GTX around are no doubt disappointed, but that's not really what the 9800 GTX launch was about. The big news with the GeForce 9800 GTX, besides the GPU's manufacturing process being moved from 90nm to 65nm, was that you'd get 8800 GTX performance at a much lower price (the 9800 GTX launched with an MSRP of $299-349 and can be found for around $200 now). In addition to the better price, you also get PureVideo HD and Hybrid Power support, and a quiter, cooling running card.
If you already have an 8800 GTX, then it's hard to recommend a 9800 GTX to you, unless you want one or more of the new features. Otherwise, we wouldn't hesitate to recommend that you take a look at the EN9800GTX TOP if you can find it for no more than $230. With the GTX 260 scraping $300, we'd be reluctant to spend more than that on any 9800 GTX. If the EN9800GTX TOP is hard to find, as has been the case for some ASUS-made graphics cards lately, then be patient and hope that ASUS releases an EN9800GTX+ TOP, or consider one of AMD's new Radeon HD 4800 series cards.