Our Summary and Conclusion
Performance Summary: We'll need to discuss the individual performance of two products here, the nForce 790i SLI Ultra chipset and the GeForce 9800 GX2 graphics card; so we'll break down this summary into two sections.
According to our testing of two full-retail motherboards from ASUS and EVGA, the nForce 790i SLI Ultra's performance is top notch. In all of our tests, the nForce 790i SLI Ultra finished at or near the top of the charts. PCMark Vantage in particular reported strong performance for the nForce 790i SLI Ultra, as did a couple of the SiSoft SANDRA tests. All of the real-world application benchmarks also reported strong performance.
As for the GeForce 9800 GX2, it is clearly the most powerful single graphics adapter currently available. In all of our in-game benchmarks, the GeForce 9800 GX2 outpaced every other single graphics card configuration including the Radeon HD 3870 X2. It was only in 3DMark06 that the Radeon had an advantage, but that didn't translate into any benchmark wins with actual games at the high resolutions we tested.
The NVIDIA nForce 790i SLI Ultra chipset and GeForce 9800 GX2 are very strong products. It took a while for NVIDIA to revamp their entire ultimate PC gaming platform, but they have finally done it, and have done it well. The nForce 790i SLI Ultra chipset has a great feature set, it's highly overclockable, and performance was top notch.
The GeForce 9800 GX2 is also feature-rich, with support for HDMI and new PureVideo HD capabilities, and its performance is excellent as well. As we pointed out in our evaluation of the Radeon HD 3870 X2, the ultimate performance of multi-GPU cards like the X2 and GeForce 9800 GX2 will be determined by how well the card’s drivers scale in a particular game. If a new game hits store shelves and the drivers don’t recognize the executable, they will perform much like a single-GPU card that is roughly half the price. We're sure NVIDIA's driver team will try to minimize this situation, but it will be an issue at some point in time, no matter how hard they work. If history is an indicator, however, NVIDIA is poised to handle this situation well, and now that their flagship graphics card is powered by two GPUs, we're sure a stronger than usual focus will be made on multi-GPU scaling.
Actual street prices for the nForce 790i SLI Ultra and GeForce 9800 GX2 remain to be seen, but NVIDIA has set the MSRP of the GX2 at $599 - $649 and motherboards based on the nForce 790i SLI Ultra reference design should arrive in the $350 price range. ASUS' Striker II Extreme, however, has an MSRP of $469, and we suspect a few other non-reference nForce 790i SLI Ultra-based boards will be pricey as well. 790i SLI Ultra based boards are expected arrive this month, with follow up 790i SLI non-Ultra and 750i SLI-based products slated to arrive in the April timeframe. GeForce 9800 GX2 cards should be available immediately.
There you have it. NVIDIA has unveiled their next wave of flagship products and redefined the high-end in PC gaming hardware. And they're not done yet, nor are we. We've still got to cover Quad-SLI technology and a new high-end single-GPU based graphics card is in the works as well, so stick around.
NVIDIA nForce 790i SLI Ultra
NVIDIA GeForce 9800 GX2