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Digital-Daily : Video : geforce_9800_gx2

Tests of GeForce 9800GX2 on various platforms

Tests of GeForce 9800GX2 on various platforms
Author: Anton Rachko
Date: 06.05.2008

Our recent tests of two GeForce 9800GTX video cards in the SLI mode suggested the idea that the efficiency of merging video cards into the NVIDIA SLI tandem may vary depending on the platform used. Of course, we wanted to verify that, for which we selected the GeForce 9800GX2 video card. The thing is, this video card is based on two NVIDIA G92 processors, and it's not a secret that their forces are combined with the SLI technology. But at the same time, GeForce 9800GX2 is monolithic so it should work on any motherboard with the PCI-express x16 slot, which lets us cover even those motherboards that do not support SLI in its traditional form. The NVIDIA SLI technology is strongly dependent on the drivers which in turn closely interact with other devices apart from the video card. So the efficiency of even a monolithic card that uses the SLI mode inside it, may strongly depend on the quality of the driver optimization for the chipset used on the motherboard. Certainly, the efficiency of traditional single-processor video cards also depends on the used platform, but normally that dependence is quite small. For today's tests, we'll take the results from our recent review of XFX 9800GX2 video cards based on the most recent motherboard based on NVIDIA nForce 790 Ultra SLI and will all the results of testing Gigabyte 9800GX2 video cards with motherboards based on NVIDIA nForce 680i SLI and Intel 975X. Anticipating your next question, we note that XFX 9800GX2 and Gigabyte 9800GX2 run at the same clock speeds which meet those recommended by NVIDIA. First, we'll examine the new product by Gigabyte.

Exterior and package bundle

Package box of Gigabyte 9800GX2 - front view.

Package box of Gigabyte 9800GX2 - front view.

The package box for Gigabyte 9800GX2 turned out to be of relatively small dimensions, which will be convenient at transportation and further storage. But it lacks a handle for carrying it around. In terms of design, the box is quite standard - a large image of a girl on the violet background traditional for Gigabyte, with the key specifications depicted below.

Package box for Gigabyte 9800GX2 - rear view.

Package box for Gigabyte 9800GX2 - rear view.

The reverse side of the package also displays the key specifications and advertising info.

Package bundle for Gigabyte 9800GX2.

Package bundle for Gigabyte 9800GX2.

The package bundle includes all the most necessary items:

  • 8-pin power supply adapter for PCI-Express video cards;
  • 6-pin power supply adapter for PCI-Express video cards;
  • two DVI > D-SUB adapters;
  • a cable for internal connection of S/P-DIF audio signal (required for sound transmission via the HDMI);
  • drivers CD;
  • user's manual.

We'd like to separately note the 8-pin power adapter for PCI-express video cards, which we have come across as a bundled item of video cards just today.

Gigabyte 9800GX2 - side view.

Gigabyte 9800GX2 - side view.

Gigabyte 9800GX2 - front view.

Gigabyte 9800GX2 - front view.

Gigabyte 9800GX2 - rear view.

Gigabyte 9800GX2 - rear view.

It is unlikely to be surprised that the new product by Gigabyte is a precise replica of the reference video card GeForce 9800GX2 with one of which you have already got acquainted earlier. As is known, the "expensive" video cards by NVIDIA are manufactured at the same factories. In view of the design complexity of this video card, we are not dismantling it because there is a high probability of spoiling the novelty while dismantling and we are unlikely to find anything new inside.

Interior connectors of Gigabyte 9800GX2 with caps.

Interior connectors of Gigabyte 9800GX2 with caps.

Like in the formerly tested video card by XFX, the interior connectors of Gigabyte 9800GX2 are hidden under special caps.

Interior connectors of Gigabyte 9800GX2 without caps.

Interior connectors of Gigabyte 9800GX2 without caps.

On removing the caps, we get access to two power connectors of the video card (one of which is 8-pin and is incompatible with 6-pin connectors), as well as to the input connector S/P-DIF and the MIO connector that serves to merge two video cards into the SLI mode.

At that, we finish description of the new product and test the efficiency of the cooling system and the overclocking capability.

Efficiency of the cooling system and overclocking

We'll be testing the efficiency of the cooling system of Gigabyte 9800GX2 using the Firefly Forest test from the 3DMark 06 suite. The test conditions: the resolution 1600x1200, 4-X FSAA, and 16-X AF. After nine runs of the test we produced the following results:

Maximum heating, a graph from Riva Tuner.

Maximum heating, a graph from Riva Tuner.

The produced results have proved rather contradictory. Judging by the main sensor, the video card warmed up to 82 C. And according to the sensors integrated right into the graphic processors, they warmed up to 90 and 91 degrees. This discrepancy in readings can be explained by the fact that the first sensor is installed at some distance from the graphic processors. We should also note the fact that the Gigabyte video cards warmed up more than the formerly tested video card by XFX, which, to all appearances, is directly related to the increased ambient temperature, in this case - the temperature at our test lab. Probably because of that the new product overclocked a bit worse - from the nominal 600/1512 MHz for the graphic processor and 2000 MHz for the video memory the Gigabyte 9800GX2 overclocked to 720/1782 MHz and 2250 MHz for the graphic processor and the video memory, respectively.

Benchmarking and conclusions

As we already stated, in today's review we are testing Gigabyte 9800GX2 on various platforms, and to the produced results we are adding the results of our previous tests of XFX 9800GX2 to compare them. We note it straight that Gigabyte 9800GX2, like the formerly tested XFX 9800GX2, runs at equal frequencies, namely, at 600/1500 MHz for the graphic processor and 2000 MHz for the video memory. For visual experience, to the results for 9800GX2 we are adding the results for GeForce 8800 Ultra which we tested with the XFX video card. The test configuration on which we tested XFX 9800GX2 and GeForce 8800 Ultra looks like this:

Test bench 1
CPU Intel Core 2 Quad X6850 3.00 GHz
Motherboard XFX nForce 790i ULTRA
RAM Corsair Dominator DDR3 2x 1 GB 1333 MHz 9-9-9-24 1T
Operating system Windows XP+SP2+DirectX 9.0c / Windows Vista for DX10 tests
Chipset drivers 9.64 for nForce 790i
Power supply unit HIPER 880 W

We tested Gigabyte 9800GX2 on other two test benches whose configurations are like these:

Test bench 2
CPU Intel Core 2 Quad QX6850 3.00 GHz
Motherboard Foxconn N687AA (NVIDIA nForce 680i SLI)
RAM Corsair Dominator DDRII-800, 2x 1024 MB, 5-5-5-15 2T
Operating system Windows XP+SP2+DirectX 9.0c / Windows Vista for DX10 tests
Chipset drivers 9.53/15.08 for WinXP and WinVista + new 9.64. All for nForce 680i
Power supply unit HIPER 880 W

Note the different versions of the chipset drivers used while testing Gigabyte 9800GX2 on the above mentioned test benches. The thing is, during our tests NVIDIA released a new version of drivers version 9.64, so we decided to test with both old drivers 9.53 for Windows XP and 15.08 for Windows Vista and with new drivers 9.64 which offer the same index for both the operating systems. Finally, we bring in the configuration of the last test bench:

Test bench 3
CPU Intel Core 2 Duo X6800 2.93 GHz
Motherboard MSI 975X Platinum PowerUp Edition
RAM Corsair XMS Xpert DDRII-800 4x 512 MB
Operating system Windows XP+SP2+DirectX 9.0c / Windows Vista for DX10 tests
Power supply unit 750 W

For the purity of experiment, we wanted to use the quad-core CPU Intel Core 2 Quad QX6850 3.00 GHz in our test bench, but it turned out that the motherboard MSI 975X Platinum PowerUp Edition does not support it. So in the last test bench we confined to the dual-core CPU Intel Core 2 Duo X6800 2.93 GHz. Since the frequencies of both the processors are close and the games are not yet properly optimized for four cores, we are not expecting to see a big difference between the processors. Prior to moving to examining the test results, we say a few words on the drivers' version.

For Gigabyte 9800GX2 and XFX 9800GX2 (hereinafter - GeForce 9800GX2), we used ForceWare 174.53 drivers. For GeForce 8800 Ultra, we used ForceWare 169.21 for Windows XP and ForceWare 169.25 for Windows Vista.

Examining the test results with 3DMark test suites.

The result for Gigabyte 9800GX2 at 3DMark.

The result for Gigabyte 9800GX2 at 3DMark.

The results are quite expectable - the results for GeForce 9800GX2 video cards at the test benches with the quad-core CPU are very close, and the test bench with the dual-core CPU has lagged a bit behind. But how much would we get if there were used a quad-core CPU on the test-bench? Let's calculate it on the example of 3DMark'06 test, and formula for calculating the score points is like this:

SM2.0 Score = 120 x 0.5 x (SM2 GT1 fps + SM2 GT2 fps)
HDR/SM3.0 Score = 100 x 0.5 x (SM3 GT1 fps + SM3 GT2 fps)
CPU Score = 2500 x Sqrt (CPU1 fps x CPU2 fps)
GS for SM3.0 hardware = 0,5 x (SM2S + HDRSM3S)
3DMark Score = 2.5 x 1.0/ ((1.7/GS + 0.3/CPU Score)/2)

The results produced with the Gigabyte 9800GX2 video card produced at the test bench with a dual-core CPU are as follows:

A detailed result for Gigabyte 9800GX2 at 3DMark 06 with the Core 2 Duo CPU.

A detailed result for Gigabyte 9800GX2 at 3DMark 06 with the Core 2 Duo CPU.

We substitute

SM2.0 Score = 120 x 0.5 x (47.338 + 51.384) = 5923.32
HDR/SM3.0 Score = 100 x 0.5 x (86.958 + 61.188) = 7407.3
CPU Score = 2500 x Sqrt (0.831 x 1.337) = 2635.15 GS for SM3.0 hardware = 0.5 x (5923.32 + 7407.3) = 6665.31
3DMark Score = 2.5 x 1.0/ ((1.7/6665.31 + 0.3/2635.15)/2) = 13 553.90

The score result is 13 553 points, that's right. Now we substitute the results for the quad-core processor which we produced on the second test-bench instead of results for the dual-core CPU.

A detailed result for Gigabyte 9800GX2 at 3DMark 06 with the Core 2 Quad CPU.

A detailed result for Gigabyte 9800GX2 at 3DMark 06 with the Core 2 Quad CPU.

CPU Score = 2500 x Sqrt (1.567 x 2.281) = 4726.47
3DMark Score = 2.5 x 1.0/ ((1.7/6665.31 + 0.3/4726.47)/2) = 15 697.39

The produced result is 15 697 score points is 384 points less than the result produced on a test bench with the quad-core CPU. In terms of percentage, that is merely 2.4% which should be attributed to the measurement error. Now let's move on to gaming tests which we'll be running with 4x FSAA and 16x AF enabled.

Result for Gigabyte 9800GX2 at Call of Duty 4.

Result for Gigabyte 9800GX2 at Call of Duty 4.

At Call of Duty 4, the combination GeForce 9800GX2+nForce 790i takes a lead. Proceeding from the fact that it differs from the Gigabyte 9800GX2+nForce 680i combination in merely the motherboard and the type of memory, we can assume that the NVIDIA SLI technology is better optimized for the nForce 790i chipset. By the way, in this game we can see a gain attained from using a quad-core instead of a dual-core CPU. The difference between the combinations based on nForce 680i SLI and Intel 975X attains 11.8% in favor of the quad-core CPU. But we should not think that absolutely all games will gain an advantage from using the quad-core CPU, so Call of Duty 4 is more likely an exception rather than a rule.

Result for Gigabyte 9800GX2 at Crysis DX9.

Result for Gigabyte 9800GX2 at Crysis DX9.

An example of a modern game for which two extra cores are useless is Crysis. At this game, the combination GeForce 9800GX2+nForce 790i takes a lead, and the results for the combinations Gigabyte 9800GX2+nForce 680i and Gigabyte 9800GX2+Intel 975X are almost equal, which is seen from the equality of dual- and quad-core CPUs in this game. We also note that the Gigabyte 9800GX2+nForce 680i combination with drivers for the chipset driver of version 9.53 did not pass the test at 1600x1200, which resulted in either the hang of the game or the "blue death screen" and rebooting the PC. In the drivers for the chipset of version 9.64 we solved this problem, and the Gigabyte 9800GX2+nForce 680i combination successfully passed the test.

Result for Gigabyte 9800GX2 at Need for Speed Pro Street Racing.

Result for Gigabyte 9800GX2 at Need for Speed Pro Street Racing.

At Need for Speed Pro Street Racing, GeForce 9800GX2 leaves the rivals well behind. In view of the fact that they are absolutely similar with Gigabyte 9800GX2 (without regard for the wallet contents), we should assume that this advantage of GeForce 9800GX2 owes to the nForce 790i Ultra SLI chipset. Certainly, the faster DDR3 memory coupled with the nForce 790i Ultra SLI chipset also favored to the victory of GeForce 9800GX2, but its contribution was unlikely to be so high. Apart from the victory of the nForce790i Ultra SLI+GeForce 9800GX2 combination, we should note that Need for Speed Pro Street Racing has become the second game which positively responded to two extra cores in the CPU. The difference in speed indicators between the combinations based on dual- and quad-core CPUs attains 11%, if we disregard the combination based on the nForce 790i Ultra SLI chipset.

Result for Gigabyte 9800GX2 at Call of Juarez DX9.

Result for Gigabyte 9800GX2 at Call of Juarez DX9.

The results produced at Call of Juarez show its low dependence on the number of CPU cores and the lack of optimizations in the drivers of the chipsets Force 790i Ultra SLI for this game.

Result for Gigabyte 9800GX2 at Need for Speed Carbon.

Result for Gigabyte 9800GX2 at Need for Speed Carbon.

At Need for Speed Carbon, the situation is similar, the difference among the participants of the tests is there, albeit too small.

Result for Gigabyte 9800GX2 at Prey.

Result for Gigabyte 9800GX2 at Prey.

At Prey, no party gets any special advantages. The combination based on the chipset nForce 790i Ultra SLI takes a minor lead over its competitors, which is more likely caused by the faster memory subsystem and updated PCI-express 2.0 system bus.

Result for Gigabyte 9800GX2 at Call of Juarez DX10.

Result for Gigabyte 9800GX2 at Call of Juarez DX10.

At Call of Juarez powered by Windows Vista, like in the case with Windows XP, all the combinations with video cards of the GeForce 9800GX2 type go approximately on par. There were no other "bonuses" gain from using quad-core processors.

Result for Gigabyte 9800GX2 at Crysis DX10.

Result for Gigabyte 9800GX2 at Crysis DX10.

Crysis powered by Windows Vista merits a special mention, because just with it there are many issues with NVIDIA's video cards. There isn't much of an issue if we disregard the GeForce 8800 Ultra, and this test was passed by only the nForce 790i Ultra SLI+GeForce 9800GX2 combination. There came up issues with other configurations; the nForce 680i SLI combination with both old and new drivers was passing the test normally at merely 1024x768, but the result at that was the same as for the GeForce 8800 Ultra. At 1280x1024, soon after the launch of the test the game stopped for a moment, followed by a substantial drop in speed. But at 1600x1200, there was an occasion when the computer hung. A little bit better was the situation with the Intel 975X+Gigabyte 9800GX2 combination which passed the test successfully at 1280x1024. To all appearances, the issues that arose are related to the distribution of video memory between the two chips in the SLI mode. The thing is that in GeForce 9800GX2 one GPU has merely 512 MB of video memory which as we found out may prove insufficient for games powered by Windows Vista. In our case, the overall video memory capacity is 1024 MB, but to all appearances, issues with NVIDIA drivers come up when we sum the memory capacity.

Final Words

Today, we have witnessed the fact that the used platform may produce quite an essential effect on the operation quality of dual video cards of the GeForce 9800GX2 type that use the NVIDIA SLI mode. We also see that NVIDIA is concentrating its efforts on new products, sometimes ignoring the old. But here we should make a reservation that the NVIDIA nForce 790i Ultra SLI chipset supports the PCI-express 2.0, which should favorably affect the performance of video cards of the GeForce 9800GX2 type which are demanding for the bus bandwidth. We will verify that whenever possible. Certainly, new drivers for nForce 680i SLI have anyway appeared, but they have not given the same capabilities to it as to nForce 790i Ultra SLI chipset. On the other hand, even without optimizations Gigabyte 9800GX2 is demonstrating a high speed in all the modern games, so most users should not come across any issues with that. In conclusion, we say that according to our today's tests, the gain from using a quad-core CPU has not increased 15% as compared to the dual-core.

- Discuss the material in the conference


Content:

  • Page 1 - Exterior. Overclocking
  • Page 2 - Tests. Final Words




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