Palit GeForce 9800 GT Sonic Review
Keeping up with the latest GeForce GPUs is beginning to become a confusing undertaking for the typical gamer shopping for a new graphics card. Unless you follow the industry on a weekly basis, the overwhelming number of different GeForce GPUs can be a little intimidating for the average joe.
As a result of the latest price cuts, the most confusing segment in NVIDIA’s lineup is easily the $100-$200 space. Here NVIDIA offers nearly half a dozen different GPUs ranging from the GeForce 9600 GSO up to the GeForce 9800 GTX, and that’s excluding the GeForce 8800 GTS 512MB and the 9800 GTX+!
The GeForce 9800 GT is the latest addition to this crowded segment.
Officially announced on July 29th, the GeForce 9800 GT has actually been quietly shipping inside select PCs from Dell, Gateway and others since late June. Its name implies that it’s based on new technology, but actually it’s based on the exact same architecture that powers the highly popular GeForce 8800 GT. NVIDIA outfits the GPU with the same number of stream processors (112), and the clock speeds are identical to the GeForce 8800 GT: the 9800 GT runs at 600MHz core/1500MHz shaders, while the memory is clocked at 900MHz (1.8GHz effective). The only new feature that has been added to the GeForce 9800 GT is support for NVIDIA’s HybridPower.
With HybridPower, the graphics card(s) can be completely shut off when running 2D applications such as Word, e-mail, or video playback to conserve power. Instead of relying on the graphics card for these operations, graphics duties are handled by the integrated graphics processor built onto the motherboard. Then, when a game or other 3D app is loaded up, the 9800 GT graphics card boots up, taking over for the motherboard’s graphics.
HybridPower can play major dividends with SLI rigs. Previously under all situations both graphics cards in an SLI setup ran at all times, even when the second card wasn’t being used. The only stipulation with Hybrid SLI is that you must have a Hybrid SLI compatible graphics card and motherboard. Currently the only motherboards that support the feature are limited to AMD’s Phenom platform, this includes the nForce 780a SLI, 750a SLI, nForce 730a, and GeForce 8200 chipsets.
The 55-nm question
One aspect that’s a bit confusing about the GeForce 9800 GT is its manufacturing process. Like the GeForce 9500 GT, the 9800 GT is based on TSMC's 65-nm and 55-nm manufacturing process.
While NVIDIA says 55-nm 9800 GT chips are in production now, as far as we can tell all the 9800 GT cards that are on the market today are based on TSMC’s larger 65-nm process. Right now NVIDIA is trying to clear their inventory of 65-nm parts before introducing the 55-nm chips.
The smaller 55-nm process should make the 9800 GT cheaper for NVIDIA to produce (which is important considering NVIDIA’s recent string of price cuts), while enthusiasts are eager to get their hands on 55-nm chips as they consume less energy than 65-nm parts. In our testing with the 9800 GTX versus 9800 GTX+, the GTX+ consumed about 15W less than the 65-nm 9800 GTX.
The 55-nm process didn’t buy us any additional overclocking headroom however.
Other than the manufacturing process, there are no differences between the 55-nm 9800 GT and the 65-nm variant. In other words, clocks and feature set remains the same. The chips are also completely compatible with one another, so if you happen to pick up a 65-nm GeForce 9800 GT today, and a 55-nm card a few months from now, both boards are 100% compatible with one another and have no problems running together for SLI. (The GeForce 9800 GTX and 9800 GTX+ are also fully SLI-compatible with each other.)
We’ve been told to expect the first 55-nm GeForce 9800 GT cards to begin shipping next month in September.