Today NVIDIA is unveiling the GeForce 9800 GX2, which replaces the GeForce 8800 Ultra as their most powerful Graphics Processing Unit (GPU). Last generations GeForce 8 Series has been NVIDIA's most successful GPU to date as gamers who invested in the high-end 8800 GTS and GTX graphics card have enjoyed well over a year of top-notch 3D performance and image quality to match.
The GeForce 9 Series officially launched last month with the debut of the mid-range GeForce 9600 GT. Without any knowledge of the remaining GeForce 9-based GPUs that NVIDIA plans to launch, the GeForce 9800 GX2 appears to be destined as their high-end GeForce 9 Series offering.
XFX GeForce 9800 GX2
What makes the GeForce 9800 GX2 unique is that it features two GPUs working in tandem on a single graphics card. However, unlike the architecture of a dual-core processor, where one of the cores may be idle, the GPUs on the GeForce 9800 GX2 are fully utilized when they operate in SLI (Scalable Link Interface) or Multi-GPU mode. The GeForce 9800 GX2 is reminiscent of the GeForce 7950 GX2, which launched in June of 2006. One of our systems still uses the GeForce 7950 GX2, although it is primarily being used to play World of Warcraft under Windows XP.
As with the GeForce 7950 GX2, the GeForce 9800 GX2 relies on SLI to achieve maximum performance. SLI was originally introduced as a technology to scale 3D performance by employing the services of a second graphics card and has evolved into the capability to use a third graphics card in forming a 3-Way SLI configuration with the GeForce 8800 GTX or GeForce 8800 Ultra.
Quad SLI, which employs four GPUs, became a reality with the GeForce 7950 GX2 and second generation technology will be utilized by the GeForce 9800 GX2. Second generation Quad SLI relies on 4-way alternate frame rendering (AFR), which will provide optimal performance scaling under DirectX 9, DirectX 10, and OpenGL applications. NVIDIA continues to fine-tune their drivers for Quad SLI and we will have to wait until they give the go-ahead to publish performance results.
EVGA GeForce 9800 GX2
Note that most forms of SLI use multiple graphics cards, which requires a motherboard with NVIDIA's nForce SLI Media Communications Processor (MCP) or Intel's SkullTrail platform, which uses two nForce 100 MCP chips embedded on the motherboard. Although the GeForce 9800 GX2 relies on SLI technology, it is confined to a single graphics card and thus makes it a high-end solution for motherboards with AMD and Intel chipsets.
A partial specifications listing of the GeForce 9800 GX2 appears below, which is compared to the GeForce 8800 Ultra and GeForce 8800 GTX. Perhaps the most important specification to pay attention to is the amount of graphics memory. Although the GeForce 9800 GX2 features a total of 1GB, each GPU is allocated 512MB. Both the GeForce 8800 GTX and GeForce 8800 Ultra feature 768MB of graphics memory, which can provide a significant edge in performance over graphics cards that have 512MB of memory at extremely high resolutions, texture detail settings, and levels of antialiasing.
The GeForce 9800 GX2 features HMDI (High Definition Multimedia) and SPDIF (Sony/Philips Digital Interconnect Format) connections. An HDMI connection provides output to high definition displays, such as LCD TVs, while audio can be passed through to HDMI via SPDIF when connected to the appropriate header on the motherboard or sound card.
The GeForce 9800 GX2 also supports NVIDIA HybridPower and PureVideo HD technologies. HybridPower conserves power by switching to a motherboard GPU for graphics operations rather than using a discreet graphics card. PureVideo HD provides high definition video playback while offloading processing cycles from the CPU to the GPU. PureVideo HD also features dynamic color and contrast enhancement, dual stream decode with picture-in-picture content and HD playback in Windows Vista's Aero desktop mode. Note that updated versions of your favorite DVD player software may be required to use these features.