The only change to the system that was used in this review was replacing an extremely expensive PC Power and Cooling Turbo-Cool 1KW-SR Power Supply ($549) with a more capable, but cheaper 1100W Power supply from Tagan. Both power supplies have performed as expected, but fan noise from both units was clearly the loudest of the system. I proceeded to replace fans on both models with more efficient and quieter models.
Antialiasing was set to "Override any application setting" in the driver for Oblivion.
Anisotropic filtering was set to 8x in the driver for Oblivion.
MSTAA stands for multisampling transparency antialiasing.
SSTAA stands for supersampling transparency antialiasing.
Most in-game graphics settings were set to their highest quality. Please refer our GeForce 9600 GT and GeForce 8800 GT reviews for the detailed settings that were used in this review.
The benchmarks used in this review were inspired by the extreme settings that were used in testing the GeForce 9600 GT in SLI. Those series of tests consisted of re-running all the benchmarks in that review where the minimum frame rate was less than 30 fps on a single GeForce 9600 GT graphics card.
Generally speaking, unless you plan on gaming at a resolution of 1920x1200 with high levels of antialiasing or at 2560x1600, there are other NVIDIA based graphics solutions that will deliver adequate performance at cheaper prices than the GeForce 9800 GX2. However, there are conditions where the GeForce 9900 GX2 clearly outperforms the GeForce 8800 Ultra. Also keep in mind that the GeForce 8800 Ultra that was used in these tests was the XFX XXX Edition, which is highly overclocked out of the box.
The benchmark results are ordered by the largest increase in performance that the GeForce 9800 GX2 has over the GeForce 8800 Ultra to the smallest. This is the column labeled "% Chg vs 8800 Ultra." Not all tests include results from the GeForce 9600 GT in SLI since the ones that appear in the chart below were carried over from its review.
The results below reveal the average frame rate. Discounting the poor showing in Dark Messiah with very high texture quality, the GeForce 9800 GX2 outperformed the overclocked GeForce 8800 Ultra by 22% overall in this suite of benchmarks.
Benchmark Results - Average Frame Rate
Even more important than the average frame rate is the minimum frame rate. Based on the number of relative changes that are negative (in red) when compared to the GeForce 8800 Ultra, there is a slight cause for concern with the minimum frame rate provided by the GeForce 9800 GX2. Hopefully, these deficiencies are driver related. Again, the results are ordered by the largest increase in performance that the GeForce 9800 GX2 has over the GeForce 8800 Ultra to the smallest.
Benchmark Results - Minimum Frame Rate
The GeForce 9800 GX2 is a solid offering from NVIDIA and EVGA and XFX have delivered excellent products based on NVIDIA's reference design. Unfortunately, there are a few negatives that will keep it from receiving a higher award at this time.
First is that most folks will likely need to purchase a new and expensive power supply in order to use a GeForce 9800 GX2. The second is the launch price, which I expect to drop, is too high as one can pick up a couple of GeForce 9600 GT graphics card for $320 and come within 20-30% of the performance of the GeForce 9800 GX2. In most cases you will not need to upgrade your power supply although an SLI motherboard is necessary.
Perhaps the most limiting factor with a high-end GPU such as the GeForce 9800 GX2 is that each GPU is limited to 512MB of graphics memory, which can significantly limit performance under extreme settings as was shown with the Dark Messiah benchmark results.
Please use the following feedback thread for comments or questions about this review.
Note that this review is not final. There were a number of items that were not included in the first publication, which will be added during the next couple of weeks.