iXBT Labs - Computer Hardware in Detail






GeForce 9800 GT and 9500 GT Graphics Cards

From ECS, Galaxy, Palit, and Zotac.

September 25, 2008

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GeForce 9800 GT is expectedly not very different from 8800 GT. So we don't understand why it bears the new product index -- apparently a marketing trick. Products from each vendor will certainly have individual features, as NVIDIA has been selling G92 GPUs separately for a long time already, and each partner has the right to design its own product. So we'll hardly come across reference cards, just reference frequencies at best (ECS). The 9800 GT card does not differ much from 8800 GT. And we could come across different 8800 GT cards from various vendors (custom coolers and frequencies), so we cannot say that all 8800 GT cards copied the reference design, while 9800 GT cards are manufactured in different flavors. Both options are possible. Performance differences between 9800 GT and 8800 GT, operating at the same frequencies, are caused by different memory timings.

What concerns 9500 GT, the reference card from ECS performs on a par with 8600GTS. However, our tests show that the new card heavily outperforms its predecessor in this price range in a number of cases, which could be caused by different memory volumes. You should understand that 9500GT is designed to replace 8600. G96 is cheaper, cards with this GPU are less complex, so their manufacturing costs are lower. We can understand why this product was launched. Unlike 9800 GT.

ECS GeForce 9800 GT (Fan Edition) 512MB is a standard 9800 GT card aka 8800 GT. As a bonus, a modern game is included in the bundle.

ECS GeForce 9800 GT (Pipe Edition) 512MB is a similar product. However, it offers an interesting cooling system that demonstrates excellent results while being absolutely quiet. Still, the package lacks comprehensible and noticeable labels to be able to differentiate this model from the Fan Edition.

Zotac GeForce 9800 GT AMP! Edition 512MB is a 9800 GT (8800GT) operating at increased frequencies and offering an excellent price/performance ratio. Note the new orange PCB color to match the brand design. As for cooling, the card uses an effective and almost noiseless cooler. As a bonus, a modern game is included in the bundle.

Zotac GeForce 9500 GT AMP! Edition 512MB shares conclusions of the previous card. But the PCB remains blue for some unknown reason. Note that this card is a tad shorter than the reference product.

ECS GeForce 9500 GT 512MB is a standard 9500 GT card.

Galaxy GeForce 9500 GT Overclocked 512MB is a very interesting solution designed mostly for overclockers, as it features a reinforced power circuit and comes with a clock/voltage adjust tool. Factory overclocking also attracts users. And you cannot help but mention the excellent cooler.

Palit GeForce 9800 GT Sonic 512MB is similar to the card from Zotac. It is factory-overclocked and has a very efficient dual-slot cooling system.

Note that Zotac 9800 GT AMP! is a more attractive choice, despite the passive cooler of the ECS card. And the best 9500 GT card comes from Galaxy.


A few words about our benchmarks.

In our updated FRAPS review we have illustrated how crude and inaccurate tests with this utility are. Testers do not have other tools, except for benchmarks built into games.

This article and its first part explain that it's sometimes possible to test games with integrated and identically looped demos. Although this implies lots of potential errors, since measurement accuracy depends on a given tester: whether he starts/stops FRAPS in time or does it too late/early.

But I have run across situations, when demo load changes abruptly in the very beginning or end. So a half-second delay in starting/stopping the utility changes the average FPS by 15-20%. That's not a measurement error anymore - such a test is a total waste of time. One time you delay the test, another time you start it too early (not intentionally, of course), and you end up with absolutely different performance results.

But even that's not the most important thing. The fact is, there are almost no games with built-in demos anymore. So, testers are forced to use a method that we deem totally unacceptable. They measure gaming performance by walking a straight line from the a starting point in a scene to a selected destination (the nearest fence, tree, etc.).

We all understand that it's impossible to navigate to a finish spot in precisely the same route with different cards and in different resolutions. Besides, such games always introduce random elements into a scene, and objects may be placed slightly differently on the same scene.

Unfortunately, websites that publish a huge number of tests do not always reveal their test methods for each game (except for those with built-in benchmarks).

So, we believe that it's better to offer a limited number of game tests, but each will be crystal clear, accurate and showing actual differences between graphics cards.

Palit GeForce 9800 GT Sonic 512MB, ECS GeForce 9800 GT (Pipe Edition) 512MB, Galaxy GeForce 9500 GT Overclocked 512MB get the Original Design award.

Zotac GeForce 9800 GT AMP! Edition 512MB and ECS GeForce 9800 GT (Fan Edition) 512MB get the Excellent Package award.

We express gratitude to
PALIT and Galaxy
for provided graphics cards.

PSU provided by TAGAN,
Monitor provided by NVIDIA.

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