The nVidia GeForce 9800 GX2 feels like two 8800 GTX's sandwiched into a single card - and its impressive specifications justify that notion.

This is the day that all PC gamers dread. The graphics card they just sank a couple of hundred pounds into is no longer the graphical king of the hill. The new heir to the throne: Nvidia's GeForce 9800 GX2. And it'll only cost you between £350 and £450.

So what makes the nVidia GeForce 9800 GX2 such a big deal? The 9800 is a powerhouse. In fact, it physically feels like two 8800 GTX's sandwiched into a single card and the specs justify that notion - it has two 128 Processor Cores (256 advertised on the box), two times the 512MB GDDR3 memory (512MB per GPU). With a 600MHz core clock, 1,500MHz shader clock and 1,000MHz memory clock, it promises to crush benchmark scores.

We say "promises" and not "definitely" because final retail cards are only now trickling into the office (first out the gate: cards from Asus and EVGA). Stay tuned for some definitive answers on who can build the better graphics-chugging hotrod.

Why should you care?

The nVidia GeForce 9800 GX2 will no doubt eat benchmarks for breakfast and do all sorts of nifty things such as support DirectX 10.0, and the company uses buzzwords to talk about the graphics-processing unit's (GPU's) 16x antialiasing performance, 128-bit floating point high dynamic-range lighting, and ability to run physics computations.

Beyond generating top-flight graphics, the nVidia GeForce 9800 GX2 also delivers 2560-x-1600-pixel video with support for High-Definition Content Protection (HDCP) over both the card's DVI and HDMI outputs.

The nVidia GeForce 9800 GX2 bears the brunt of video decoding for H.264, VC-1, WMV, and MPEG2 high-definition (and standard-definition) movies; plus, it will handle the all-important 3:2 and 2:2 pull-down corrections for videophiles that crave accurate video reproduction. (Also referred to as motion judder, the pull-down is a ratio correction for framerates when you transfer film to video. It introduces a slight image lag.)

We're happy to see this PCI Express 2.0-ready board show off nVidia's HybridPower technology. This cuts down on wasted wattage. When you're performing tasks that don't require the card's full-blown horsepower, it'll throttle down the GPU and switch over to the integrated graphics card on Nvidia-branded motherboards.

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