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

Look before you upgrade

The only negatives right now, besides the price, are the size and power requirements to get this beast up-and-running. If you have one of those slim-profile PCs, you might as well look the other way: the nVidia GeForce 9800 GX2 won't fit your chassis. The double-wide card measures about 11in, spanning from the built-in fan on one side to the two dual-link DVI ports (and one HDMI port) sprouting out of the back. Before you starting making upgrade plans, make sure you'll have ample room inside your case before you even consider the nVidia GeForce 9800 GX2.

Concern number two: power consumption. This requires about 197W to run. You'll need a beefy power supply if you hope to get even one nVidia GeForce 9800 GX2 off the ground.

Another potential snag: your power supply may not have the right power connectors to work with 9800 GX2. In order for the nVidia GeForce 9800 GX2 to get the correct amount of juice, it requires both an 8-pin and a 6-pin power connector, a combination that remains uncommon.

For the latest news on nVidia and nVidia products, visit PC Advisor's nVidia news spotlight

nVidia GeForce 9800 GX2: Specs

  • 128-bit floating point High Dynamic-Range (HDR)
  • 16x Anti-aliasing
  • HDMI Output Support
  • Microsoft DirectX 10.0
  • nVidia ForceWare Unified Driver Architecture
  • OpenGL 2.1
  • PureVideo HD
  • Shader Model 4.0
  • 1GB 2000MHz GDDR3 Dual DVI/HDMI (PCI-E)
  • GPU Speed: 600MHz
  • Memory Bit Rate: 512 Bit
  • 256 stream processors
  • cooling fan
  • PCI-E 2.0 (x16)
  • 2 x Dual Link DVI-I HDMI
  • 128-bit floating point High Dynamic-Range (HDR)
  • 16x Anti-aliasing
  • HDMI Output Support
  • Microsoft DirectX 10.0
  • nVidia ForceWare Unified Driver Architecture
  • OpenGL 2.1
  • PureVideo HD
  • Shader Model 4.0
  • 1GB 2000MHz GDDR3 Dual DVI/HDMI (PCI-E)
  • GPU Speed: 600MHz
  • Memory Bit Rate: 512 Bit
  • 256 stream processors
  • cooling fan
  • PCI-E 2.0 (x16)
  • 2 x Dual Link DVI-I HDMI

OUR VERDICT

Will the nVidia GeForce 9800 GX2 be for you? Not unless you're ready to swallow the £350-plus sticker price or you're a bleeding edge-gamer (with an inferiority complex). It's one of those things to admire from afar that only tech editors and technophiles can afford. And for those who set their calendars to Moore's Law, you've got another 18 months in the clear before your current high-powered monsters become obsolete. Enjoy 'em while you can.

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