ASUS GeForce 9800 GTX TOP Edition

We climb to the TOP of the food chain and see what ASUS is doing with the 9800 GTX in its TOP Edition.
@ShawnBakerTW
Published Thu, Jun 12 2008 11:00 PM CDT   |   Updated Fri, Sep 18 2020 10:50 PM CDT
Rating: 88%Manufacturer: ASUS

Introduction





When it comes to overclocked cards, there are only a few companies that really take it to the max. ZOTAC go pretty hard with its AMP! Edition line-up while Palit get some pretty mean speeds with the Sonic models. The only other company that really takes the time to test the cards and get into the high overclocks would be ASUS with its TOP line-up.

Today we're looking at the latter of the bunch; the ASUS 9800 GTX TOP which carries quite a menacing core and memory clock that makes it stand out from the pack. While the 9800 GTX might not offer the leaps and bounds performance increase that we thought it would at launch, it has brought performance computing down in price making it a very good option for people who are looking at building a decent gaming rig.

Combine this with the fact that you can have up to three of these bad boys running side by side and you've got a pretty mean setup going on. While we do only have one on hand today, we've tested SLI and Tri-SLI in the past and we would probably avoid the latter due to the limited increase with the third card installed.

One thing that we've always liked about the GTX is just how close it performed to the GX2 while being considerably cheaper. Today we'll have a look at how much closer the TOP version from ASUS gets us and see if it can put the GX2 out of a job.

The Package




In typical ASUS style we have a huge box that really does seem like overkill. They're really one of the only graphics card companies to use such a big box, and with companies talking about how to save the trees you think that ASUS could save a few of their own by making some normal sized graphics card boxes.



The front of the box gives us the standard run down of information including the brand up the top and the model across the bottom. Above the model we have a run down on some of the main features, and in the middle of the box we find a bit about the overclock and just what kind of performance increase you get from the overclock.



Turning the box over, we have a run down on some of the main features that the card offers along with some of the exclusive features that ASUS cards offer like GamerOSD, SmartDoctor and more.



Included in the package we have a quick install guide, driver CD along with another CD that has a manual on it in a multitude of languages.



The cable department gives us a component out dongle, DVI to VGA connector and Molex to PCI Express connector.



Alongside all this we have a CD wallet also included in the package.

The Card




With the package out the way, it's time to check out the card. Unfortunately, unlike a lot of other TOP models from ASUS we simply have the standard reference cooler.



ASUS has done the general pimp up of the cooler with a sticker covering the whole fan along with a little ASUS logo.





Since the card carries with it the reference cooler, it's no surprise that we have the standard two PCI Express connectors across the top of the card along with the two SLI connectors close to the I/O side of things.



Before we check out the specifications of the card, we quickly check out the I/O side of things which carries with it two Dual Link DVI connectors and a single TV-Out port.


Specifications

While the standard 9800 GTX carries with it a decent clock speed of 675MHz on the core, 1688MHz on the shader and 2200 MHz DDR on the memory, ASUS has really kicked it up a notch with a 755MHz core, 1850MHz shader clock and a 2350MHz DDR memory clock on the 512MB of GDDR3.

Test System Setup and 3DMark06


Test System Setup

Processor(s): Intel Core 2 Quad Q6600 @ 3GHz (333MHz x 9)
Cooling: Corsair Nautilus500 (Supplied by Corsair) with Arctic Cooling MX-2 Thermal Compound (Supplied by Arctic Cooling)
Motherboard(s): GIGABYTE X48-DQ6 (Supplied by GIGABYTE)
Memory: 2 X 1GB Kingston PC6400 DDR-2 3-3-3-10 (KHX6400D2ULK2/2G) (Supplied by Kingston)
Hard Disk(s): Seagate 250GB 7200RPM SATA-2 7200.10 (Supplied by Seagate)
Operating System: Windows XP Professional SP2, Windows Vista SP1
Drivers: Forceware 175.16


Today we want to compare the overclocked 9800 GTX TOP against a stock clocked GX2 and see how close they get within each other and if it's worth just picking up a pre-overclocked GTX over a stock GX2, which always carries a higher price tag.


3DMark06

Version and / or Patch Used: Build 110
Developer Homepage: http://www.futuremark.com
Product Homepage: http://www.futuremark.com/products/3dmark06/
Buy It Here





3DMark06 is the very latest version of the "Gamers Benchmark" from FutureMark. The newest version of 3DMark expands on the tests in 3DMark05 by adding graphical effects using Shader Model 3.0 and HDR (High Dynamic Range lighting) which will push even the best DX9 graphics cards to the extremes.

3DMark06 also focuses on not just the GPU but the CPU using the AGEIA PhysX software physics library to effectively test single and Dual Core processors.




Straight off the bat we can see that at the lower resolution there isn't a huge gap between the two cards. But as we climb up to 1920 x 1200 the gap does begin to widen.

Benchmarks - PT Boats: Knights of the Sea


PT Boats: Knights of the Sea

Version and / or Patch Used: Benchmark Demo
Developer Homepage: http://en.akella.com/
Product Homepage: http://www.pt-boats.net/





PT Boats: Knights of the Sea is a naval action simulator that places gamers in charge of a mosquito fleet of the Allied Forces, Russia or Germany during the height of World War II.

Using the latest Direct X 10 technology PT Boards - Knights of the Sea manages to apply a lot of stress to the components of today which in turn gives us quite an intensive benchmark.






Under PT Boats in the minimum department we can see that both cards are scoring almost identically to each other. When we move to the average department, the cards do separate a bit.

Benchmarks - CINEBENCH R10


CINEBENCH R10

Version and / or Patch Used: Release 10
Developer Homepage: http://www.maxon.net/
Product Homepage: http://www.maxon.net




CINEBENCH is a real-world test suite that assesses your computer's performace capabilities. MAXON CINEBENCH is based on MAXON's award-winning animation software, CINEMA 4D, which is used extensively by studios and production houses worldwide for 3D content creation. MAXON software has been used in blockbuster movies such as Spider-Man, Star Wars, The Chronicles of Narnia and many more.

MAXON CINEBENCH runs several tests on your computer to measure the performance of the main processor and the graphics card under real world circumstances. The benchmark application makes use of up to 16 CPUs or CPU cores and is available for Windows (32-bit and 64-Bit) and Macintosh (PPC and Intel-based).




We can see that CINEBENCH is able to make use of the extra core and gives the GX2 a bit of a boost over the single cored GTX.

Benchmarks - World in Conflict


World in Conflict

Version and / or Patch Used: 1.0.0.5
Timedemo or Level Used: Built-in Test
Developer Homepage: http://www.massive.se
Product Homepage: http://www.worldinconflict.com





World in Conflict is a real-time strategy video game by Massive Entertainment and to be published by Sierra Entertainment for Windows (DX9 and DX10) and the Xbox 360.

The game is set in 1989 where economic troubles cripple the Soviet Union and threaten to dissolve it. However, the title pursues a "what if" scenario where, in this case, the Soviet Union does not collapse and instead pursues a course of war to remain in power. It is an intensive new game is sure to put plenty of stress on even the latest graphics cards and we use the built-in benchmarking for our testing.






Under WIC we find that both cards perform extremely close to each other. At the lower resolution we actually see the single core GTX come out ahead of the GX2.

Benchmarks - Crysis


Crysis

Version and / or Patch Used: 1.1
Timedemo or Level Used: Custom time demo
Developer Homepage: http://www.crytek.com/
Product Homepage: http://www.ea.com/crysis/
Buy It Here





From the makers of Far Cry, Crysis offers FPS fans the best-looking, most highly-evolving gameplay, requiring the player to use adaptive tactics and total customization of weapons and armor to survive in dynamic, hostile environments including Zero-G.

Real time editing, bump mapping, dynamic lights, network system, integrated physics system, shaders, shadows and a dynamic music system are just some of the state of-the-art features the CryENGINE 2 offers. The CryENGINE 2 comes complete with all of its internal tools and also includes the CryENGINE 2 Sandbox world editing system.




We again see at the lower resolution the GTX is able to come out ahead. Only at the highest resolution does the GX2 sneak ahead.

Benchmarks - Unreal Tournament 3


Unreal Tournament 3

Version and / or Patch Used: 1.1
Timedemo or Level Used:
Developer Homepage: http://www.epicgames.com/
Product Homepage: http://www.unrealtournament3.com/
Buy It Here





Following the formulae that made Unreal Tournament so great the third installment to the series has hit us recently with better than ever graphics. The games uses the latest Unreal Engine which like most modern day games when maxed out puts the pressure on our lineup of graphics cards.




Again, in our real world tests we see the performance difference at the lower resolution being in favor of the GTX while at the higher resolution we see the GX2 just sneak out ahead.

Benchmarks - High Quality AA and AF


High Quality AA and AF

Our high quality tests let us separate the men from the boys and the ladies from the girls. If the cards weren't struggling before they will start to now.


3DMark06



This is the first time we've really seen the GX2 come out ahead of the GTX. Being a synthetic benchmark, however, it's not the most important of tests.


World In Conflict





Moving to a real world game, again in the minimum department we can see the difference between the two cards is almost nothing. In the average department the cards are separated a little bit more.

Benchmarks - 3DMark06 - XP


3DMark06

Version and / or Patch Used: Build 110
Developer Homepage: http://www.futuremark.com
Product Homepage: http://www.futuremark.com/products/3dmark06/
Buy It Here





3DMark06 is the very latest version of the "Gamers Benchmark" from FutureMark. The newest version of 3DMark expands on the tests in 3DMark05 by adding graphical effects using Shader Model 3.0 and HDR (High Dynamic Range lighting) which will push even the best DX9 graphics cards to the extremes.

3DMark06 also focuses on not just the GPU but the CPU using the AGEIA PhysX software physics library to effectively test single and Dual Core processors.




Under Windows XP we can see that the GX2 again has quite an advantage at the higher resolution under this synthetic benchmark.

Benchmarks - CINEBENCH R10 - XP


CINEBENCH R10

Version and / or Patch Used: Release 10
Developer Homepage: http://www.maxon.net/
Product Homepage: http://www.maxon.net




CINEBENCH is a real-world test suite that assesses your computer's performace capabilities. MAXON CINEBENCH is based on MAXON's award-winning animation software, CINEMA 4D, which is used extensively by studios and production houses worldwide for 3D content creation. MAXON software has been used in blockbuster movies such as Spider-Man, Star Wars, The Chronicles of Narnia and many more.

MAXON CINEBENCH runs several tests on your computer to measure the performance of the main processor and the graphics card under real world circumstances. The benchmark application makes use of up to 16 CPUs or CPU cores and is available for Windows (32-bit and 64-Bit) and Macintosh (PPC and Intel-based).




Unlike CINEBENCH under Vista where the GTX lagged behind a bit, here we see it gets quite a significant jump on the GX2.

Benchmarks - World in Conflict - XP


World in Conflict

Version and / or Patch Used: 1.0.0.5
Timedemo or Level Used: Built-in Test
Developer Homepage: http://www.massive.se
Product Homepage: http://www.worldinconflict.com




World in Conflict is a real-time strategy video game by Massive Entertainment and to be published by Sierra Entertainment for Windows (DX9 and DX10) and the Xbox 360.

The game is set in 1989 where economic troubles cripple the Soviet Union and threaten to dissolve it. However, the title pursues a "what if" scenario where, in this case, the Soviet Union does not collapse and instead pursues a course of war to remain in power. It is an intensive new game is sure to put plenty of stress on even the latest graphics cards and we use the built-in benchmarking for our testing.





Back to WIC and we again find the two cards performing quite close to each other.

Benchmarks - Unreal Tournament 3 - XP


Unreal Tournament 3

Version and / or Patch Used: 1.1
Timedemo or Level Used:
Developer Homepage: http://www.epicgames.com/
Product Homepage: http://www.unrealtournament3.com/
Buy It Here





Following the formulae that made Unreal Tournament so great the third installment to the series has hit us recently with better than ever graphics. The games uses the latest Unreal Engine which like most modern day games when maxed out puts the pressure on our lineup of graphics cards.




At the lower resolution we see that the two cards perform extremely close to each other. As we move up in the resolution department the GTX begins to drop off while the GX2 performance doesn't change.

Temperature and Sound Tests


Temperature Tests



With the TES 1326 Infrared Thermometer literally in hand we found ourselves getting real-world temperatures from the products we test at load (3D clock speeds).

There are two places we pull temperature from - the back of the card directly behind the core and if the card is dual slot and has an exhaust point we also pull a temperate from there, as seen in the picture.




Here we can see the GTX temps are considerably lower than the GX2.


Sound Tests



Pulling out the TES 1350A Sound Level Meter we find ourselves quickly yelling into the top of it to see how loud we can be.

After five minutes of that we get a bit more serious and place the device two CM away from the fan on the card to find the maximum noise level of the card when idle (2D mode) and in load (3D mode).




With the shroud covering the GX2 fan, noise levels are noticeably lower than the GTX cooler.

Power Consumption Tests






Using our new PROVA Power Analyzer WM-01 or "Power Thingy" as it has become quickly known as to our readers, we are now able to find out what kind of power is being used by our test system and the associated graphics cards installed. Keep in mind; it tests the complete system (minus LCD monitor, which is plugged directly into AC wall socket).

There are a few important notes to remember though; while our maximum power is taken in 3DMark06 at the same exact point, we have seen in particular tests the power being drawn as much as 10% more. We test at the exact same stage every time; therefore tests should be very consistent and accurate.

The other thing to remember is that our test system is bare minimum - only a 7,200RPM SATA-II single hard drive is used without CD ROM or many cooling fans.

So while the system might draw 400 watts in our test system, placing it into your own PC with a number of other items, the draw is going to be higher.




As you would expect, the power draw on the GTX is considerably lower than the dual core GX2.

Final Thoughts




The 9800 GTX TOP from ASUS doesn't disappoint in the performance department with it really able to nip on the heels of the more expensive GX2 in most places, bar 3DMark06.

While we understand that it's possible to get most 9800 GTXs to the speeds ASUS has given us out of the box here, some people simply aren't interested in mucking around with overclocking programs to achieve the clocks. Sometimes it's just easier to get a fast card out of the box and know that if something happens with it, you can just turn around and get another with the same high clock speeds.

It would have been nice for ASUS to include a game with such a high-end card, but really, what the TOP series is all about is performance and it knows what it's doing in that department. While it's one of the more expensive brands with a three year warranty versus two that some of the cheaper brands offer, along with the massive out of the box overclock, the ASUS 9800 GTX TOP purchase isn't going to be too difficult to justify to some people.

While the more enthusiast orientated person will prefer to go for the cheapest card on the market and overclock it themselves, people who don't want to have to worry about messing around with overclocking software will find the 9800 GTX TOP a treat. With great availability, a justifiable price and the performance of the dual GPU GX2 in some cases, it's going to be an easy pick up for people who want to get a good bang for their buck.

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Shawn takes care of all of our video card reviews. From 2009, Shawn is also taking care of our memory reviews, and from May 2011, Shawn also takes care of our CPU, chipset and motherboard reviews. As of December 2011, Shawn is based out of Taipei, Taiwan.

We openly invite the companies who provide us with review samples / who are mentioned or discussed to express their opinion. If any company representative wishes to respond, we will publish the response here. Please contact us if you wish to respond.
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