GIGABYTE 9800 GT Zalman Edition

We pit the newly released 9800 GT from GIGABYTE against the new mid-range king; the HD 4850. How will they fair?
| Jul 27, 2008 at 11:00 pm CDT
Rating: 90%Manufacturer: GIGABYTE

Introduction

GIGABYTE 9800 GT Zalman Edition
IntroductionIt seems like NVIDIA graphics card releases run as clock work with the Catalyst drivers from AMD. With the GTX 280, GTX 260 and 9800 GTX+ released not all that long ago, it comes as no real surprise that NVIDIA has gotten up once again and released not only one new card today, but two. The first card is the 9800 GT which is what we have here with us now. The other is a 9500 GT which of course sits at the lower end of the scale when it comes to performance. Unlike some of the more recent releases, it seems that companies are already prepared to attack the 9800 GT with new cooling methods and overclocks. We see here that GIGABYTE has already strapped a Zalman cooler onto the newly released card and Palit are ready to go with an overclocked model carrying the "Sonic" naming scheme, too.Before we get stuck into the benchmarking side of things, let's take the time to have a quick look at the package and the card itself.

The Package

The PackageGIGABYTE has started using a new package on their cards, which I have to say looks pretty good. The box is slim and filled with light calming colours. The majority of the box is taken up by a picture of a girl holding a gun, but across the top we can see the GIGABYTE logo along with the NVIDIA one.
GIGABYTE 9800 GT Zalman Edition
Across the bottom of the box we can clearly see the model along with the fact that it comes with 512MB of GDDR3 memory. Towards the middle of the box we see mention of NVIDIA Hybrid Power and the fact that the card also uses a Zalman fan to help keep both noise and temperatures down.
GIGABYTE 9800 GT Zalman Edition
Turning the box over, we go into detail on some of the main features here along with some of the exclusive software that GIGABYTE includes in the package. We also have note of what you need to get SLI up and running.
GIGABYTE 9800 GT Zalman Edition
Inside, we have no games. We simply find ourselves staring at a manual along with the standard driver CD.
GIGABYTE 9800 GT Zalman Edition
The cable department fortunately looks brighter with the standard molex to PCI-E connector, DVI to VGA connectors and S-Video to RCA connector included, along with a DVI to HDMI connector for further measure.

The Card

The CardOut of the box, the first thing that you notice is of course the Zalman cooler sitting straight in the middle of the card. As far as other features go, there isn't too much out of the ordinary with it looking like most mid-range NVIDIA graphics cards.
GIGABYTE 9800 GT Zalman Edition
Looking around the card, we find the characteristics of most mid-range cards. Towards the back of the card we have a single PCI Express power connector.
GIGABYTE 9800 GT Zalman Edition
GIGABYTE 9800 GT Zalman Edition
Moving across the top of the card, we find a single SLI connector. Next to that we also have the port for the loop back cable so that you can get sound through the HDMI adapter, but it seems GIGABYTE has chosen not to include this.
GIGABYTE 9800 GT Zalman Edition
The I/O department is pretty standard with two Dual Link DVI connectors and a single TV-Out port. While the card does take up two slots, the I/O side of things is only a single bracket.SpecificationsOut of the box, the 9800 GT comes with 512MB of GDDR3 clocked at 1800MHz DDR on a 256-bit bus. The core comes clocked in at 600MHz while the shader clock comes in at 1500MHz. We have a PCI-E 2.0 interface, 112 processor cores, DirectX 10 support and OpenGL 2.1.While initially the core is based on 65nm tech, NVIDIA has stated that later down the track they will be moving to 55nm which should help drop temps and also give us the ability to get a few more MHz out of the card. Apart from this, we see other exclusive NVIDIA technology like PhysX and CUDA present to help make it stand out against the competition. The card also incorporates Hybrid Power for people with a HP enabled monitor.

Test System Setup and 3DMark06

Test System SetupProcessor(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 SP1Drivers: ForceWare 175.31 and Catalyst 8.7As already mentioned, we will today be looking at the newly released 9800 GT against the also quite newly released HD 4850 from AMD. One thing worth noting before we go head first into the results is that the HD 4850 actually sits a fair bit more expensive, even though both are mid-range orientated.3DMark06Version and / or Patch Used: Build 110Developer Homepage: http://www.futuremark.comProduct Homepage: http://www.futuremark.com/products/3dmark06/Buy It Here
3DMark06 is the worldwide standard in advanced 3D game performance benchmarking. A fundamental tool for every company in the PC industry as well as PC users and gamers, 3DMark06 uses advanced real-time 3D game workloads to measure PC performance using a suite of DirectX 9 3D graphics tests, CPU tests, and 3D feature tests.3DMark06 tests include all new HDR/SM3.0 graphics tests, SM2.0 graphics tests, AI and physics driven single and multiple cores or processor CPU tests and a collection of comprehensive feature tests to reliably measure next generation gaming performance today.
GIGABYTE 9800 GT Zalman Edition
Our first test shows the two cards sitting quite close together with the HD 4850 just being able to edge out.

Benchmarks - 3DMark Vantage

3DMark VantageVersion and / or Patch Used: 1.0.1Developer Homepage: http://www.futuremark.comProduct Homepage: http://www.futuremark.com/products/3dmarkvantage/Buy It Here
3DMark Vantage is the new industry standard PC gaming performance benchmark from Futuremark, newly designed for Windows Vista and DirectX10. It includes two new graphics tests, two new CPU tests, several new feature tests, and support for the latest hardware. 3DMark Vantage is based on a completely new rendering engine, developed specifically to take full advantage of DirectX10, the new graphics API from Microsoft.
GIGABYTE 9800 GT Zalman Edition
As we place more load on the cards, the HD 4850 steams ahead with the 9800 GT sitting a fair bit back.

Benchmarks - PT Boats: Knights of the Sea

PT Boats: Knights of the SeaVersion and / or Patch Used: Benchmark DemoDeveloper 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.
GIGABYTE 9800 GT Zalman Edition
GIGABYTE 9800 GT Zalman Edition
PT Boats has always tended to favor the NVIDIA offerings and we can see that across the board it's able to come out ahead against the HD 4850.

Benchmarks - CINEBENCH R10

CINEBENCH R10Version and / or Patch Used: Release 10Developer 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).
GIGABYTE 9800 GT Zalman Edition
CINEBENCH puts the HD 4850 about 10% faster than the new 9800 GT.

Benchmarks - World in Conflict

World in ConflictVersion and / or Patch Used: 1.0.0.5Timedemo or Level Used: Built-in TestDeveloper 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.
GIGABYTE 9800 GT Zalman Edition
GIGABYTE 9800 GT Zalman Edition
Across the board we are able to see that the 9800 GT is able to come out ahead of the HD 4850 at all resolutions in both the minimum and average department.

Benchmarks - Crysis

CrysisVersion and / or Patch Used: 1.2.1Timedemo or Level Used: Custom time demoDeveloper 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.
GIGABYTE 9800 GT Zalman Edition
Crysis shows both cards quite close together, but the HD 4850 has about a 10% lead on the 9800 GT across the board.

Benchmarks - Unreal Tournament 3

Unreal Tournament 3Version and / or Patch Used: 1.1Timedemo 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.
GIGABYTE 9800 GT Zalman Edition
UT3 shows the 9800 GT coming out ahead at 1280 x 1024, but it falls a little behind as we climb the ranks. Fortunately, it's able to offer playable frame rates at the higher resolution, even though they are slightly behind the HD 4850s results.

Benchmarks - High Quality AA and AF

High Quality AA and AFOur 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
GIGABYTE 9800 GT Zalman Edition
Turning on the AA and AF under 3DMark06 gives the HD 4850 a good 10% lead over the 9800 GT.World In Conflict
GIGABYTE 9800 GT Zalman Edition
GIGABYTE 9800 GT Zalman Edition
Where we saw the 9800 GT come out ahead at all resolutions under WIC without AA and AF; when we turn it on it falls a bit behind the HD 4850.

Benchmarks - 3DMark06 - XP

3DMark06Version and / or Patch Used: Build 110Developer Homepage: http://www.futuremark.comProduct Homepage: http://www.futuremark.com/products/3dmark06/Buy It Here
3DMark06 is the worldwide standard in advanced 3D game performance benchmarking. A fundamental tool for every company in the PC industry as well as PC users and gamers, 3DMark06 uses advanced real-time 3D game workloads to measure PC performance using a suite of DirectX 9 3D graphics tests, CPU tests, and 3D feature tests.3DMark06 tests include all new HDR/SM3.0 graphics tests, SM2.0 graphics tests, AI and physics driven single and multiple cores or processor CPU tests and a collection of comprehensive feature tests to reliably measure next generation gaming performance today.
GIGABYTE 9800 GT Zalman Edition
We again see the two cards performing very close to each other; at some points the HD 4850 comes out ahead and at others the 9800 GT manages to sneak forward..just.

Benchmarks - CINEBENCH R10 - XP

CINEBENCH R10Version and / or Patch Used: Release 10Developer 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).
GIGABYTE 9800 GT Zalman Edition
CINEBENCH under XP puts both cards very close to each other with only a few % separating them.

Benchmarks - World in Conflict - XP

World in ConflictVersion and / or Patch Used: 1.0.0.5Timedemo or Level Used: Built-in TestDeveloper 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.
GIGABYTE 9800 GT Zalman Edition
GIGABYTE 9800 GT Zalman Edition
Under XP, for the most part we see the HD 4850 trail behind the 9800 GT. The only times the 9800 GT falls behind is in the average department and most people would argue that the minimum is more important. We would tend to agree with those said people as well.

Benchmarks - Unreal Tournament 3 - XP

Unreal Tournament 3Version and / or Patch Used: 1.1Timedemo 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.
GIGABYTE 9800 GT Zalman Edition
Like our Vista results, we see the 9800 GT come out ahead at 1280 x 1024 but fall behind at the higher resolutions. Fortunately it's still able to offer playable frame rates at the higher resolution.

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.
GIGABYTE 9800 GT Zalman Edition
The 9800 GT isn't plagued with the same heat issues that are present on the HD 4850 with its stock cooling solution.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).
GIGABYTE 9800 GT Zalman Edition
The Zalman noise levels are pretty standard with load showing no real difference. At idle we're sitting a little louder compared to the stock HD 4850 cooler.

Power Consumption Tests

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.
GIGABYTE 9800 GT Zalman Edition
Power at idle for the 9800 GT is lower compared to the HD 4850, but under load it sneaks out ahead and uses a bit more power.

Final Thoughts

Final ThoughtsAfter testing the card I found myself feeling nothing over the 9800 GT. It wasn't till I actually really sat down and looked at the results here and compared them to the HD 4850 that was I becoming more impressed with what the cheaper 9800 GT had to offer over the HD 4850.Sure, the card is ultimately just an 8800 GT, but the 9600 GSO is nothing more than an 8800 GS and it doesn't stop us from being impressed with the performance it offers for the price. Deciding which card to buy is going to come down to a few things; while I think the major one will be brand loyalty, other things that may sway people are if their budget can't go over the price of a 9800 GT or if they want to go SLI or Crossfire.It doesn't come as any real surprise that the 9800 GT isn't a revolutionary piece of kit; no one really expected it to be. What it does well is what NVIDIA have become pretty good at in the mid-range department; offer a card for a competitive price that puts out some decent frame rates. While the card is capable of gaming at 1920 x 1200, we would probably reserve the card for 22" monitor users and other gamers who run at around that 1600 / 1680 resolution. If you want to game higher than that with some decent detail, we would probably recommend that you save your dollars for another few weeks and upgrade to something like the 9800 GTX or the HD 4870. The only gripe we have with the card is that it's going to confuse some people. If you're a user of an 8800 GT and you think the 9800 GT might be a bit of an upgrade, you will be severely disappointed. The card is probably best reserved for upgraders who have an 8600 GTS or below.
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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.

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