MSI GeForce 9800 GT 512MB Graphics Card

MSI have released a 9800 GT with their own cooling solution. Today we look to see if it can stand out from the pack.
| Sep 27, 2008 at 11:00 pm CDT
Rating: 93%Manufacturer: MSI Computer

Introduction

MSI GeForce 9800 GT 512MB Graphics Card
IntroductionThe 9800 GT has been out for a while now, but not many companies seem to have taken the chance to really push the product. In all honesty, though, it doesn't come as too much of a surprise, no thanks to NVIDIA releasing so many different models over the past few months. We've literally come to the point where it's too expensive for companies to really push every new product that comes out. To date we've only looked at one other 9800 GT which came from Palit. As we have already discovered, the 9800 GT is nothing more than an 8800 GT with a new name. This isn't the first time NVIDIA has done this and we don't doubt for a second it will be the last time.We knew before we even wrote our first review that the card would represent good value for money, but the aggressive launch price of the new model meant that it was even better than we expected. Today it's time to see what MSI can do with the card; apart from going the aftermarket cooling route they've also got a nice little bundle going on.Before we check out the cooler, let's have a look at the package and what MSI have included. From there we will have a closer look at the card, its specifications and then find out how it performs.

The Package

The PackageMSI have gone for a themed box; across the top of the box we have the MSI name and logo while we also have two NVIDIA logos. Across the bottom we have some information on Rainbow Six Vegas 2, the fact that the card is OC ready, part of the gaming series along with mention that MSI are the top VGA company in Germany.
MSI GeForce 9800 GT 512MB Graphics Card
In the middle of the box we have the model number; in this case the N9800GT along with some of the main features like 512MB of GDDR3 memory, Hybrid Power and PhysX ready.
MSI GeForce 9800 GT 512MB Graphics Card
Turning the box over, we have some more details on the card including features, system requirements along with some information on live update, Hybrid Power, MSIs exclusive DVI design and a bit more information on Rainbow Six Vegas 2.
MSI GeForce 9800 GT 512MB Graphics Card
In the paper work department we have two quick user guides, a CD that includes the driver alongside some utilities and of course as you may have guessed, a full version copy of Rainbow Six Vegas 2.
MSI GeForce 9800 GT 512MB Graphics Card
The cable department is pretty full on with the standard cables like S-Video / component out dongle, DVI to VGA connector and S-Video cable. We also have another cable that helps get sound through the DVI port in the event you want to use the included DVI to HDMI adapter.

The Card

The CardPulling the card out of the box, we can see that MSI have gone for their own design of cooler. Across the bottom we can see a number of heat pipes that go from where the core is up through the heatsink to help keep the card as cool as possible.
MSI GeForce 9800 GT 512MB Graphics Card
MSI have of course also placed a sticker over the cooler that lets us know what brand the card is along with what model it is. We again see mention that the card is part of the gaming series.
MSI GeForce 9800 GT 512MB Graphics Card
MSI GeForce 9800 GT 512MB Graphics Card
Looking around the card, we have our standard connectors; the back has a single 6-pin PCI Express connector while across the top we have a single SLI connector. Located next to that is another connector that is used for the extra cable included in the package which helps get sound through the HDMI adapter.
MSI GeForce 9800 GT 512MB Graphics Card
Finally we leave with the I/O side of things. As you can see, apart from the standard exhaust grills MSI have also added their logo in the middle. Also included are the typical ports we're used to seeing which include a TV-Out port and two Dual-Link DVI connectors.SpecificationsAs we mentioned the card comes out of the box overclocked. Instead of the stock 600MHz core and 1800MHz DDR memory clock, the MSI 9800 GT comes in with a 660MHz core and 1900MHz DDR memory clock.

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: NVIDIA ForceWare 177.79 and Catalyst 8.8Today we'll have a look at the 9800 GT against a stock clocked HD 4850 from GIGABYTE to see how these entry level high-end cards go.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.
MSI GeForce 9800 GT 512MB Graphics Card
In our first test we can see that both cards score extremely similarly to each other with very little difference between the two seen at all resolutions.

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.
MSI GeForce 9800 GT 512MB Graphics Card
Increasing the intensity we can see that the MSI 9800 GT falls back a bit when compared to the HD 4850.

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.
MSI GeForce 9800 GT 512MB Graphics Card
MSI GeForce 9800 GT 512MB Graphics Card
Under PT Boats we can see that the 9800 GT actually comes out ahead this time; we can see the card is able to take the win at all resolutions.

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).
MSI GeForce 9800 GT 512MB Graphics Card
Firing up CINEBENCH puts both cards pretty close together again.

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.
MSI GeForce 9800 GT 512MB Graphics Card
MSI GeForce 9800 GT 512MB Graphics Card
WIC between the two cards is quite similar, but the HD 4850 does come out ahead with a lead of about 10%.

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.
MSI GeForce 9800 GT 512MB Graphics Card
Crysis again puts both cards very close to each other with the 9800 GT coming out just ahead at the lower resolution and the HD 4850 getting just a single FPS on the 9800 GT at the higher resolution.

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.
MSI GeForce 9800 GT 512MB Graphics Card
UT3 places the MSI 9800 GT behind the HD 4850 here with it being almost 20% slower at the highest resolution.

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
MSI GeForce 9800 GT 512MB Graphics Card
Turning on AA and AF under 3DMark06 gives the HD 4850 another win by roughly 10%.World In Conflict
MSI GeForce 9800 GT 512MB Graphics Card
MSI GeForce 9800 GT 512MB Graphics Card
Under WIC we can see the HD 4850 is actually able to perform significantly faster than the MSI 9800 GT.

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.
MSI GeForce 9800 GT 512MB Graphics Card
Under 3DMark06 in XP we can see that the MSI 9800 GT is able to outperform the HD 4850 at all resolutions.

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).
MSI GeForce 9800 GT 512MB Graphics Card
Under CINEBENCH we see both cards score very close together with only a few points separating the two.

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.
MSI GeForce 9800 GT 512MB Graphics Card
MSI GeForce 9800 GT 512MB Graphics Card
For the most part we see the HD 4850 outperform the 9800 GT. The only time the 9800 GT is able to sneak out ahead is at the higher resolution in the minimum department; again, it's average is lower, though.

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.
MSI GeForce 9800 GT 512MB Graphics Card
Under UT3 we again see the HD 4850 get a nice little jump on the 9800 GT at the higher resolutions. At 1280 x 1024 the 9800 GT actually comes out ahead slightly.

Temperature & 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.
MSI GeForce 9800 GT 512MB Graphics Card
It comes as no surprise that the 9800 GT comes in significantly cooler than the HD 4850.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).
Zotac 9800 GTX+ Zone
Noise levels between the two cards are extremely similar with only a dB separating the two.

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.
MSI GeForce 9800 GT 512MB Graphics Card
The MSI 9800 GT manages to come in lower in power usage at both idle and load when compared to the HD 4850.

Final Thoughts

Final ThoughtsFor the most part the HD 4850 manages to outperform the 9800 GT, but it's worth noting that the 9800 GT actually comes in about 10% - 15% cheaper than the HD 4850. The other thing worth nothing is that the card not only manages to use less power, but run cooler than the HD 4850.As far as value for money goes, the card really does sit in line with the HD 4850. While it's slower, it's also cheaper. If you could afford to spend the extra money we would probably suggest you make the move to the HD 4850. With that said, though, we would recommend that you try and get something with aftermarket cooling to help bring the temperatures down.MSI have done a good job with the card; the cooler is effective, offers good noise levels and the bundle which includes the HDMI adapter that lets us output sound along with a copy of Rainbow Six Vegas 2 allows it to stand out compared to a lot of cards these days which don't include anything more than the necessary drivers and the minimum amount of cables.If you're looking for a good performing 9800 GT that offers a neat bundle and a game that you would probably play, you can't really pass up on the MSI 9800 GT. While it's not the cheapest card out there, if the game is something that interests you then it offers very good value for money overall.
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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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