|Foxconn GeForce 9800 GTX OC 512MB Video Card|
|Reviews - Featured Reviews: Video Cards|
|Written by Olin Coles|
|Monday, 02 June 2008|
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GeForce 9800 GTX Closer Look
The Foxconn GeForce 9800 GTX Standard OC Edition uses a dual-slot design with improved clearance around the fan for optimal cooling and airflow. The board is cooled with an exceptionally quiet on-board "smart" fan; even when playing the most graphics-intensive 3D games, the GeForce 9800 GTX remained whisper quiet. Since I'm sure you just closely read through the myriad of features and specifications then you already know that you can use the 9800 GTX for something other than playing video games. The HDMI functionality is a new direction for NVIDIA graphic cards, and paired with the smart fan design and external exhausting ventilation the GeForce 9800 GTX will find itself at home in HTPC environments too.
The Foxconn 9800 GTX comes in one color: black. I blame this on NVIDIA, which hasn't given their add-in card partners (AIC's) the engineering information necessary to create working modifications. So keeping in mind that this little gem was tough to photograph, please don't be too upset with my images. In contrast to the equally dark Gigabyte 9800 GX2 we just tested, the new 9800 GTX looks a whole lot more exciting. It replaces the 8800 GTX (and 8800 Ultra), and measures exactly as long those video cards. The key differences surround the blower fan region, which is contoured to enhance airflow and reduce obstructions.
Similar to the NVIDIA reference design, Foxconn has sculpted their version of the GeForce 9800 GTX with the same overall appearance. Utilizing a glossy piano-black shell to encase the G92 GTX GPU, the delicate electronics inside are kept safe from accidental impact damage. I still feel the sting of a past incident where an accidental snag loosened a critical electronic component from the PCB of our older GeForce 8800 GTX in-between tests, which resulted in skewed results and some nasty fan mail. Thanks to the new well-conceived design those worries are all behind us now.
The Foxconn 9800GTX-512N graphics card is a performance optimized high-end card on every level. Power is taken from the PCI Express host bus as well as from two 6-pin PCI Express power connectors. Without any auxiliary power provided to the GeForce 9800 GTX graphics card, an LED on the bracket will shine red and the graphics card will not boot. In addition, the connector that is not adequately powered will turn red. Together this new functionality offers immediate feedback for enthusiasts concerned about providing adequate power to the GPU. In the past, low/no auxiliary power situations sounded a piezo buzzer which was so loud you could often mis-located the origin of the alarm.
Because the HDMI audio functionality is controlled at a hardware level, there is no need for additional drivers or software. Much like the SPDIF connection on the back of a motherboard, the video cards audio out function is plug-n-play. The P/SPDIF cable included with the kit connects between a small two-pin port on the power-connection side of the unit (near the green GeForce chevrons) and the HT Omega Claro Plus+ AD8620BR Op Amp sound card we used for testing. Your setup may be different, so the cable may connect between the 9800 GTX and either your motherboard or sound card digital input pins. Not all motherboards and sound cards support this option, so make sure it's available before you make your purchase. The 9800 GTX, unlike previous generation NVIDIA cards, is equipped with the PureVideo 2 engine for GPU assisted decoding of the H.264 and VC-1 CODEC's.
A few months back we reviewed ZOTAC's GeForce 8800 GT AMP! Edition HDMI video card, which used a DVI-to-HDMI adapter and S/PDIF audio input cable to stream full HDMI audio and video output for the first time in any NVIDIA product. Then just weeks ago the GeForce 9800 GX2 was launched with the same HDMI functionality and features. HDMI is back again (although not with a native interface) in the GeForce 9800 GTX.
In the image above you would be keen to notice two SLI connections. NVIDIA has designed the GeForce 9800 GTX to operate in a 3-way SLI configuration, which they have tested to be faster than a pair of GeForce 9800 GX2 cards in Quad SLI in certain applications and resolutions For some applications, the GeForce 9800 GTX placed into a 3-way SLI set will be faster than a set of Quad SLI GeForce 9800 GX2's. The big question gamers and hardware enthusiasts will need answer for themselves is if their configuration is will support this functionality in terms of power supply, case, and cooling.
At this first stages of early product release, AIC's didn't offer any real difference from the NVIDIA reference design and their own products. Even now, partners have had to settle on making BIOS adjustments (for overclocking) and bundle games in order to add value, because in all actuality they offer virtually identical products with many similar GPU, GDDR-3, and shader clock specifications. Aside from the Foxconn decal on the top of the 9800 GTX, this card and the reference version are nearly one in the same.
One of the primary problems encountered with the 8800 GTX and Ultra was the tight confinement it created inside the case which often times led to poor cooling. NVIDIA has redesigned the tail end of the 9800 GTX using contours to help open up air channels. The opening at the rear of the card is hollowed to allow supplemental cooling-air intake, resembling a jets intake manifold.
Please continue on to the next section where Benchmark Reviews takes a detailed look at the Foxconn GeForce 9800 GTX Standard OC Edition video card 9800GTX-512N.