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Knowing in advance that the GeForce 9800 GTX is not a major reworking of the G92 core, we did not set our expectations too high before testing the new card, despite of some impressive numbers put down by the GX2 we tested last week.
As you may have already heard all over the web, the naming scheme of the GeForce 9 series can be deceiving, and this product in particular carries on the GTX title that was held highly for a long time by the GeForce 8800 GTX.
While there were moments where the GeForce 9800 GTX showed a lot of promise, in general it looked a lot like a slightly overclocked version of the GeForce 8800 GTS 512.
Games such as Unreal Tournament 3, World in Conflict and Prey showed no real difference in performance between the now very old GeForce 8800 GTX and the new 9800 GTX. In the other hand, titles like Company of Heroes, Crysis and F.E.A.R showed the 9800 GTX delivering reasonable performance gains over the 8800 GTX.
Now, considering the intended price point between $300-350, the 9800 GTX is not a bad value at all. In fact, this price range could hurt the Radeon HD 3870 X2, as the GeForce 9800 GTX was often found delivering very similar performance to the dual-GPU juggernaut. The GeForce 9800 GX2 remained as the pack leader all over the place.
It has to be said that although the original price of the GeForce 8800 GTX was quite steep, at $599, those that invested in this graphics card early have really got their money's worth. The 8800 GTX is a good 16 months old now and there is still little incentive for owners to upgrade. After all, an overclocked GeForce 8800 GTX is going to be mighty close to the 9800 GTX in terms of performance anyway.
Furthermore, anyone that recently purchased a GeForce 8800 GTS 512 graphics card can now wipe the sweat away, as the new 9800 GTX is merely faster. There is no more memory on the GTX, and DirectX support remains the same, so there is little to be gained by upgrading to a 9800 GTX graphics card if you already own a speedy GPU.
It is owners of previous generation mainstream cards that could look into the 9800 GTX as a wise buy and a solid product at $350. Currently, GTS 512 products are selling at around that price, so we wouldn't be surprised if those are cut down a bit until stock is cleared.
As for this particular ASUS board, other than the black PCB and cooler, we believe it comes very close to the reference design that many manufacturers will offer at the lowest price possible. We hope it doesn't take too long until ASUS and other top tier manufacturers like eVGA start offering more inspiring versions of the GeForce 9800 GTX in the near future.
Update: Newegg is now carrying cards of different brands at $329. Not bad.