MSI was kind enough to provide us with their fastest graphics card, and we made sure to put it through its paces. The card in question is Geforce 9800 GX2, whereas MSI dubbed it M2D1G N9800GX2. The card we received runs at reference speeds of 600MHz, but MSI also offers an overclocked version running at 660MHz, and it’s not too pricey, either. M2D1G N9800GX2’s memory runs at 1000MHz (2000MHz effectively) with Shaders running at 1500MHz.
The sticker is the only thing that sets it apart from reference design. So, we have a dual slot, dual GPU card, and it seems that high-end cards packing two GPUs are already a common practice. Geforce 9800 GX2 features 265 stream processors and a 1GB frame buffer (512MB per graphics core). Although this card is basically two cards in one, the end user won’t have to worry, because they’re neatly packed in a case that looks really nice.
In order to provide appropriate airflow, the card has a couple of air inlets covered with metal grills, and a large outlet on the upper side of the card. Although the card’s bracket also features an air outlet, most of the heat will be blown out to the case interior, and not out of the case. This is why it’s important to have good airflow within your case.
The fans aren’t loud in idle mode, but during gaming they hit over 60% RPM, and we could easily hear them. We recently tested Quad-SLI on EVGA 780i motherboard, where the fan RPM is automatically set to 20%, but the card overheated so we had to resort to manual settings. This never happened to us before, but MSI N9800 GX2 graphics card takes care of that by automatically regulating the RPM, based on the actual temperatures on the card. All in all, the card wasn’t too loud as long as you keep it under temperatures of 80°C, and we managed to do that while the fan was running at 66% speed.
With plenty of memory and 256-bit memory interface, 9800 GX2 card is ready to tackle HD video, and it also supports PureVideo HD technology. G92 GPU will handle video acceleration and video post-processing, leaving the CPU free to do other important tasks.
A view from above reveals the placement of power connectors. The new cooler design resulted in SLI and SPDIF connectors getting protective caps that make this card even more stylish. According to the specs, this card shouldn’t draw more than 197W, and a 580W PSU is recommended for one card and 850W for two 9800 GX2 cards.
You should make sure whether your card features an 8-pin PCIe power connector, because you’ll need it and another 6-pin. We’ve seen some partners shipping their cards with a 2xMolex-to-6-pin PCIe dongle, but that’s just wrong, since it won’t help. In order for this card to start at all, you’ll have to have an 8-pin power connector, which came with PCI Express 2.0 specs. Compared to a 6-pin connector that supplies up to 75W, 8-pin connectors supply double that number.
Power saving is a something we have to mind these days, and N9800 GX2 is a good power-saver since this card features HybridPower technology. That means that combined with a 780a motherboard, or some other newer one with integrated Nvidia graphics, this card will power down when not in 3D mode. During that time, integrated GPU will handle HD content quite nicely.
I/O panel features two DVI and one HDMI connectors. MSI’s box doesn’t feature an HDMI converter, but we found a two-meter-long HDMI cable. In the box you’ll also find an SPDIF cable, needed to route the sound from an external source to the card.
The card uses PCI Express 2.0 and, of course, it’s Vista DX 10.0 ready. We see that this card features one SLI connector, meaning that Quad-SLI is possible, but not Tri-SLI. Good scaling results are a courtesy of AFR (Alternate Frame Rendering). Since two Geforce 9800 GX2 cards have four cores, 4x alternate frame rendering is used, meaning that 4 frames are rendered simultaneously (OS framework support is needed, and unfortunately, it’s only found in Vista).
MSI wrapped their Geforce N9800 GX2 M2D1G card in their already common packaging. The card is HDMI with HDCP ready, and Dual-Core Cell will help inexperienced users with overclocking.
MSI is one of the first partners that still include this pricey, HDMI cable, and this one is two meters long.