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With the recent launch of new graphics cards from both ATI and nVidia, you'd be forgiven for thinking that the demise of previous generation cards would be swift and merciless. However, that has yet proved to be the case, with ATI in particular, assuring us that the 3000-series of cards is here to stay for a while. Also, fresh on the back of some hefty price cuts old stalwarts like the nVidia 9800 GTX and ATI HD 3870 can still offer great value, especially when you look at some overclocked cards. It's with this in mind that we're looking at the XFX 9800 GTX Black Edition - the most highly overclocked 9800 GTX we've yet come across.
As you would expect, given the name, the packaging is a mostly black affair which will certainly catch the eye on a shop shelf - assuming that you can find a shop that sells graphics cards anymore. Inside, as well as the card itself, you get a very healthy bundle including both DVI-to-HDMI and DVI-to-VGA dongles (in fact you get two of the latter) as well as an S-Video cable and component dongle. There are also two dongles for converting two Molex power connections to a single 6-pin PCI-Express connection for use with older power supplies. Finally, at least on the hardware front, there's an S/PDIF cable that can be used to connect your graphics cards to your sound card and output digital audio over you graphics cards' HDMI connection.
On the software side you get the a copy of Assassin's Creed, which is worth a few bob. It's not the most modern title and it certainly didn't quite live up to the hype but it's a welcome addition nonetheless. You also get a driver and utilities disc and a miscellany of well written quick installation guides and information cards. Oh and of course the essential, 'I'm Gaming, Do Not Disturb' door handle tag! Woo!
As for the card, well, it's an nVidia GeForce 9800 GTX with a sticker on it. Although XFX's internal tweakings have pushed the card's performance, the cooler and the rest of the card's design is just the same as any other 9800 GTX, which just goes to prove how good nVidia's reference coolers have been of late.
Along the top edge of the card are the twin SLI connectors that can be used to join two or even three of these cards together for more performance. Also up here are the two extra power connectors that are needed to keep this thirsty card running. Two dual-link DVI sockets (which are HDCP enabled) grace the double width back panel along with an analogue video output socket that supports S-Video natively and component and composite with the help of dongles. This is the standard output configuration we've come to expect from cards in this price range.
The back of the PCB is covered by a metal plate, which helps protect the delicate electronics resident there and also performs some additional heatsink duties. This is a feature we first saw on the 9800 GX2 and it's one we've come to appreciate, especially as the regularity with which we're swapping cards around in our test bed requires us to manhandle them more than would otherwise be good for them - does anyone ever really use those anti-static wrist bands?