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For those that aren't familiar with the 9800 GTX, what this card will get you is 128 stream processors, 16 ROPs, 64/64 texture address/filter units, and 512MB GDDR3 memory talking to the chip over a 256-bit interface. Standard clock speeds for the 9800 GTX are 675MHz core, 1,688MHz shader, and 2,200MHz memory. XFX has up these to 760MHz core, 1,900MHz shader, and 2,280MHz memory.
Of course the key selling point of the Black Edition, aside from its impressive overclocking figures is its price. On the back of nVidia implementing some severe price cuts XFX has also taken an aggressive stance with pricing for this particular card. Whereas many 9800 GTXs are still demanding around £200, Scan already has the Black Edition listed on pre-order for £168.
This pricing means the card fits in perfectly within nVidia's current range, sitting comfortably below the GTX 260. In fact, it also falls squarely in-between ATI's HD 4870 and the HD 4850 so in fact it has no direct price competition, which is always going to help its cause.
For testing we ran through our usual set of gaming tests and also measured the power draw of our test bed with this card installed. The test setup is as follows:
Common System Components
* Intel Core 2 Quad QX9770
* Asus P5E3
* 2GB Corsair TWIN3X2048-1333C9 DDR3
* 150GB Western Digital Raptor
* Microsoft Windows Vista Home Premium 32-bit
* ATI: Catalyst 8.4
* nVidia GTX200 Series: Forceware 177.34
* Other nVidia cards: Forceware 175.19
* XFX 9800 GTX Black Edition
* nVidia GeForce 9800 GTX
* nVidia GeForce GTX 260
* ATI HD 4870
* ATI HD 4850
* Race Driver: GRID
* Enemy Territory: Quake Wars
* Call of Duty 4
* Counter-Strike: Source
Looking first at power draw, it's clear the overclocking required some internal voltages to be increased as both total idle and load power draw have also risen slightly. The difference is pretty negligible and is still below both the GTX 260 and the HD 4870, though.
In terms of performance, the card equips itself pretty well though the impact of the overclocking varies from title to title. Most notable, perhaps, are the results for Crysis that see the Black Edition being nearly 40 per cent faster than a standard card and comfortably faster than the HD 4850. The HD 4870 is still on average considerably faster, though, and as it costs only £20 - £30 more we'd be inclined to save for that card. That said, if you can't spend anymore the Black Edition is a great value option. Indeed, it's probably the best value nVidia card available at the moment.
Our only real gripe is that the card is rather large. Sure it's only about the same size as an HD 4870 but then that card is considerably faster. Also, the HD 4850, although slower, is half the width and markedly shorter. It's not something we'd term a deal breaker but it will certainly be of concern for some.
XFX has got the pricing and performance of the 9800 GTX Black Edition just right with it sitting just inbetween the ATI HD 4850 and ATI HD 4870 on both counts. If you can push your budget we'd still recommend gunning for the ATI HD 4870 but if you can't stretch any further then you can't go wrong with this card.