Feel the GeForce

Windows examines nVidia's latest, GeForce 9, GPU family so read on if you're interested in boosting your machine's graphical grunt.

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By  Jason Saundalkar Published  May 24, 2008

Windows examines nVidia's latest, GeForce 9, GPU family so read on if you're interested in boosting your machine's graphical grunt.

The GeForce 9 family, as the model number might suggest, represent nVidia's ninth generation of graphics processing units (GPUs). At the time of going to press, this latest series consisted of four different models, each targeting everyone from entry-level gamers to hardcore enthusiasts.

Family members

To date nVidia has launched three of the four GPUs that make up the GeForce 9 family; the 9800GX2, 9800 GTX and 9600 GT. The fourth member of the family, the 9500 GT is, at the time of going to press, scheduled for launch in quarter two of this year.

Of the three already launched GPUs, the GeForce 9600 GT was the first to be released by nVidia.

This particular GPU is designed for the mid-range segment of the market, replacing the older GeForce 8600 GTS. nVidia has stated the maximum suggest retail price (MSRP) for standard-clocked 9600 GT cards be US $189. Next in line is the recently launched 9800 GTX.

Despite the 'GTX' lettering this particular GPU is not the successor to the older 8800 GTX. Rather, it replaces the 8800 GT, which was released towards the end of 2007.

In line with this, nVidia recommends the maximum memory size on 9800 GTX cards be 512Mbytes (like the 8800 GT), rather than 768Mbytes, as was the case with the 8800 GTX.

The 9800 GTX occupies the high-end segment in the new GPU family and nVidia recommends a MSRP of $349.

The 9800GX2 is presently the fastest model in the GeForce 9 family and is designed for the ultra-high-end segment.

This model employs a dual printed circuit board (PCB), dual GPU design and all GX2 cards will feature a minimum of 1Gbyte of on-board memory (split equally between the two GPUs).

Cards based on this GPU have a rated power consumption of 197-watts, when running at standard clock frequencies. This model is the successor to the GeForce 8800 Ultra and was launched with a MSRP of $599.

On common ground

All of these GPUs, along with the as yet un-launched 9500 GT, offer common features such as full DirectX 10 and Shader Model 4.0 graphics rendering support. This is very important as more and more games now making use of these rendering technologies.

All of the chips in this family are also fabricated using a 65nm fabrication process. nVidia's last generation GeForce 8 family by comparison was comprised of GPUs manufactured using the 90nm, 80nm and, at the end of 2007, the 65nm manufacturing processes.

The newer fabrication process enables nVidia to pack in a greater number of transistors while at the same time making the GPUs more power efficient.

The GPUs powering the shipping GeForce 9 cards also support nVidia's multi-GPU Scalable Link Interface (SLI) technology. This technology allows two or more GPUs to share the rendering load in order to boost performance.

For this technology to function properly, you'll need at least two identical graphics cards along with a motherbaord that supports SLI.

We last tested SLI back in 2006 and at that time we found it very immature.

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