BFG Tech GeForce 9800 GTX OCX 512MBManufacturer: BFG Tech
UK Price (as reviewed): £258.49 (inc. VAT)
US Price (as reviewed): $354.99 (ex. Tax)
Ten years in Europe (Lifetime in North America)
Nvidia’s GeForce 9800 GTX launched somewhat ironically on April Fool’s Day – the reason for the irony was that we argued it wasn’t enough of a jump in performance to be regarded as a replacement for the old dog that is the GeForce 8800 GTX. In isolation, the card wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t much faster than Nvidia’s GeForce 8800 GTS 512 and it definitely didn’t warrant the price premium.
Quite simply, the GeForce 8800 GTX has ruled the roost ever since it launched in November 2006 – the only single GPU card that has come along and bested it is essentially an overclocked (and overpriced) 8800 GTX. That’s the luxury one affords when it sits at the top of the chain virtually unchallenged. AMD combined a pair of RV670 GPUs together to create its closest GeForce 8800 GTX competitor to date, the Radeon HD 3870 X2.
However, while there are many titles where the latter simply out classes the former, there are titles where the opposite is true. It’s almost a question of which games you play and whether there is any benefit to AMD’s dual-GPU behemoth. Sadly for AMD though, almost as soon as AMD launched that card, Nvidia rolled out the GeForce 9800 GX2, combining a pair of G92 GPUs to deliver performance above and beyond what the G80-based cards could ever achieve. But, it’s not all plain sailing for the GeForce 9800 GX2 because it has all of the drawbacks of SLI and in our opinion there is no benefit to having all of those drawbacks in a single PCI-Express slot.
Anyway, before we get too sidetracked with where the graphics card market is moving, we should get onto what we’re here to look at today: BFG Tech’s GeForce 9800 GTX OCX graphics card. When the GeForce 9800 GTX launched, Nvidia limited partners to only releasing cards clocked at Nvidia’s predefined ‘reference’ clock speeds – BFG, a company famed for shipping its ‘OC’ graphics cards, followed suit but then shortly came out with three overclocked GeForce 9800 GTX cards, the OC, OC2 and OCX.
We’ve seen cards in the OC and OC2 lines before now, but the OCX branding is new with the GeForce 9800 GTX as BFG believes that it can push this particular card even higher than it feels is suitable for the OC2 speed grade. Indeed, BFG Tech has shipped this card out with a 755MHz core speed, compared to the 700MHz and 715MHz frequencies specified for the OC and OC2 respectively.
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On top of the core speed increase, BFG has also pushed the shader clock—the frequency that makes the most difference to frame rates—up to a healthy 1,890MHz, which compares nicely to the reference speed of 1,688MHz. And encouragingly, BFG hasn’t left the memory at its standard clock speed like it does on some of its cards – instead, the company has slapped another 100MHz on top of the reference 2,200MHz for good measure. That’s some pretty highly-clocked GDDR3 if I’m not mistaken.
Physically, the card hasn’t changed a great deal since the 1st April launch date – the heatsink and artwork on the card remains the same. The only thing that has changed is the sticker on the centre of the fan – instead of saying BFG, it now says OCX. Yep, that’s it.
Despite the complete lack of physical changes and the pretty significant clock speed increase, the fan remains quiet and inaudible for the most part. We didn’t really encounter a time where the clock speed moved anywhere above its idle speed and pitch – even when the card was overclocked even further… and that’s a good thing. I’m confident in saying that you won’t hear this card over and above other system noise—or background noise for that matter—as noisy things like hard drives are likely to drown out any noise the fan makes.
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Everything you’d expect from a GeForce 9800 GTX is there – including the two dual-link HDCP-compliant DVI ports, analogue video out and audio over DVI via the included DVI-to-HDMI adapter. Of course, for audio over DVI, you also need S/PDIF because Nvidia’s current hardware cannot pass audio over the PCI-Express bus like AMD’s Radeon HD 2000 and 3000 series cards – there’s not only an S/PDIF connector along the top edge of the card, but BFG Tech has also included a S/PDIF cable in the box. It’s good to see that BFG Tech has listened to our concerns with the bundles provided with its standard GeForce 9800 GTX and its GeForce 9600 GT OC graphics cards.
In addition to this, the box bundle contains a single DVI-to-VGA converter, a component dongle and one six-pin PCI-Express power cable. Aside from the cables, there is also a driver/utility CD and a quick install guide – in other words, there’s nothing special in the box, but what you do get is enough to get the card running and to also make use of all of its features.
One area where BFG Tech excels above most other Nvidia board partners is with its warranty service and after sales support. The company offers a ten-year (parts and labour) warranty with all of its cards in Europe, and a lifetime warranty to its customers on the other side of the Atlantic. The reason for the lower warranty term in Europe is EU legislation, but that shouldn’t worry you.
The company also offers its customers free 24/7 technical support, albeit on an American 1-800 number (it's free via SkypeOut, for what it's worth), although if you don’t have SkypeOut or don't live in America, BFG Tech also offers free 24/7 support via email too. In the past, the downside of BFG Tech's RMA process was the fact that all RMAs were handled by the company's US office. Recently though, BFG Tech opened an RMA Centre in the UK, meaning that there will be much shorter turnaround times for UK customers.