NVIDIA Fermi - GTX 470 - GTX 480 - GTX 480 SLI Review

Fermi is finally here! We put the new GeForce GTX 470 and GeForce GTX 480 video cards through the paces in four of the latest and most demanding games recently released. We find time for GeForce GTX 480 SLI as well. We compare these to the Radeon 5850, Radeon 5870, and the Radeon 5970.

Introduction

Today, NVIDIA is "soft-launching" two new video cards based on the GF100 GPU. As we learned in our Fermi GF100 Facts and Opinions article, GF100 is based on the Fermi architecture. The Fermi architecture is NVIDIA’s next generation GPU architecture that results in some major architectural changes compared to their previous GT200 generation. You all know the previous generation as the GeForce GTX 285, GTX 280, GTX 275 and GTX 260. The GF100 is NVIDIA’s current high-end GPU and is comprised of two video cards being soft-launched today, the GeForce GTX 480 and the GeForce GTX 470.

Now, we say "soft-launch" because widespread e-tail availability of these video cards won’t happen until the week of April 12, 2010.

Hi, For your GeForce GTX 480/470 stories posting on Friday, March 26th at 7:01 EDT, please indicate that widespread e-tail availability of both GeForce GTX 480 and GTX 470 will happen the week of April 12, 2010. We are building 10s of thousands of units for initial availability, and this will ensure our partners have ample volume for what is the most anticipated GPU launch ever. If you have any other questions, please don’t hesitate to ask. Thanks, NVPR

We are not going to cover the new architecture in this evaluation, please refer to our Fermi GF100 Facts and Opinions article to learn about this architecture. This evaluation will focus solely on facts and gameplay experience concerning the GeForce GTX 480 and GeForce GTX 470.

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GeForce GTX 480

The Price - $499

First and foremost the highest-end GF100 GPU is going to be the GeForce GTX 480, and it has an estimated price point of $499. For comparison, the Radeon HD 5870 can be found as low as $420 online currently.

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The GeForce GTX 480 is built on a 40nm process and utilizes 480 CUDA Cores, 60 Texture Units and 48 ROPs. The Graphics Clock operates at 700MHz, while the CUDA Cores operate at 1401MHz. You will find 1.536GB of GDDR5 memory on board, running on a 384-bit memory bus at 3.696GHz. This will provide 177.4GB/sec of memory bandwidth.

The maximum rated board power is 250 Watts and the recommended power supply is 600 Watts. The GPU Thermal Threshold is 105c, and we experienced high 90’s temperatures which will show you on page 7.

All the standard Antialaising modes you are use to are supported, plus a few extras. You can now enable 2X, 4X and 8X Transparency Supersampling AA in the control panel. There is also a new 32X CSAA capability.

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The first thing to grab your attention will be the fact that the heatsink protrudes through the shroud. In past generations, and on the Radeon HD 5000 series, the shroud covers the heatsink completely. The GeForce GTX 480 however, has a very large piece of metal that takes up most of the surface area on the video card. You will also notice that NVIDIA has cut out openings on the PCB to allow air to travel in from the back-side of the video card. This will aid in cooling, especially when the video cards are near each other in SLI configurations.

You will also notice several heatpipes coming from the center of the heatsink to the outer fins to dissapate heat. The fact that heatpipes are needed does not bode well for the type of thermals this video card produces. It also gives add-in-board partners one less option to customize with their video cards.

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The GeForce GTX 480 also requires one 6-pin and one 8-pin auxiliary power connector for operation. 2-way and 3-way SLI are fully supported. The video card measures 10.5 inches, which means it is shorter than the Radeon HD 5870. The GeForce GTX 480 has 2x Dual-Link DVI-I connections and one Mini HDMI connection.

GeForce GTX 470

The Price - $349

Next down the line is the GeForce GTX 470, also based on GF100. The GeForce GTX 470 will have an estimated price point of $349. Compare this to the Radeon HD 5850 which you can find as low as $280 at this very moment. (Even this week we saw a "deal" bringing down the cost to sub-$250, but those were gone quickly.)

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The GeForce GTX 470 is built on a 40nm process and utilizes 448 CUDA Cores, 56 Texture Units and 40 ROPs. The Graphics Clock operates at 607MHz, while the CUDA Cores operate at 1215MHz. You will find 1.215GB of GDDR5 memory on board, running on a 320-bit memory bus at 3.348GHz. This will provide 133.9GB/sec of memory bandwidth.

The maximum rated board power is 215 Watts and the recommended power supply is 550 Watts. The GPU Thermal Threshold is the same on the GTX 470 as the GTX 480, 105c.

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The GeForce GTX 470 is physically shorter, measuring only 9.5 inches in length. Unlike the GeForce GTX 480, the shroud covers the entire card, with the heatsink hidden, and no heatpipes extruding out the side. Similar to the GeForce GTX 480 there is an opening on the back-side of the PCB to allow air in.

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Two 6-pin auxiliary power connectors are required on the GeForce GTX 470. SLI is fully supported in 2-way and 3-way with the GeForce GTX 470. The GeForce GTX 470 has 2x Dual-Link DVI-I connections and one Mini HDMI connection.

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Length comparisons are posted above. You can see that the Radeon HD 5870 is the longest of all, with GeForce GTX 480 riding very close to it. The Radeon HD 5850 and GeForce GTX 470 are the same length.


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