Galaxy GeForce GT 430 Video Card Review

NVIDIA's GeForce GT 430 GPU is here to rock the sub-$100 video card market! Does this new Fermi GPU offer a substantial upgrade over the GeForce GT 220, which it aims to replace? Can it compete with the long-entrenched Radeon HD 5000 series? In our look at the Galaxy GeForce GT 430 we will find out.

Introduction

Today, NVIDIA is introducing a new Fermi based GPU: The GeForce GT 430. The GT 430 is a sub-$100 GPU designed for mainstream media desktop users. GeForce GT 430 is intended to replace the GeForce GT 220 in the GPU market, although NVIDIA partners will still sell GeForce GT 220 video cards concurrent to the GT 430 at this time. This, to us, sounds like it might create some confusion in the market place unless there is a price drop on GT 220 prices.

The GT 430’s market is the mainstream desktop user, whom NVIDIA hopes wants a video card with HD video playback and encoding capabilities, 3D Blu-Ray support, multi-display support, and enough performance for some mainstream gaming. NVIDIA claims that the market for this kind of video card is twice as big as the market for hardcore gaming PCs, so they have designed the next gen GT 430 with features to match what these customers want.

NVIDIA GeForce GT 430 GPU

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The GeForce GT 430 sits right on the edge between the mainstream digital media desktop and the gaming PC. The pricing is squarely aimed at sub-$100, the video card we are evaluating today will be $79.99 online, but we do know that some models at retail stores could be up to $120 for GT 430 based video cards. The best prices will be found online. To this market, NVIDIA hopes to bring mainstream gaming, home theater features, 3D media support (such as Blu-Ray 3D), and multi-display support. Many mainstream customers may be upgrading from integrated video, so multi-display support is an important feature that is lacking in integrated video solutions.

The GT 430 supports Blu-Ray 3D for "Theater Quality 3D Movies at Home." Many PC gaming enthusiasts may consider 3D movies to be something of a gimmick, but sales of 3D HDTV panels have been brisk, so it may be a wise move to attempt to capitalize on that success.

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The GeForce GT 430 is powered by the Fermi GF108 GPU and fully supports DX11. It features 585 million transistors built on a 40nm process, with a thermal design profile of 49 Watts. There are 96 CUDA cores, 16 texture units, and 4 ROP units. The memory bus consists of two 64-bit controllers with 1024MB of GDDR3 attached, for a theoretical maximum of 28.8GB/sec of memory bandwidth. The GPUs bilinear texture filtering rate is 11.2 billion texels per second.

NVIDIA’s reference GPU specification calls for the graphics processor to be clocked at 700MHz. The shader core’s clock speed is bound to the GPU core’s clock with a 2:1 ratio, brining the CUDA cores to 1.4GHz. The memory on the GeForce GT 430 comes with a reference speed of 900MHz, or 1.8GHz DDR.

GT 430 has one dual-link DVI-I port, an HDMI 1.4a port, and a 15-pin analog VGA port. It does not require an auxiliary power supply connector. HDMI 1.4a support is important, as it is version 1.4a which added 3D support to the HDMI standard. Any video card with an HDMI port of a version earlier than 1.4a will not support 3D HD video content, such as Blu-Ray 3D. There is support for 24-bit multi-channel audio up to 192 KHz, and lossless DTS-HD Master Audio and Dolby TrueHD as well.

You will notice that the GeForce GT 430 reference design does not have an SLI bridge connector. That is because SLI is not supported with the NVIDIA GeForce GT 430. NVIDIA Surround gaming is not supported either. During our meeting, NVIDIA’s representatives reported that this video card is not intended to push enough pixels to support the very large surround gaming resolutions, so they opted to leave that feature out of this video card. PhysX still works, and 3D Vision still works, but NV Surround and SLI are not available on the GeForce GT 430.

NVIDIA claims that the GeForce GT 430 should have approximately 2x as much geometry and shader horsepower as the GeForce GT 220, which is the video card it intends to replace.

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Here, NVIDIA is saying that the Digital Media PC market is twice as big as the Gaming PC market. For that market segment, they say that key usage is HD video playback, photo and video editing, and some mainstream gaming.


Galaxy GeForce GT 430

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There will be about twenty-one video cards launching today, from several different add-in-board partners. We have Galaxy’s take on the GeForce GT 430 today. The Galaxy GeForce GT 430 will be $79.99 online, but possibly higher in retail stores. Like most of the Fermi GF104 launch products, the Galaxy GeForce GT 430 is not a reference design video card. It mostly follows reference specifications, but the actual board layout is different from the reference design that NVIDIA showed us. In fact, GT 430 is mainly a partner driven product, so you will like find each one to be unique to some extent.

The GPU on the Galaxy GeForce GT 430 is clocked at 700MHz, and the shader core is clocked at 1.4GHz. That is NVIDIA’s reference specification for the GPU. The memory, however, is clocked at 800MHz, which is 100MHz below NVIDIA’s design. As such, its memory bandwidth is 25.6GB/sec, which is 3.2GB/sec below NVIDIA’s design specification. Beyond that, this Galaxy video card shares all of the same features and specifications as NVIDIA’s reference design.

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The box in which the Galaxy GeForce GT 430 arrived is shockingly small. The box is 9.85" wide, 6.125" tall, and 2" deep. The front of the box contains all of the information that a B&M customer would need to know in order to make a purchasing decision. The box indicates that the video card is a PCI Express product with 1024MB of DDR3 video memory, a GeForce GT 430 GPU, and HDMI, DVI, and VGA ports. Small icons on the upper left indicate that the video card supports NVIDIA’s CUDA and PhysX technologies. The back of the box has large blue boxes giving five "good reasons why you should have a video card." Such reasons include "Better looking Windows", "HD Internet Video", and "3D Gaming."

As far as a bundle is concerned, there isn’t one. Included with his video card is nothing more than an installation guide and a driver CD. Since the video card requires no auxiliary power connector, and it has HDMI, DVI, and VGA output connectors, it doesn’t actually need any adaptor dongles at all.

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This little video card measures 5.625" long, 4.375" tall, and 0.750" thick. It features a dark blue PCB with a large black heat-sink. Centered in the heat-sink is a blue 6cm fan with a Galaxy logo sticker on the fan hub. With this HSF design, only the GPU makes physical contact with the heat-sink. The memory chips are left to receive their cooling only from air blown through the heat-sink.

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This video card is a single-slot design. It has no SLI bridge connector, and no auxiliary power supply connector. Its only connectors are its PCI Express card connector and its output interfaces. For output, it features one dual-link DVI-I connector, an HDMI 1.4a connector, and a VGA connector. Note that only two of these output connectors may be used in tandem.


The Competition

For this evaluation, we are comparing gameplay performance of the Galaxy GeForce GT 430 to two video cards. First, we are comparing it to its strongest competitor: The ATI Radeon HD 5670. During the design stages of the GeForce GT 430, its primary competitor was to be the Radeon HD 5550. However, recent price drops on AMD video cards have now placed the Radeon HD 5670 video card in the same pricing bracket as the GeForce GT 430. This is just the way it goes sometimes, and since it is only fair to compare video cards by price, we have to compare to the Radeon HD 5670 because it is now priced at $79.99, just like the Galaxy GeForce GT 430.

Second, we will compare performance with the video card that the GeForce GT 430 is designed to replace: The NVIDIA GeForce GT 220. NVIDIA has no immediate plans to discontinue distribution and support of the GT 220, so it could be said that the GT 430 is meant to reinforce NVIDIA’s presence in the sub-$100 mainstream video card market, but we will see if the new GT 430 offers any more performance over the GT 220 and if it is a worthy upgrade option.