Today's Hard|Forum Post
Today's Hard|Forum Post

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.

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Metro 2033

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Metro 2033 is a brand new game, just released, from developer 4A Games and published by THQ. This game runs on the in-house 4A Engine and supports DirectX 11 features. Notably, you will find Tessellation and Advanced Depth of Field supported under DX11. Also, you will find many advanced graphical features supported as well controlled by the global quality setting. For our evaluation, we have played through the entire game on all video cards and have settled on the Chapter 4 - War "Outpost" level to use as our run-through.


NVIDIA GeForce GTX 480 SLI vs. Radeon HD 5970

First things first, this first-persons shooter, survival type game is very fun, reminiscent to the post-apocalyptic world that is found in the Fallout series. However, this game will eat your graphics cards alive. Is this the next Crysis?

Metro 2033 runs in DX11 and supports two special DX11 only features, Tessellation and Advanced Depth of Field. Now, we have found that the Advanced Depth of Field option will cut you framerates in half equally on NVIDIA and ATI hardware. While this feature does look great in-game, the performance trade off is simply not worth it. We will examine this feature closer in our full gameplay performance and IQ evaluation in progress. In the meantime, we are going to leave this feature disabled on all video cards so that we can raise the global setting higher to enjoy gameplay better. Tessellation is enabled on every video card tested here today.

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Metro 2033 benefited from NVIDIA’s SLI technology as well as AMD’s ATI CrossFireX technology, we saw performance improvements when using dual-GPU configurations. As you can plainly see though, NVIDIA’s solution is vastly superior in performance in this game. However, this doesn’t mean that the extra performance helped improved the gameplay experience.

We found that both GeForce GTX 480 SLI and Radeon HD 5970 were playable at 2560x1600 with the global option of "Very High" enabled. This global video quality setting is the only control you have over the graphics settings. This is also the highest possible graphics setting the game supports. With DX11 Tessellation enabled, the only other option to enabled was Advanced Depth of Field, which was NOT playable on either configuration.

On the antialiasing side of things, we did not find 4X MSAA (the only other AA option supported in-game) playable on GeForce GTX 480 SLI at these settings. We had to back the game down to Analytical AA (AAA) which uses an adaptive AA algorithm similar to the Xbox version of the game. While AAA is not as visually good as 4X MSAA, it also doesn’t have the large performance hit 4X MSAA gives in this game.

With both configurations were playable at the exact same in-game quality settings, the game looked identical between GTX 480 SLI and HD 5970. Clearly, in this "apples-to-apples" playable settings scenario, GTX 480 SLI is pushing higher performance in this game compared to HD 5970.

NVIDIA GeForce GTX 480 vs. Radeon HD 5870

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Moving down to single-GPU, we see our first sign of a better gameplay experience being delivered by the GeForce GTX 480. We saw that GTX 480 SLI provided greater performance than the HD 5970, so it is no surprise here to see the single GPU version provide greater performance compared to the Radeon HD 5870 in this game.

The difference with these single-GPU video cards is that we found there to be a playable difference in image quality. Firstly, we tried playing the game at 2560x1600 with both video cards, but the performance hit was too great for both of them at that resolution. In order to play at 2560x1600 you’d have to set the in-game global quality option down to "Normal" or "Low" in some cases, creating a very bad gameplay experience.

When we moved the resolution down to 1920x1200 we found we could enabled the highest global video quality option to "Very High" on both video cards. With the global option set to Very High the gameplay experience was much more enjoyable. Once we did that, we found the extra performance of the GeForce GTX 480 allowed us to enable 4X AA. The highest AA setting playable on the Radeon HD 5870 is Analytical AA (AAA). As we found out in this game, 4X MSAA looks superior to AAA, so visually the GTX 480 is better in this game.

NVIDIA GeForce GTX 470 vs. Radeon HD 5850

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Things vastly changed once we moved down to the GeForce GTX 470 and Radeon HD 5850 however. In this comparison, neither video card had the advantage in this game. The GeForce GTX 470 is much closer in performance to the Radeon HD 5850 in this game, unlike the GTX 480 was compared to the HD 5870.

We found that 1920x1200 was the best resolution to play at, and allowed us to run at "High" in-game settings on both video cards. However, no AA was playable on either video card, 4X MSAA was too much of a performance hit. With the global option at "High" AAA results in AA being turned off because AAA only works in the "Very High" quality option.

Therefore, the GeForce GTX 470 and Radeon HD 5850 are very much even in this game, and none provided an advantage over the other.