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GeForce GT 430: The HTPC Crowd Gets Fermi On A Diet

GeForce GT 430: The HTPC Crowd Gets Fermi On A Diet
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After addressing mainstream gamers with the GF106-based GeForce GTS 450, Nvidia is nudging a new GPU into the desktop space, built onto a card seemingly tailor-made for HTPCs. Does the new $79 GeForce GT 430 taste great, or is it just less filling?

The GeForce GTX 480 launch gave Nvidia the right to claim it sold the fastest GPU on the market. Oddly enough, that crown has never meant less than it does now. While Nvidia’s monolithic GF100 graphics processor boasts the ultimate in single-GPU performance, gamers are much more accepting of lower power, lower cost, and high-performance alternatives like the GeForce GTX 460 in SLI and AMD's Radeon HD 5850.

The good news is that Nvidia is back in the game, thanks to a handful of price cuts and derivative versions of that original GF100 processor. With the introduction of GeForce GTX 460, we saw a smaller, more efficient Fermi-based graphics processor (GF104) at the $200 price point. Next came the GeForce GTS 450, sporting the GF104-derived GF106 GPU. This brought Nvidia’s DirectX 11 lineup all the way down to $130.

But with no new graphics card under that decidedly mainstream $130 price point, Nvidia continues to fight for sub-$100 sales with products fundamentally based on the GeForce 8000-series, which was released back in 2006.

That is, until now. Enter the GeForce GT 430.

The GPU driving Nvidia's GeForce GT 430 is nothing new to the notebook world. Its GF108 GPU has already been released in a number of notebook graphics adapters: the GeForce GT 435M, 425M, 420M, and 415M all use this piece of silicon. The GeForce GT 430 is the first desktop-oriented SKU employing the GF108, though, just as the GeForce GTS 450 is the first desktop graphics card armed with GF106. Let’s have a closer look at the GF108 GPU:

This GPU has a single Graphics Processing Cluster (GPC) with two Streaming Multiprocessors (SMs). Each SM is identical to the ones found in the GeForce GTX 460 and GeForce GTS 450, with 48 shader cores, eight texture units, four dispatch units, and a Polymorph engine.

The render back-end has two 64-bit memory controllers and a single ROP partition capable of four 32-bit pixels per clock. As a result, the GeForce GT 430 is essentially half of the GeForce GTS 450, but with half of the ROPs and the same 128-bit memory bus as the more expensive model. The result is a GPU with 96 shader cores, 16 texture units, and four ROPs.

With this information in hand, let’s compare the new GeForce GT 430 with the other ponies in Nvidia’s sub-$100 stable:


GeForce GT 220
GeForce GT 430GeForce GT 240
Shader Cores:
48
9696
Texture Units:
16
1632
Color ROPs:
8
4
8
Fabrication process:
40 nm
40 nm40 nm
Core/Shader Clock:
625/1360 MHz
700/1400 MHz550/1340 MHz
Memory Clock:
790 MHz DDR3
900 MHz DDR3
850 MHz GDDR5
Memory Bus:
128-bit
128-bit128-bit
Memory Bandwidth:
25.3 GB/s DDR3
28.8 GB/s DDR3
54.4 GB/s GDDR5
Transistors (Millions):
486
585727
Thermal Design Power (W)
58
42.7
69


First, we need to mention that the MSRP for the new GeForce GT 430 is $79. With that in mind, let’s start by comparing the new GeForce GT 430 to the GeForce GT 220.

Nvidia suggests that the GeForce GT 430 will share the GeForce GT 220's price point, but the older card won't be end-of-lifed in the near future. Indeed, DDR3 versions of the GeForce GT 220 start at $75 on Newegg, so this is a fair comparison. From this perspective, the new GeForce GT 430 has an obvious advantage over its predecessor in the form of double the shader cores and a 75 MHz-higher core clock (despite the same number of texture units and half the ROPs).

Nvidia's own benchmark numbers indicate that the new card is often 50% faster that the GeForce GT 220. We’ll see if this is true in the benchmarks, but from a cursory glance at the raw specs, this seems feasible.

The GeForce GT 430’s real problem comes from the GeForce GT 240, however—particularly the GDDR5 version of the card. These can be found on Newegg for $79 too, and they hang a colossal memory bandwidth advantage over the DDR3-equipped GT 430's head. Now, it’s important to mention that the GF108 GPU is quite capable of working with GDDR5 memory and that a GDDR5-based variant is in the works. But the DDR3 version will be available first.

In any case, from a pure GPU performance standpoint, the older GeForce GT 240 has an identical number of shader cores as today's GeForce GT 430. The newer card has a 700/1400 MHz core/shader clock compared to the GT 240's 550/1360 MHz frequencies. The biggest difference is that Nvidia's GeForce GT 430 has half the texture units and ROPs as the GeForce GT 240. While it’s impossible to run an apples-to-apples test until the GDDR5 version of the GeForce GT 430 arrives, the reduced ROP count suggests that the new card has lower anti-aliased and high resolution performance potential, and the decreased number of texture mapping units results in a hit to textured fillrate. 

To be fair, Nvidia is not positioning the GeForce GT 430 as a replacement for the GeForce GT 240. The new model is touted as a low-cost, low-power jack-of-all-trades; an ideal option for a home theatre PC. In this role, the GeForce GT 430 includes attractive features like DirectX 11 support and the ability to bitstream lossless DTS-HD Master Audio and Dolby TrueHD multi-channel audio. The result is a feature combination that no other sub-$100 card can offer: 3D Blu-ray playback, 3D Vision gaming (though the viability of this is debatable), and HD audio in a half-height HTPC-friendly package. CUDA and PhysX are included as well.

Of course, the GeForce GT 430 isn't only getting assailed by other GeForce cards. AMD's Radeon HD 5570 is another sub-$80 solution, and the Radeon HD 5670 can be found for $80, too. Both of these boards support HD audio via bitstreaming as well, and both at least support triple display outputs through Eyefinity, though it's up to board vendors to enable that value-add on their mainstream offerings. Of course, the Radeon HD 5670 brings much faster gaming performance to the table. On the other hand, none of the Radeon cards are capable of 1080p 3D Blu-ray playback or stereoscopic gaming (although the latter may be possible with 3rd party software and certain monitors).

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Top Comments
  • 21 Hide
    rohitbaran , October 11, 2010 1:59 PM
    Priced pretty high for its performance.
  • 21 Hide
    cknobman , October 11, 2010 1:28 PM
    Not impressed.....at all.

    Its not like Nvidia was racing AMD to the market here so I fail to see why they insist on pushing out a product that is not priced competitively.

    Heck Nvidia's new product isnt even priced appropriately against their last generation cards much less AMDs year old offerings.
  • 19 Hide
    tmk221 , October 11, 2010 1:42 PM
    imho it's not worth anything close to 79$
Other Comments
  • 13 Hide
    nforce4max , October 11, 2010 1:26 PM
    Just as I thought it is slower than a GT240.
  • 0 Hide
    fausto , October 11, 2010 1:27 PM
    Anybody use HTPC state side with a satallite/cable provider? cable card? are you able to decode OnDemand and Premium Channels in the United States?

    Because it seems like HTPC's primary options are services like Hulu and Netflix.
  • 21 Hide
    cknobman , October 11, 2010 1:28 PM
    Not impressed.....at all.

    Its not like Nvidia was racing AMD to the market here so I fail to see why they insist on pushing out a product that is not priced competitively.

    Heck Nvidia's new product isnt even priced appropriately against their last generation cards much less AMDs year old offerings.
  • 0 Hide
    christiangordon , October 11, 2010 1:38 PM
    faustoAnybody use HTPC state side with a satallite/cable provider? cable card? are you able to decode OnDemand and Premium Channels in the United States?Because it seems like HTPC's primary options are services like Hulu and Netflix.


    I have used the HTPC cards and they don't work with Sat/ATT companies for OnDemand. They are basically good for 720p 1080p formats
  • 19 Hide
    tmk221 , October 11, 2010 1:42 PM
    imho it's not worth anything close to 79$
  • -2 Hide
    rolli59 , October 11, 2010 1:50 PM
    Slots in next to HD5570 low profile for small form factor cases with limited size PSU!
  • 1 Hide
    neilnh , October 11, 2010 1:58 PM
    faustoAnybody use HTPC state side with a satallite/cable provider? cable card? are you able to decode OnDemand and Premium Channels in the United States?Because it seems like HTPC's primary options are services like Hulu and Netflix.


    I use my HTPC for OTA HD networks (Fox, ABC, NBC, etc), Hulu, ESPN3, Blu-ray, and DVD-rips. I get HD on most of the shows I watch, and Hulu doesn't look bad for the others. There are very few gaps, but some would care a lot about them... HBO, NFL network, ESPN content that isn't available on ESPN3. Overall though, no monthly fee for all my TV with HD DVR... I like it. Some people use cable cards, but my whole reason for going the HTPC route was to save money, not pay more.
  • 21 Hide
    rohitbaran , October 11, 2010 1:59 PM
    Priced pretty high for its performance.
  • 16 Hide
    ikefu , October 11, 2010 2:00 PM
    The only reason for this card is if you actually watch 3D Bluray, for anything else the 5670 seems way better.

    I have a 55" 3d TV but hate the glasses so much I can't ever see myself using 3D playback. I'd go for 5670 just for the occasional gaming session.
  • 15 Hide
    Onus , October 11, 2010 2:21 PM
    This just shows how good the HD5670 is. And, with GDDR5 versions of the HD5570 available, there's just no reason for this card at this price. Pass.
  • 3 Hide
    RazberyBandit , October 11, 2010 2:42 PM
    Page 1, in reference to GT 220 comparison:
    Quote:
    the new GeForce GT 430 has an obvious advantage over its predecessor in the form of one-third more shader cores and a 75 MHz-higher core clock

    96 shader cores is only one-third more than 48? Looks more like 100% more (or twice as many) to me...
  • 1 Hide
    cleeve , October 11, 2010 2:50 PM
    RazberyBanditPage 1, in reference to GT 220 comparison:96 shader cores is only one-third more than 48? Looks more like 100% more (or twice as many) to me...


    Thanks! Fixed.
  • -6 Hide
    sohaib_96 , October 11, 2010 3:01 PM
    its an htpc card what would you you expect from it??
  • 1 Hide
    jestersage , October 11, 2010 3:03 PM
    Still waiting for the price war... or Christmas... whichever...
  • 0 Hide
    f-14 , October 11, 2010 3:03 PM
    Quote:
    Here we see the new GeForce GT 420 keep pace with the Radeon HD 5570.


    i won't tell if you don't Don ;) 
  • 1 Hide
    cleeve , October 11, 2010 3:11 PM
    f-14i won't tell if you don't Don


    Doh! You just told!

    Fixed. :) 
  • 9 Hide
    megamanx00 , October 11, 2010 3:19 PM
    So, this new card is still crappy it's just less crappy than a GT 220. It would look alot better if the 5570 wasn't around to not only beat it but use less power at the same time.
  • -6 Hide
    chovav , October 11, 2010 3:23 PM
    how about doing some CUDA calculations? like converting video and checking the differences between the cards. The best will be ofcourse to do this with a program compatible with both CUDA and STREAM..
  • 5 Hide
    Onus , October 11, 2010 3:36 PM
    "The good news is that there are no bad GeForce or Radeon cards anymore; there are only inappropriate prices. "
    Bottom line, I think this is an entirely reasonable assessment. And this card is about $20 too high for what it offers.
  • 0 Hide
    Gekko Shadow , October 11, 2010 3:43 PM
    Sooo...it's a fermi why? *sigh* well i suppose for your average consumers this can work out ok, but i don't think this is something I'd buy for me. Maybe for one of my customers, lol.
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