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Conclusion

GeForce GTX 480 And 470: From Fermi And GF100 To Actual Cards!
By , Fedy Abi-Chahla and Florian Charpentier

As I was putting this story together, I asked senior editor Thomas Soderstrom what he wanted to know about GeForce GTX 480 and 470. He said, “price, performance, and power.” Reasonable enough. I’ll break it down similarly simply. There’s some good, some bad, and some ugly in play here.

First, the good—performance. Fortunately for Nvidia, it had a few targets in the Radeon HD 5970, 5870, and 5850 as it was generating specs. While we’re sure the company wishes it was shipping 512-shader cards instead of pared-down boards, it’s hitting high-enough clocks to make GeForce GTX 480 and GeForce GTX 470 generally-faster than Radeon HD 5870 and Radeon HD 5850. This is especially true when you turn on anti-aliasing, as the new GeForce cards take a much smaller hit than their competition. Nevertheless, AMD holds onto the single-card performance crown with Radeon HD 5970. On the other hand, Nvidia's position stands to improve moving forward, as its emphasis on DirectX 11 affects a growing number of titles.

What about the bad? Well, getting your feet in the door here costs $350. A flagship GeForce GTX 480 runs $500. Radeon HD 5850s recently dropped back down to $300 and Radeon HD 5870s can be found around $400. Though the GeForce cards are faster than their single-GPU competition, the premium is hard to swallow if power and display connectivity are important to you, and less-so if PhysX, CUDA, or 3D Vision are more interesting. Do we expect AMD to drop its prices in response? Don’t count on it. According to the company, demand continues to outstrip wafer supply, with the consequence of anticipated pricing stability. Should the GeForce GTX 480 and 470 maintain their MSRPs, you’re looking at a staggering of price and performance from the Radeon HD 5850 up to the 5970 (with Nvidia's GeForce cards in between).

Then there’s the ugly: power. Nvidia argues that the enthusiast space isn’t as sensitive to figures like power consumption, and that lofty load figures still only translate to a few dollars per year. However, when you have the system power of a single-GPU card outstripping the total power of a faster dual-GPU board (despite their respective max. board TDPs, which we really can’t vouch for), that’s something to think about. We’re not even talking about FurMark here—it’s the Unigine performance, power, and efficiency index that put things into perspective. Of course, that power invariably gets dissipated as heat, and thus the GTX 480, in particular, becomes a very hot card, cresting 160 degrees Fahrenheit on its surface during game play.

So, if you break everything down into power, price, and performance (meaning you’re most concerned with how GeForce GTX 480 and 470 stand up in today’s games), then today’s preview comes off somewhat underwhelming after the build-up.

Unfortunately, it’s difficult to account for the one thing Nvidia is perhaps best known for: its bead on the future and knack for shipping hardware chickens right as the software eggs are starting to hatch. Desktop graphics is but one of the company’s foci, alongside professional rendering, scientific computing, and increasingly, mobility. I’m not generally one to get super-excited about features promised to be commonplace tomorrow. However, Nvidia’s investment into software (from compiler support to math libraries to development toolkits) suggests a substantial advantage in maximizing its hardware in all three key segments. Love it or hate it, Nvidia’s developer relations team is the reason a game like Metro 2033 runs the way it’s supposed to at launch. That’s the intangible we can’t convey through benchmarks. Close cooperation with GPGPU vendors, getting into Adobe’s next-gen Mercury Playback Engine, zero-day support for more games, and so on.

We look forward to going into more depth on 3D Vision Surround and SLI—both of which are going to be attractive features for gamers with deep pockets. We also have a GPU/CPU compute story in the works that’ll pit cards from Nvidia and AMD against Intel’s 12-thread i7-980X. In the meantime, you’ll have to wait for GeForce GTX 480/470 availability anyway, since the cards won’t be available for another couple of weeks. Think about what performance means in relation to power consumption—that’ll likely be the underlying theme that becomes most important as derivative designs of GF100 are planned.

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Top Comments
  • 45 Hide
    tipoo , March 26, 2010 10:39 PM
    Completely unimpressed. 6 months late. Too expensive. Power hog. Performance not particularly impressive. The Radeon 5k series has been delivering a near identical experience for 6 months now, at a lower price.
  • 45 Hide
    restatement3dofted , March 26, 2010 10:38 PM
    I have been waiting for this review since freaking January. Tom's Hardware, I love you.

    With official reviews available, the GTX 480 certainly doesn't seem like the rampaging ATI-killer they boasted it would be, especially six months after ATI started rolling out 5xxx cards. Now I suppose I'll just cross my fingers that this causes prices for the 5xxx cards to shift a bit (a guy can dream, can't he?), and wait to see what ATI rolls out next. Unless something drastic happens, I don't see myself choosing a GF100 card over an ATI alternative, at least not for this generation of GPUs.
  • 39 Hide
    jennyh , March 26, 2010 10:59 PM
    They held it back for 6 months, but it still can't play Crysis lol. :D 
Other Comments
  • 45 Hide
    restatement3dofted , March 26, 2010 10:38 PM
    I have been waiting for this review since freaking January. Tom's Hardware, I love you.

    With official reviews available, the GTX 480 certainly doesn't seem like the rampaging ATI-killer they boasted it would be, especially six months after ATI started rolling out 5xxx cards. Now I suppose I'll just cross my fingers that this causes prices for the 5xxx cards to shift a bit (a guy can dream, can't he?), and wait to see what ATI rolls out next. Unless something drastic happens, I don't see myself choosing a GF100 card over an ATI alternative, at least not for this generation of GPUs.
  • 45 Hide
    tipoo , March 26, 2010 10:39 PM
    Completely unimpressed. 6 months late. Too expensive. Power hog. Performance not particularly impressive. The Radeon 5k series has been delivering a near identical experience for 6 months now, at a lower price.
  • 33 Hide
    tpi2007 , March 26, 2010 10:39 PM
    hmmm.. so this is a paper launch... six months after and they do a paper launch on a friday evening, after the stock exchange has closed.. smart move by Nvidia, that way people will cool off during the weekend, but I think their stocks won't perform that brilliantly on monday...
  • 28 Hide
    Anonymous , March 26, 2010 10:40 PM
    not at all impressed
  • 34 Hide
    Godhatesusall , March 26, 2010 10:41 PM
    high power consumption, high prices along with a (small, all things considered) performance edge over ATI is all there is. Are 100$ more for a gtx 480 really worth 5-10% increase in performance?

    Though the big downside of fermi are temps. 97 is a very large(and totally unacceptable) temperature level. IMO fermi cards will start dying from thermal death some months from now.

    I just wanted competition,so that prices would be lower and we(the consumers) could get more bang for our buck. Surely fermi doesnt help alot in that direction(a modest 30$ cut for 5870 and 5850 from ATI and fermi wont stand a chance). It seems AMD/ATI clearly won this round
  • 26 Hide
    outlw6669 , March 26, 2010 10:43 PM
    Kinda impressed :/ 

    The minimum frame rates are quite nice at least...
    Lets talk again when a version with the full 512 SP is released.
  • 13 Hide
    djtronika , March 26, 2010 10:45 PM
    yawn
  • 22 Hide
    Anonymous , March 26, 2010 10:48 PM
    The way we're meant to be dismayed, gg infirmi
  • 23 Hide
    randomizer , March 26, 2010 10:49 PM
    I'll keep my GTX275.
  • 26 Hide
    Anonymous , March 26, 2010 10:57 PM
    Traditionally I have been a big nVidia loyalist. Why? Because I think they have better drivers. This however makes me question whether I will stick with them this time around. Its a huge letdown. The performance is not anywhere close to good enough. At this late point in the game ATi likely has something newer than the 5000 series close to launch. It will make people physically sick that they spent the big bucks on these nVidia cards if in 3 months or so there are faster cards from ATi.
  • 39 Hide
    jennyh , March 26, 2010 10:59 PM
    They held it back for 6 months, but it still can't play Crysis lol. :D 
  • 34 Hide
    Derbixrace , March 26, 2010 11:00 PM
    im glad i bought the 5850, im not even a little impressed :/  ati won this round.
  • 24 Hide
    Anonymous , March 26, 2010 11:03 PM
    So... We better start talking about Fermi 2...
  • 27 Hide
    Honis , March 26, 2010 11:03 PM
    I think I'll stick with my 4870s...
  • 3 Hide
    eodeo , March 26, 2010 11:04 PM
    gotta love the competition. prices will surely go down and costumer will only benefit. sad that it took nvidia 6 months to get here though..
  • 26 Hide
    tpi2007 , March 26, 2010 11:04 PM
    GTX 480: 10%-15% more performance than a 5870 for a power consumption akin to a 5970, at much higher temperatures, and for 100$ more. More than likely available in limited quantities in two weeks (let's see about that). I have a word for this: faillure.

    Oh, it seems that ATI already has a preview of Catalyst 10.3a, which add another few frames to the already very respcatable 10.3.

    I admit Tom's want to be polite, although I do have to say, from the reviews I've read so far, you seem to be the most objctive, so you deserve congratulations for that, but anyway, to me, it simply is not worth the money. Efficiency is not just a fashion word, it has real world implications, and Nvidia has a lot of homework to do on redesigning their chip.
  • 25 Hide
    rage machine , March 26, 2010 11:05 PM
    I am so disappointed. I have been using Nvidia since the 6000 series and, unfortunately for them, i will be purchasing an ATI card next. I have a GTX280 and there is really no performance gain big enough to justify the cost, power, and heat levels of the card. I have really gained some newfound respect for ATI though, I look forward to purchasing a card from them. I also believe that eyefinity is going to be the way to go.
  • 25 Hide
    brett1042002 , March 26, 2010 11:06 PM
    Too little, too late.
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