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Additional Reading: Breaking Down GF100

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

A quick look at the diagram of the GF100 is enough to see extent of the changes in comparison to the GT200.


The diagram of the GT200 shows a set of functions shared by the entire GPU, such as the setup engine and the Streaming Processors Array. Conversely, on the GF100, four large Graphics Processing Clusters (GPCs) can be seen, and each GPC is largely independent.

Another remarkable point is the presence of a large L2 cache memory shared by the entire GPU. Now let’s look at the characteristics of the two new cards offered by Nvidia:


GeForce GTX 480GeForce GTX 470
Core Clock700 MHz 607 MHz
Shader Clock1,401 MHz 1,215 MHz
Memory Clock924 MHz 837 MHz
CUDA Cores480 448
Texture Units60 56
ROPs48 40


Taking into account the final clock frequency of the cores, the processing power works out to 1.344 TFLOPS with FMA (Fused Multiply-Add), compared to 2.72 TFLOPS for AMD's Cypress processor. However, you have to keep in mind that processing power is not everything when it comes to GPUs; it’s only one factor among many. GT200 was technically weaker than RV770 when it came to processing power, but it still dominated it in most games. That’s explained by the fact that the AMD's architecture is less flexible than Nvidia’s in the way it handles instructions in parallel. It uses VLIW units, which require a powerful compiler to extract the parallelism. The trade-off is that AMD can offer a high number of stream processors.

There’s another disappointment: the shader frequency. It has actually been decreased compared to GeForce GTX 285, down to 1,401 MHz from 1,476 MHz. On the other hand, GPU frequency increases from 648 MHz to 700 MHz.

We’ve been critical of AMD on several occasions for its modest texture unit and ROP enhancements, but we’ve never complained about Nvidia. With GF100, for the first time, a new Nvidia GPU actually has fewer texture units than its predecessor (60 compared to 80). But in practice, the units have been reworked, in particular, at the level of the memory subsystem. They're also clocked faster. Still, in certain specific tests, the difference is likely to have a noticeable impact. Let’s look at a simple quad texturing test, for example:

Here we see a difference of -11% between GeForce GTX 480 and GeForce GTX 280, which confirms our theory. On this very simple test, the Radeon HD 5870 is also 67% more powerful than the new Nvidia card. But we’ll get back to that point later.

Fortunately, there are no unpleasant surprises when it comes to the ROPs. Even though the use of a 384-bit bus (as opposed to a 512-bit interface on GT200) might suggest a reduction in the number of units, Nvidia more than compensates by doubling the number of ROPs per partition. The GT200 had eight partitions with four ROPs each, whereas GF100 now has six partitions of eight, for a total of 48 ROPs, enabling Nvidia to take the advantage back from AMD.

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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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