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Nvidia’s GF100 Gets Scaled Back

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

We presented the GF100 GPU, based on Nvidia’s Fermi architecture, back in January. At the time, we forecasted the potential for a 2x performance boost transitioning from GT200-based cards like the GeForce GTX 285 to a GF100-based flagship. Of course, that was also based on the assumption we’d be seeing graphics cards equipped with the complete GF100. As it turns out, that isn’t the case.

This is what GF100 would look like with all 16 SMs enabledThis is what GF100 would look like with all 16 SMs enabled

In its full form, the three billion transistor GF100 features 512 CUDA cores (derived from four Graphics Processing Clusters [GPCs], each with four Streaming Multiprocessors [SMs], and each of those sporting 32 CUDA cores). But the GeForce GTX 480 employs 480 CUDA cores, while the GTX 470 is armed with 448—32-core drops in each case. Nvidia achieves this by disabling one of the GTX 480’s SMs and two of the GTX 470’s.

Close-up on one of GF100's SMsClose-up on one of GF100's SMs

Because each SM also contains its own texture units and PolyMorph engine (the fixed-function logic responsible for the architecture’s exceptional geometry performance), both new cards sacrifice performance in those two areas, as well. The GeForce GTX 480 retains 60 texture units (down from 64) and 15 PolyMorph engines, while the GeForce GTX 470 offers 56 texture units and 14 PolyMorph engines.

GeForce GTX 480: down one SMGeForce GTX 480: down one SM

GF100’s back-end is of course independent of the GPCs, so even with its scaled-back GeForce GTX 480 configuration, Nvidia is able to maintain all six ROP partitions. Each partition is capable of outputting eight 32-bit integer pixels at a time, totaling 48 pixels per clock. The GeForce GTX 470 isn’t as lucky; it loses one of the ROP partitions (dropping total pixels per clock to 40).

A complete GF100, with all of its ROP partitions intact, sports a 384-bit GDDR5 memory interface (one 64-bit interface per partition). The GeForce GTX 480 comes to the table with this exact configuration, serving up 256MB per interface for a total of 1.5GB of GDDR5 memory (that’s 177 GB/s, when you take the 924 MHz clock rate into account). Naturally, the GeForce GTX 470 gives some of that up. Its 320-bit interface plays host to 1.25GB of GDDR5 at a lower 837 MHz clock rate, which adds up to nearly 134 GB/s.

GeForce GTX 470: Down two SMsGeForce GTX 470: Down two SMs

So there you have it. We’re looking at the same graphics processor presented back in January. As a result of yield issues, however, Nvidia’s new flagship and second-in-command are forced to employ a scaled-back version of the chip. While we’re certainly not expecting to multiply the performance of GeForce GTX 285 anymore, these should still compete aggressively with AMD’s Radeon HD 5870 and 5850 cards. Speaking of cards…

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  • 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.
  • 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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