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GeForce GTX 480 And 470: From Fermi And GF100 To Actual Cards!

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

As hardware enthusiasts, it’s only natural to follow the news about upcoming launches. Power users begin formulating their opinions as soon as the first specs get tossed around, regardless of whether they’re official or not. Some of the longest forum threads I've ever read were rumor mill postings from very smart technologists trying to guess at the next generation's capabilities.

But in the case of Nvidia’s GeForce GTX 480 and 470, the company didn’t leave much to our imaginations. As far back as September of last year, the GPU giant was waxing poetically about its compute architecture. “Mmm, that sounds nice,” we thought. In January of 2010, it described in graphic detail how GF100 (the GPU centering on its Fermi design) would cut through DirectX 11 titles heavy on geometry. “Sexy! Can’t wait to try it out.”

GeForce GTX 480: Cooling around every cornerGeForce GTX 480: Cooling around every corner

So, you could say that Nvidia figuratively shot itself in the foot by talking too early, since it’s now late March—almost half a year after the Fermi disclosures were made—and the first desktop-class cards employing the design landed in our Southern California lab one week ago.

They’re not for sale yet. Nvidia says the initial round of cards, manufactured in-house, is shipping to the channel and should be available the week of April 12th (in two and a half weeks). Subsequent boards will come from the company’s partners sometime next month. What will availability look like? According to Nvidia, it’s shipping tens of thousands of GF100-based cards at launch, and by the middle of April, anyone willing to spend $500 on a GeForce GTX 480 or $350 on a GeForce GTX 470 should be able to buy one. Rest assured we’ll stay on top of pricing and availability in our Best Graphics Cards For The Money column.

Of course, AMD was similarly ambitious about availability of its Radeon HD 5800-series cards at launch, and we saw how that one played out. Even now, TSMC’s 40nm struggles spell availability issues on all DirectX 11-class cards.

History Is History

Regardless of the fact that Nvidia is entering the Windows 7/DirectX 11 market six months after its competitor, the company is here now. All of the delays have led up to this point, where we get two graphics cards to compete against the nine Radeon HD 5000-series models AMD has launched since its mad rush began. And, given the $500 and $350 price points, our comparison is further narrowed, since it’s only really the Radeon HD 5850, 5870, and 5970 that populate AMD’s enthusiast-class high-end segment. So, those are the cards you’ll see compared to these two in our benchmark suite. Two thirds of ATI’s DirectX 11 lineup is, as of now, still competition-less—providing DirectX 11 support is at the top of your buying criteria, of course.

We’re also adding AMD’s last-generation flagship, the Radeon HD 4870 X2, Nvidia’s, the GeForce GTX 295, and the company’s previously-quickest single-GPU card, the GeForce GTX 285.

GeForce GTX 470: More elegant, still fast, still hotGeForce GTX 470: More elegant, still fast, still hot

Of course, the gaming community’s initial concern was that Nvidia conceptualized the Fermi architecture principally with compute performance in mind, leaving the GPU's traditional role of speeding up the latest games a secondary objective. There’s no question that the architecture (and by proxy, the GF100 GPU centering on it) is designed to drive the company’s Tesla family into increasingly-demanding supercomputing environments through the implementation of ECC memory and augmented double-precision performance. Nvidia will succeed here. The potential gains of parallelizing certain technical workloads are enormous, and Nvidia’s investment in software development means it has a formidable head start over AMD and Intel in this growing market. What remains to be seen is how the GF100 handles “everything else.”

Here’s where we answer whether the GF100 GPU can hold its own in gaming. The stage is set, the players are in their places, we have a handful of new tests to present, and the results are interesting, to say the least. Let’s meet Nvidia’s new GeForce GTX 480 and 470, and get this show on the road.

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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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