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On The Bench: Gigabyte GeForce GTX 470 Super Overclock

On The Bench: Gigabyte GeForce GTX 470 Super Overclock
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Gigabyte recently sent us an altered GeForce GTX 470 with the highest factory overclock that we’ve seen. Is the custom-cooled card worth an extra $70 bucks? We test the GV-N470SO-13I, comparing it to Nvidia’s reference GTX 470, in order to find out.

Gigabyte has been putting some serious effort into its premium Super Overclock edition graphics cards, often producing products with the highest factory overclocks available. Today, we have the chance to test its new GV-N470SO-13I Super Overclock edition. The raw specifications suggest that this is the fastest factory-overclocked GeForce GTX 470 released to date, and we’re anxious to weigh added performance against the premium you pay for higher-end graphics.

Gigabyte’s overclocked GeForce GTX 470 comes factory-equipped with a core clock speed of 700 MHz, which is almost 100 MHz faster than the stock 607 MHz specification. The shaders run at 1400 MHz, close  to 200 MHz higher than Nvidia's reference 1215 MHz. Gigabyte claims that the overclock delivers 12% better performance than a standard GeForce GTX 470, and we’ll see if our benchmarks support this claim. Unfortunately, the card’s memory isn’t overclocked. It runs at the same 837 MHz GDDR5 as Nvidia’s reference card. This should give us some insight as to whether the GF100 GPU is bandwidth-constrained or not.

We find it interesting that Gigabyte has a marketing name for what is essentially a GPU binning process: GPU Gauntlet. The company claims that each GPU is tested for 30 minutes for overclocking headroom. After that, power switching and stability are also tested to ensure that the GPUs with the best power efficiency and lowest power consumption are used in the Super Overclock series. Gigabyte actually guarantees GPU overclocking headroom 15% beyond  the reference specification.

A quick glance is all it takes to recognize that Gigabyte elected to arm its card with a more potent cooler than Nvidia’s reference blower. The cooling system is designated as the Windforce 3x, and the company claims that the triple pulse-width modulation (PWM) fan setup (equipped with anti-turbulence inclined fins and copper heat pipes) can generate 27 CFM of airflow per fan--all the while maintaining a quiet 22 dB at idle and 38 dB under load.

Gigabyte's card has a unique circuit board that differs from the reference model. The GV-N470SO-13I sports a beefy 14-phase PWM design, with 12 phases for the GPU and two phases for the memory. Gigabyte’s Ultra Durable VGA+ specification covers a blanket of features that it claims provides the following benefits: 2 oz. copper PCB for better cooling, tier-one Samsung and Hynix memory for better overclocking potential, Japanese solid capacitors for reliability, ferrite core/metal chokes to prevent energy loss, low RDS on MOFSET for faster electric current charging and discharging, and high-quality film capacitors. We have tested Gigabyte's Ultra Durable claims in the past--specifically the benefits of 2 oz. of copper on the PCB--and found the results have some merit. But the difference in performance isn't as substantial as the company's marketing department might have you expect, so keep that in mind.

For all of its performance-oriented features, the card’s outputs are standard GeForce GTX 470 fare, including two dual-link DVI outputs complemented by a single mini-HDMI output. As with reference GeForce GTX 470s, remember that you can only use two of the three digital outputs at a time.

Our test card arrived bare, sans retail bundle. However, according to Gigabyte’s marketing materials, the retail version includes a DVI-to-VGA adapter, a mini HDMI-to-HDMI cable, two Molex-to-PCI Express (PCIe) power connector adapters, a manual, and the necessary driver and utility CD.

Gigabyte put a lot of effort into improving its OC Guru tweaking utility. Not only can the user adjust clock rates and GPU voltage, but memory voltage is also adjustable. This is a feature missing on competing utilities, such as MSI’s Afterburner software. OC Guru offers a long list of other capabilities like overclocking, gaming, and energy-efficient presets, five customizable profiles, a real-time hardware monitor, and even a power-savings calculator.

We dig into our overclocking experience and results in the benchmarks. For now, let’s have a look at our test system before we see how this card performs.


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Top Comments
  • 12 Hide
    Anonymous , August 17, 2010 6:17 AM
    Would have been nice to see a gtx 480 benchmark in there.
    It matters to compare value.

    Kudos to them for dropping the power / heal / noise though. VERY attractive card.
Other Comments
  • 7 Hide
    magicandy , August 17, 2010 6:09 AM
    Doesn't 3GB of ram seem kind of low for a modern i7 gaming rig?
  • 12 Hide
    Anonymous , August 17, 2010 6:17 AM
    Would have been nice to see a gtx 480 benchmark in there.
    It matters to compare value.

    Kudos to them for dropping the power / heal / noise though. VERY attractive card.
  • 1 Hide
    magicandy , August 17, 2010 6:24 AM
    nilllWould have been nice to see a gtx 480 benchmark in there.It matters to compare value.Kudos to them for dropping the power / heal / noise though. VERY attractive card.


    In the section entitled "Overclocked Performance" there is a link given at the end to some factory OC'd GTX 480 benchmarks. This card, when manually overclocked further, is just about as good as a GTX 480 and even comes close to the Factory OC'd 480.

    I was planning to do a whole GTX 470 SLI rig with water cooling so I could get a nice OC like this, but I think I might forgo the water cooling and get these for my Xclio Windtunnel w/side fan blowers.
  • -3 Hide
    retardedspleen , August 17, 2010 6:25 AM
    magicandyDoesn't 3GB of ram seem kind of low for a modern i7 gaming rig?


    Yeah, 3gb is kinda low.. I wasnt even aware they made 3gb tri-channel kits for the x58
  • -7 Hide
    AMW1011 , August 17, 2010 6:40 AM
    Quote:
    With the GPU voltage increased from 0.996 V to 1.167 V, we raise the Gigabyte GV-N470SO-13I’s core clock to 800 MHz and the shader clock to 1600 MHz. The result is a stable overclock. And, from what we’ve seen in the past, this is more than you can usually expect out of a reference GeForce GTX 470.


    So... you didn't bother trying to push it any farther? Plus, 800 MHz on the core is pretty common for a GTX 470. This lazy overclocking section ruined it for me, and I'm in the market for a GTX 470.

    Can you please give us the max overclock Don? That would be awesome.

    Also, what fan speed is the Gigabyte and reference GTX 470s at during the temp analysis?
  • 0 Hide
    chefboyeb , August 17, 2010 7:17 AM

    magicandy :

    Doesn't 3GB of ram seem kind of low for a modern i7 gaming rig?





    Yeah, 3gb is kinda low.. I wasnt even aware they made 3gb tri-channel kits for the x58

    3 gigs of ram is not close to even being bad for an Intel X58 rig. I have 3 1gig supertalent ddr1800 on an Evga X58 SLI LE MOBO paired with an I7 920 overclocked to 4.1 (1.23 VCore), and 2 9800GTX+ Superclocked Sli-ed, and the entire setup flies... Even WEI score is a 7.4... It handles Crysis with buttery smoothness... Think about it, how much of your 6gigs of ram, does your system really ever use at any instance? Before 6 became affordable, 3 was the way to go, unless you just starting building computers that is...
  • 0 Hide
    TheRockMonsi , August 17, 2010 8:35 AM
    I think as of this point in time, I'm starting to fall in love with the GTX 470 and it's price/performance ratio in general.
  • 2 Hide
    ricardok , August 17, 2010 9:32 AM
    How this 470 fares if compared to the 460?
    Does the 460 have a better OC'ing capability?
  • 0 Hide
    skora , August 17, 2010 10:24 AM
    For the ram, do this, load up your most resource hungry game. Tab out of it and into task manager. See how much ram you're really using. Unless you've left Photo shop and CAD and ripping some video and ..... you won't be near that 3gb level. Win 7 uses just under a gig and even something as poorly optimized as GTA IV only uses 1.5 gigs. And that's VERY high for a game. Fallout 3 came in at 550k. So for gaming, 3gbs is plenty. Only reason 4 is the standard is the dual channel platforms and from when DDR2 w as $25 for 4 gigs. Didn't make sense to go lower then. But for budget rigs, 2gbs is fine and 3 more than enough for an x58 gaming platform.
  • 1 Hide
    epileptic , August 17, 2010 10:42 AM
    Quote:
    3DMark Vantage shows us a 9% performance advantage in favor of the Gigabyte GV-N470SO-13I Super Overclock, compared to the reference GeForce GTX 470 card. This isn’t quite as high as Gigabyte’s claimed 12% performance increase, but it’s definitely in the ballpark.


    Can someone please explain how they got that 9%? (20252-18070)/18070 yields the claimed 12% increase. Am I really that bad at math?
  • 0 Hide
    Boxa786 , August 17, 2010 10:54 AM
    Can we please have the power, temp and noise for your overclocked superclocked card?

    cheers
  • 1 Hide
    Anonymous , August 17, 2010 11:00 AM
    I dont get how 12 percent can become 9 percent either.
  • 4 Hide
    hillarymakesmecry , August 17, 2010 11:52 AM
    skoraFor the ram, do this, load up your most resource hungry game. Tab out of it and into task manager. See how much ram you're really using. Unless you've left Photo shop and CAD and ripping some video and ..... you won't be near that 3gb level. Win 7 uses just under a gig and even something as poorly optimized as GTA IV only uses 1.5 gigs. And that's VERY high for a game. Fallout 3 came in at 550k. So for gaming, 3gbs is plenty. Only reason 4 is the standard is the dual channel platforms and from when DDR2 w as $25 for 4 gigs. Didn't make sense to go lower then. But for budget rigs, 2gbs is fine and 3 more than enough for an x58 gaming platform.


    You're wrong. I had a stick go bad and sent it in for replacement. I went from 4 gigs to 3 gigs to 2 gigs and now back to 4. CS:S stutters with only 2gb of ram(win764). Loading anything is ridiculously slow with 2gb. Tabbing out of a game back to windows takes 3 seconds with 4gb and a full minute with 2 gb.

    There's very little difference between 3 and 4 gb, but I have noticed some. When starting up a game there are a couple of pauses when it's getting going on 3gb but after that they're pretty much the same from what I can tell.

    Telling someone all they need is 2gb is a lie. Even my dad complained when I gave him a computer (vista32)with 2 gb. When I put in another stick the whining stopped. Pull some ram out of your computer then come back and tell us it's not needed.
  • -5 Hide
    nforce4max , August 17, 2010 11:58 AM
    magicandyDoesn't 3GB of ram seem kind of low for a modern i7 gaming rig?


    Agreed and 3gb isn't much these days as it used to be. Personally I can use more than 4gb easily when playing 4 instances of wow while web browsing.
  • 0 Hide
    DjEaZy , August 17, 2010 12:40 PM
    ... burn, baby, burn!!!
  • -2 Hide
    youssef 2010 , August 17, 2010 12:59 PM
    retardedspleenYeah, 3gb is kinda low.. I wasnt even aware they made 3gb tri-channel kits for the x58


    but, in aprevious article, they demonstrated that no game uses more than 2GB of ram, and they have no background applications like we do as it's solely for benchmark purposes. So,2 gigs for the game and one for the system.
  • 1 Hide
    akorzan , August 17, 2010 1:22 PM
    Windows 7 64 bit on 4 gigabytes of ram uses a little over 1 gigabyte with a clean install and drivers. Games generally don't run over 2 gigabytes in the worst case scenario.

    I have a 2 gigabyte laptop and when I play Crysis on it Windows swaps many processes and kills alot of features such a Windows Aero. Idling at the desktop in my laptop, Windows 7 64 will use roughly 900 Mb... after playing a game and turning it off Windows uses 400 Mb which slowly increases back to 900.

    So the conclusion is that you can run most games with 2 Gb of ram but your overall computer experience will decrease dramatically because of the constant swapping.


    On a side note: Does Windows swap even if there is still ram left? For example on 2 gigs of ram Windows 7 64 uses 900 Mb... on 4 gigs it uses 1.1 Gbs... All on clean installs... the 2 gig computer running home premium and 4 gig ultimate.
  • -1 Hide
    kansur0 , August 17, 2010 2:33 PM
    Why don't they reveal how this card affects other parts inside the system? This thing is blowing what I would assume to be hot air into the case. Does this not put a strain on other parts in the system? CPU temps? Power supply temps? RAM temps?

    Also...put this card up against a stock 480. Those cards vent the air out of the case.
  • 0 Hide
    rd350 , August 17, 2010 3:05 PM
    my friend bought a 470 and its freaking loud!
  • 2 Hide
    cleeve , August 17, 2010 3:27 PM
    magicandyDoesn't 3GB of ram seem kind of low for a modern i7 gaming rig?


    Nope. We've done tests showing there's really no practical difference between 3GB or 6GB when it comes to gaming:

    http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/memory-module-upgrade,2264-3.html
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