Nvidia GeForce GTX 480/470 Benchmarks, Review Roundup

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After many delays and a lot of speculation, Nvidia finally unveiled its first GF100-based video cards. So the highly anticipated day of March 26th has come and passed, the stars of the show (GTX 470 and GTX 480) have been tested to death, and we’re here to present you some of the highlights along with good, trustworthy sources where the hardware enthusiast in you can find every little detail there is to know about Nvidia’s latest.

Before we begin breaking this article down into sections there’s one thing you should know from the get go. Even though it was previously announced that the retail release date of Nvidia Fermi has been delayed from March 26th to April 6th, it looks like the retail availability for the GTX470 and GTX 480 has been pushed back again, this time to April 12th. It remains to be seen if this delay applies to all markets or just to Europe.

Technical Specifications

The table below summarizes the technical specifications of GeForce GTX 470 and GeForce GTX 480 and also compares them with those of ATI’s Radeon HD 5850 and Radeon HD 5870.?

A quick look at this table reveals that both GeForce GTX 480 and GeForce GTX 470 are scaled back versions of the original GF100 architecture that Nvidia detailed in back in January. So, instead of 512 shader processors, the GeForce GTX 480 features 480 such cores while GeForce GTX 470 only has 448, thus confirming the leaked details we presented earlier this month. Why did Nvidia decide to disable one SM (shader cluster) for GTX 480 and two SMs for GTX 470 is currently unknown and open to speculation.

The Stars Of Tonight’s Show…………..

As you can see GTX 470, “the little brother”, stays true to its nickname being a little shorter than the GeForce GTX 480. Actually both graphic cards are with half an inch shorter than the direct competition (GeForce GTX 480 vs. Radeon HD 5870 and GeForce GTX 470 vs. Radeon HD 5850).

What catches the eye when looking at the above picture is GTX 480’s quite unique look, the PCB being dominated by a massive heatpipe-based cooling system.

Seeing this imposing heatsink it should be clear for anyone that figuring out a proper cooling system for the GeForce GTX 480 was quite a challenge for Nvidia’s engineers. Keeping in mind that this is a reference design it will be interesting to see what Nvidia’s partners will come up with, especially in the cooling system area.

Connectivity wise both the GTX 470 and GTX 480 feature two DVI outputs and a mini-HDMI connector.

GTX 470/480 Benchmarks

I must say it’s really refreshing to see some authentic and unbiased benchmarks out there, as I was growing tired of those ‘’unofficial” benchmarks (most of them fake) and probably every graphic card enthusiast knows the “in-house”, Nvidia made, Nvidia GTX480 vs. ATI Radeon 5870 benchmark.

A few more comments before we get into what you’ve been waiting for, for the last 6 months or so, since ATI launched its first DX11 compliant cards: The benchmarks that will be detailed in this article are actually some highlights gathered from around the net from well known and respectable web-sites. You’ll also find links to the full reviews in case you need more in-depth info about the GTX 470 and GTX 480 or benchmarks made for other resolutions and settings than the ones presented here.

Ok, with that out of the way let’s see what Nvidia’s latest bring to the proverbial gaming table.

Crysis

Settings:  Very High Quality, No AA / No AF, 4xAA / No AF, vsync off, 1680×1050 / 1900×1200, DirectX 10, Patch 1.2.1, 64-bit executable.

Source: Tom’s Hardware

Test Hardware and Software: See at the end of the article.

At launch time (November, 2007), few gaming rigs were able to run Crysis at the settings for which this GTX 470/480 benchmark was made. End even though more than two years have passed since the game was released, Crysis is still one of the most demanding titles on the market.

As you can see, even though both the GeForce GTX 480 and Radeon HD 5850 win their respective matches, no one will notice the differences between the candidates. Being a DirectX 10 game, Crysis allows older cards to compete head-to-head with the new, DirectX11 compliant, ones.

Modern Warfare 2

Settings: Ultra High, No AA / No AF, 4xAA / No AF, 1680×1050 / 1920×1200, Second Sun, 45 second sequence, FRAPS

Source: Tom’s Hardware

Test Hardware and Software: See at the end of the article.

Modern Warfare 2 is one of the most popular games currently on the market so it’s only right to be interested in the results of the Geforce GTX 480/470 benchmark for this game.

The GeForce GTX 480 is the absolute winner of this round, surpassing even the ‘’’dual-GPU” Radeon HD 5970 in the 1680×1050 resolution (No AA). Another pleasant surprise is the GeForce GTX 470 that outperforms, in both graphs, the Radeon HD 5870, who should be “out of GTX 470’s league”.

Dirt 2

Settings: Maxed Out, 16x Anisotropic Filtering, 8x AA, 1280×1024 / 1600×1200 / 1920×1200 / 2560×1600, DirectX11

Source: Guru3D

Test Hardware and Software: See at the end of the article.

The game was tested in the Baja level, with Baha_Iron trail, eight cars, and during night time in order to have volumetric smoke and lightning.

This is a game that was specifically designed with ATI’s technology in mind. Add to this the fact that the ATI cards have received a significant performance boost with the newly released Catalyst 10.3 and it’s easy to understand why both Geforce GTX 470 and GTX 480 are performing almost identical like their counterparts, the Radeon HD 5850 and HD 5870 respectively.

Actually, at lower resolutions (1280×1024 and 1600×1200) the GTX 480 inches in front of Radeon HD 5870 but everything gets back on track at 1920×1200 and 2560×1600.

Metro 2033

Settings: Max Details, PCGH Benchmark “Cursed”, 4xMSAA, 16x AF, 1680×1050 / 1920×1200, DirectX11, no Adv. PhysX

Source: PCGames Hardware

Test Hardware and Software: Look closely at the graphs.

As opposed to the previous game, Metro 2033 was developed in close collaboration with Nvidia and therefore the game takes full advantage of the hardware accelerated tessellation support offered by Geforce GTX 480 and GeForce GTX 470. With that in mind, the winner of this round should be a no-brainer.

As expected both GTX 480 and GTX 470 outperform their ATI counterparts and, even though Metro 2033 isn’t playable with those settings and on such high resolutions, the HD 5870 and HD 5850 are really taking a beating, especially if you’re looking at the second graph.

Battlefield: Bad Company 2

Settings: Maximum Detail, 4xAA, 16xAF, HBA Off, 1680×1050 / 1920×1200, DirectX11

Source: Bit-Tech

Test Hardware and Software: See at the end of the article.

While not without its problems, the latest entry in the Battlefield series is a great game and one of the most played first person shooters at the moment. Its Frostbite engine is DirectX11 compatible, offers total destruction of the game’s world and uses tessellation which makes this title a perfect benchmark for the newly released GeForce GTX 480 and GTX 470.

While there is almost no performance difference between Geforce GTX 480 and Radeon HD 5870 and between GeForce GTX 470 and Radeon HD 5850 when anti-aliasing is not activated (check the original Bit-Tech review for those graphs), at 4xAA not only that the GTX 480 beats Radeon HD 5870 but ATI’s card is almost equally matched by the “little brother”, the GeForce GTX 470.

Judging by this GTX 480/470 benchmark, the newly released Nvidia cards seem to handle Anti-Aliasing better than HD 5870/5850.

Just Cause 2

Settings: 8xAA, 16xAF, 1280×1024 / 1600×1200 / 1920×1200 / 2560×1600, DirectX 10.1

In this benchmark the CUDA-specific settings (Bokeh Filter and GPU Water Simulation) have been disabled in order to get objective results when comparing the GTX 470/480 cards with ATI’s Radeon HD 5870/5850.

Source: Guru 3D

Test Hardware and Software: See at the end of the article.


First of all, Just Cause 2 does not support dear-old Windows XP. Why is that? Don’t know, probably just ‘cause. Fortunately this seems to be the only major drawback to this game that, otherwise, got way better reviews that its predecessor. In case you didn’t see this game at work you’re missing out on a really good looking game. The chaos that Rico can unleash looks sweeeet.

This seems to be a tailor made benchmark for the GeForce GTX 480 and GTX 470. Especially at lower resolutions, both Nvidia cards leave the HD’s way in the back. As we go up on the resolution ladder, the gaps in the graphs are getting smaller and smaller but the HD 5870 doesn’t succeed to match its competitor and neither does Radeon HD 5850.

Conclusions

I guess that the question that’s on everybody’s mind is: Was it worth the wait? Well, as I see it, the answer will vary from gamer to gamer.

If you’re looking only at the graphs and the numbers then, probably, the answer is yes. The GeForce GTX 480 outperforms the Radeon HD 5870 in the majority of tests. The same applies in the GTX 470 vs. HD 5850 match…hell in some cases the GTX 470 even leaves the Radeon HD 5870 in the dust. So it seems that, judging strictly by the number of FPS that each card obtained, Nvidia has a winner.

But (yes there is always a but and, in this case, a lot of buts)……what everybody needs to bear in mind is that, no matter what game you play, if your video card is doing anywhere over 50 FPS (Frames Per Second) than the game experience will be very smooth. So it really doesn’t matter how much better the GeForce GTX 480 is when compared with the Radeon HD 5870 in games like Modern Warfare 2 where, with 4xAA enabled, both cards are getting more than 100 FPS.

Another case where the winner doesn’t matter that much, is when the difference between two video cards is of a few frames. Chances are you probably won’t feel any difference in Crysis where, on 1920×1080 with 4xAA, the Radeon HD 5850 gets 26.7 FPS and Geforce GTX 470 gets 24.33.

From what we could gather, in most DirectX 9 and DirectX 10 games, the differences between the last generation GTX’s and HD’s are relatively small. And if you could find a DX9 or a DX10 game where the gap between the contenders is bigger that 10-20 frames, chances are that the card that’s getting a lower number of FPS is still getting over 50 so, again, you won’t feel the difference.

Things are a bit different when you’re looking at the Just Cause 2 Benchmark. At least on lower resolutions you can use the additional power that the GeForce GTX 480 and GTX 470 have, in order to activate the CUDA-specific settings. With these settings activated, the performance of the cards will be in the vicinity of what the HD 5870 and HD 5850 are getting, but the game will look considerably better. So, there you have it, a DirectX 10 game for which the test results are actually translating into a better game experience, visually speaking.

Finally, let’s take a look at the results the DirectX 11 benchmarks have yielded.

If you’re going to want to experience Metro 2033 like the developers intended you to then, clearly, you only have one choice: get a GeForce GTX 480 or a GTX 470. This game really shines when played on a Fermi based GPU.

With Dirt 2 (DX11) it’s another story. The Radeon HD 5870 and HD 5850 are helped by the fact that the game was developed in collaboration with ATI. Not to mention that the newly released Catalyst 10.3 also brought a 20% boost in performance. Again, no matter on which card you play it (HD 58xx or GTX 4xx), Dirt 2 feels and looks relatively the same.

To give a final verdict is pretty hard. Every potential buyer needs to carefully balance the pros and cons. Getting the “little” GTX 470 will cost you somewhere around $350 while the GeForce GTX 480 will probably run at $500. Meanwhile, the Radeon HD 5850 recently dropped to $300 and you can get an ATI Radeon HD 5870 for around $400.

Is it worth to pay the money difference? If you already have an HD 5870 or if power consumption and connectivity are important to you then probably not. On the other side, if CUDA, PhysX and Metro 2033 sound interesting then you’ll probably get an Nvidia GTX 470 or GTX 480 as soon as they’re available.

Some of you will probably decide to wait a little longer, just to see how the prices will evolve in the coming months, what games will be announced to take advantage of CUDA or the hardware tessellation support, or if the PhysX technology will finally begin to influence the way that games are played.

Ok, that’s it, the GeForce GTX Review Roundup. I hope you’ll find it useful and if you feel like you have something to add, please post it in the ‘Comments’ section.

Test Hardware and Software

For Tom’s Hardware Benchmarks:

For Guru3D Benchmarks:

Mainboard: eVGA X58 Classified

Processor: Core i7 965 @ 3750 MHz (3.6 + Turbo mode)

Memory: 6144 MB (3x 2048 MB) DDR3 Corsair @ 1500 MHz

Power Supply Unit: 1200 Watt

Monitor: Dell 3007WFP – up to 2560×1600

OS related software

Windows 7 RTM 64-bit
DirectX 9/10 End User Runtime
ATI Catalyst 10.3 BETA
NVIDIA GeForce 197.17 BETA

For BitTech Benchmarks:

Intel Core i7 Test System

  • Intel Core i7-965 processor (3.2GHz: 133MHz x 24)

  • Asus P6T V2 motherboard (Intel X58 Express with three PCI-Express 2.0 x16 slots)

  • 3x 2GB Corsair TR3X6G1333C9 memory modules (operating in dual channel at DDR3 1,600MHz 9-9-9-24-1T)

  • Corsair X128 120GB SSD running v1 firmware

  • Corsair HX1000W PSU

  • Windows 7 Home Premium x64

  • Antec Twelve Hundred Chassis

ATI graphics cards

  • AMD ATI Radeon HD 5870 1GB (850MHz GPU, 4.8GHz memory) using Catalyst 10.3 WHQL

  • AMD ATI Radeon HD 5850 1GB (725MHz GPU, 4GHz memory) using Catalyst 10.3 WHQL

Nvidia graphics cards

  • Nvidia GeForce GTX 480 1.5GB (700MHz core, 1,401MHz stream processors, 3.7GHz memory) using ForceWare 197.17 BETA

  • Nvidia GeForce GTX 470 1.3GB (607MHz core, 1,215MHz stream processors, 3.3GHz memory) using ForceWare 197.17 BETA

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