We would like to reintroduce Nvidia’s “Tank” as the Galaxy GTX 480 SuperOverclock (SOC) and this time we present a much leaner, meaner and faster machine – all the while improving on the thermals and noise of the reference GTX 480. The Tank refers particularly to Nvidia’s flagship GTX 480 which is equipped to handle any gaming situation at high resolution and with maximum details and filtering applied.
Galaxy advertises their new SuperOverclock as “the World’s Fastest GTX 480″ and we now bring you the details of our performance showdown with the reference GTX 480, the reference Diamond HD 5870 and the overclocked PowerColor HD 5870 PCS+ to see if we can verify Galaxy’s claim. We also overclock Galaxy’s GTX 480 SOC even further to see how it scales in more than 20 modern games.
Nvidia released its long awaited GeForce GTX based on its brand new Fermi DX11 GF100 architecture back in April of this year. This new GPU – Graphics Processing Unit – a term originally originated by Nvidia is a continuation of their strategy since their G80 which launched over three year ago to create a General Purpose Processor – co-equal with the CPU – that also renders amazing graphics. The culmination of Nvidia’s efforts with their new DX11 Fermi architecture, the GTX 480, their flagship GPU – definitely is the fastest single GPU with the caveat that it runs rather hot and the cooling solutions based on the reference design are somewhat noisy.
Enter the new refined ‘Tank’, the Galaxy GTX 480 SuperOverclock, which Galaxy calls “the fastest GTX 480 card in the world” which is already the “fastest single GPU video card” in the slower-clocked reference version. Best of all, the new Galaxy GTX 480 SOC is not just super-fast, but it is also 30 dBA quieter than the reference version and also 30C cooler thanks to its impressive and well-engineered 3-slot design and Arctic-Cooling VGA cooler.
The Galaxy GTX 480 SOC is a massive 3-slot design:
Now check the heavy backplate of the Galaxy GTX 480 SOC version:
The Galaxy GTX 480 SOC comes with a MSRP of $489. So we need to answer the question: Is it worth the $40 premium over the $450 or so dollars that one would currently spend for AMD’s top single-GPU video card – an overclocked HD 5870?
To properly bring you this review, we are using our reference Diamond HD 5870 (850/1200 MHz) as well as our factory overclocked PowerColor HD 5870 PCS+ (875/1250 MHz) and put them through their paces this week with the very latest performance drivers – Catalyst 10-9. AMD should be quite proud of this driver set as it brings sold performance increases over Catalyst 10-8 which we analyzed here last week.
You will see us pit our two HD 5870s against the new GTX 480 SOC and also against the reference GTX 480 in 21 modern games and 2 synthetic benchmarks using 1920×1200 and 2560×1600 resolutions. Since we are using the fastest of the fast single-GPU video cards, it makes sense to test at the highest resolutions and with the most demanding settings. Actually, there is only one video card – the $600 dual-GPU, HD 5970 – that can generally beat the performance of any of our current cards when CrossFire is scaling well.
Is Galaxy’s GTX 480 SOC worth $489 which is about $40 more than its rival, AMD’s overclocked HD 5870?
We have already analyzed and compared the reference GTX 480 and the HD 5870 performance at all levels and we definitely can announce a performance winner – the GTX 480, despite its high TDP and noise levels as well as higher price. Now we are going to look at Galaxy’s much more refined and overclocked version of GTX 480 and put it against the reference GTX 480 and two versions of HD 5870 – the reference Diamond HD 5870 (850/1200 MHz) versus the non-reference overclocked PowerColor HD 5870 PCS+ (875/1225 MHz) to see if it is worth its price premium as the “fastest single-GPU video card”.
The HD 5870 is well-known for being a relatively cool-running and quiet video card; the PowerColor Version being mildly overclocked over the reference version and quieter due to its non-reference large VGA cooling fan which is nearly silent until it comes under heavy thermal load from high overclocking and manually forcing the fan’s RPMs over 80 percent.
Before we do performance testing, let’s take a look at the GTX 480 and quickly recap its new DX11 architecture and features of the original Fermi GF100 which we covered in our reviews of the GTX 480, published here, here and here. Senior Editor BFG10K reviewed GTX 470 here and here and Senior editor MrK covered GTX 465 here.
We also recently examined the performance of Galaxy’s GTS 450 SuperOverclock (SOC) and discussed its architecture, GF 106, a cut down version of GF100 on which all GTX 480s are based. We saw GTX 450 SLI soundly whipped by a single reference GTX 480 in the Galaxy GTS 450 SOC review and do not include it for testing here. Here is how Nvidia lines up their competition:
The GeForce GTX 480 was designed from the ground up to deliver exceptional tessellation performance, which is a key component of Microsoft’s DirectX 11 development platform for PC games. Tessellation allows game developers to take advantage of the GeForce GTX 480 GPU’s tessellation ability to increase the geometric complexity of models and characters to deliver far more realistic and visually rich gaming environments. You will soon see that the clocks of the Galaxy GTX 480 SOC are clocked far higher than the reference version and we were also able to go even further than the factory overclock that Galaxy set while still remaining cool and quiet.
Needless to say, the new Fermi GF100 GTX 480 brings a lot of features to the table that current Nvidia customers will appreciate, including improved CUDA’s PhysX, 2D and 3D Surround to drive up to 3 LCDs with GTX SLI, superb tessellation capabilities and a really fast GPU in comparison to their GT200 series. Now let’s see how the Galaxy GTX 480 SOC compares to the reference GTX 480.
Galaxy promises +60 MHz on the GTX 480 SOC core and over one hundred MHz increase on its vRAM while remaining much cooler and quieter than the reference version. The GTX 480 SOC includes all solid capacitors, a 6+2 PWM digital power supply and Dual Bios for protection against BIOS corruption while overclocking. Galaxy wasn’t just focused on pure adrenaline with the GTX 480 SOC as they use 3 ultra quiet 92mm PWM fans with low noise impellers, 5 heatpipes and 84 fins for heat dissipation providing up to 30° C cooler temperatures and as much as 30 dBA noise reduction over the reference GTX 480! We can attest to the Galaxy model being very quiet in contrast to the GTX 480 reference version which is quite noticeable under load.
The Galaxy GTX 480 SuperOverclock video card comes in a suitable box which protects it in shipping, but it is not a fancy package nor are there a lot of “frills” – Galaxy concentrates on bringing you a great video card with superb support. In the box you will find the driver CD, a HDMI cable, DVI to VGA adapter, the most basic of printed instructions, the warranty information and a toll-free 24-hour telephone number where you are guaranteed to talk to someone if you have any issues for the two years that your card is warrantied. Great support!
Can you SLI your reference GTX 480 with a three-slot Galaxy GTX 480 SOC video card in an X58 motherboard?
Normally, we would not expect a person buying a three-slot card to consider SLI’ing it. Quite often a gamer will buy one card and perhaps later on, add a second one. However, there are recently more compelling reasons besides increased performance to consider GTX 480 SLI which includes being able to experience Nvidia’s multi-display 2D/3D Surround. Amazingly the GTX 480 SOC can be used in the bottom slot and still get decent cooling in many X58 motherboards SLI’d together with a reference GTX 480 in the top slot. Using the latest 260 drivers, each card can keep its own unique clocks or they can be set synchronously.
Because of severe time constraints on this article, GTX 480 SLI will be examined in depth in a further article as well as 3-panel 2D Surround versus Eyefinity. Before we do performance testing, let’s take a look at the company that makes the GTX 480 SOC:
Galaxy, established in 1994, is a Nvidia Add-in-Board (AIB) partner which manufactures products from the low-end GeForce 7200 series to the high-end GTX400 series. They manufacture products based on Nvidia’s reference design as well as using their own in-house production facilities to manufacture graphic cards based on their own designs using high-end coolers from Arctic Cooling and others.
Galaxy has shipped to the US for a long time as they built video cards for many of the tier 1 brands in the market today. They realized they could create a brand for themselves and save the end customer the middleman fees. Two years ago they launched Galaxy in the US and their products are now available at Best Buy, Microcenter, Fry’s, Dell.com, Newegg, TigerDirect and many other sites. They have excellent quality and toll-free tech support with a 2 year transferable no-registration warranty.