NVIDIA has released its long awaited GeForce GTX based on its brand new Fermi DX11 GF100 architecture just over two weeks ago. We were able to bring you Part One of our GTX 480 series, “NVIDIA’s GTX 480 Performance Testing” here. We now have had two weeks hand’s on experience testing GTX 480 versus HD 5870 and we have learned quite a bit more that we would like to share with you.
In Part One, we learned that the GTX 480 does indeed overclock. We were able to get it stably up from its stock clocks of 700/924 MHz to 825/1100! So now, for Part Two, we will compare the performance of our overclocked GTX 480 (825/1100MHz) to our overclocked HD 5870 (975/1300MHz) and we have added one more benchmark. In Part Three, we will look at the relative performance hit of 8xMSAA over 4xMSAA on each card, and we shall continue to add games as we progress through this series of GTX 480 vs. HD 5870 exploring the features of each video card on our adventure.
In Part One, we compared the relative performance of 5 GPUs – GTX 480, GTX 280, HD 5870, HD 4870-X2 and HD 4870. GTX 480 won most of the benchmarks just over HD 5870, followed by HD-4870-X2. HD 4870 and GTX 280 were left in the DX10 dust while the DX11 cards showed their advantages over a dual-GPU flagship card of the last generation. This time, we will only be comparing HD 5870 to GTX 480 and we shall overclock them each as far as we can. We do want to note that we did not overclock the GTX 480′s shader clocks for this review as they cannot be adjusted in the competing card. However, you can expect even further performance improvement by doing so. In a later part of this series and after we get WHQL drivers for GTX 480, we shall also overclock the shaders to further explore this new GF100 GeForce architecture in gaming.
We are also going to revisit the “Power Usage” section as befits overclocking in this review. We have heard back from NVIDIA about the apparent discrepancy between the published TDP specification of 250 W “Maximum Board Power” and the near-300 W power draw that we observed with our own GTX 480 and what has been confirmed by other reviewers. NVIDIA has finally clarified how they determine their published “Maximum Board Power” (TDP) specifications for their graphics cards!
AMD has already launched its entire 5000 DX11 series from top to bottom – $600 for their dual-GPU HD 5970 down to their passive-cooled HD 5450 for $60. To compete, NVIDIA has launched its new DX11 GeForce lineup with its GTX 480 flagship and second-fastest card, the GTX 470. The GTX 480 comes with a MSRP of $499 and the GTX470 retails for $349. We still need to answer the question: Is it worth the $100 premium over the $400 that one would currently spend for AMD’s top single-GPU video card – HD 5870?
That question is important because we expect that NVIDIA will shortly launch it’s own entire DX11 line-up based on their GF100 “Fermi” architecture. We expect to see GTX 460 and 450 launch within a few months and we need to see what this new GF 100 Fermi architecture brings over their GT200b series besides DX11 and a smaller process. Overclocking our GTX 480 may give us some idea of future GF100 core scalability as NVIDIA refines their process to perhaps bringing out an “Ultra” version of GTX 480 with all 512 CUDA cores enabled and with perhaps a higher clock than what we achieved with our own 480-core GTX 480 for this review.
To properly bring you this review, we purchased a Diamond HD 5870 from NewEgg and put it through its paces with the very latest performance drivers – Catalyst 10-3a. AMD is quite proud of this driver set as it brings sold performance increases over Catalyst 10-2 and over even the latest WHQL drivers, Catalyst 10-3, which were released two weeks ago. The results would be more in NVIDIA’s favor if we used the last Catalyst 10-2 driver set or even the current WHQL Catalyst 10-3 drivers. Also, remember that AMD has had a long time to mature their drivers and that the release GTX 480 GeForce 197.17 drivers that we are still using are beta “release drivers” and they should leave some room for improvement by NVIDIA’s GeForce driver team in the months to come.
Today you will see us pit our Diamond reference design HD 5870 which is now overclocked from 850/1200 to 975/1300 MHz against the new GTX 480 which is overclocked to 825/1100 MHz from 700/924 MHz. We continue to benchmark with 14 modern games and with 3 synthetic benchmarks ranging from 1680×1050 to 1920×1200 to 2560×1600 resolutions and with details fully maxed and with 4xAA/16xAF.
Is GTX 480 worth nearly $100 more than its rival, AMD’s HD 5870?
We were not able to fully answer that question in Part One of our GTX 480 performance evaluation even though we declared the GTX 480 the performance winner. This review is continuing on as a series and we believe that we have a much clearer picture now. Part One analyzed and compared the stock GTX 480 to the stock HD 5870 performance and the performance winner was the GTX 480, but not overwhelmingly so. Later on, we will also look at the individual features of each video card to see what else the new NVIDIA GPU brings to the table and if it is worth the nearly $100 premium over its AMD counterpart. We learned that AMD is immediately going to respond to NVIDIA’s GTX 480/470 Fermi GF100 launch by allowing their partners to overclock the current HD 5870.
Here is AMD’s not-so-secret weapon and notice the free down-loadable copy of Call of Duty, Modern Warfare 2 bundled in with the PowerColor HD 5870 PCS+ as an incentive. PowerColor HD 5870+ is a mildly overclocked version of our reference HD 5870; 875/1225 MHz up +25 MHz on each the core and memory clock. Worthy of note especially for smaller cases, the PowerColor HD 5870 PCS+ PCB is shorter and wider than reference and the cooling solution is both quieter and more effective than the reference cooling solution.
Widespread e-tail availability of both GeForce GTX 480 and GTX 470 will happen this coming week of April 12, 2010. So you still have a little time to decide what to do and this review is designed to help you with an important potential upgrade. NVIDIA says that they are building tens of thousands of units for initial availability, and this will ensure that their partners have ample volume for what is certainly one of the most anticipated GPU launches ever.
We already pointed out in Part 1 that it is practical to upgrade from HD 4870/GTX 280 class – which includes GTX 260, 275 and by extension, GTX 285. We also discovered that it is also logical to upgrade to DX11 from a HD 4870-X2 or HD 4870 CrossFire, or by extension, GTX 260 or 275 SLI or even a GTX 295 which is a bit more powerful than our HD 4870-X2. Since we do not want any chance of our CPU “bottlenecking” our graphics, we continue testing both of our graphics cards with our Intel Core i7 920 at 3.80 GHz (3.97 GHz effectively with the 21x multiplier in turbo mode), 6 GB Kingston DDR3 and a Gigabyte X58 full 16x + 16x PCIe CrossFire/SLI motherboard.
Later on we plan to also test our AMD DX11 video cards on AMD’s Dragon platform. We also acquired a brand new ECS black label A890GXM-A CrossFire motherboard which is a nice performance upgrade from our current Gigabyte 790X motherboard and we shall post that review early this week.