NVIDIA has finally released its long awaited GeForce GTX based on its brand new Fermi DX11 GF100 architecture. This new GPU – Graphics Processing Unit – a term originally originated by NVIDIA is a continuation of NVIDIA’s 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. Here is the culmination of their efforts with their new DX11 Fermi architecture, the GTX 480, their flagship GPU.
NVIDIA realizes that they are 6 months later than their rival AMD graphics with DX11 video cards. NVIDIA’s original intention was to launch GTX 480 with Windows 7. But it was a very diffiicult 3 billion transistor GPU to manufacture on a new 40 nm process at TSMC with its own issues. To improve the yields, NVIDIA had to cut down the GTX number of shaders from 512 to 480 so as to guarantee that there would be enough chips to supply a big demand when it finally launched.
In fact, 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. So today, 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 will retail for $349. So we 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?
To properly bring you this review, we purchased a Diamond HD 5870 from NewEgg and put it through its paces this week 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 this week. We suspect the results would be much more in NVIDIA’s favor if we used the last Catalyst 10-2 driver set. 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 using are still beta and leave some room for solid improvment by NVIDIA’s driver team in the months to come.
So you will see us pit our Diamond reference design HD 5870 against the new GTX 480 in 14 modern games and 2 synthetic benchmarks from 1680×1050 t0 2560×1600 resolutions. We are also using our standard reference video card, HD 4870-X2, the very fastest video card of AMD’s last generation and still very competitive with HD 5870 performance in many games.
Is GTX 480 worth $500 which is nearly $100 more than its rival, AMD’s HD 5870?
This review is going to be in two parts. This first one will analyze and compare GTX 480 and HD 5870 performance and hopefully we can announce a performance winner. We will also look at the details to see what the new NVIDIA GPU brings to the table and if it is worth the nearly $100 premium over its AMD counterpart. We also believe we have a good handle on how AMD is going to respond to NVIDIA’s GTX 480/470 Fermi launch and we will share our analysis and insights with you. The second part will be much expanded with more game benchmarks and with AMD’s likely answer to NVIDIA’s Fermi GTX launch.
Widespread e-tail availability of both GeForce GTX 480 and GTX 470 will happen the week of April 12, 2010. So you have a little time to decide what to do and this review is designed to help you with an important potential upgrade. NVIDIA says they are building tens of thousands of units for initial availability, and this will ensure that their partners have ample volume for what is the certainly one of the most anticipated GPU launches ever.
We will also help to answer if it is practical to upgrade from HD 4870/GTX 280 class – which includes GTX 260, 275 and by extension, GTX 285. We will also consider if it is practical or useful to upgrade 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 our testing all 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 this week.
Before we do performance testing, let’s take a look at the GTX 480 and quickly recap its new DX11 architecture and features.