Nvidia GeForce GTX 480 review

Is the GTX 480 the fastest and best graphics card ever built?

Nvidia GeForce GTX 480
Nvidia's GeForce GTX 480 is the fastest single-GPU card on the market - but it comes at a price

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Nvidia gtx 480

So, in essence, the GTX 480 isn't actually competing directly with any other card on the market, sitting as it does slap-bang in between the two top AMD cards in both price and performance terms. The baby brother, the GTX 470, is deliberately priced up against the HD 5870 at £299.

We may well see the first retail boards being priced above that by virtue of the typical price premium manufacturers enforce on new graphics cards.

The relative scarcity of cards may also add to the price depending on how many units Nvidia can actually get to market. It was incredibly cagey about supply on launch stating there will be many customers out there that want boards that wont be able to get them.

Speaking with Asus recently, though, it was surprised as to the volumes it was receiving. It remains to be seen if the yields allow for the sort of production a new board needs.

We liked:

The GTX 480 is definitely a good card in terms of both its performance and the micro-architecture. It's faster than the HD 5870 by a fair amount, which will only increase as tessellation becomes more prevalent.

With the DX11 tessellation feature touted to propel PC gaming far beyond the realms of what its console siblings can offer, the power of the GTX 480's DX11 pipelines should see it staying the course far longer than AMD's top single-GPU card. The red company's dual-GPU solution is a bigger fly in the ointment, keeping Nvidia's top card in its quite monstrous shadow.

We disliked:

Problems loom on the horizon though - AMD is bound to take the butcher's knife to current its pricing scheme. But that's not the extent of it; there are also the spectres of the oft-rumoured 5890 and the overclocked 5970s gradually coalescing. Quite what Nvidia can do to best the 5970 is tough to see,

Obviously the full compliment of 512 CUDA cores may help once yields improve (GTX 485 anyone?) but there looks to be precious little extra to be got from this current GPU. It's already far thirstier in terms of power consumption than AMD's multi-GPU card and in testing our GTX 480 was regularly hitting a finger-blistering (yes, we touched the heat-pipe...) 94 degrees centigrade under load.

If you ramp up the fan to take care of this (in the release drivers the fan speed was locked at around 60 per cent) it quickly becomes a jet-turbine of a card, with a whine you'll hear throughout your domicile.


We may well see Nvidia fighting harder at the lower end of the market then, taking a leaf out of modern AMD's book. The revamped architecture of the Fermi GPU means that it is far more modular than the outgoing GT200 chips so mid-range cards need not have quite so much of their hearts ripped out to hit a certain price point.

But the GTX 480 is here to stay and it looks like it's in for the long-haul thanks to a little architectural revamp to favour DX11's tessellation bent. It does blow the HD 5870 out of the water, but then only really to the extent the extra £150 ought to get you.

So it's the fastest commercial single-GPU on the planet at the moment, beating the competition into a pulp. Unfortunately the dual-GPU joy of AMD's 5970 still wins hands-down. If Nvidia can get units onto the shelves should do well - AMD 5xxx cards are still rare as dog's eggs.

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