Cooler and quieter
Extra OC headroom
Slightly delicate fan guard
Miserly factory OC
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Nothing inspires less confidence in the quiet running of a top-end GPU than the words 'dual-turbine' slapped onto its cooler. That said, though, the plain black stock cooler that usually adorns the vanilla-flavoured Nvidia GTX 480 could quite easily sport the words "frickin' loud-ass jet turbine" in day-glo paint and still be an understatement.
So Zotac's AMP! edition of the GTX 480 has a new, less melty cooler on-board. Now what does that get you?
Well, you're picking up a factory overclocked card, as the AMP! moniker indicates. The new Zalman VF3000 dual-turbine cooler has allowed the normally Eyjafjallajökull-hot card to have a little extra speed squeezed out of it without burning a hole through your motherboard and out the side of your chassis.
The factory overclock, though, only works out as around an eight per cent increase in the core and shader speeds, which hardly translates into an impressive boost in gaming frame rates over the stock GTX 480.
Across the board, that only gives you around a four per cent increase in frame rates; in real terms that's around an extra two or three frames per second at the highest resolutions.
So far, so meh then; especially considering the performance of the overclocked, custom water-cooled GTX 480 housed in the Scan 3XS Cyclone rig.
But this new cooling solution is far easier for the lone upgrader to install in their existing system and offers enough of a thermal envelope to allow you to upclock the AMP! to almost the same point as the liquid-loving Scan card.
We hit 850MHz on the core clock, giving an overclock of over 20 per cent on the stock GTX 480 speeds. In real world terms that's a frame rate increase of as much as 15 per cent in some cases.
Putting that in context, you've got a Fermi card that's finally delivering on the early promise of that GF100 GPU. Okay, so it took some serious after-market cooling solutions to give Nvidia the bump it needed, but now we've got a GTX 480 that is slightly cheaper than AMD's twin-GPU HD 5970 and is as close as damn it any benchmark you can throw at them.
That said, we did need to have both fans running at full revs in order to stave off those freezy, freezy graphics fails. But even then it's nowhere near as loud as Nvidia's wheezing and whining stock cooler.
Well, that's with a little judicious tweaking of the metal fan guards, which got in the way of the fans out of the box and made for some hideous plastic-on-metal scrapey noises on initial booting.
But this is the top air-cooled Fermi card you'll find in the wild until Nvidia manages to sort out its chip yields and actually produce a 512-core GF100-based card. Now what's your response to this, AMD?
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