NVIDIA GeForce GTX 480 GF100 DX11 Video Card Review

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GeForce GTX F@H Performance

For those new to F@H, Folding@home is a distributed computing project, that very simply stated, studies protein folding and misfolding.

In the last few years Folding@home on graphics cards has gained popularity as it offers great performance per watt. By utilizing the power of the GPU, Stanford has been able to leverage ever evolving graphics technology and put it to good use trying to understand and possibly solve the problem of protiens misfolding.

Only recently has the pendulum swung back to the favor of folding on the CPU for ppd (points per day) crown with the release of the -bigadv client.

Since the release of the NVIDIA GPU client, their graphics cards have consistently been at the top of points per day, meaning the highest production video card. Nvidia has been touting Fermi as THE next big thing for GPGPU and projects like Folding@home. Many have been giddy with anticipation since Nvidia first broke the news of Fermi way back on September 30th 2009.

NVIDIA GeForce GTX 480 Video Card Folding

With the release of the GeForce GTX 470 and GeForce GTX 480, Stanford will be dropping a GPU3 client to work on these new cards as the GPU2 client does not work. As of 2am this morning we are being told “coming soon” for the full release of this client, but the early rumor is some time in April. Please do not ask for our copy as it does not download work or return results to Stanford. This new client works on both GeForce GTX 400 series as well as the GeForce GTX 200 line so we can get a comparison between the two generations. Note that this is a Cuda build and does not work on ATI hardware, so a direct comparison to the Radeon HD 5000 series will have to wait.

  GTX 480 Lambda GTX 480 Villin  GTX 285 Lambda  GTX 285 Villin
 ns/day  332.308 838.835   213.333  496.552
 Seconds per step 104 103   162  174
 GPU Idle Temp  51C 51C   43C  43C
 GPU Folding Temp  92C 92C  75C  75C
 System Load 396W 377W  294W  269W
 CPU Load  3-5% 3-5%  1-2%  1-2% 

For our test we were sent three different work units, one of which (Spectrin) we weren’t able to get our system to work correctly with on either graphics card. The results pretty much speak for themselves, a 50%-70% speed increase with about a 40% increase in power consumption. So indeed we are gaining performance per watt and actually giving the CPU a little more to keep the new GeForce GTX 480 fed with data. For those of you planning on running one or two of these beasts 24/7 will need to work hard to keep them cool. At 96C under a folding load the GeForce GTX 480 will go a long way to keep your room warm on those cold winter nights. With spring and summer on the way for the North though it could be one very high electric bill!

As far as expected points per day go, I will quote Nvidia “a GTX280 does about 7700 points per day (PPD), so the PPD for the GTX480 would be based on the speed up. So, if the GTX 480 is doing 70% better, then it would get 1.7 x 7700 = 13,090 PPD.”

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