The NVIDIA GeForce GTX 480 graphics card that I have spent the past week using has left me with mixed feelings. Looking at the benchmark numbers alone the card does very well and beats the ATI Radeon HD 5870 in the majority of the benchmarks that I ran in our testing. The downside to the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 480 video card is of course the excessive heat, noise and power draw that comes along with it. NVIDIA had numerous issues bringing the GF100 to the market and we know for a fact that the core has 512 CUDA cores, but they disabled 32 of them with a BIOS patch. We were told this was done to improve yields and also keep the cards thermal profile in check. If those cores were enabled that would give the GeForce GTX 480 nearly 7% more compute power and it would have really pulled away in the performance charts. If only NVIDIA could have pulled that off.
In my personal system (Corsair 800D Chassis) with two monitors the GeForce GTX 480 graphics card would idle at 90C and if it was a sunny day and my office was warmer it would idle at 92. I fired up the new DX11 game title Aliens Versus Predator and with GPU-Z in the background I saw the temperature reach 99C while gaming for around 30 minutes. At this temperature the fan is spinning at 70dB and it honestly was not an enjoyable gaming experience. I asked NVIDIA if the card was built to run at temperatures this high and they claim that the GeForce GTX 400 series was built to operate at high temperatures and reminded me that 105C was the peak temperature for the GeForce GTX 480 video card. While benchmarking the GeForce GTX 480 graphics card on the open test bench I found the outside of the heatsink to reach 50C on the fan side and 59C on the exhaust side, so this card without a doubt will put out some heat.
If you want to run out and buy a GeForce GTX 480/470 graphics card now that they have officially launched here on Friday, March 26th at 7:01PM EDT don’t get your hopes up. NVIDIA informed us that widespread e-tail availability of both GeForce GTX 480 and GTX 470 will happen the week of April 12, 2010. NVIDIA is currently building tens of thousands of units for initial availability, and they claim they will have enough produced to ensure that their partners will have ample volume for what is likely the most anticipated GPU launch ever.
Heat and power aside, the GeForce GTX 480 graphics card is impressive as they took the single GPU performance crown back from ATI and that was no easy task. They also improved the GPGPU performance over the previous generation core by a fair amount. Seeing F@H performance jump up nearly 70% was amazing, but at the same time the power and heat increases took the fun out of that performance increase. Having waited this long for Fermi to come out, I personally expected a little different user experience and many of you might have as well. I’ve been told by some add-in board partners that some custom designed cards are in the works and those should make things very interesting. The GeForce GTX 480 video card appears to be a diamond in the rough and in the weeks to come we can’t wait to see the retail cards and see what driver enhancements NVIDIA will make for this new series! It should only get better from this point on!
I look forward to hearing your feedback in the forums!
Legit Bottom Line: The NVIDIA GeForce GTX 480 was known to be hot and fast before it came out and that is exactly what it turned out as being.