Nvidia GeForce GTX 480 review

£429
Price when reviewed

The GTX 480 is Nvidia’s new flagship card, but if you’re expecting the painfully long wait to have resulted in ground-breaking performance, you’ll be disappointed. While it’s fast, it isn’t going to revolutionise gaming.

The GeForce GTX 480 has 480 stream processors, along with a 700MHz core clock and 1.5GB of GDDR5 memory with a 384-bit memory interface. It’s very similar in size to ATI’s Radeon HD 5870 – and also in performance.

We ran benchmarks in a variety of current titles and, on the whole, the card held a narrow advantage. In Crysis at 1,920 x 1,200 and Very High settings, the GTX 480 averaged 40fps to the HD 5870’s 38fps; higher settings saw similar margins. World in Conflict had the Nvidia card consistently ahead by just under 20%, and in Stalker: Call of Pripyat that margin was around 5%. Other games had ATI’s card ahead by a whisker, and if we average all the results, Nvidia’s edge looks to be between 5% and 10%.

Nvidia vs ATI graph

(Sample framerates at 1,920 x 1,200 at Very High settings.)

But it’s the GTX 480’s power consumption that most raises eyebrows. Nvidia quotes a TDP of 250W, and with it installed in our test rig the system idled at 204W and peaked at a massive 406W. Compare that to a peak of 267W with the HD 5870 installed and you’ll see just how hungry this card is. The GTX 480’s core also reached a scorching 98°C, and during games you’ll have to put up with a noise like a CD drive permanently whirring into action.

As we cover in the full Fermi review, GPGPU applications are also a focus. Using CyberLink PowerDirector 8 we rendered out a 1080p AVCHD file with a single accelerated filter effect applied to it, and found the GTX 480 was 35% faster with acceleration than without. By contrast, the ATI HD 5870 was slower doing the standard encode, but its 3mins 47secs accelerated time was a boost of 39%.

In truth, the CUDA aspects aren’t likely to persuade the majority of consumers waiting for Nvidia to jump back to the top of the gaming table. It’s framerates that matter to them, and with a £429 inc VAT expected price the GTX 480 will cost you around £100 more than an HD 5870. CUDA or not, that’s too much to pay for a 5% to 10% gaming improvement.

Nvidia GeForce GTX 480

Core Specifications

Graphics card interface PCI Express
Cooling type Active
Graphics chipset Nvidia GeForce GTX 480
Core GPU frequency 700MHz
RAM capacity 1,536MB
Memory type GDDR5

Standards and compatibility

DirectX version support 11.0

Connectors

DVI-I outputs 2
HDMI outputs 1
Graphics card power connectors 8 pin, 6 pin

Benchmarks

3D performance (crysis) high settings 66fps

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