If NVIDIA had been first to launch a DirectX 11-class
videocard and it was ATI's Radeon HD 5870 that had been delayed, it
might have been easier to overlook the ugly aspects of the Geforce GTX 480.
However, opposite is the reality we have before us. With
the Radeon HD 5870 sitting next to the Geforce GTX480 on the test bed, I
find it difficult to recommend the ASUS ENGTX480-2D1-1536 videocard. And that's
ultimately a shame, since the ASUS ENGTX480-2D1-1536 and NVIDIA's GF100 'Fermi'
architecture do offer some genuinely exciting new features and unique
GPGPU computing is a big focus for NVIDIA and Fermi, but
for all the hype this technology is still in its infancy and the real-world
applications that can take advantage of it are few and far between. To further
complicate things for NVIDIA, the performance of the Geforce GTX 480 in these
applications, particularly when using double-precision shaders, is inconsistent.
To be clear, in a number of synthetic and real-world
benchmarks the ASUS ENGTX480-2D1-1536 comes out at the top of the heap as the
fastest videocard on the PCSTATS test bed. These benchmarks tend to be
older DX9 and DX10-grade tests or games, and even with all graphics and quality
setting maxed out and the resolution turned up both the Radeon HD 5870 and
Geforce GTX 480 are overkill.
The big exception is the Uniengine Heaven benchmark. It
makes heavy use of DX11 Tessellation features and may bode well for NVIDIA if
more games start making heavy use of this feature to enhance in-game geometry.
In newer benchmarks the nVidia Geforce GTX 480
tends to fall somewhere between the Radeon HD 5870 and 5850 in terms of
performance. That's certainly quick enough to run most of today and
tomorrow's games at high resolutions and with high quality settings, but it
comes at a steep price.
Heat, noise and power consumption are all problems for
the ASUS ENGTX480-2D1-1536 videocard. All three rear their ugly heads no matter
how you fiddle with the Geforce GTX 480's settings. Even with the fan on at full
blast, under load the GPU can still reach temperatures over 90 degrees Celsius,
simultaneously radiating a lot of heat into your system chassis.
At full speed the fan is loud, enough to be an annoying
distraction while you're gaming unless you happen to invest in a set of
noise-canceling headphones. Add this together with high power-draw under both
idle and load conditions and it seems like NVIDIA is heading back to the days of
the infamous Geforce 5800 Ultra.
Given its enthusiast-grade retail price of around $535 CDN ($510 USD, £350 GBP) , the ASUS
ENGTX480-2D1-1536 videocard is simply too much of a compromise for
all but the most die-hard NVIDIA fan. In the future its saving grace may
come in the form of application developers embracing CUDA/GPGPU and game
developers getting the most out of the GF100 "Fermi" GPU's tesselator, however
for today's enthusiast gamers PCSTATS sees the Radeon HD 5870 as simply the
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