Nvidia GeForce GTX 480/470 vs. ATI Radeon HD 5870/5850

Even though the Nvidia GeForce 400 series has not been available for about 2 months, the judges still don't seem sure whether the series is a success or not. Some will tell you that the GeForce GTX 480 is a power hungry, expensive GPU that couldn't be shipped, while others claim that it lived up to expectations as the world's fastest single GPU graphics card and that the power consumption numbers are for sissies.

While we think the truth lies somewhere in between, it's time to take another look at the comparison between the Nvidia GeForce GTX 480/470 and the ATI Radeon HD 5870/5850.

The GeForce 400 series, especially the GeForce GTX 480, is some serious piece of hardware that, at least on paper, should leave the Radeon HD 5870 dead in the water. Our first try with this board found that while the price was ~ 20% higher than the Radeon HD 5870, we only saw an average performance increase of 16% based on the dozen games included in our benchmarking phase . Perhaps more relevant than that, we found that the GeForce GTX 480 was using ~ 30% more power under full load while trying to deafen us at the same time.

When we finished our original GeForce GTX 480 review two months ago, we had this to say …

“The GeForce GTX 480 is fast, but given the extra time Nvidia needs to work on the card and optimize it perfectly, we would at least have expected to forego the compromises on warmth and performance. As the drivers mature, these Fermi-based graphics cards are likely to get even faster, but we can also suggest that Nvidia revamp its pricing strategy to make or break sales once the cards are available next month. "

It seems that now is the time for Nvidia to release the 257 beta driver revision a few weeks ago. Nvidia claims that these drivers provide significant performance improvements across the board for the GeForce GTX 400 series. In the 8 weeks since the GeForce GTX 400 series was released, AMD has also improved its Catalyst drivers and the current 10.5 version appears to be very solid.

Another reason why we would like to review this battle for high-end graphics cards is that the fans of the green team are convinced that the GeForce GTX 480 is far superior to the Radeon HD 5870 when it comes to measuring minimal frames per second . This is an interesting argument as the average fps results on the last test didn't suggest a huge difference in minimum frame rate performance, although it might be possible. So we wanted to find out if this was true or not.

It is not enough, however, to just show the minimum flat frame rates as it may be due to something else in the system that is causing a split-second drop in performance. This is why we recorded a frames per second timeline to see how often and for how long the performance degrades. Shiny new graphics are coming your way, read on …

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