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Written by Olin Coles   
Friday, 01 October 2010
Table of Contents: Page Index
ASUS ENGTX480/2DI/1536MD5 GeForce GTX 480
Features and Specifications
Closer Look: ASUS ENGTX480
Video Card Testing Methodology
DX10: 3DMark Vantage
DX10: Crysis Warhead
DX11: Aliens vs Predator
DX11: Battlefield Bad Company 2
DX11: BattleForge
DX9 SSAO: Mafia II
DX11: Metro 2033
DX11: Unigine Heaven 2.1
ASUS ENGTX480 Overclocking
NVIDIA APEX PhysX Enhancements
NVIDIA 3D-Vision Effects
GeForce GTX480 Temperatures
VGA Power Consumption
Editor's Opinion: NVIDIA Fermi
ENGTX480/2DI/1536MD5 Conclusion

Closer Look: ASUS ENGTX480

Up to now, 2010 has been an exciting year for game developers. Microsoft Windows 7 (and updated Windows Vista) introduced gamers to DirectX-11, allowing video games released for the PC platform to look better than ever. DirectX-11 is the leap in video game software development we've been waiting for. Screen Space Ambient Occlusion (SSAO) is given emphasis in DX11, allowing some of the most detailed computer textures gamers have ever seen. Realistic cracks in mud with definable depth and splintered tree bark make the game more realistic, but they also make new demands on the graphics hardware. This new level of graphical detail requires a new level of computer hardware: DX11-compliant hardware. Tessellation adds a tremendous level of strain on the GPU, making previous graphics hardware virtually obsolete with new DX11 game titles.


The ASUS ENGTX480/2DI/1536MD5 is very similar to the reference design, and retires NVIDIA's GeForce GTX 285 series as the most powerful single-GPU desktop graphics card. Assuming the same double-bay card height and 10.5" long profile, the ASUS GeForce GTX 480 adds a more robust thermal management system with five heatpipes (four are exposed) that transfer heat away from the GF100 GPU to an exposed heatsink surface. Video frame buffer memory specifications change with the GTX 480. The 512-bit memory interface of the GTX 285 is replaced by a 384-bit version, which features 1536MB of GDDR5 vRAM operating at 924/3696 MHz clock and data rates.


Other changes occur in more subtle ways, such as with the device header panel. While keeping to the traditional design used for GeForce 200-series products, the GTX 480 simply replaces the S-Video connection with a more relevant (mini) HDMI 1.3a A/V output. ASUS has retained dual DVI output on their GTX 480, which means that at least two GeForce video cards will be needed for a NVIDIA 3D-Vision Surround functionality. As with past GeForce video cards, the GF100 GPU offers two output 'lanes', so all three output devices cannot operate at once.


The 40nm GPU fabrication process opens the die for more transistors, now increased from 1.4-billion in GT200 GPU present on the GeForce GTX 285 to an astounding 3.2-billion built into the Fermi GF100 GPU used with the ASUS GeForce GTX 480. While the exposed heatsink surface does well-enough to remove a portion of heat from the 700MHz Fermi GPU, the wide exhaust vents begin to expel hot air from the initial system start-up. Additionally, the GF100 Fermi GPU is located closer to the exhaust panel than GT200 was, and although the heatsink and heat-pipes are improved over previous designs the loaded operating temperature runs very warm at full output. We explore operating temperatures later in this article.


NVIDIA designed the GTX 480 for 250 watts Thermal Design Power (TDP), however the 6+8-pin power connections are good for up to 400W on demand. Keep this in mind when shopping for a power supply unit, because NVIDIA recommends a 600W PSU for the GTX 480; although I feel that an 800W PSU would be a safer suggestion for upgrade longevity.


NVIDIA has designed triple-SLI capability for all of their GF100 Fermi video cards: GTX 465, 470, and GTX 480. Technically SLI and triple-SLI are possible, but careful consideration for heat must be given to the GTX 480. Under maximum load using FurMark, the ASUS GTX 480 video card reached 84°C in a 20°C room with no additional cooling assistance from the computer case. Upon close inspection of the printed circuit board (PCB), there's an opening behind the blower fan that allows intake air to be drawn from either side of the unit.

The PCB is a busy place for the GeForce GTX 480. Many of the electronic components have been located to the 'top' side of the PCB, so to better accommodate the fully-grown 530 mm2 GF100 GPU and its 3.2-billion transistors. 480 CUDA cores operate at 1401 MHz, which keeps a firm lead over AMD's 850 MHz Cypress-XT GPU that measures 334 mm2 and fits 2.154-billion transistors.


Over the next several sections, Benchmark Reviews explains our video card test methodology followed by a performance comparison of the ASUS GeForce GTX 480 against several of the most popular graphics accelerators available. The GeForce GTX 480 replaces the DX10 GeForce GTX 285, and directly competes against the DX11 AMD Radeon HD 5870; so we'll be keeping a close eye on comparative performance.



# RE: ASUS ENGTX480/2DI/1536MD5 GeForce GTX 480RealNeil 2010-10-01 04:40
It's good to see that they're getting a handle on the power usage and heat producing issues that many have written about concerning GTX480 cards.
I'll probably go for a pair of GTX460's in SLI configuration myself. So far, two of them cost less than a single 480 does, and their performance together is knocking on it's door. Also, two of the 460's draw far less power than one 480 does. I'll take a chance and assume that they'll also produce less heat because of their low power usage.

Heat and power is important to many of us as you said above, I feel that it's a lot of money to buy one and will also cost a lot to use it over the lifetime of the card. It is a truly impressive video card though. Thanks for another detailed and informative review.
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# RE: ASUS ENGTX480/2DI/1536MD5 GeForce GTX 480Adam 2010-10-01 08:20
Well it's a helluva lot better then the first bunch, still hungry and hot, but far more tolerably so.

Surprised ASUS didnt do anything with the cooler though.
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# 15 pro nVidia articles sins the last ATi cart got testted.Michael 2010-10-01 09:45
I am just wondering do got stock ore get paid by nVidia, as your last 15 articles have all bin very pro nVidia.

And point out all the strong points of nVidia, not that i have anything aginst those strong points, I have my self a 3x SLI GTX480 + dedicated GTX280 for PhysX + 3D Vision, on a 3 screen setup.

But not because the 480 is the best card, but because it scale's mouths better in SLI 3x then CF-X 3x.
And even tho they are really fast, they ware also very irritating loud and hot before i installed water cooling on them.

That said, if i would buy a single card i would for shore go for ATi as they run cooler and uses less power.

Looking at all the articles it looks like they ware put together whit the help of a nVidia PR guy.

And if BMR want to be taken seriously, more balanced reviews would be welcome.
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# Did you notice...?BruceBruce 2010-10-01 10:21
Have you noticed that the only new cards to be released in the last few months have been from NVIDIA? A year ago, ATI released the HD5xxx series and everyone complained that we were working for AMD, because we were praising the design and performance of the new Radeon cards. Well, 6 moths later, NVIDIA releases new cards that are now the best performers; some at price/performance ratios that beat the ATI competion by a country mile (the GTX460). Those are facts - not PR, not marketing spin, not bias, just the facts.

That's the way the computer industry works, when new designs get released, they are generally a LOT better thatn last year's model. Ever hear of Moore's law? When ATI brings out their next generation of video cards, I expect them to be better than what is available today. And when we test them, if that is indeed the case, that's what we will report. And then someone will complain again that we're getting paid off by ATI. As if...!!!!
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# Michael = paid by AMD?Olin Coles 2010-10-01 15:09
Michael, since your IP address resolved to Bergin, Norway, I'll forgive the horrible grammar and spelling in your comment. What I won't forgive is the fact that you've come to this website and insulted me with a claim that I'm paid by NVIDIA to write these reviews without so much as an example.

How can you seriously expect me to review an AMD Radeon product when the last video card they offered was the Radeon HD 5550 almost five months ago? You might also go back and look over all of MY article, and count-up who has received more awards.

If you want your remark taken seriously, perhaps you should be more constructive. Otherwise, you just come off as another fanboy troll with poor spelling.
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# Snerk!ChrisW 2010-10-07 07:55
Forgiving him for his grammar because his IP is in Norway... WTF!

Of course he's a fanboy or a troll, but you don't need to be a Grammar Nazi about it!
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# It's hard to take you seriously...Hank 2010-10-01 12:00

It's very hard to take you seriously when your post is filled with simple spelling errors and grammatical mistakes. If you disagree with the results of the tests, then it is up to you to test for yourself. Many of the benchmarks used are free or have free versions. Anyone who can afford a setup with 3 GTX480s in SLI can certainly afford to do their own testing.

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# RE: It's hard to take you seriously...Servando Silva 2010-10-01 12:32
Additionally, that'd mean every other site publishing GTS450, GTX460, GTX470 etc. reviews is being payed by Nvidia. That's just wrong. So, that means AMD also payed recently with their new CPUs and Intel payed us back when they released their LGA1156 processors.... As if!
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# RE: RE: It's hard to take you seriously...Adam 2010-10-01 12:56
Nvidia is controlling the market by bribing all of the reviewers! It's a conspiracy, people!

Tinfoil hat time.
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# RE: RE: RE: It's hard to take you seriously...dlb 2010-10-01 19:58
Tinfoil hat time? That implies that we haven't been wearing 'em before now.... I haven't taken mine off since the Reagan's "Star Wars" era. And I won't take it off either - not until BMR starts getting paid by AMD/ATI.

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# What was the voltage difference of the GPUs?RS 2010-10-03 19:53

Great review. I wanted to know if you guys measured the GPU voltage (in MSI Afterburner or Asus Voltage Tweak software) to check if the more mature 40nm process resulted in lower GPU voltage at load? If so what was the difference?

Also, since this is only 1 representative sample, how can you be certain that the more mature 40nm manufacturing process is the reason for the reduced demand? Could it be an outlier videocard?
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# RE: What was the voltage difference of the GPUs?Olin Coles 2010-10-03 19:56
Hello RS:

Yes, it could always be one lucky sample or it could be this way for every sample. It's very difficult to verify, but the mere fact that one card could ever reach temperatures or power consumption this low is surprising.

I have not conducted the GPU voltage tests you mention.
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# VoltagesRS 2010-10-03 20:11
Could you please check the voltages of this GTX480 if you still have it? I think that would give us a better indication if a more mature manufacturing process in indeed in play. What about testing a 6 months older GTX470 as well? Wouldn't the more mature process apply to the entire GF100 line?
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# 40nm GF100 GPU VoltageOlin Coles 2010-10-03 20:14
Sure, but it could be a few days since I'm on a deadline for another project. I will measure idle and loaded GPU voltage on this new GTX 480 and the original engineering sample.
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# VoltagesRS 2010-10-03 20:18
Thank you very much Olin! No rush.
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# 40nm GF100 GPU VoltageOlin Coles 2010-10-03 20:42
Added into the article:

NVIDIA GeForce GTX 480 Engineering Sample
MSI Afterburner reported 0.962V GPU at idle, and 1.025V under load.
GPU-Z reported 0.953V 15.0A 14.3W idle VDDC, and 0.980V 75.0A 74.0W at load.

MSI Afterburner reported 0.962V GPU at idle, and 1.075V under load.
GPU-Z reported 0.955V 11.0A 10.5W idle VDDC, and 1.033V 70.0A 72.3W at load.
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# ThanksRS 2010-10-04 08:01
Thanks for the voltage update Olin. I would have imagined that the more mature manufacturing process would have allowed the GPU to operate at the same frequency with lower voltages. In this case, not only does the Asus card operate cooler and quieter, but it does so at higher voltages. A great mystery indeed.

Still what you measured is an observable result. I look forward to future GTX480/470 reviews, where you can provide more data points :)
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# Poor review, pull it.Strafage 2010-10-03 19:59
This is a very poor review. You cannot draw these sorts of conclusions and claim Fermi runs cooler now based on comparing just two cards.

No mention of voltages either.

In no way have your test proven that these cards are running cooler now compared to before.

Hope no one makes the mistake of buying one of these cards now if they wouldn't before thinking the heat and noise issues are resolved, because this 'review' proves nothing of the sort.
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# RE: Poor review, pull it.Olin Coles 2010-10-03 20:06
Your comment makes it seem like you didn't bother to ready the article. I have tested three GTX 480's including this one, and they keep getting cooler with each new release. Also, why would mentioning voltages validate our video card power consumption findings?

I will pull the article offline and start taking orders from you when this becomes your website. Until then, your opinion matters as much as the next anonymous post.
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# RE: RE: Poor review, pull it.hurleybird 2010-10-03 20:29
3 data points is still way to small to draw any kind of conclusion.

Voltage is absolutely something you need to give in this article, because voltage is directly related to heat output. When GTX 480 launched there was quite a bit of voltage binning (same thing with HD5870 even), where some cards were binned higher or lower. Specs remained the same, except for voltage, heat, and power consumption. Assuming absolutely no change, it's entirely possible to randomly get three cards successively binned with lower voltage.

Now, that's not saying that TSMC isn't making advances on 40nm, I'm sure they are, and obviously any kind of decrease in defect density will be amplified by larger dies, but when you already had such variability in volts, heat, and power at launch, you need a lot more than three data points to draw a solid conclusion. Someone could have easily gotten the same data from three random cards at launch.
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# RE: RE: RE: Poor review, pull it.Olin Coles 2010-10-03 20:40
So then what is the magic number of video cards that would prove that it's a trend and not an anomoly? How many different manufacturers do you need to have samples from?
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# RE: ASUS ENGTX480/2DI/1536MD5 GeForce GTX 480hurleybird 2010-10-03 21:50
Probably more than would be reasonable to buy ;), although three cards at launch vs. three cards from today would be the minimum I personally be comfortable drawing any sort of conclusion with (assuming they all show the marked difference).

Obviously the more cards you use the stronger the probability is (again assuming those added cards support your original data), however as I said you could have randomly taken three cards at launch and gotten the same results thanks to the large amount of voltage binning.
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# RE: ASUS ENGTX480/2DI/1536MD5 GeForce GTX 480hurleybird 2010-10-03 21:52
Also like I said, I have no doubt that TSMC has been making improvements, and a decrease in defect density would have an increased positive effect on larger dies. It's not really a matter of *if* yields (and by extension voltage binning) at TSMC is improving, it's a matter of *how much*. Another possible result of increased yields could involve changing the GTX 470 / GTX 480 mix, where more chips are able to qualify as a GTX 480, but only at higher voltages. Thus, depending on what Nvidia does with them, increased yields could conceivably lead to more high voltage/heat/temp cards being produced.

About the only way that I could see for easily proving that GTX 480's are getting cooler is if new chips start using lower voltage than the lowest voltage that was available at launch. Otherwise with this type of problem you're dealing with statistics. You don't "prove" anything so much as provide probability. With a high enough probability you can begin to draw conclusions.
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# GF100 always was powerfulCorpse 2010-10-04 00:56
Not denying anything about how good GF100 is (but it is less effecient still). My one retort is this:

"but it doesn't appear that AMD has any surprises for the upcoming holiday season"

Umm, Cayman, Barts etc. These are coming up in the next couple of months and as we dpont have benchies, regardless of performance, they'll be a surprise (bad or good). And if Cayman improves like it's 'rumoured' too, it will eclipse the 480.

Also, there was a 512 core GTX 480 out in the wild and it wasnt very impressive.

Gf100 good- yes no doubt, comment on no surprises from AMD - quite ignorant.
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# RE: ASUS ENGTX480/2DI/1536MD5 GeForce GTX 480Trajan Long 2010-10-10 18:52
480 is awesome and paves the way for great advances in the future. The next generation will solve whatever heat issues remain with a huge performance boost and Nvidia will rule on all fronts, not just tech.
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