|ASUS GeForce GT 430 Fermi GF108 Video Card|
|Reviews - Featured Reviews: Video Cards|
|Written by Hank Tolman|
|Monday, 11 October 2010|
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ASUS GeForce GT 430 Video Card Review
With the release of their Fermi architecture, NVIDIA has battled forward from a back-seat position to AMD's ATI Radeon HD 5000 series DX11 compatible video cards to once again regain the lead in GPU performance. When NVIDIA released the GTX480 video card, they reclaimed the top performance position, but the GPU had a lot of shortcomings, including extremely high operating temperatures and huge amounts of power usage. With the release of the GTX 460, NVIDIA corrected those issues and really earned the top marks the GF104 received. Now NVIDIA is adding another release to their Fermi line with the low-end GF108 GPU. NVIDIA is marketing this GPU as a mainstream gaming and media center GPU with DX11 and 3D capabilities. In this article, Benchmark Reviews takes an in-depth look at the ASUS ENGT430/DI/1GD3(LP) video card.
The GF104 Fermi-based GeForce GTX 460 and the GF106 Fermi-based GeForce GTS 450 show the true power of NVIDIA's Fermi architecture to dominate the mid-range price segment. With the GF108 Fermi-based GeForce GT 430, NVIDIA slims down the Fermi GPU even further to make a DX11 3D compatible card for the entry-level market. The GT 430 replaces the GT 220 and has already been gracing mobile platforms. NVIDIA is now releasing the GT 430 through its AIB partners as a discrete GPU for the desktop platform. NVIDIA anticipates the GT 430 to be sold mostly through distribution to system integrators. In fact, NVIDIA didn't even release an engineering sample for testing with the GT 430, which is why Benchmark Reviews is bringing you the ASUS card results for the release of the GF108 platform.
Basically, the GF108 GPU is half of a GF106 GPU, on which the GTS 450 cards are built. The GF108 is built on a 40 nm process like the rest of the Fermi GPUs, but it scales back to 96 CUDA cores compared to 192 in the GF106. Many of the GT 430 cards being released, including the ASUS GT 430, are low profile cards made to be able to fit easily in any case type. This will allow media PC users an opportunity to get 3D graphics and DX11 material out of their HTPCs. While Intel's i3 and low-end i5 series brought CPU horsepower to the media PC arena, the Intel HD Graphics fell short and left something to be desired. Media PC users were left unable to play many mainstream video games that shouldn't require an expensive GPU addition to play. According to NVIDIA's research, over 50% of mainstream video games can't reach playable resolutions using Intel HD Graphics. The inexpensive GT 430 is supposed to remedy this concern at the relatively low cost of around $79. Later in this article we will see how much of an improvement the GT 430 provides over Intel HD Graphics.
ASUS ENGT430 GeForce GT 430 Video Card
According the Steam Hardware Survey, most PC gamers use the resolutions of 1280x1024 when playing games. NVIDIA reports that the most commonly used resolution other than that is 1024x768. These resolutions are much lower than the 1920x1200, 1920x1080, or even 1680x1050 at which most of Benchmark Reviews testing is done. Lower resolutions often have the effect of making middle and low end video cards a viable solution for playing newer and more graphics intensive video games. Additionally, when the game's post-processing effects are tuned down to low or medium levels, much less stress is placed on the GPU. While the most stunning graphics and effects might be missed, a gamer can then experience these games at playable frame rates with a much less expensive GPU. Since the GT 430 is being launched as a media GPU with the capability to play mainstream video games, most of the games in our test bench have been toned down a few notches.
As I mentioned earlier, the GF108 is, in essence, half of a GF106. The nearly 1.17 million transistors have but cut to 585 million. Four Streaming Multiprocessors have been cut to two for a total of 96 CUDA Cores with 16 Texture Units rather than 192 CUDA Cores and 32 Texture Units. The core clock speed for the GT 430 is 700MHz while its shaders operate at 1400MHz. The GT 430 keeps the 1GB of 128-bit memory, but it is uses the less expensive GDDR3 memory instead of the GDDR5 found on the rest of the Fermi family GPUs. The GDDR3 memory frame buffer has a clock speed of 900MHz.
While PC gaming is still strong and growing, a new force is beginning to shape the PC market. Televisions and Monitors boasting 120Hz refresh rates are now able to provide unparalleled graphics experiences in 3D. No longer the venue of blue and red paper glasses, the next generation of 3D provides realistic and immersive pictures, videos, movies, and now games. NVIDIA is determined to be at the forefront of the 3D explosion and every one of their Fermi-based video cards are capable of running 3D media. NVIDIA estimates that the market for PC users that utilize their computers for media purposes is nearly double the amount that use their PC for playing games. The GT 430 is focused as media PC users but NVIDIA wouldn't be content unless their newest Fermi could play games as well. For this reason, the GT 430 supports full spectrum graphics operations and the latest NVIDIA Technologies; CUDA, PhysX, and 3D Vision. It looks like the 3D vision capabilities of the GT 430, however, are limited to photos, videos, web-streaming, and Blu-ray 3D. For those that have been reading Benchmark Reviews articles about the other Fermi-based GPUs, even the powerhouse GTX480 struggles to push out high frames rates with the latest 3D video games. This makes a lot of sense when you consider the differences. Media such as Blu-Ray movies, videos, and pictures are already rendered when you look at them. This takes the strain of rendering off of the video card. In gaming, since the player controls many aspects of the environment, the video card must render each of the frames. In 3D gaming, the video card has to render everything twice.
With NVIDIA stating the purpose of the GF108 based GT430 video card as a media PC 3D ready video card with the capability to play mainstream video games, we will be putting the ASUS ENGT430 to the test playing some of these games. While our charts will show the ASUS ENGT430 next to some higher end GPU options, this is simply to give you a good idea of where the performance of the ENGT430 lies in a cost comparative manner. So far, both the GF106 and GF104 have surprised users in the amount of value and performance they have been able to provide. Hopefully, the GF108 is no different and our ENGT430 will be able to perform well above its price level. We will be specifically looking for frame rates above 30FPS, as this is generally considered to be where games become comfortably playable. Using a series of DX10 and DX11 gaming benchmarks, we should be able to gauge accurately the value of the ASUS ENGT430 as not only a mainstream gaming card, but also as a media GPU. Many integrated graphics solutions can easily handle most media playback, so if the ENGT430 gives us a good performance in our video game benchmarks, it will undoubtedly handle any of your media needs.
Manufacturer: ASUSTek Computer, Inc.
Full Disclosure: The product sample used in this article has been provided by ASUS.