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NVIDIA's GeForce GTX 480 finally unleashed. Reviewed and rated.

by Tarinder Sandhu on 26 March 2010, 23:00


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GeForce GTX 480. Let's take a look

Two thousand words and no pictures?

The initial batch of GeForce GTX 480 GPUs will be manufactured on behalf of NVIDIA and doled out to partners for launch day. We expect very few cards in the channel today, with more coming on April 6, and then ramping up through the remainder of April.

Here's a reference model provided by NVIDIA. Partner cards will look exactly the same, save for a sticker or two. The GTX 480 measures 10.5in in length, matching a GTX 285 in size. The new GPU uses a far more substantial heatsink than the last-generation single-GPU champ from the green team, though.        

The card is cooled by the chunky heatsink which uses five heatpipes to ferry away the heat from the core and into the large heatsink. The radial fan spins at around 1,500rpm when the card is idling in Windows, rising to nearly 4,000rpm as it tries to keep the GTX 480 below 100°C.

GeForce GTX 480's fan becomes very obtrusive and loud as it passes 3,500rpm, but FurMark's load isn't indicative of most games', where the fan-speed hovers around 3,000rpm. Still, it is not a quiet card when under any real load. AMD's Radeon HD 5870 is definitely not as noisy.

What's of greater concern, perhaps, is the GPU and heatsink temperature; one cannot touch the card for a couple of minutes without fear of burning a finger or two. We can now see why NVIDIA disabled a 32-core SM and kept clock-speeds at moderate levels.

The rear doesn't contain anything of real consequence. Spy the two SLI fingers? You can add two further cards for some tasty three-way action. Bear in mind that a well-ventilated chassis and high-quality 1,200W PSU are recommended for a triumvirate of GTX 480s.

A 250W board TDP translates to the need for both six-pin and eight-pin power connectors, a la Radeon HD 5970.

GeForce GTX 480 uses a frame onto which clips the plastic shroud that covers the card . It's about as good as an air-cooled setup can be, and partners will have their work cut-out to design better aftermarket solutions.

NVIDIA keeps the upper slot for venting purposes, leaving the lower row full with mini-HDMI and two dual-link DVIs.