Tuesday, 12 July 2011

Life with a GTX 480

So first another big thanks to Bit-Tech and Asus for my brilliant prize, I hadn’t imagined I was going to come away from the event with anything near as meaty a 480 so was over the moon when I got it plumbed into my system. I wasn’t remotely sad about pulling out my GTX 280. It’s the last remnant from my RMA saga with VCS and the bad memories won’t be missed. I personally love reference coolers on Nvidia Cards, there’s something solid and reliable about them, and I always prefer a reference model to a cheapened custom model. To my delight the card was a full reference model, laced with a carbon fibre design and fully equipped with a big shiny heatsink and 4000RPM delta fan for cooling. Yikes.
I spent some time looking over the card. The carbon fibre design really appealed to me and the overall design of the card (including the little Geforce by the power connectors) was much to my liking. So with little delay, I ripped out my old 280, wrapped it up in an anti-static bag, and dropped in my shiny new 480, plugging in the 6 and 8 pin connectors from my old card. It posted first time (which is very nice if you’re me) and with a nice whisper of idle noise I was into Windows. I reinstalled the 275.50 drivers, cranked up the digital vibrance a bit (seriously love this feature) and started up GPU-Z. Idle temps of 45C with a 44% fan speed at 1700rpm was acceptable but I made a mental note to try and lower the speed at some point (as none of the rest of the fans in my system make anywhere near 1700rpm’s worth of noise, even though it’s still really quiet).
I fired up a bit of Unigine Heaven and popped on the tessellation for the first time on my own system. At 1920x1200 the 480 made mincemeat of it, and I soon began popping on some 3dMark Vantage and Crysis benchmarks. Load temps were maxing at 88C with the fan at about 2600rpm, which while still hot was alot cooler and quieter than some people had told me 480’s ran. Over the next few days I got playing some games and found almost all of them preferred the 480 to my previous 2x 280’s. That shows you the difference architecture can make. One of the only exceptions was Vantage which gave the 280’s 4000 points more than the 480!!! O_O
Just Cause 2 was a good example. Although several of my friends swear it’s a well optimised game, I’d often had issues with performace, and got generally poor scaling from the SLI profile. No such problems with the 480 though, even with SSAO and GPU water physics Maxxed the game ran like a knife through butter. Very impressed by the performance on show here and sunk a few more hours into what is a superlative free sandbox game.
Next up Crysis, the 2x 280’s managed but struggled with everything on very high, often dipping down to 20fps (or lower) and that resulted in me having alot of the options such as shadows and postprocessing set down to high. No such issues with the 480 though! On all high’s @1920x1200 w 4xAA It posted an average of over 60fps and up at Very high posted an average of 33fps :D Think I might play through the storyline one more time when I get back from holiday.
The Witcher 2 also ate up the performance of the new card. My GeForce2 card ran it on good settings with a pretty consistant framerate (apart from large fight scenes) but the 480 just mushed through everything! I set the game up to ultra (with Ubersampling off) and it Plowed through the game like a witcher in a brothel. Even with the settings bouncing off the top the frame rate was still smoother than with my 280 and I actually reached the end of my first playthrough. I’m really happy with the performance (and the game!) and looking forward to playing through the storyline a few more times.
I also tried out the Nvidia demos for the 4 and 5 series. Design garage still ran like a raytracing application whereas the Superonic Sled demo ran silky smooth. The Endless City GeForce5 demo took the fight to my 480 though, with masses of tessalation on show. Still smooth enough framerates in this and in the Aliens vs triangles demo. The Medusa GeForce2 demo also ran without a hitch as you’d expect.
Generally I found that in almost all games settings could be maxxed and performance was much improved. The higher average framerate in games like BFBC2 and TDU2 meant that gameplay was more enjoyable on the whole, which I’m very pleased with indeed :)
Among other games I found that Assassins Creed: Brotherhood (which I’m currently playing through) could be maxed in DX11 mode and was still silky smooth. All this performance is making me question spending £1K+ on a big system upgrade before I go off to uni but I think I’ll see how it goes.
Since getting the system I’ve also moved my system to another room and unfortunately the desk it’s under doesn’t give as good ventilation as the place it was before. This, combined with some hot weather, has resulted in my CPU temps rising from 44C / 62C to 50C / 68C hot for a Phenom II, but tbh I’m not confident my Overclock is all that great anymore. It needs alot of voltage to keep it stable and the Hydro H50 doesn’t seem to be doing a particularly stellar job at getting rid of all of that heat.
Because of this hot weather I decided to try setting a custom fan profile for my new 480. In the past I’ve always used Rivatuner for custom fan maps, but it’s now long since been unsupported and I don’t know whether it was the 480 or the 275 drivers but it just didn’t give me the options to change the fan max and minimums. I decided to give EVGA Precision’s fan control a try and set about adjusting the little graph you can use to adjust the curve of fan speeds. I dropped the idle speed a little bit (to around 1300rpm) and raised the loads speeds to try and keep the max temps down.
This resulted in a hell of a lot more noise under load, but despite the hot weather, load temps came down to 81C. I’ve since put this back to stock, because having a hot room has resulted in idle temps of 60C (even though it would hit this and then cool itself)and I just didn’t find the jumping nature of the fan control ideal. I also think that it made a mistake at some point and failed to raise the fan to the correct speeds. I got a weird cut out that looked like a thermal trip, so decided it was best to go back to stock for now.
Besides the heat I’m very glad I got the GTX 480. It’s closest card is the 570 and it’s better in a lot of ways. It has 1.5GB of ram, a 384Bit Memory interface and 48 ROPs to the 570’s 1.2GB, 320bit memory interface and 40 rops. They both have 480 Fermi SP’s and both have quite similar clocks (700,1400,3696 to 732,1464,3800). The 570 of course does put out less heat and draw less power so it’s more overclockable but it also has the crazy power limiting hardware nvidia chucked into the 5 series cards which kinda spoils the fun in some games and applications. At the end of the day I’d rather take the 480 as the more complete architecture should see it hold it’s own at higher resolutions and in games going forward.
Overall I’m really impressed with the 480, It’s given me no real issues and has plowed through everything I’ve thrown at it. I’ve thought about picking up another one while I can @£199 but I think the heat and temps might just kill me / my machine. I did find getting it free a bit peculiar though :P I’m so used to planning every purchase and upgrade to such an intricate level of detail that just having a 480 drop into my lap really did come as quite a surprise! A pleasant one though, I’m very glad to be rid of my 280 which will be finding it’s way into a friend/cousin’s machine and I’m looking forward to a solid summer of great DX11 capable gaming!

1 comment:

  1. I've had very similar results with my GTX480. And, like you were thinking, putting 2x480s in a case with a PhenomII on air is a very bad idea! The H50 isnt all its cracked up to be either. You have to have the correct air flow, and having that GTX480 heater next to the CPU isnt helping matters either.

    In the end in my Corsair Obsidia 800D case i had to create a massive negative air pressure system - completely ignoring physics and the whole hot air rises principle. I've got all my fans sucking air in (even on the push/pull H50) and then going out via the GTX480. This reduced my CPU core temps by about 5 degrees and the GPU by about 10 which was a result.

    I then recently installed the Zalman vf3000f gtx480 cooler and this changed the entire ballgame. My gtx480 now maxes out around mid 60's C instead of 90' C. This in turn has reduced the adjaced component temps and my PII 1060T@4Ghz now max's around 45 ' on load instead of 62' C.

    I'd highly recommend it for about 35 quid!