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Graphics Pete J's 3x SLI 480 Review

Discussion in 'Hardware' started by Pete J, 1 May 2010.

  1. Pete J

    Pete J Employed scum

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    I'm bloody knackered! I've got to go to work tomorrow, err, I mean today but I couldn't let this lie. So, here's my rather shoddy review.


    First impressions

    I have to say, the 480 is a damn good looking card. A solid weight and sound construction are evident; the exposed heat sink has a nice feel to it (I bet everyone who bought one of these was feeling the exposed metal bit within a few seconds of opening the package).

    Obligatory hardware porn shots:
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]


    Noise

    It's a conspiracy! Everyone's actually lying and the 480 is the most quiet card you'll ever not hear (it's even quieter than passively cooled cards)!

    Well of course it's not quiet. It has a bloody Delta fan in it fer feck's sake. One 480 is inaudible when idle though, changing to roughly the same level of noise as my previous SLI'd 260s when under load. Three 480s produce a lot of noise under load but nothing a good pair of heaphones can't block out (I love my Beyerdynamic MMX 300s!), unfortunately even when idle the combined heat of the cards ensures that there is always a faint to medium fan noise. The fan sound itself is quite solid: no annoying whining noises or other strange effects, just a lot of air being moved.

    I highly recommend using a program like MSI Afterburner to set up a custom fan profile.


    Heat

    Again, no surprise here. The 480 is certainly one hot running card, but not THAT amazingly high. During the benchmarks, the highest temperature I saw for a single card was 90C and the hottest card for tri SLI was 96C. However, the exposed metal part of the cooler was hot enough to be painful to the touch. After running benchmarks for a while, the room had started to heat up a fair bit. But hey, my old 260s used to do that too. The more demanding benchmarks would require the fan of GPU 1 to be at 90% to maintain 90-95C. This is loud but there's still plenty of cooling capacity left in the card - 100% fans REALLY shifts some air. I set up a custom fan profile that allowed me to keep the cards <=81C with 90% fan - Nvidia really need to tweak the profile a bit.


    Unexpected extras

    To be honest, I'm really not interested in 3D vision, just being able to use PhysX, 16xAF and 8xAA+, as well as ambient occlusion. Two features caught my eye though (although one is just a subset of the other).

    Firstly, SLI'd 480s can run 64xAA through the drivers. I'll type that again just in case you think I'm making a typo. 64xAA. Why anyone would even think they needed that is beyond me but I still had fun activating it to play Homeworld 2. I'll leave it on, just because I can.

    Secondly, transparency AA has been improved. Depending on your settings (which are tied in to the aforementioned AA settings), it is possible to choose up to 16x transparency AA.


    Driver Maturity

    When I started running benchmarks with SLI configurations, I was expecting to run into problems. Well, there weren't any. Everything runs smoothly, even better than my previous cards. What's more, during overclocking (that's right, I overclocked these *******s) driver recovery was smooth and without incident when I inevitably ballsed up.


    Benchmarks

    Well, this is what you wanted to see, isn't it! I can't be bothered to write down every setting and do the same tests for everything so just assume that everything is on maximum everything unless otherwise stated (e.g. ambient occlusion where possible, 16xAF, high quality textures) and everything's at 2560x1600 except for the Futuremark stuff, which was at the defaults. Values are mean FPS if a single value, min/mean/max if a triple value. 'X' means it wouldn't run or I couldn't be bothered (almost always the latter).

    General Benches:
    [​IMG]

    Annoyingly Crysis doesn't completely get on with my rig and so I couldn't apply 8xAA (the game kept crashing when I applied the changes). No luck forcing it through drivers either.

    Stalker CoP Benches:

    260s
    [​IMG]

    480 DX10
    [​IMG]

    480 DX11
    [​IMG]

    2x480 DX11
    [​IMG]

    3x480 DX11
    [​IMG]

    The numbers speak for themselves, but I particularly like:

    1) Batman AA only gets a boost to min framerates with 3xSLI
    2) Scaleabiltiy seems to kick ass
    3) Anti-aliasing can be put up to silly values at a silly resolution
    4) I can put GTA4 at maximum EVERYTHING at last!


    Overclocking

    One of the reasons I chose Zotac is due to the fact that I had a 285 off them that overclocked well. The 480s were a mixed bag; I got a massive 815MHz core clock but only a 3800MHz memory clock. This was achieved using MSI Afterburner, a fantastic bit of GPU overclocking software. Still, this meant that:

    Crysis went from 50 to 55-56FPS
    Heaven Benchmark 8xAA went from 44.3 to 50.8FPS
    3DMark Vantage P (PhysX) score from 40086 to 42800

    No voltage tweaking was done. This is off stock voltages.


    Conclusions

    Well, here are my humble thoughts, in concise form because I'm tired:

    1) The 480 is a good card but only really comes into its own when in a dual/tri SLI set up
    2) Temperatures are nothing to worry about
    3) The noise is considerable but not life ruining
    4) The card has massive overclocking potential - Nvidia have actually been holding back


    FAQ

    Are you happy with your purchase?
    Absolutely. It is quite astonishing to see the Heaven benchmark zipping along at a fast framerate with AA engaged; I look forward to playing up and coming DX11 games without having to compromise on settings.

    Did you consider tri 5870s/dual 5970s?
    When the first reviews of the 480 came out, I was disappointed and did very briefly consider switching over to the red team. However, the normal versions of these cards only offered 1GB VRAM (effective) and therefore wouldn't allow me to run high AA. Luckily, reviews of SLI soon showed up and showed great promise which IMHO has been delivered. Personally I think that PhysX is a great feature to have as well - you should see the scarecrow battles in Batman AA if you don't believe me.

    LOL THERMI FAIL!!11!! ATI 5XXX 4EVA!1!
    Each to their own. I built a friend's computer recently and decided that he should have a 5850 (back when they were £200) and was impressed with its quiet running. I wanted raw power though and all the websites I've visited agree: for multiple
    GPU set ups the scaleability of the 480 wins out by a fair margin in the more demanding new games like Stalker CoP and Metro 2033.

    So, what's next?

    I'm going to figure out a way to activate AA in Crysis and tweak the Cvar groups to make it even harder to run.
     
    Last edited: 1 May 2010
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  2. Elton

    Elton Officially a Whisky Nerd

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    Well that's just insane.

    Any time you'd watercool it?
     
  3. Bloody_Pete

    Bloody_Pete Technophile

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    I was just thinking, from a raw hardware performance stand point, wouldn't 3 5970s out perform these? Not wanting to flame :)

    Epic testing, dedication to the cause :) How much power is it sucking from the grid, was there dimming of the lights? :p And why do you not have a SSD?
     
  4. Pete J

    Pete J Employed scum

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    Don't want to take the risk. Temperatures are actually quite controllable and my headphones sort out any noise problem!

    Unfortunately you can only link together 2 5970s. And I don't think SSDs are worth it at the moment (very aware of the irony thank you). I will be getting a 1.5TB storage drive soon though!
     
  5. Neogumbercules

    Neogumbercules New Member

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    If this thread was made by me it would be titled "What I'd do if I had money."
     
  6. Elton

    Elton Officially a Whisky Nerd

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    I would water cool it, even if it was risky, if I could afford it, I might as well go the full mile. With that said, it has more to do with the fact that I don't like that 80C temp reading.
     
  7. Bloody_Pete

    Bloody_Pete Technophile

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    How much does it affect the CPU temp?
     
  8. leexgx

    leexgx CPC hang out zone (i Fix pcs i do )

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    very nice some mad numbers there (needs to update my sig to state i have an GTX480 now)

    the M225 256GB SSD that i got is very worth it, i had an First gen corsair S128 even that one access times was fast but lacked data rate, but the M225 (with updated firmware to support Trim) is very fast and just makes evey thing just load right away with SSDs your more Subsystem (cpu-ram) limited then disk limited with SSDs most of the time (all these new and fancy faster SSD are all nice but gamers are Very unlikely to notice it, as bit-tech have shown all SSDs even the crap ones {JMicron} seem to boot the OS same speed and same game load times, faster SSDs are only needed if your doing server loads)

    considering you spent £1300 on video cards (and the rest of your system spec) i am surprised you not got one as your spinning disks is holding back the rest of your system (does not matter how many HDDs you raid trust me HDDs cant match the access times of an SSD and you never need to raid again as its very pointless with SSDs to raid even thought some do) once you used an SSD you never want to use an HDD again (apart from storage, but OS, games and Apps should run from the SSD to get the benefit as to why i got an 256GB)

    also disable PhysX when doing 3DMark Vantage as it not an proper score when its enabled (PhysX test in vantage is part of the CPU test but they never disabled PhysX hardware in it so the score is exaggerated then Nvidia PhysX is enabled and why its not an valid score on there site)
     
  9. Pete J

    Pete J Employed scum

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    Up to 85C is fine with me - seems to be a standard GPU temperature.
    Haven't noticed any change but there again I have the side of my case off pretty much the whole time.
    Having never tried SSDs, I'm not bothered about loading times. At the end of the day, SSDs don't affect in-game (generally speaking) and that's all I care about.

    As for running a proper vantage test, I did but adobe for some reason threw up an error message. I'll do it some time. Actually, I'll do it now while I have a shower.

    Edit:

    System gets X23262 and P29013 without PhysX
     
    Last edited: 1 May 2010
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  10. Elton

    Elton Officially a Whisky Nerd

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    Maybe it's my electro-thermal phobia kicking in, 70C+ is considered a bit dangerous to me. However if it works for you..

    Water cooling would save your ears though. Xd
     
  11. Ph4ZeD

    Ph4ZeD New Member

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    I'm not a Fermi fan as everyone knows, but respect for the amazingly hardcore rig. One area where the 480 is very good is SLI scaling - 50FPS at that resolution in Crysis is a crazy. But have to agree with the other posters, £1200+ on graphics cards but you can't spars £200 for an SSD?
     
  12. Ph4ZeD

    Ph4ZeD New Member

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    Don't be silly. Graphics cards typically reach high temperatures such as 90C with no harm to it. Its not "dangerous" at all.
     
  13. Teelzebub

    Teelzebub Up yours GOD,Whats best served cold

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    Wow insane number's I bet your glad you got them now pete, It's only money isn't it, Well must go now got to order some GTX480's !
     
    Last edited: 1 May 2010
  14. rollo

    rollo Well-Known Member

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    the old x800 ran around 90c as did most of nvidia cards. Its only really the last generation of ATI graphics cards that dont run at insane temps

    4890 runs at 90c + on standard cooling

    most gpus can take above 100c. Designed for it infact. Nvidias fan driver profile sucks as always no shock there. Epic test
     
  15. wyx087

    wyx087 Homeworld 3 is happening!!

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    those cards are crying out to be watercooled and overclocked to 800Mhz.

    i really like your part on overclocking potential, since i personally prefer nVidia cards and my first time with red team since 8800GTX met with artificially locked overclocking limits, not very happy about it.
     
  16. DragunovHUN

    DragunovHUN Well-Known Member

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    Nice, can we get some 3xSLi Lian Li porn here?
     
  17. smc8788

    smc8788 ...at least I have chicken

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    I don't think I've ever had a GPU that kept below 70C while under load for any period of time. My GTX 275 sits at a constant 80C when gaming, so it's not unique to the Fermi cards.
     
  18. Pete J

    Pete J Employed scum

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    Definitely happy :D ! Good luck getting the cards, I found some here:

    Scan
    Ebuyer
    Aria
    Novatech

    Even without watercooling, my cards are ticking along quite happily at their overclocked settings. If I had more money (I'm not actually stupidly wealthy, I've just been saving a year in advance) I would water cool them.

    Anyway, I've finished tweaking Crysis to run at beyond very high :hip: . The gpu test shows 47FPS mean, 31 FPS minimum. Unfortunately I still haven't been able to implement FSAA but I've notched the foliage AA to beyond what you get in very high. Just when you think Crysis can't look any better, it can :jawdrop: .
     
  19. nRollo

    nRollo NVIDIA Focus Group

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    These days I think this can be mitigated pretty economically. I just got a CoolIt ECO closed loop water cooler for my i7 965/480SLi rig. Only $75USD, blows cpu heat out the back, easy installation.
     
  20. dark_avenger

    dark_avenger Well-Known Member

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    Nice bit of kit you've got going on there.
    Have to agree with the other posters bout an SSD thu, it makes a HUGE diff to overal system proformance.

    As for GPU temps of 80C+ there not a big deal, there rated to around 125C
    Can save on heating costs by just playing games :D
     

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