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Power Consumption And Heat

GeForce GTX 480 And 470: From Fermi And GF100 To Actual Cards!
By , Fedy Abi-Chahla and Florian Charpentier

Here’s where things get dicey. I knew going into this story that the GeForce GTX 480 and 470 would be hot, power-hungry boards—Nvidia told me as much back in January. But measuring the extent of those values is an unscientific practice, at best.

FurMark is generally frowned upon as an unrealistic representation of peak power (a power virus, as AMD’s Dave Baumann puts it). However, it does serve as a theoretical worst-case scenario. Indeed, while the GeForce GTX 480 doesn’t use as much power as the dual-GPU GeForce GTX 295, it does out-consume the dual-GPU Radeon HD 5970 (no small feat, at 450W system power draw). Also, the GeForce GTX 470 uses significantly more power than the Radeon HD 5870.

Notably-missing from the chart is ATI’s Radeon HD 4870 X2, which we know from past reviews to chew up about as much power as Nvidia’s GeForce GTX 295. However, neither of the X2s in the lab seem to respond to FurMark at all anymore, running at a constant 13 frames per second or so and chewing up slightly-higher-than-idle power numbers. Maybe ATI “cured” that virus with forced lower frequencies in FurMark (the X2 was only able to hit 13 FPS or so, while our other cards were doing 40 or 50 FPS). But that doesn’t prevent the X2 from jumping into the 400+ watt system power range in actual games.

Heat jumps in FurMark as well, though it’s worth noting that none of these boards encountered heat-related stability issues. Keeping up with the thermals does mean the GeForce GTX 480’s fan ramps up fairly aggressively and does generate quite a bit of noise. However, we were unable to replicate that behavior in any real-world gaming load.

We’re actually a bit surprised about the idle power numbers as they were measured. AMD impressed us with the Radeon HD 5970’s 27W idle board rating, achieved in part by clocking its GPU down to 157 MHz and its GDDR5 memory to 300 MHz. Nvidia goes even further, dropping clocks to 50 MHz core, 67 MHz memory (270 MT/s data rate), and 100 MHz for the shaders. Nvidia doesn’t cite its idle board power, but an educated guess would still put the GeForce GTX 480 around 60W at those frequencies.

Just how do the GeForce GTX 480 and 470 size up in such a real-world load? Great question.

I ran all of the DirectX 11 cards in our story through the Unigine v2.0 benchmark, measuring average performance in frames per second. During the run, I had each configuration hooked up to a logger, polling power consumption every two seconds, yielding an average over the run. By dividing power use into average performance, we get an index that should give efficiency advocates something to think about.

Despite its aggressive power use, the Radeon HD 5970’s performance is enough to make it the most efficient board in the lineup, followed by the Radeon HD 5850 and Radeon HD 5870. Nvidia’s GeForce GTX 480 and GTX 470 pull up the rear. What I'm wondering is this: Nvidia rates the GTX 480 with a 250W maximum board power. AMD cites 294W for the 5970. Why do we keep seeing Nvidia's card using more system power?

Admittedly, these results are easily skewed—we can drive them one way or the other by hand-picking certain setting to cater to one or another architecture’s strengths. For example, turning off tessellation would give the Radeons a sizable advantage, since they take a more substantial hit when the feature is enabled. In fact, a couple of days before the launch, Unigine released v2.0 of the Heaven test, which adds even more emphasis on tessellation than the first revision used to generate our first batch of results. Thus, our numbers represent a best-case scenario for Nvidia; easing up on the tessellation load shifts the efficiency index even further in favor of the Radeon HD 5800-series cards, and we have charts demonstrating that, too.

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  • 2 Hide
    infra , 27 March 2010 06:28
    Great review guys! As for GTX 470/480 - It's not as bad as I expected.The cards show some pretty decent numbers compared to 5870 even without its tessellation power used to its best.Perhaps next-gen Fermi will be a true champion - power and heat will be optimized and games will use the architecture of the GPU to its full potential.All in all it's a great architecture, maybe a bit ahead of it's time if you ask me.
  • 2 Hide
    Anonymous , 27 March 2010 06:35
    Power hungry, noisy, the fight is on. Glad I got the 5870. The driver-updates will see us through.
  • 0 Hide
    N19h7M4r3 , 27 March 2010 06:54
    Power consuption is really high, but i think that efficiency if actually pretty good, but in the end what will matter is $$$ and not everyone will pay to have the best card on the block.
  • 1 Hide
    Dandalf , 27 March 2010 07:11
    Quote:
    Do we expect AMD to drop its prices in response? Don’t count on it.


    Dammit I was waiting for these cards SOLELY so ATI drop their prices! Aaaarrgghhh
  • 2 Hide
    Anonymous , 27 March 2010 09:55
    5000 series will keep their prices for a long time
  • 2 Hide
    mapleo , 27 March 2010 10:40
    Fermi could be a tragedy in NV's history.
    It seems I have to use HD5870 untill HD6870 or GTX580 release.
  • -1 Hide
    memeroot , 27 March 2010 12:58
    looks god if it came out 6 months back.... as a 3d vision fan thoug it looks like another wait for the right card
  • 0 Hide
    Dandalf , 27 March 2010 17:58
    Thanks for translation Rabid, wish i saw it before I started rating him down as a bot :| oops
  • -1 Hide
    Anonymous , 27 March 2010 20:07
    GTX480 buy it!!! Send stove!!! sorry my english is poor!!!
  • 0 Hide
    TIMELESS52 , 27 March 2010 22:45
    Wow!!!!!! It's the fastest single GPU card on the planet. And it's a toaster oven and space heater too. What will Nvidia think of next?

    I wonder if it will qualify for any exemptions under forthcoming "cap and trade" regulations?
  • 2 Hide
    FanterA , 27 March 2010 22:49
    it should also be noted that for UK customers (like myself) that a 5870 can be had for less than the asking price of a 470, and for the prices on the 480, you could have a pair of 5850s in crossfire. Add to this the heat and power concerns, and i think I'll forgo Thermi and get another 5850 when I deem it necessary. so glad i didn't wait :D 
  • -1 Hide
    mapleo , 28 March 2010 07:59
    qinmo费米高功耗低性能,画质差性价比低,完全是一个悲剧卡!单就画质一项就让我有足够的理由抛弃N卡了,同样的游戏和电影A卡的画质总是比N卡的好,更细腻更艳丽也更不刺眼.更何况A卡还更省电性价比也更高!阳痿达NV只知道拼命打广告狂吹牛皮,再把巨额的广告成本算进产品成本里让消费者买单,结果N卡总是毫无性价比,阳痿达NV把精力都花在做广告吹牛蒙人上,产品不好是必然的,买N卡的人都是冤大头。还是AMD-ATI实在,把精力都集中在产品研发上,所以A卡不但比N卡好,还更实惠。我就喜欢AMD-ATI这样低调厚道的企业!



    I'm not a fan for any brand. I only choose products base on my needs. That's my point.
  • -1 Hide
    Anonymous , 28 March 2010 10:29
    haha Fermi you are out!!
  • -2 Hide
    carlos0248 , 28 March 2010 17:09
    我觉得,这个产品就就像编辑说的那样,性能很强劲,功耗很大,价格比较贵,不用希望这样的产品能够导致ATI的显卡降价。

    I thought the GTX480 just like editor said that the best performance but the price and power consumption was higher. Don't count it can cause ait drop their price.
  • 1 Hide
    Anonymous , 28 March 2010 22:25
    It's a true fact that NV is always good at Games becouse of its "way" plan. Viedo card is often used to play video games after all.
  • 2 Hide
    goozaymunanos , 29 March 2010 03:19
    sod this..i'm gonna buy a 5850..

    the GTX470 should be retailing at £250.

    cheers,
    gooz


    p.s. stuff & nonsense: http://eupeople.net/forum
  • 1 Hide
    marney_5 , 29 March 2010 15:03
    How much are the Fermi cards in the US again? On overclockers UK the 480 prices around £450! Where the 5870 is around £320! Is this correct? Because Fermi is sh*t value if its only slightly faster and £100 extra!

    I only waited for this card so the ATI prices would go down!!! Dammit!
  • 0 Hide
    my_jacks , 29 March 2010 19:46
    Sparkle GeForce GTX 480 1536MB GDDR5 PCI-Express Graphics Card
    £445.99 (inc VAT)

    Sparkle GeForce GTX 470 1280MB GDDR5 PCI-Express Graphics Card
    £309.99 (inc VAT)



    Powercolor ATI Radeon HD 5970 2048MB GDDR5 PCI-Express Graphics Card
    £499.99 (inc VAT)

    Sapphire ATI Radeon HD 5870 1024MB GDDR5 PCI-Express Graphics Card
    £299.99 (inc VAT)

    Sapphire ATI Radeon HD 5850 1024MB GDDR5 PCI-Express Graphics Card
    £220.99 (inc VAT)

    - Overclockers UK (29/3/10)
  • 0 Hide
    13thmonkey , 30 March 2010 04:26
    what happens to power and heat if v-sync is on, i.e. if the card can do 120+ fps on a game but is limited to 60fps by v-sync, does that reduce the power and thermals as it is only calculating 50% of the frames.

    I assume it calculates a frame, waits for 60hz refresh (idles) displays it, calcs another one waits (idles), calcs another one, etc.

    or does it just calc and calc and calc and then show the one frame that was most recently completed on the refresh, then calc calc calc and show the most recent on the refresh, ignoring the results of the nondisplayed calcs.
  • -1 Hide
    damian86 , 30 March 2010 07:23
    ATI is still being your 'daddy'
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