Let's have a look at the elephant in the room first. The heat and noise from the card is extremely unattractive and while the heat doesn't personally bother me, the noise level would. Inside a case, though, with some good ventilation and tucked away a little bit, it won't be as big a problem, but there's no denying that the card is loud.
On the power front it's a bit of a mixed bag. Yes the number here is also big, and for some it may be too much. Others with good quality power supplies aren't going to find an issue with it, though. It would've been nice if it didn't draw as much power as the HD 5970, but I think for most it won't be a huge deal breaker.
Performance is really interesting. At 1680 x 1050 the card flies along with it at times beating out the HD 5870. As we move up the resolution table the picture changes. Even though the card carries with it more memory, we often saw that the performance between the GTX 470 and HD 5850 became quite close at 1920 x 1200 and the HD 5850 often being able to overtake the GTX 470 at 2560 x 1600.
While sometimes this wouldn't matter, both cards offer playable frame rates at this resolution and it does seem that more often than not, at 2560 x 1600 the lower MB and cheaper HD 5850 is able to pull out the win.
What's particularly interesting is when you go to the AA tests. Under Far Cry 2 the GTX 470 blitzes the competition with it being the only card beside the dual GPU HD 5970 to break the 30 FPS minimum with 8x AA on. The strong performance is again seen under Resident Evil 5 with the card leaning closer to the HD 5870 than the HD 5850. H.A.W.X. on the other hand sees the model fall a bit behind the pack. Compared to the GTX 285, though, performance is almost double.
You of course then look at PhysX. Under Darkest of Days the card kills everything. Let's be honest, though, it's Darkest of Days; it's hardly a contender for Game of the Year. Of course, under Batman we can see we've got no issues playing the game with PhsyX at high detail at 1920 x 1200 and below, something ATI can't do due to the lack of PhysX support. If you're big on your single player gaming and you love all the eye candy then PhysX may be more important to you than others. It's something that really has to be weighed up when it comes to purchasing your next video card.
It's very hard to give the card a rating and for that reason I'm not going to at the moment. When we've looked at the GTX 480, though, and get some retail samples in, we'll have a better picture of the model. What I will do today is just quickly cover the areas that we do cover in our rating system.
Performance - A mixed bag; we see the GTX 470 performs very strong at 1680 x 1050 and even strong when AA is turned on under certain games. Now, if you're on a 30" monitor offering 2560 x 1600 you might find the HD 5850 a better option with it performing slightly better quite often and being cheaper. On the other hand, if you prefer the lower resolution and AA you will probably find the GTX 470 a better option, albeit a more expensive one. Don't forget as well that there's PhysX as well which for some people is a great little feature and performance under PhsyX is strong with gaming at all resolutions being possible for the most part. You may just need to drop down from High to Low in some situations. 1680 x 1050 gamers would probably give the card a 90% - 93%; people that love PhysX and 1920 x 1200 and below with AA / AF 93% - 96%. As for 2560 x 1600 gamers, probably closer to the 85% mark again.
Quality - There's nothing wrong with the reference cooler and it's what you're probably going to see for the coming months from most companies. If we scored it we would easily have it sitting in the 85% mark because there's room for companies to add some upgraded cooling options.
General Features - A real mixed bag; if you're a gamer who loves to play MP games, stuff like PhysX and CUDA won't do nothing for you. In a situation like that the card would probably be around the 85% mark. On the other hand, folding@home users, movie rippers who use BADABOOM and anyone else who makes use of stuff like CUDA or loves PhysX would probably see a rating of closer to 95% - 97%.
Bundle, Packaging and Availability - All something that can't really be discussed on a reference version with the first two not being available and the latter not really being known for a week or two.
Value for Money - Something that is going to entirely depend on how you use the card. If you're in the group that would rate performance in the 90%+ section and features in the 95%+, then the card carries with it value. If you're in the other section you're not going to find as much value from the product.
The bottom line is we know what the fanbois are going to say.
ATI Fanbois - The card runs too hot, draws too much power and is too loud while offering performance better than the HD 5850 sometimes, while at the same time being more expensive.
NVIDIA Fanbois - AA performance is strong, 1680 x 1050 performance is able to beat even the HD 5970 at times and 1920 x 1200 sees the card ahead of the HD 5850 in most situations. Don't even get me started on the fact that we also have cool features like CUDA, PhysX, Ray Tracing, 3D Vision and more.
That rational people will look at the performance numbers, though; they'll figure out how they're going to game and if they'll make use of NVIDIA specific technologies. These are the people who will ultimately win out because they'll buy the best product for them and not let fanboism blind them.
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