GIGABYTE GeForce GTX 480 Video Card

Our first GTX 480 arrives and it's a sexy looking retail one. Let's see how the GIGABYTE GTX 480 looks and goes.

Published Apr 14, 2010 10:58 AM CDT   |   Updated Tue, Nov 3 2020 7:02 PM CST
Manufacturer: NVIDIA
16 minute read time


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I've been waiting weeks for a GTX 480 to arrive here at TweakTown and it's nice to see it's finally come in the form of a retail version thanks to GIGABYTE. The chances are that most people have probably made up their mind on what they think of the GTX 400 series, but let's have a look at a retail version and see how it compares against some of the top cards from ATI along with the GTX 470.

While we didn't have a GTX 480 at launch, we have already covered the main specifications of the model and along with the main features it and the GTX 400 series in general offers. Since we won't go into massive detail on those two areas today, I recommend that you check out both my GTX 400 Series - What you need to know article and our stand alone GTX 470 review.

With that said, we'll be covering the technical specifications as always on page three of the review where we look at the card and we'll also be talking about some of the technologies in the final thoughts.

For now, let's have a look at the package to see what GIGABYTE has given us before we have a closer look at the card itself and get stuck into the benchmarks to see if the card will float or sink.

The Package

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I love the look of the box and the sparkle that GIGABYTE have put on it looks awesome. As for the contents of the package, there's no denying that it's on the light side of things. The main stand out point would be the mini-HDMI to HDMI cable. It's interesting why they've chosen to include a cable instead of an adapter, but we're not about to complain.

Also included is another CD which includes some free apps. Included on the disc are some of the NVIDIA apps that let you show off the power of your video card.

The Card and Specifications

The Card

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The GTX 480 is the meanest looking card to date as far as I'm concerned when it comes to seeing the massive heatsink. GIGABYTE has of course stickered the card up and the overall look is fantastic. Power is required with the help of a single 8-Pin PCI-E connector and single 6-Pin PCI-E connector. I/O connectivity is the same as the GTX 470 which means we've got two Dual-Link DVI connectors and a single mini-HDMI port.


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As far as the specifications go, some of the main pieces include 480 Shaders, 1536MB of GDDR5 and 384-bit memory bus. As far as clocks go, the core comes in at 701MHz, the Shader at 1401MHz and the memory at 3696MHz QDR.

If you missed it in our introduction, to get more of an idea on the specifications and how it compares to the GTX 470 I recommend you check out my GTX 400 Series - What you need to know article.

Test System Setup and 3DMark Vantage

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We would like to thank the following companies for supplying and supporting us with our test system hardware and equipment: Intel, ASRock, Kingston, Western Digital, Noctua and Thermaltake.

We'll be comparing the GIGABYTE GTX 480 to a number of other cards today including the reference GTX 470, HD 5850, HD 5870 and the big boy from ATI, the HD 5970.

While the card isn't designed to compete against the HD 5970, we've included it anyway. You have to note it's more expensive, though. The GTX 480 is mainly designed to compete against the HD 5870, although NVIDIA say while it's more expensive, it's also faster.

Let's get started!

3DMark Vantage

Version and / or Patch Used: 1.0.1
Developer Homepage:
Product Homepage:
Buy It Here

3DMark Vantage is the new industry standard PC gaming performance benchmark from Futuremark, newly designed for Windows Vista and DirectX10. It includes two new graphics tests, two new CPU tests, several new feature tests, and support for the latest hardware.

3DMark Vantage is based on a completely new rendering engine, developed specifically to take full advantage of DirectX10, the new graphics API from Microsoft.

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Under Vantage we can see that the GTX 480 manages to outperform the HD 5870 here. Compared to the GTX 470 we see some good gains with the higher end NVIDIA model.

Unigine Heaven Benchmark

Version and / or Patch Used: 1 and 2
Developer Homepage:
Product Homepage:

New benchmark grants the power to unleash the DirectX 11 potential in the gift wrapping of impressively towering graphics capabilities. It reveals the enchanting magic of floating islands with a tiny village hidden in the cloudy skies. With the interactive mode emerging experience of exploring the intricate world is ensured within reach. Through its advanced renderer, Unigine is one of the first to set precedence in showcasing the art assets with tessellation, bringing compelling visual finesse, utilizing the technology to the full extend and exhibiting the possibilities of enriching 3D gaming.

Note: If a card doesn't support DirectX 11 the benchmark will be left out, if it does it will be included along with the DirectX10 results.

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Heaven performance on the NVIDIA cards is strong. Compared to the HD 5970 the GTX 480 sits only just behind the dual GPU HD 5970 in the latest version of Heaven benchmark which is very heavy on Tessellation; something NVIDIA have concentrated on.

Benchmarks - CINEBENCH


Version and / or Patch Used: Release 10 and Release 11.5
Developer Homepage:
Product Homepage:

CINEBENCH is a real-world test suite that assesses your computer's performace capabilities. MAXON CINEBENCH is based on MAXON's award-winning animation software, CINEMA 4D, which is used extensively by studios and production houses worldwide for 3D content creation. MAXON software has been used in blockbuster movies such as Spider-Man, Star Wars, The Chronicles of Narnia and many more.

MAXON CINEBENCH runs several tests on your computer to measure the performance of the main processor and the graphics card under real world circumstances. The benchmark application makes use of up to 16 CPUs or CPU cores and is available for Windows (32-bit and 64-Bit) and Macintosh (PPC and Intel-based).

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R10 CINEBENCH performance is as we would expect; it's much lower than the ATI ones which doesn't come as a surprise. As for the R11.5 performance, the GTX 480 performs the strongest out of the group.

Benchmarks - Resident Evil 5

Resident Evil 5

Version and / or Patch Used: Demo Benchmark
Developer Homepage:
Product Homepage:

Resident Evil 5 is a survival horror video game developed and published by Capcom. The game is the seventh installment in the Resident Evil survival horror series, and was released on September 18. Resident Evil 5 revolves around Chris Redfield and Sheva Alomar as they investigate a terrorist threat in Kijuju, a fictional town in Africa.

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Across the board we can see the GTX 480 performs very well. Compared to the HD 5870 it's able to outperform the model at all resolutions. Fortunately we're well above the 60 FPS average we want to see, so the game will no doubt run silky smooth.

Benchmarks - BattleForge


Version and / or Patch Used: Auto Patched at Load
Timedemo or Level Used: Built-in Test
Developer Homepage:
Product Homepage:

The Gods have disappeared and the old sun has died, letting a vile twilight engulf the world of Nyn. In exchange for all treasures the mortals possessed, the evil giants agreed to forge a new sun and hurl it into the sky.

But the deal was betrayed, the treasure stolen and now the mortals flee the wrath of the giants. Under the light of a new sun the mortals stumble into a world changed and twisted by an age of twilight. The long journey home has become a conquest of survival.

Note: Supporting DirectX 11 we have seperated the graphs for NVIDIA and ATI cards. While the numbers between the two brands can be compared you have to make note that ATI based HD 5000 series cards are running DirectX 11.

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BattleForge is one of the most intensive games in our lineup and you can see some strong performance which at the lower resolution puts the card ahead of the HD 5870. At 2560 x 1600 we can see that the two cards perform identical.

Benchmarks - Tom Clancy's H.A.W.X.

Tom Clancy's H.A.W.X.

Version and / or Patch Used: Benchmark Demo
Timedemo or Level Used: Built-in Test
Developer Homepage:
Product Homepage:

Tom Clancy's H.A.W.X is an arcade-style flight simulator video game developed by Ubisoft Romania and published by Ubisoft for Microsoft Windows, Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and iPhone OS.

The fundamental gameplay mechanics are similar to those of other console-based flight series. Players take on enemies with over 50 aircraft available. Each mission is at real world locations in environments created with commercial satellite data. A cockpit, first person, and third person view are selectable. The third person view gives the player an external view of both their plane and the target.

Set above the skies of a near-future world, increasingly dependent on private military companies with elite mercenaries who have a relaxed view on the law. As these non-governmental organizations gain power, global conflict erupts with one powerful PMC attacking the United States.

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At all resolutions we see the GTX 480 is able to outperform the HD 5870. At the highest resolution the gain isn't nearly as big when compared to the 1680 x 1050 results, but the main thing is the card still wins.

Benchmarks - Darkest of Days

Darkest of Days

Version and / or Patch Used: 1.4
Timedemo or Level Used: Built-in Test
Developer Homepage:
Product Homepage:

Darkest of Days takes the player through time into historic battles in an effort to save key individuals from certain death. The battles range from Custer's Last Stand at the Battle of the Little Bighorn in 1876 to fighting in Pompeii as ash and fire rain down from an erupting Mt. Vesuvius in 79 AD. Other locations include the battles of Antietam and Tannenberg, and a German World War II P.O.W. camp. There are different missions in every time period and the game takes about 4 hours to complete.

The game features over twenty weapons, both from the original time period as well as those brought back from the future. In addition, there are artillery weapons from different time periods to assist in battle.

Note: With the PhysX set to Medium or High Darkest of Days take advantage of the NVIDIA PhysX abilities. For that reason we will test ATI cards at the Low preset, NVIDIA based cards though will be tested at Low and High.

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Thanks to PhysX support we see the GTX 480 performs very strong. Compared to the GTX 470 we see a good performance increase. Compared to the ATI offerings the NVIDIA cards absolutely kill them.

Benchmarks - Far Cry 2

Far Cry 2

Version and / or Patch Used: 1.01
Timedemo or Level Used: Ranch Long
Developer Homepage:
Product Homepage:
Buy It Here

The Dunia Engine was built specifically for Far Cry 2 by the award-winning Ubisoft Montreal development team. It delivers the most realistic destructible environments, amazing special effects such as dynamic fire propagation and storm effects, real-time night-and-day cycle, dynamic music system, non-scripted enemy A.I. and so much more.

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We see some strong performance across the board again from the GTX 480. In saying that, we see strong performance from all models. Compared to the HD 5870 performance between both models is similar in the minimum department. Looking at the average, we see the GTX 480 pulls out the win.

Benchmarks - Batman Arkham Asylum

Batman Arkham Asylum

Version and / or Patch Used: 1.1
Timedemo or Level Used: Built-in Test
Developer Homepage:
Product Homepage:

Batman: Arkham Asylum exposes players to a unique, dark and atmospheric adventure that takes them to the depths of Arkham Asylum - Gotham's psychiatric hospital for the criminally insane. Gamers will move in the shadows, instigate fear amongst their enemies and confront The Joker and Gotham City's most notorious villains who have taken over the asylum.

Using a wide range of Batman's gadgets and abilities, players will become the invisible predator and attempt to foil The Joker's demented scheme.
Batman: Arkham Asylum features an original story penned exclusively for the game by famous Batman author and five-time Emmy award winner Paul Dini, whose credits include Lost season one and Batman: The Animated Series.

Note: With support for PhysX NVIDIA based cards will be tested with the technology on and off, ATI cards will be tested with the technology off due to it not being supported on their cards.

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Batman AA performance is strong and beats out the all the single GPU video cards here. Of course, we've also got the option for PhysX. Unfortunately at 2560 x 1600 the card does fall a little behind that 30 FPS minimum, but at the other resolutions we're above that 30 FPS at 1920 x 1200 and 1680 x 1050.

Benchmarks - Dark Void

Dark Void

Version and / or Patch Used: Benchmark Demo
Timedemo or Level Used: Built-in Test
Developer Homepage:
Product Homepage:

The game's story takes place during World War II and centers around a cargo pilot named William Augustus Grey (voiced by Nolan North) who is teleported to another world while flying through the Bermuda Triangle. In this world, known as the 'Void', Will encounters an alien race as well as other humans, which are known as the Watchers and the Survivors respectively.

Will reluctantly joins the Survivors who are engaged in a feud with the alien race to satisfy his desire to return to Earth. While aiding the Survivors, Will discovers that the Void is a middle ground that connects both the Watchers homeworld and Earth. It also becomes apparent that the Watchers are supplying the Axis powers with various supplies for reasons unknown. With the help of Nikola Tesla, Will utilizes retrofited Watcher technology to combat the Watchers and eventually find a way to escape the Void.

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Dark Void performance sees the GTX 480 again outperform the other single GPU cards here. With PhysX on we see a huge amount more load on the card. Fortunately there's enough grunt available that we're still a good 9 FPS above that 30 FPS minimum we need to see.

Benchmarks - High Quality AA and AF

High Quality AA and AF

Our high quality tests let us separate the men from the boys and the ladies from the girls. If the cards weren't struggling before they will start to now.

Far Cry 2

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AA performance for the GTX 400 series is a stand out and you can see the minimum from the GTX 480 is impressive; it manages to really smash every other card here. It's interesting to see that compared to the HD 5970 the average does sit slightly down; while not as important, it's interesting none the less.

Resident Evil 5

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We again see strong AA performance here and the card manages to beat out all the other single GPU offerings. In this case it does fall behind the dual GPU HD 5970, however.

Tom Clancy's H.A.W.X.

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While the card doesn't beat out the HD 5970 here, it does match it and with only a single GPU it's impressive.

Benchmarks - Elcomsoft Wireless Security Auditor

Elcomsoft Wireless Security Auditor

Version and / or Patch Used: 1.51
Timedemo or Level Used: Sample File
Developer Homepage:
Product Homepage:

ElcomSoft has pioneered many software innovations that have made it easier to recover passwords protecting various types of resources. For the first time in the industry, the company's patent-pending GPU acceleration makes its way into Wi-Fi password recovery, reducing the time required to recover Wi-Fi passwords up to a hundred times.

Supporting up to four NVIDIA boards such as GeForce 8, 9, and 200, as well as ATI video cards such as RADEON HD 4000 Series and up, Elcomsoft Wireless Security Auditor allows building servers with supercomputer performance at a fraction of the price.

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Much stronger performance than the GTX 470 here. We can see it sits just ever so slightly behind the HD 5870, though.

Benchmarks - Badaboom


Version and / or Patch Used: Release
Developer Homepage:
Product Homepage:

Badaboom eliminates the frustration of video conversion by providing users with speed, efficiency, quality, and a sleek interface. In a practice that used to take several hours, Badaboom converts feature-length movies in a matter of minutes while keeping the videos looking crisp and clear.

By harnessing the power of NVIDIA CUDA-enabled GPUs, Badaboom offloads the CPU to allow users to continue browsing the Internet or checking email without decreased system performance, making transcoding high-quality video fast, easy, and painless.

Note: With the requirement for a CUDA enabled graphics card to run Badaboom, this means that we can only use NVIDIA based cards for this test.

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Between the GTX 470 and GTX 480 we found there was no time difference when it came to converting our file.

Temperature and Sound Tests

Temperature Tests

With the TES 1326 Infrared Thermometer literally in hand we found ourselves getting real-world temperatures from the products we test at load (3D clock speeds).

There are two places we pull temperature from - the back of the card directly behind the core and if the card is dual slot and has an exhaust point we also pull a temperate from there, as seen in the picture.

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While the card does indeed run warm when compared to the competition, it doesn't run as warm as the GTX 470. Clearly the massive heatsink is doing something for the core when it comes to keeping temperatures down.

Sound Tests

Pulling out the TES 1350A Sound Level Meter we find ourselves quickly yelling into the top of it to see how loud we can be.

After five minutes of that we get a bit more serious and place the device two CM away from the fan on the card to find the maximum noise level of the card when idle (2D mode) and in load (3D mode).

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The good news is that noise levels are also slightly lower when compared to the GTX 470. In saying that, at almost 70 dB the card is very audible.

Power Consumption Tests

Using our new PROVA Power Analyzer WM-01 or "Power Thingy" as it has become quickly known as to our readers, we are now able to find out what kind of power is being used by our test system and the associated graphics cards installed. Keep in mind; it tests the complete system (minus LCD monitor, which is plugged directly into AC wall socket).

There are a few important notes to remember though; while our maximum power is taken in 3DMark06 at the same exact point, we have seen in particular tests the power being drawn as much as 10% more. We test at the exact same stage every time; therefore tests should be very consistent and accurate.

The other thing to remember is that our test system is bare minimum - only a 7,200RPM SATA-II single hard drive is used without CD ROM or many cooling fans.

So while the system might draw 400 watts in our test system, placing it into your own PC with a number of other items, the draw is going to be higher.

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With what the GTX 470 needed to run, it comes as no surprise that the GTX 480 sucks down even more power. While the load we can handle, with it being almost 50 Watt more than the HD 5970 the idle is worrying at closer to 80 Watt more than not only ATIs fastest card, but the fastest video card on the market, period.

Total Performance Rating (TPR)

Total Performance Rating

The TPR graph is a combination of all our benchmarks in which NVIDIA and ATI are on an even playing field. This includes benchmarks where PhysX can be forced off like Dark Void and Batman: Arkham Asylum, but not Darkest of Days.

The TPR number is a combination of:

3DMark Vantage, Heaven Benchmark V2, CINEBENCH R11.5, Resident Evil 5, BattleForge, Tom Clancy's H.A.W.X., Far Cry 2, Batman: Arkham Asylum (PhysX Off), Dark Void (PhysX Off) and our three High Quality tests which include Far Cry 2, Resident Evil 5 and Tom Clancy's H.A.W.X.

All of the benchmark results achieved are then combined into a single number. As this graph will grow over time and cards won't be re-tested, next to each model you'll find the driver version that was used when the card was benchmarked.

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Performance isn't really an issue with the GTX 480; you can clearly see that it's able to outperform the HD 5870 when it comes to our TPR score. This gives us a good idea of just how the card sits on the market.

Total Value Rating (TVR)

Total Value Rating

The TVR graph is the TPR score divided by the price of the video card. The price of the video card is based on the list price of the model on In the event the card isn't listed, it will be based on the U.S. $ MSRP given to us by the manufacturer.

In the event we can't source a price from either, the product will not receive a TVR rating. As with our TPR graph, the amount of video cards on the list will grow over time and the price of the model won't change from what it was when first reviewed. For this reason the U.S. $ price that the card is based off will be included next to the name of the model.

In the event you want to find the TVR rating yourself based on the current price, all you have to do is simply divide the TPR number by the list price.

TVR numbers are rounded to the nearest whole number; 100.3 will be 100; 100.8 will be 101 and 100.5 will be rounded down to 100.

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As we climb up the performance table the overall value of products tend to drop. That's the cost of being on the bleeding edge of technology. As you can see, while the model is faster than the HD 5870, its value isn't as good.

Final Thoughts

The GTX 480 has a more clear position in the market when you compare it to the GTX 470 and its competitors. There's no denying that it's the fastest single GPU video card on the market; not the fastest video card, but the fastest single GPU one. It also seems that the meatier heatsink means the card isn't plagued with the heat and noise issues as badly as the GTX 470. It's still notably hotter and louder, though, when compared to its competitor.

Considering the cost of the card, it's disappointing to see that GIGABYTE didn't choose to really include any extras in the bundle. The free NVIDIA apps can be downloaded anyway and you'll probably find the mini-HDMI to HDMI cable (or at least a connector) will be included in most boxes.

The fact that the GTX 480 has a clear market position is what makes it great. The GTX 470 is a bit here and there. The GTX 480 is the fastest single GPU card; it's going to cost more than the HD 5870, but it's also going to perform faster. Where the GTX 470 fails a bit is while it costs more than the HD 5850, it doesn't always perform faster.

The decision to buy the GTX 480 at $499.99 over the HD 5870 which is closer to the $420 mark is going to be a tough one. $80 is a good chunk of change and the performance gains aren't huge over the HD 5870, especially at the higher resolution. In saying that, in AA the card performs fantastic, but high AA and 2560 x 1600 is going to be a hit and miss on some games with it not always being an option when it comes to getting a playable framerate.

Of course, you have to throw into the equation support like PhysX and CUDA which are for some, a fantastic feature to have; to others it's not important. The fact that the model clearly stands out from the pack is what makes it a lot easier to judge when compared to the GTX 470.

The GIGABYTE version while lacking some extras, has nothing wrong with it. The most important part of the bundle is included which of course is the card itself. If you're looking for a GTX 480 the GIGABYTE version is one worth looking at. The chances are, though, at the moment your decision is going to be dictated by who has stock.

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Shawn takes care of all of our video card reviews. From 2009, Shawn is also taking care of our memory reviews, and from May 2011, Shawn also takes care of our CPU, chipset and motherboard reviews. As of December 2011, Shawn is based out of Taipei, Taiwan.

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