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PNY GeForce GTX 470 Review
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Date: Jun 10, 2010
Section:Graphics/Sound
Author: Marco Chiappetta
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Introduction and Related Information

When NVIDIA launched the first wave of GF100-based graphics cards in late march, the initial GeForce GTX 400 series line-up consisted of only two cards, the flagship GeForce GTX 480 (reviewed here) and its somewhat less powerful counterpart, the GeForce GTX 470. Since then, NVIDIA has augmented the GeForce GTX 400 series line-up with the more affordable GeForce GTX 465 as well, which we took a look at here.

Unfortunately, at launch, we did not have access to a GeForce GTX 470 and couldn't provide our normal performance analysis. But good things come to those to who wait though. And since the initial launch we have gotten our hands on a full retail-ready GeForce GTX 470 by way of long time player in the PC space PNY. NVIDIA has also released a brand new set of drivers, i.e. Release 256, that unlocks additional performance from their latest GPU.

On the pages ahead, we'll evaluate the PNY GeForce GTX 470 using NVIDIA's latest drivers to see just how much performance the GTX 470 has to offer gamers today. First up though, some specs...

 

PNY GeForce GTX 470
Specifications and Features


As the specifications above show, the PNY GeForce GTX 470 strictly adheres to NVIDIA reference GeForce GTX 470 design. PNY's GeForce GTX 470 offers identical features to other reference cards and is clocked at NVIDIA's recommended GPU core, shader, and memory frequencies as well.

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PNY GeForce GTX 470

In terms of features and capabilities, the GeForce GTX 470 and more powerful, flagship GeForce GTX 480 are identical. The GTX 470, however, has fewer stream processors / CUDA cores enabled, 448 to be exact versus 480 in its higher-end counterpart. The GeForce GTX 470 also  has a smaller memory interface and its clock speeds are a bit lower. More specifically, the GeForce GTX 470 has a 320-bit wide memory interface with 1.28GB of frame buffer memory running at 837MHz (3.348GHz effective). Its GPU is clocked at 607MHz and has 56 texture units and 40 ROPs available. 

      


      
The PNY GeForce GTX 470

With the sole exception being its custom "XLR8" decal, the PNY GeForce GTX 470 looks just like NVIDIA's reference GeForce GTX 470, or just about every other GeForce GTX 470 currently available for that matter. The card's GPU and memory reside on the front of the PCB and are cooled by a large heatsink and fan assembly that covers the whole front side of the card. On the back, there are notches cut into the PCB to allow more air to flow into the cooler's barrel-type fan, where the air is ten forced over the heatsink and expelled from the system through vents in the card's mounting bracket. Unlike the GTX 480, which has a large metal portion of its heatsink exposed, the GeForce GTX 470's heatsink is completely covered by a shroud. Also unlike the GTX 480, we found the GTX 470's cooler to operate at much more tolerable noise levels, even after many hours of testing.  With the GPU takes an running at a 90'C, the fan on this card doesn't spin any higher than 40% of its maximum speed.

As for the GeForce GTX 470's output configuration, there are two dual-link DVI outputs on the card, along with a mini HDMI output with audio. The GeForce GTX 470 required two 6-pin PCI Express power connectors and max board power hovers around 215 watts, about 35 watts less than the GeForce GTX 480. More information about the GF100 GPU itself is available here and we'll give some more detail on the card's power consumption characteristics on a later page.

Since we're talking specifically about PNY's GeForce GTX 470 offering, we should also talk a bit about its accessory bundle. PNY includes a users manual and installation guide with their GeForce GTX 470, along with the obligatory driver CD, a VGA-to-DVI adapter, a dual-Molex-to-PCI Express 6-Pin adapter, and a mini-HDMI to full-sized HDMI adapter. We should also note, however, that a promotion is currently running that will net buyers of this, and most other GeForce GTX 400 series cards, a coupon good for the full version of Just Cause 2, which is a pretty cool game we'll be incorporating into our test routing moving forward.

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Test System and Unigine Heaven

How We Configured Our Test Systems:  We tested the graphics cards in this article on a Gigabyte GA-EX58-UD5 motherboard powered by a Core i7 965 quad-core processor and 6GB of OCZ DDR3-1333 RAM. The first thing we did when configuring the test system was enter the system BIOS and set all values to their "optimized" or "high performance" default settings. Then we manually configured the memory timings and disabled any integrated peripherals that wouldn't be put to use. The hard drive was then formatted, and Windows 7 Ultimate x64 was installed. When the installation was complete we fully updated the OS and installed the latest hotfixes, along with the necessary drivers and applications.

HotHardware's Test Systems
Core i7 Powered

Hardware Used:
Core i7 965 (3.2GHz)

Gigabyte EX58-UD5
(X58 Express)

Radeon HD 5850
Radeon HD 5870
Radeon HD 5970
GeForce GTX 285
GeForce GTX 470
GeForce GTX 465
GeForce GTX 480

6GB OCZ DDR3-1333
Western Digital Raptor 150GB
Integrated Audio
Integrated Network

Relevant Software:
Windows 7 Ultimate x64
DirectX Feb. 2010 Redist
ATI Catalyst v10.4
NVIDIA GeForce Drivers 257.15

Benchmarks Used:

Unigine Heaven v2.0
3DMark Vantage v1.0.1
H.A.W.X.
FarCry 2
Crysis*
Left 4 Dead 2*
Enemy Territory: Quake Wars v1.5*

* - Custom benchmark

Unigine Heaven v2.0 Benchmark
Synthetic DirectX 11 Gaming


Unigine Heaven

The Unigine Heaven Benchmark v2.0 is built around the Unigine game engine. Unigine is a cross-platform real-time 3D engine, with support for DirectX 9, DirectX 10, DirectX 11 and OpenGL. The Heaven benchmark--when run in DX11 mode--also makes comprehensive use of tessellation technology and advanced SSAO (screen-space ambient occlusion), and it also features volumetric cumulonimbus clouds generated by a physically accurate algorithm and a dynamic sky with light scattering. Due to the fact that we tested Heaven in DX11 mode, no NVIDIA GT200 series cards are represented in the graph below.

The PNY GeForce GTX 470 handled the Unigine Heaven benchmark really well. At the extreme settings we used, which heavily tax the tessellation capabilities of a GPU, the GTX 470 is the third fastest of the bunch--only the more expensive GeForce GTX 480 and dual-GPU powered Radeon HD 5970 come out ahead.

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Futuremark 3DMark Vantage

Futuremark 3DMark Vantage
Synthetic DirectX Gaming


3DMark Vantage

The latest version of Futuremark's synthetic 3D gaming benchmark, 3DMark Vantage, is specifically bound to Windows Vista-based systems because it uses some advanced visual technologies that are only available with DirectX 10, which y isn't available on previous versions of Windows.  3DMark Vantage isn't simply a port of 3DMark06 to DirectX 10 though.  With this latest version of the benchmark, Futuremark has incorporated two new graphics tests, two new CPU tests, several new feature tests, in addition to support for the latest PC hardware.  We tested the graphics cards here with 3DMark Vantage's Extreme preset option, which uses a resolution of 1920x1200 with 4x anti-aliasing and 16x anisotropic filtering.



Like the Unigine benchmark on the previous page, the PNY GeForce GTX 470 finishes ahead of almost every card in the 3DMark Vantage benchmark, but this time three cards offer better performance--the GTX 480 (obviously) and the Radeon HD 5970 and 5870. The GTX 470 technically manages to pull ahead of the Radeon HD 5850 as well, but the delta is quite small.

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Enemy Territory: Quake Wars

Enemy Territory: Quake Wars
OpenGL Gaming Performance


Enemy Territory:
Quake Wars

Enemy Territory: Quake Wars is Based on a radically enhanced version of id's Doom 3 engine and viewed by many as Battlefield 2 meets the Strogg, and then some.  In fact, we'd venture to say that id took EA's team-based warfare genre up a notch or two.  ET: Quake Wars also marks the introduction of John Carmack's "Megatexture" technology that employs large environment and terrain textures that cover vast areas of maps without the need to repeat and tile many smaller textures.  The beauty of megatexture technology is that each unit only takes up a maximum of 8MB of frame buffer memory.  Add to that HDR-like bloom lighting and leading edge shadowing effects and Enemy Territory: Quake Wars looks great, plays well and works high end graphics cards vigorously.  The game was tested with all of its in-game options set to their maximum values with soft particles enabled in addition to 4x anti-aliasing and 16x anisotropic filtering

 

The performance trend in our custom ET: Quake wars benchmark looks much like 3DMark Vantage from the previous page. Here, the PNY GeForce GTX 470 pulls slightly ahead of the Radeon HD 5850, but the 5870, 5970, and GeForce GTX 480 put up much higher numbers.

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Crysis v1.21

Crysis v1.21
DirectX 10 Gaming Performance


Crysis

If you're at all into enthusiast computing, the highly anticipated single player, FPS smash-hit Crysis, should require no introduction. Crytek's game engine produces some stunning visuals that are easily the most impressive real-time 3D renderings we've seen on the PC to date.  The engine employs some of the latest techniques in 3D rendering like Parallax Occlusion Mapping, Subsurface Scattering, Motion Blur and Depth-of-Field effects, as well as some of the most impressive use of Shader technology we've seen yet.  In short, for those of you that want to skip the technical jib-jab, Crysis is a beast of a game.  We ran the full game patched to v1.21 with all of its visual options set to 'Very High' to put a significant load on the graphics cards being tested  A custom demo recorded on the Ice level was used throughout testing.

 

Starting to see the trend yet? In our custom Crysis benchmark, once again, the GeForce GTX 470 finishes slightly ahead of the Radeon HD 5850, but well behind the higher-end, more expensive cards.

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FarCry 2

FarCry 2
DirectX Gaming Performance


FarCry 2

Like the original, FarCry 2 is one of the more visually impressive games to be released on the PC to date.  Courtesy of the Dunia game engine developed by Ubisoft, FarCry 2's game-play is enhanced by advanced environment physics, destructible terrain, high resolution textures, complex shaders, realistic dynamic lighting, and motion-captured animations.  We benchmarked the graphics cards in this article with a fully patched version of FarCry 2, using one of the built-in demo runs recorded in the "Ranch" map.  The test results shown here were run at various resolutions with 4X AA enabled.

The PNY GeForce GTX 470 performed relatively well in the FarCry 2 benchmark. In this test, the GTX 470 was able to pull ahead of even the Radeon HD 5870. The Radeon HD 5970 and GeForce GTX 480 were still the top performers overall, however.

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Left 4 Dead 2

Left 4 Dead 2
DirectX Gaming Performance


Left 4 Dead 2

Like its predecessor, Left 4 Dead 2 is a co-operative, survival horror, first-person shooter that pits four players against numerous hordes of Zombies. Like Half Life 2, the game uses the Source engine, however, the visual in L4D 2 are far superior to anything seen in the Half Life universe to date. The game has much more realistic water and lighting effects, more expansive maps with richer detail, more complex models, and the list goes on and on. We tested the game at various resolutions with 4x anti-aliasing and 16x anisotropic filtering enabled and all in game graphical options set to their maximum values.

 

The performance trend we witnessed earlier returned in our L4D2 benchmark. Here, the PNY GeForce GTX 470 once again finishes somewhere in between the Radeon HD 5850 and 5870, and well behind the GTX 480 and Radeon HD 5970.

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

Tom Clancy's H.A.W.X.
DirectX Gaming Performance


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

Tom Clancy's H.A.W.X. is an aerial warfare video game that takes place during the time of Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter.  Players have the opportunity to take the throttle of over 50 famous aircrafts in both solo and 4-player co-op missions, and take them over real world locations and cities in photo-realistic environments created with the best commercial satellite data provided by GeoEye.  We used the built-in performance test at two resolutions with all quality settings set to their highest values, using the DX10 code path for the GeForce GT 200 series cards, and DX10.1 path for the Radeons and GeForce GTX 400 series.

 

The benchmark built-into Tom Clancy's H.A.W.X. reported results somewhat similar to FarCry 2 from a few pages page. In this test, the PNY GeForce GTX 470 outpaces the Radeon HD 5870 at the lower resolution, only to fall behind once the resolution was increased to 2560x1600. Versus the Radeon HD 5850 though, the GTX 470 finishes well out in front in this game.

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Total System Power Consumption

Before bringing this article to a close, we'd like to cover a few final data points--namely power consumption and noise. Throughout all of our benchmarking and testing, we monitored how much power our test system was consuming using a power meter. Our goal was to give you all an idea as to how much power each configuration used while idling and while under a heavy workload. Please keep in mind that we were testing total system power consumption at the outlet here, not just the power being drawn by the graphics cards alone.

Total System Power Consumption
Tested at the Outlet

Due to its lower clock speeds, memory interface, and fewer shader cores, the GeForce GTX 470 consumes significantly less power than the high-end GeForce GTX 480. However, with idle power consumption of about 186W and load consumption at 369 watts total for the system, the GTX 470 sucks up almost as much juice as the dual-GPU powered Radeon HD 5970. There's no question the Radeon HD 5800 series GPU is the more energy efficient of the two.

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Our Summary and Conclusion

Performance Summary: The PNY GeForce GTX 470 performed well throughout our entire battery of tests. Generally speaking, the GeForce GTX 470 performs about on par with, or slightly better than, the Radeon HD 5850, depending on the application. In the DX11 Heaven benchmark, the superior tessellation performance of the GF100 GPU at the heart of the card shows, as the GTX 470 managed to pull ahead of every single-GPU powered Radeon, and the GTX 470 also performed well in FC2 and H.A.W.X., but the match was pretty tight everywhere else.

The PNY GeForce GTX 470 is a fairly well-rounded product. In terms of features, the GTX 470 is positioned well against AMD's offerings. Both offer DX11 support, while NVIDIA also has support for CUDA, PhysX, and 3DVision, while AMD has Eyefinity. NVIDIA's architecture also seems to be more forward-looking, as is evident by its stronger tessellation performance. Where the GeForce GTX 470 falters a bit, however, is in terms of price and power consumption. At $349, the GeForce GTX 470 is about 10% more expensive than the similarly performing Radeon HD 5850. Unfortunately for the GeForce, the Radeon HD 5850 also runs much cooler and quieter, and it consumes far less power as well. With that said, we found the GTX 470's acoustic profile to be much more tolerable than the higher-end GTX 480 and we would have no problem running one of these cards in our personal systems--the GTX 470 isn't as quiet (relatively speaking) as a Radeon HD 5850, but it's not very loud either.


NVIDIA's GeForce GTX 470 Reference Card

Ultimately, the GeForce GTX 470 is still a strong product in its price segment. It has a very complete feature set, it offers strong performance, and while it may run warm and use more power than competing offerings, it doesn't generate much noise during normal use at all. If you're in the market for a high-end DX11 graphics card, but can't afford a top-of-the-line flagship model, the GeForce GTX 470 is worthy of consideration.



  • Good Performance
  • DX11 Support
  • CUDA, PhysX, 3DVision Support
  • Quieter Than GTX 480
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    • Pricing Relative To The 5850
    • High Power Consumption and Heat
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