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NVIDIA GeForce GT 430: Cheap DX11 Graphics
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Date: Oct 11, 2010
Section:Graphics/Sound
Author: Mat Miranda and Marco Chiappetta
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Introduction and Specifications

Throughout the third and fourth quarters of '09, and right through the beginning of this year, we watched as AMD launched graphics card after graphics card, until their full product line of DX11 Radeon HD 5000 series parts filled virtually every possible market segment. More recently, NVIDIA has had the chance to answer with a number of video cards of their own based on the company's Fermi architecture. Although it was released much later than NVIDIA would have liked, the current flagship GTX 480 ended up taking the crown as the fastest single GPU on the market. And since then, the GF104 based GeForce GTX 460 has made a strong statement as one of the best mainstream options available, combining an affordable price with relatively strong performance and impressive scaling in SLI.

Up to this point, however, NVIDIA was yet to push the entry-level market with a DX11 capable GPU. To be clear, we're speaking of the segment above integrated graphics solutions found on many motherboards. While the recently released $129 GTS 450 is a strong performer for the price, it didn't achieve the same sort of critical acclaim as the GTX 460, or the performance advantage that the GTX 480 has over its competition in its market segment. With the release of the GT 430, NVIDIA aims to better position itself in the media PC market, where hardcore, high resolution PC gaming takes a backseat to HD video playback, photo and video editing, and Blu-ray 3D capability. Read on to find out just how well the GT 430 performs, and where it stands compared to its AMD Radeon counterparts.


Asus GeForce ENGT430 Graphics Card

NVIDIA GeForce GT 430
Specifications & Features



The Asus ENGT430 card we'll be featuring in this article is powered by the GF108 GPU. Like the other members of the GeForce 400 series, it's based on NVIDIA's Fermi architecture, and we should also point out this GPU is already available in a mobile version. The core is clocked at 700MHz and features 96 CUDA cores, 16 texture units, 1GB of DDR3 memory at 800MHz, and a 128-bit memory interface. In addition, total memory bandwidth is rated at 28.8GB/s, while texture filtering peaks at 11.2GT/s.

The NVIDIA GF108 GPU is manufactured using TSMC's 40nm process, and is comprised of 585 million transistors. While these specs currently represent the lowest within the desktop Fermi product line, the GF108 also offers the most manageable thermal design power (TDP) of only 49W.

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The Asus ENGT430

With the exception of the heatsink, the Asus ENGT430 closely follows NVIDIA's reference design. It features a single slot cooler, with a small fan actively moving air throughout its fins. Noise level is not a factor, as this cooling system runs silently during normal operation. Asus also claims the fan is sealed and "dust proof", which should prolong its life.  


 

 


The Asus ENGT430 measures 6.3" long, and 2.8" high. No additional power connectors are required. While on the subject of power, we should also mention that the Asus ENGT430 features covered chokes, which are more power efficient and produce less heat than cheaper toroidal coil choke. And the EBGT430 uses solid capacitors, which are more power efficient and longer lasting as well.

The rear bracket sports a VGA, one HDMI, and one dual link DVI port. That's the standard output configuration found in entry level video cards targeted at the HTPC stape. Also, it's worth noting that the GT 430 does not have SLI capability.

 


With the ENGT430, Asus includes a user’s manual, driver disc, and two low profile brackets. The brackets are half height options for users who require only VGA or HDMI / DVI ports, and plan to install the card in a slim form factor HTPC enclosure.

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Test System and Unigine Heaven v2.1

 

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 5550
Radeon HD 5570
Radeon HD 5770
GeForce GT 430
GeForce GTS 450

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

Relevant Software:
Windows 7 Ultimate x64
DirectX June 2010 Redist
ATI Catalyst v10.8a
NVIDIA GeForce Drivers 260.52/77

Benchmarks Used:

Unigine Heaven v2.1
3DMark Vantage v1.0.1
H.A.W.X.
FarCry 2
Just Cause 2
Alien vs. Predator
Left 4 Dead 2*
Enemy Territory: Quake Wars v1.5*

* - Custom benchmark

Unigine Heaven v2.1 Benchmark
Synthetic DirectX 11 Gaming


Unigine Heaven

The Unigine Heaven Benchmark v2.1 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.


As the graph shows, the Asus ENGT430 matches up closely to the HD 5570 and 5550 videocards. It holds a slight performance lead over the entry-level Radeons in this benchmark, but we'll see if it can maintain this advantage in our gaming tests.

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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.





3DMark Vantage shows the performance of the Asus ENGT430 landing somewhere between the HD 5570 and 5550. Using the Extreme preset and a resolution of 1920x1200, it was 14% faster than the HD 5550. 

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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



During Quake Wars testing, the GT 430 fell behind the HD 5550 and produced the slowest frame rates of the comparison group

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FarCry 2 Performance

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.


Here we find the GT 430 and HD 5570 performing within one frame of each other. The HD 5550 was the slowest of the group, and fell behind the GT 430 by 23% (1680x1050).

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Left 4 Dead 2 Performance

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.


With frame rates of 28.97 frames per second at 1680x1050, and 23.89 FPS at 1920x1200, the GT 430 performed similar to the HD 5550, which finished just a notch ahead.

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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 DX10.1 code path for both the Radeons and GeForce 400 series cards.


H.A.W.X. testing revealed that the new GeForce GT 430 and Radeon HD 5550 provide similar performance. But the more powerful and only slightly more expensive HD 5570 holds a 28% advantage over the GT 430.

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Just Cause 2 Performance

Just Cause 2
DX10.1 Gaming Performance


Just Cause 2

Just Cause 2 was released in March 2010, from developers Avalanche Studios and Eidos Interactive. The game makes use of the Avalanche Engine 2.0, an updated version of the similarly named original. It is set on the fictional island of Panau in southeast Asia, and you play the role of Rico Rodriquez. We benchmarked the graphics cards in this article using one of the built-in demo runs called The Concrete Jungle.  The test results shown here were run at various resolutions and settings. This game also supports a few CUDA-enabled features, but they were left disabled to keep the playing field level. 



In Just Cause 2, the Asus GT 430 produced the slowest frame rates out of all the cards we tested. It fell behind the HD 5570 by 45%, and the HD 5550 by 13% (1680x1050). 

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Alien vs. Predator

Alien vs. Predator
DirectX 11 Gaming Performance


Alien vs. Predator

The Alien vs. Predator benchmark makes use of the advanced Tessellation, screen space ambient occlusion and high-quality shadow features, available with DirectX 11. In addition to enabling all of the aforementioned DirectX 11 related features offered by this benchmark, we also switched on 4X anti-aliasing along with 16X anisotropic filtering to more heavily tax the graphics cards being tested.


Here we find that the Asus ENGT430 trails the HD 5570 in performance. At a resolution of 1920x1200, the the 5570 holds a 34% performance lead over the GT 430, and 28% using 1680x1050. In addition, the HD 5550 provided similar scores as the GT 430.

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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



Utilizing 135W while idle at the Windows desktop and 178W under load, the Asus ENGT430 displayed the lowest power consumption out of all the cards we tested. Comparing load results of its direct competitors, the GT 430 used 20% less power than the Radeon HD 5570, and 8% less than the HD 5550. In an idle state, the GT 430 required 14% less power than the competition.

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Our Summary and Conclusion

 

Performance Summary: Now that we have been through all of the data, let's take a moment to digest the numbers. For the most part, the Asus ENGT430 performed about on par with the Radeon HD 5550. Yes, there were a few tests where they traded places, but their scores usually mirrored each other during testing. As we mentioned before, the GeForce GT 430 replaces the GT 220 within NVIDIA's lineup. Although we did not have a GT 220 available for testing, the GT 240 included in the comparison group maintained a marked performance advantage over the GT 430. The GF108 based GeForce GeForce GT 430, however, used the least amount of power. It utilized about 8% less power than the HD 5550, despite offering similar performance.

At $79, the GT 430 steps into a crowded market segment where the competition is surprisingly fierce. In this space, a $20 price difference in either direction translates to considerable performance disparity. The driving factor behind this competition is a growing demand for affordable digital media and casual gaming capable systems, which is market segment NVIDIA states is more twice the size of the PC gaming market, and ultimately affects a much larger user base. Conduct a quick search and you'll see a substantial number of comparable products, like the HD 5550 for $69 and the HD 5570 for $74. Similar to the GT 430, they offer HDMI, DVI, and HDMI outputs, providing several options for digital media playback. NVIDIA's previous generation GT 220 still sells for about $72, but expect that price to drop a bit as more GT 430's infiltrate the market.

To wrap things up, the new GeForce GT 430, and th e Asus ENGT430 in particular, provides users with a DX11 GPU that can handle HD video, Blu-ray 3D, photo editing, video editing, and low resolution gaming. In other words, those of you looking to upgrade from an integrated graphics solution now have an effective Fermi based option to consider. Our testing reveals that the HD 5570 provides more horsepower for gaming at approximately the same price point. On the other hand, the GT 430 offers lower power consumption, which an enticing advantage considering its target market. But while it remains fairly competitive with Radeon models within its price range, the card did little to separate itself from the pack. With that said, the GeForce GT 430 is still an intriguing upgrade option beyond integrated graphics, and deserves consideration if you happen to be looking for a small, affordable discrete graphics card for an digital media or HTPC.

  • Affordable
  • Very low power consumption
  • Quiet
  • Gaming performance only on par with HD 5550



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