NVIDIA GeForce GTX 480M, Fastest Notebook GPU Yet

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Performance Analysis and The Wrap

Performance Summary:  NVIDIA's GeForce GTX 480M mobile GPU turned out to be the fastest notebook graphics processor we've seen to date, which is no surprise considering NVIDIA currently holds the single-GPU title on the desktop front as well.  The GeForce GTX 480M was significantly faster in nearly all gaming benchmarks we performed with the one exception of H.A.W.X., where the chip clocked in barely ahead of the Mobility Radeon HD 5870 by a negligible margin.  In every other case, from cutting-edge DirectX 11 titles like S.T.A.L.K.E.R. Call of Pripyat and Dirt 2, to demanding DX10 titles like Far Cry 2, the GeForce GTX 480M was on the order of 30% faster on average, with much larger gains shown in Far Cry 2, where the chip was up to 60% faster than its counterpart from AMD.  All of this performance, however, does come at a cost of power consumption, heat and a bit of noise; which also was expected of course.  The GeForce GTX 480M's thermal footprint (100W TDP) is also 2X that of the Mobility Radeon HD 5870.

Taking stock in the final analysis of the NVIDIA's new GeForce GTX 480M, we're not shy about falling back on a tired, old cliche'.  The GeForce GTX 480M notebook GPU "is what it is."  This mobile GPU is a direct derivative of the desktop GeForce GTX 400 series, specifically the GeForce GTX 465 with its 352 CUDA cores, but with aggressive power gating when idle and top core clock speed 180MHz+ lower than its desktop-targeted sibling. Comparatively, the ATI Mobility Radeon HD 5870 is more akin to the Radeon HD 5750 on the desktop for AMD, with it's 700 stream processors.  Whereas AMD delivers less than half the GPU in their flagship mobile part versus their top desktop chip, NVIDIA is delivering a device enabled with 75% of its compute resources but with a dramatically slower clock speed. 

The net-net here is that NVIDIA's new mobile chip is decidedly bigger, stronger and faster but also seriously more power-hungry and more challenging to cool.  Comparing the two offerings is kind of like comparing a punishing, up-the-gut running fullback to a wide receiver; both get the job done, just in decidedly different ways.  The fullback might need to take every third play off but the wide receiver might get drilled into the dirt by an outside linebacker, on a short route.  In notebook speak, one of these GPUs is built for longer term, moderate-duty workloads, while the other is built for shorter bursts of intensity.  Though if the machine is tethered to a wall outlet, you don't have to worry about taking many plays off, you just have to contend with a bit more heat and noise.

All told, the new NVIDIA GeForce GTX 480M is an impressive notebook graphics processor that's not for the faint of heart.  If you're not concerned with being DX11 capable and don't mind a multi-GPU setup, there is better performance to be found in a previous generation GeForce GTX285 SLI-enabled notebook or the just announced but yet untested combination of Mobility Radeon HD 5870s in CrossFire we just showed you here.  In addition, we've also been informed that build-outs from Eurocomm and others will also include a pair of GTX 480M chips in SLI as well.  However, costs scale up significantly with dual-GPU notebook designs and there is always added complexity with multi-GPU setups from a software standpoint.  So, in short, if you're the type that is a die-hard NVIDIA fan or you just want the fastest single notebook GPU configuration you can find that also supports the latest in DX11 rendering features, then the GeForce GTX 480M and the Clevo D900F is for you, provided you don't mind a notebook that draws power like a desktop PC.  Then again, in this class of machines, that's why they're called "desktop replacement" notebooks.


  • Fastest DX11 mobile GPU currently
  • Nearly 2X as fast as Mobility Radeon HD 5870 in some cases
  • 3D Vision Ready
  • Strongest Tessellation engine for DX11 titles
  • High power consumption
  • High 100W TDP for a notebook chip
  • Previous gen SLI/Crossfire solutions offer better performance but lack DX11


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