Take this one with a grain of salt (and a pound of optimism), but it appears we're closing in on the release of another GeForce GTX 480 videocard, only this time it won't be gimped. Pictures showing what's believed to be the reference design for Nvidia's upcoming GF100 graphics PCB have started popping up on the Web, each one watermarked by board partner Little Tiger.
In the picture, the PCB looks nearly identical to Nvidia's existing GTX 480 PCB, only with a stronger VRM with high-C surface-mount capacitors. Also visible are two 8-pin PCI-Express connectors.
While this is all pretty much speculation at this point, it's at least likely that Nvidia would end up calling the new card a GTX 485. Chinese website EXPreview, which is usually on top of such things, suggests that the GTX 485 will sport 512 CUDA cores, 64 ROPs, and a slightly higher-clocked GPU (724MHz).
A little over a week ago, Turkish website Donanimhaber leaked almost everything you cared to know about Nvidia's upcoming GeForce GTX 465 videocard. Almost. Missing from the spec sheet was just how much power the card would consume, which according to the latest report from news and rumor site Fudzilla will be 200W.
Assuming Fudzilla is correct, that's 15W less than the GTX 470 and a full 50W less than the mighty GeForce GTX 480. Fudzilla went on to say that the thermal threshold for the 40nm chip will stay at 105C, just like both of the higher-end Fermi parts.
Nothing else has changed from what we last heard about this card. You can expect a pair of 6-pin power connectors, 1024MB of onboard memory, a 256-bit memory interface, and everything else we last reported (see here).
Forget for a moment that you still can't hop over to Newegg or any other online vendor in the U.S. and place an order for an in-stock Fermi graphics card. What you can do, however, is window shop as more product pictures continue to trickle out, including ones of Inno3D's Black Freezer GTX 480 and GTX 470 videocards.
Both variants come with the same Black Freezer watercooling block, which covers not just the GPU but nearly the entire front slab of silicon. Given what we know so far about Fermi's power requirements and tendency to run hot, we expect to see quite a few vendors try to cash in with watercooled models.
Other than the pics, Inno3D has been pretty quiet about these upcoming cards. There's no product page, press release, or any word on whether or not there's a bit of factory overclocking taking place. And of course no word yet on price, though Fudzilla claims to have heard that the waterblock might be offered as both a pre-installed and standalone option.
By now, pretty much everyone is aware that Nvidia's GTX 480 runs hot, but should you be concerned? Not at all, says Nvidia, who claims it designed its GF100 parts with high temps in mind.
"We wanted to let you know that we’ve also heard your concerns about GTX 480 with respect to power and heat," Nvidia state in a blog post. "When you build a high performance GPU like the GTX 480 it will consume a lot of power to enable the performance and features I listed above. It was a tradeoff for us, but we wanted it to be fast. The chip is designed to run at high temperature so there is no effect on quality or longevity. We think the tradeoff is right."
Whether or not consumers agree remains to be seen, and what Nvidia didn't address is that the added heat is a byproduct of higher power consumption. This is also an issue that could end up pushing enthusiasts in a different direction or putting them in a holding pattern.
Does the added heat bother you, or is it all about the performance?
With intense competition in the graphics market, add-in board (AIB) partners often look for ways to distinguish their products from one another, whether it's a nifty bundle or an exotic cooling solution. So what is XFX planning for Fermi? Absolutely nothing, says Legit Reviews.
"This afternoon we received confirmation that XFX, a division of PINE Technologies, will not be releasing any GeForce GTX 400 series graphics cards to the market when the cards become public next month," writes Nathan Kirsch, founder of Legit Reviews. "XFX was not listed as a launch partner for Fermi and did not issue a press release about the upcoming cards, which might come as a shock to many to many of our readers as they are one of the largest Nvidia AIBs in the world!."
Kirsch goes on to say that the decision belonged to XFX, not Nvidia, which should kill off any conspiracy theories that Nvidia's giving XFX the cold shoulder for carrying ATI hardware.
"It looks like XFX thinks that the Radeon HD 5000 series of graphics card is the right card for the high-end market," Kirsch explains. "From our conversation with XFX they mentioned that they have 'yet to see whether the fermented launch will reach an inglorious anti-climax' and that they want to 'Ferm up to who really has the big guns.'"
Interesting choice of words coming from a major player. XFX has been touted for its excellent 'Double Lifetime Warranty' policy, which allows registered users to transfer their warranty to a second owner.
Enrico Fermi gained fame as a key player in the Manhattan Project, which gave the world nuclear fission and the first atomic bomb. Nvidia’s Fermi GPU architecture – now seeing the light of day as the GeForce GTX 480 – hopes to create its own chain reaction among PC gamers looking for the latest and greatest graphics cards.
Originally code-named GF100, the GTX 480’s long and controversial gestation saw numerous delays and lots of sneak peeks, but Nvidia’s new graphics card has finally arrived. Sporting 1.5GB of fast DDR5 memory and an exotic heat-pipe based cooling system, Nvidia’s managed to squeeze this three billion transistor monster onto a card just 10.5 inches long.
Can Nvidia’s long-awaited 480 GTX capture the graphics performance crown? And if it can, is the price of glory worth the cost?
Just the other day when the naming scheme for the new Nvidia Fermi cards was announced, we speculated that supply would be very low at launch. As such prices could be high. Now we’re hearing that is likely the case. Sources in the graphics manufacturing market have indicated that the new GTX 470 and 480 will be in very short supply at launch. In fact, the cards may only be available through select companies close to Nvidia. This may mean that only companies that do not sell AMD parts will have access to the GF100 cores at launch.
As for price, Nvidia is said to be aiming for numbers well above AMD’s current line. The GTX 470 may retail for $499, and the GTX 480 could go for an eye-popping $680 at launch. For perspective, AMD’s Radeon HD 5970 dual GPU card tops out at only $599 MSRP.
The real bummer here is that high priced Nvidia cards would probably give AMD no reason to cut prices. Even if the Fermi cards are substantially faster, very few people will be dropping almost $700 on a GPU. Sure, these are new flagship parts, but is the price justified? If you’ve been waiting for Fermi, are you still in? Is it better to go AMD, or wait for lower end Fermi cards?
The Fermi (or GF100) cards were originally intended to launch in November 2009, but multiple delays quickly pushed the project into 2010. The Fermi cards are rumored to have over 3 billion transistors, and utilize a 40nm process. In contrast, the Radeon 5870 has 2.15 billion transistors with a 40nm process. Fermi is also expected to have up to 512 cores, more than double the current generation Nvidia cards.
There have been worries about production yields of the GF100s, so supply may be low at launch. However, we are encouraged that Nvidia seems to be keeping to their updated release schedule. Any interest in getting one, or did you already get a Radeon?
Nvidia’s latest generation GPU is going through the most painful, drawn out gestation period since the company’s first programmable GPU, the GeForce 5800 series. Like the more recent GeForce 280 GTX, the current GF100 (the code name, not the final name) chip represents a major, ground-up architectural redesign.
Recently, we spent the better part of a day being briefed on the GF100, which represents the first actual graphics processor built with Nvidia’s Fermi architecture. The basic Fermi architecture layers graphics functionality atop a powerful parallel compute engine. As GPU compute becomes more important, both in games and in certain classes of mainstream applications, it makes sense to build an architecture that builds more general purpose capability.
But that’s not to say that Fermi will try to take on the functions of a mainstream CPU.
Now that Nvidia has lifted the NDA on some of the official details surrounding its upcoming Fermi-based GF100 GPU, the Web is chock full of updated info, teaser videos, and even a Far Cry 2 benchmark.
To sum it up, GF100 has 512 CUDA processors, 16 geometry units, 4 raster units, 64 texture units, and 48 ROP engines. Like ATI's latest cards, GF100 comes with full DirectX 11 support. But unique to Fermi is a pretty big 768KB L2 cache buffer shared between four Graphics Processing Clusters.
In one video, Fermi is shown running Far Cry 2 at 1920x1200 with 4XAA and Ultra High settings. Framerates never dropped below 65, compared to under 40 in another system equipped with what appears to be an ATI HD 5870 videocard.