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MSI N480GTX M2D15 GeForce GTX 480 Review

Author: Josh Walrath
Manufacturer: MSI

A Different Kind of Testing

    If pure gaming benchmarks were expected, then going to Ryan’s earlier hand’s on review would be the place to find them.  My testing is much more specific this time around, and I am really looking at tessellation performance in synthetic situations, tessellation in actual shipping games, and power and heat in a much more controlled environment.

    NVIDIA has really pushed their tessellation performance, and how it compares to the high end AMD products.  Architecturally speaking, NVIDIA does have an edge by not just having a fairly powerful solution, but also a scalable one.  Compare this to AMD which features the same tessellation unit on the low end HD 5400 cards as well as the high end HD 5870.  I was curious what kind of effect this would have on current shipping gaming solutions which feature tessellation.  Will the NVIDIA unit give the Fermi architecture a boost in real world gaming, or will other aspects of these games bottleneck performance and not let the tessellation units shine through?

The GTX 480 is sitting happily in my (admittedly) messy Raven 2 case.  My organizational skills are mediocre at best.  Still, the card was well cooled in this setup.

    The one near universal complaint about the GTX 480, and to a lesser extent the GTX 470, is the amount of noise and heat coming off of the card at load.  Most reviewers have graphics testing stations which are open air.  This allows the reviewers to swiftly and easily swap out video cards for testing purposes.  The problem with such an open air setup is the lack of air movement around the card.  In a well designed case, there should be partial positive air pressure as well as smooth airflow from the cool outside, past the graphics card, and then out of the case.  With an open air testing station, unless there is a fairly high power fan blowing past the video card, air movement around said card is very minimal.

A closer look at the back portion reveals some of the power components used, such as the High-C Caps that can withstand some pretty hefty temperatures and can survive for up to a decade of such use.

    NVIDIA provided me with the Raven 2 case from Silverstone.  At first I was a bit skeptical with the design, but it is in fact quite good.  The case features 3 x 120 mm fans which provide partial positive air pressure to the case.   It also rotates the motherboard by 90 degrees, so the video card in this case vents out of the top, which again helps airflow.  With reviewers seeing near 100C temps, it will be easy to see if a good case can in fact alleviate some of the heat and noise issues with these cards.

System Setup

AMD Phenom II X6 1090T Processor

Asus Crosshair IV AMD 890FX Motherboard

2 x 2GB OCZ DDR-3 1666 @ 1333 and timings

Corsair TX750 Watt Power Supply

Silverstone Raven 2 Case

Windows 7 64 bit

Catalyst 10.5 Drivers

NVIDIA 257.21 Drivers

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