First Look: Nvidia GeForce GTX 480

Is the GeForce GTX 480 fashionably late, or just plain late? ATI has been tooting the DirectX 11 horn for quite some time now, while their competitors labored on a rebuttal. At long last, Nvidia's first DirectX 11 graphics card is here -- and for better or worse, it's quite a beast.

The card is based on . The feature-list is considerable: over 3 billion transistors, double the processing units of its predecessors (though ATI and Nvidia count these differently), and a strong emphasis on geometric realism. Nvidia's is chocked full of information and demonstrations, and includes white papers detailing the strides they've made.

Priced at $500, the GeForce GTX 480 is squarely aimed at... no competing product. The obvious target would be the reigning graphics card champ, ATI's Radeon HD 5870 -- but that card can generally be found for about $400. The 5870's bigger brother would be the next logical step, but that's a dual-GPU card, and it typically falls into the $700 range.

As the GTX 480 is Nvidia's fastest single-card GPU, we opted to center our first look at the part around ATI's fastest single-card GPU, the Radeon HD 5870. To even the playing field a bit, we also took a look at MSI's R5870 Lightning -- a factory overclocked HD 5870 priced at $500.

High-end components deserve a high-end test bed: Ours is equipped with processor, a DX58SO motherboard, 6 GB of RAM, and a 1300W power supply. All tests were performed at 1920-by-1200 and 2560-by-1600 resolutions on a 30" display, and highest settings (unless otherwise noted).

Synthetic Benchmarks