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NVIDIA GeForce GTX 470 SLI Review

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SKYMTL

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With the official launch of the GTX 400 series thankfully over and done with and stock slowly but surely trickling into the retail channels, it is time for many consumers to finally make a decision. Do they finally go for NVIDIA’s latest and greatest or put money on ATI’s current DX11 cards? Admittedly, the choice isn’t an easy one since both competitors are well positioned when it comes to price and performance. As we saw in our GTX 480 review, the framerates it is able to achieve are nothing short of remarkable but it also gobbles up copious amounts of power making it a poor choice when it comes to performance per watt. The GTX 470 on the other hand was able to pull far enough ahead of ATI’s HD 5850 that it garnered our Dam Good Value Award. With a price of about $350, the GTX 470 represents extremely good bang for your buck…but so does the HD 5850.

There is no hiding the fact that NVIDIA’s new cards are now known as some of the hottest-running and most power hungry GPUs ever produced. Running them in single card configurations results in substantially higher power consumption than their immediate competition but in our opinion, the GTX 470 is the better suited of the two cards for running in an SLI configuration. If you are looking for one of the fastest dual-card setups, the GTX 480 is naturally the way to go but heat and power supply selection will be worries that the GTX 470 somewhat alleviates. That is why we have decided to forego the geek-porn article flaunting $1000 worth of GTX 480s and instead chose a $700 dual GTX 470 combo which should be much more palatable to the vast majority of consumers. Not to mention that the GTX 480 will be in short supply for the foreseeable future so you are actually much more likely to find a pair of GTX 470 cards on store shelves anyways.

As we have seen in the past, ATI has shown some exceptional scaling when pairing up cards and NVIDIA claims the same ability. Part of the reason we are finally seeing good scaling from both camps is because modern DX11 games can actually make use of the additional resources that are made available by a second GPU. With this in mind, NVIDIA believes their GTX 470 is a perfect candidate for people looking for a high performance without spending an absolute fortune on the best of the best. Interestingly enough, the $700 price tag for two of these cards puts them in direct competition with the some HD 5970 cards (which are next to impossible to find) and slightly more than $100 more than two HD 5850s. This may seem like a bitter pill to swallow considering there have been some rare instances of HD 5970 cards going on sale for around $500 but if SLI can offer competitive scaling, then ATI may be in for one heck of a fight.

This article will be a straight-up benchmark-style review of the capabilities two GTX 470 cards bring to the table without any of the lead-in usually found in our GPU reviews. If you want to know more about the architecture, design and performance of the GTX 480 and GTX 470, please visit their dedicated reviews HERE and HERE.

 
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SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
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Joined
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Messages
12,857
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Montreal
Test System & Setup

Test System & Setup

Processor: Intel Core i7 920(ES) @ 4.0Ghz (Turbo Mode Enabled)
Memory: Corsair 3x2GB Dominator DDR3 1600Mhz
Motherboard: Gigabyte EX58-UD5
Cooling: CoolIT Boreas mTEC + Scythe Fan Controller (Off for Power Consuption tests)
Disk Drive: Pioneer DVD Writer
Hard Drive: Western Digital Caviar Black 640GB
Power Supply: Corsair HX1000W
Monitor: Samsung 305T 30” widescreen LCD
OS: Windows 7 Ultimate N x64 SP1


Graphics Cards:

GTX 480
GTX 470 + SLI
ATI HD 5970 2GB (Stock)
Sapphire HD 5870 1GB (Stock) + Crossfire
Sapphire HD 5850 1GB (Stock) + Crossfire


Drivers:

ATI 10.3a Preview + 10.3 Crossfire Profile 1.0
NVIDIA 197.17 Beta


Applications Used:

Aliens Versus Predator
Battlefield: Bad Company 2
DiRT 2
Dragon Age: Origins
Far Cry 2
Metro 2033
Unigine: Heaven

*Note that Left 4 Dead 2 was removed from the list due to an update which rendered all previous timedemos invalid


*Notes:

- All games tested have been patched to their latest version

- The OS has had all the latest hotfixes and updates installed

- All scores you see are the averages after 2 benchmark runs

All game-specific methodologies are explained above the graphs for each game

All IQ settings were adjusted in-game

 
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SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
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Joined
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Messages
12,857
Location
Montreal
Aliens Versus Predator (DX11)

Aliens Versus Predator (DX11)


When benchmarking Aliens Versus Predator, we played through the whole game in order to find a section which represents a “worst case” scenario. We finally decided to include “The Refinery” level which includes a large open space and several visual features that really tax a GPU. For this run-through, we start from within the first tunnel, make our way over the bridge on the right (blowing up several propane tanks in the process), head back over the bridge and finally climb the tower until the first run-in with an Alien. In total, the time spent is about four minutes per run. Framerates are recorded with FRAPS.


1680 x 1050





1920 x 1200





2560 x 1600




The first thing that jumps out at you should be the fact that ATI’s dual card setups basically fail the first two tests. This is due to the fact that rendering issues (quickly flashing vertical lines) caused the game to become completely unplayable at lower resolutions. In these same tests the GTX 470 SLI setup shows excellent scaling from one card to two.

The GTX 470 cards are also able to undermine the HD 5850 Crossfire configuration in most of the other tests, especially when AA is turned on at 1920 x 1200. However, overall performance for NVIDIA’s cards takes a serious turn for the worse when AA is enabled at 2560 x 1600 resolution and we suspect a driver issue is to blame due to the fact that the same poor performance carries over into the in-game menus.

We should also mention that the SLI setup resulted in minor rendering problems when AA was turned off at every resolution. The vast majority of the game rendered without a hitch but the sky in some levels (trust us, you won’t be looking at the clear sky much in this game) exhibited artifacts.
 

SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
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BattleField: Bad Company 2 (DX11)

BattleField: Bad Company 2 (DX11)


To benchmark BF: BC2 we used a five minute stretch of gameplay starting from the second checkpoint (after the helicopter takes off) of the second single player mission up until your battle with the tank commences. Framerates are recorded with FRAPS.


1680 x 1050





1920 x 1200





2560 x 1600




We were almost about to put a “fail” across every column for ATI’s cards due to a quickly alternating / flashing line problem that reared its head in some levels (particularly when there was fog or dust blowing around) but since it did not render the game unplayable, we went forward.

Once again we see particularly good scaling with the GTX 470 but it is soundly beaten in the average framerate department by two HD 5850 cards. The fact of the matter is that in this game at least ATI’s cards show nearly unbelievable scaling even though the GTX 470s end up edging out a win in the minimum framerates at 2560 / 4xAA.
 

SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
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DiRT 2 (DX11)

DiRT 2 (DX11)


Being one of the newest games on the market, DiRT 2 cuts an imposing figure in terms of image quality and effects fidelity. We find that to benchmark this game the in-game tool is by far the best option. However, due to small variances from one race to another, three benchmark runs are done instead of the normal two. It should also be mentioned that the demo version of the game was NOT used since after careful testing, the performance of the demo is not representative of the final product. DX11 was forced through the game’s config file. In addition, you will see that these scores do not line up with our older benchmarks at all. This is due to the fact that a patch was recently rolled out for the game which included performance optimizations in addition to new graphics options.

1680 x 1050





1920 x 1200





2560 x 1600





In Dirt 2 we see what amounts to excellent scaling by the SLI setup to the point where two GTX 470s nearly equal the performance of a pair of HD 5870s. In this test, the results really do speak for themselves.
 

SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
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12,857
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Dragon Age: Origins (DX9)

Dragon Age: Origins


To benchmark Dragon Age, we used a simple walkthrough coupled with a short combat sequence. The benchmark run begins with a walk through one of the most demanding scenes we have come across in the game so far: the walk over the bridge and through Ostagar. This is followed by a combat sequence outside of the fortress itself. In total the runthrough takes about 6 minutes.

1680 x 1050





1920 x 1200





2560 x 1600




Dragon Age: Origins exhibits some odd behavior with dual card setups with some unexpectedly low results at some settings. While this game is seriously CPU limited all the way up to 1920 x 1200, above that resolution SLI and Crossfire can begin stretching their legs. All in all we would call this a draw between NVIDIA and ATI.
 

SKYMTL

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Far Cry 2 (DX9)

Far Cry 2 (DX9)



Even though Far Cry 2 has its own built-in benchmarking tool with some flythroughs and “action scenes”, we decided to record our own timedemo consisting of about 5 minutes of game time. It involves everything from run-and-gun fights to fire effects. The built-in benchmarking too was then set up to replay the timedemo and record framerates


1680 x 1050





1920 x 1200





2560 x 1600




Here the GTX 470 setup is able to either slightly pass or draw even with two HD 5870s in Crossfire which is impressive to say the least. However, the real star of the show is the minimum framerates SLI is able to show.
 

SKYMTL

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Messages
12,857
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Montreal
Far Cry 2 (DX10)

Far Cry 2 (DX10)



Even though Far Cry 2 has its own built-in benchmarking tool with some flythroughs and “action scenes”, we decided to record our own timedemo consisting of about 5 minutes of game time. It involves everything from run-and-gun fights to fire effects. The built-in benchmarking too was then set up to replay the timedemo and record framerates


1680 x 1050





1920 x 1200





2560 x 1600




Once again we see that NVIDIA’s cards are able to jump far, far ahead when IQ settings are increased at literally any resolution. At times, two GTX 470 cards are able to compete with HD 5870s in Crossfire.
 

SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
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Joined
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Messages
12,857
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Metro 2033 (DX11)

Metro 2033 (DX11)


There has been a lot of buzz about Metro 2033 which has mostly centered on its amazing graphics coupled with absolutely brutal framerates on even the best GPUs on the market. For this test we use a walkthrough and combat scene from The Bridge level which starts at the beginning of the level and lasts for about 5 minutes of walking, running and combat. Famerates are measured with FRAPS and Advanced PhysX is turned off.


1680 x 1050



1920 x 1200



2560 x 1600


Many people had predicted complete NVIDIA dominance in Metro 2033 but ATI’s Crossfire solutions actually offer extremely good performance. So much so that two HD 5850 cards beat out their SLI competitors at 1680 x 1050 resolution in the average framerates (minimums once again stay firmly in the green team’s grasp). However, NVIDIA comes back strong in all other tests and completely tramples the HD 5850s at 2560 x 1600 by offering nearly playable framerates in this extremely demanding game.
 

SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
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Joined
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Location
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Unigine: Heaven v2.0 (DX11)

Unigine: Heaven v2.0 (DX11)


Unigine’s Heaven benchmark is currently the de-facto standard when it comes to simple, straightforward DX11 performance estimates. While it is considered a synthetic benchmark by many, it is important to remember that no less than four games based on this engine will be released within the next year or so. In this test we will be using a standard benchmark run with and without tessellation enabled at three resolutions,


1680 x 1050





1920 x 1200





2560 x 1600




NVIDIA’s absolute dominance in this benchmark should come as no surprise to you considering the GF100 cards are actually built for tessellation. Scaling is once again excellent for cards from both camps.
 
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