ENGTX a month later

April 27th, 2010 in .PC Components .Products
Suds McSoapdish
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One month has passed since the newest GPUs from NVIDIA came out, and we’ve used this time to get more comfortable with them here at Tech in Style. Formerly known as Fermi or GF100, the 400 series includes ENGTX470 and ENGTX480 from ASUS as two of the leading designs based on NVIDIA’s reference for this generation. They add a lot of features to the base concept, and this is where the crux of the experience lies, in performance tuning and making the most of improvements NVIDIA has incorporated.

Overall, we find these graphics cards a major improvement over previous desktop offerings from NVIDIA, such as the 200 series. Most notably, the 400’s are optimized for both DX11 and Windows 7, with their 40nm fabrication maintaining stable and smooth performance even when handling duties such as real time ray tracing and advanced hardware tessellation and physics. As DX11 cards, they’re also well-suited to helping out the CPU in most tasks as part of parallel computing, or GPU general processing, aka DirectCompute or NVIDIA’s proprietary CUDA technology. They feature so-called stream processors, with the more mainstream ENGTX470 clocking them at 1215MHz and the higher-end ENGTX480 going the distance with 1401MHz CUDA clocks. This endows the new boards with a much larger computing bandwidth than was available in the previous generation of GPUs from NVIDIA. It also means they can handle a lot more overclocking, it’s just a matter of tapping that performance overhead in an efficient manner.

Now that's a lot of Fermi

Over the top

This is where several features ASUS has sought to implement in the 400 cards come into the picture. Both models we’ve been playing around with bundle the Smart Doctor suite, which is an all-round overclocking and overvolting platform that’s good for entry-to-mid range PC enthusiasts, as it provides professional results with little tech know how needed.

Smart Doctor incorporates our favorite feature of the ENGTX 400 series, Voltage Tweak. As the name suggests, this utility gives users direct access to the voltage that goes into the GPU, memory and board. Since these bad boys come with 1.28GB (ENGTX470) and 1.56GB (ENGTX480) of GDDR5 RAM, there’s quite a lot of power to be accessed, and voltage tuning opens it up. Already clocked at 3.3-3.7GHz, the GDDR5 responds well to Smart Doctor and Voltage Tweak alterations, and in testing these cards have demonstrated up to 55.8% added clock frequencies compared to the original NVIDIA reference. Mind you, when we say “alterations” we don’t mean lengthy soldering sessions. We’re talking software interface tuning that takes minutes and leads to tangible results.

For example, the core GPU clock for the ENGTX470 is 607MHz stock, but with Voltage Tweak, it bumped to 946MHz – literally with a couple of clicks. The ENGTX480, going through the same GPU voltage upping, managed to boost from 700MHz to 1.04GHz, which is over 48% faster than stock. All it took was the simple Smart Doctor/Voltage Tweak UI.

With Smart Doctor and Voltage Tweak, the new 400 series cards can really come into their own as the flagships of the NVIDIA range. Now it’s time to check out what that newly found power can do for you.


DX11-grade by design, the 400’s offer better support for graphics techniques like full scene motion blur and better physics, which NVIDIA demonstrates by supplying software called Supersonic Sled with the cards. This shows off many of the effects the 400 series handles so well, as does Design Garage, another suite to showcase real time ray tracing and complex lighting. Both have been fun to play around with, and some of the results are truly impressive, and we can tell the GPU computing aspect of these cards really aids the system overall. While traditionally GPU muscle was left unused in non-graphics apps, this time around there’s no more idling around. When the CPU calls, these cards answer.

Even more

You also get two additional NVIDIA technologies with the 400 series, the first being 3D Vision for, well, 3D gaming using active shutter glasses. Pretty nice for those who enjoy the novelty of three dimensional gaming, but of course you need a compatible screen. There’s also multiple display support, which ties in to 3D Vision, so users can game or work on up to three screens at once for a more stereoscopic experience.

But we really believe this generation of GeForce chips comes into its own with overclocking and tuning, which is why it’s good utilities like Voltage Tweak are on board. With these cards, an impressive performance surplus lies just beneath the numbers, getting to it is the trick. For gamers and speed enthusiasts, the potential with these cards is significant as we’ve found out over the last few weeks, and as the series matures in coming months, it’ll likely get better.

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