ZOTAC GTX480 Review


Zotac GTX480    Review


If ever a product, and indeed a review, had a split-personality then this is it.

Our experience with it has changed so vastly, covering the full range of emotions, that it took us some time and many discussions to finally agree what we thought.

So what makes the ZOTAC GTX480 so difficult to pin down?

It certainly isn't ZOTAC themselves, as they have very kindly supplied us a GTX480 to test when many others were nervous of how Overclock3Ds unflinching commitment to accuracy and unwillingness to be swayed by promises of milk and honey.

It also isn't the performance. The "Fastest Single GPU on the Planet" tag just about holds up. It's by no means as comprehensive as the hyperbole would have you believe, but in stock trim it's the fastest we've tested.

Overclocked it's something else entirely. With some decent horsepower under the hood it's far and away the fastest card around with some mind blowing numbers being churned out.

Unfortunately this is where the GTX480 falls apart somewhat. That reference cooler is, to be blunt, rubbish. Completely incapable of dealing with the fearsome heat that the GTX480 puts out. We were loathe to adapt our testing methodology to accommodate it, but obviously having some results that come with a huge asterisk is better than no results at all.

We can best explain the volume of heat with this small anecdote. When we were trying to get the fan as near to our desired 50% as possible, whilst not causing thermal shutdown, we thought we'd got it nailed at 65%. However the GTX480 puts out so much heat that although it was touch and go when we started testing, within 20 minutes the temperature in the room had increased so much due to the head expelled from the card, that we experienced thermal cutoff because the card had warmed the room up so much the air it was sucking in was too warm to keep it under 110°C.

In SLI we imagine you'll never need to heat your house again, as one of these cards can heat a 15'x15' room by 2°C in half an hour.

The second major problem is noise. This isn't a quiet cooler when idling, but as under load the card needs to be kept around 80% fans it becomes intolerably loud. In these modern times when swathes of companies have demonstrated that cool and quiet need not be mutually exclusive, it is beyond us how nVidia have designed a cooler that it hot and loud. Again we have to stress that this is not a problem with Zotac themselves, rather the nVidia reference design.

Finally there is that price. The thick end of £450 is far too much for such a small performance gain over the significantly cheaper ATI 5870 and especially when the noise and heat is taken into consideration. If this was an ATI, nobody would buy it. We all understand that nVidia comes with a price premium but this is ridiculous.

There is some good though. The underlying chip is so outstanding that under water-cooling, or with the worlds biggest air cooler, it's a must buy. Unfortunately right now, if you're deaf, rich and live in Siberia then do it. Otherwise, wait for the evolution version.

- Insane performance
- Huge overclocking headroom

- Nothing.

- Too Hot
- Too Loud
- Too Expensive


Many thanks to ZOTAC for lending us their GTX480 to test. Discuss in our forums.

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Most Recent Comments

14-04-2010, 05:38:05

Finally OC3D gets its hands on a GTX480, get a brew and sit down to see why its good and bad news.

Continue ReadingQuote

14-04-2010, 06:07:06

Aye its a bit of a let down by NV this time as i was really looking forward to the new cards.Quote

14-04-2010, 07:08:26

Originally Posted by name='clone38'
Aye its a bit of a let down by NV this time as i was really looking forward to the new cards.
I was aswell if Im honest, just have to hope they get it all sorted with the cash injection from the sales of these cards.Quote

14-04-2010, 09:50:39

Quite dissapointing really. 5870 is really the one to go for, or 5970, which is faster in some and clocks very well. Perhaps Fermi could be better used as a grill?

I hope the next generation brings something better to the show, because these are too hot for what they give, and when a 5970 is only £50 more, they represent very poor value.Quote

14-04-2010, 13:25:23

Me wants one, watercooled ofc!

My 280ocx is dammed loud on air but having heard these I couldn't put up with the noise.Quote

14-04-2010, 17:28:29

Judging by the color of the cooler it seems that NVIDIA can use it to light their own victory cigar. Quote

14-04-2010, 18:54:46

hmmmz..I do and dont like. I just wish the price was more reasonable.Quote

15-04-2010, 09:44:44

Only if it was the price or a 5870(or even a little more) i would snap one up.Quote

15-04-2010, 14:29:20

Cant remember, but how does the 5870 and 5890 in oc trim fit the numbers?

Coz i imagine if u would oc a nuclear-reactor u wouldnt think twice before u would oc the ATI cards Quote

15-04-2010, 14:53:15

The 5970s and 5870s overclock very well, with some 5870s pushing the GHz barrier on overclock. I reckon this would edge them very near the 480.

My 5970s overclock to 900MHz core very happily (haven't really pushed them much) so I reckon the 480s would have to fight pretty hard to keep up. Also, can you imagine SLI 480s overclocked...I mean hell would look like a fridge comparatively.Quote

16-04-2010, 09:28:40

Originally Posted by name='Diablo'
Also, can you imagine SLI 480s overclocked....
Here's a pretty good review:


19-04-2010, 15:04:43

Originally Posted by name='ppuff'
Judging by the color of the cooler it seems that NVIDIA can use it to light their own victory cigar.
Well i doubt Nvidia is celebrating anything these days, ATI shipped more then 1 million units the first 6 months of the 5xxx series and represented a 88% grow in graphics chips in 1 year while sametime provided AMD with a second consecutive quater result on the bright side, after 12 consecutive quaters of red numbers.Quote

20-04-2010, 16:06:34

thanks for your time of testing this one for us tom. with a watercooler the noise and the temperature are points to forget about, but there is still the price and the powerconsumption.

i will stick to my 5870 and rather buy me a second one than one of the 480th.Quote

20-04-2010, 16:08:28

Originally Posted by name='Diablo'
I mean hell would look like a fridge comparatively.
haha, your so damn right diablo.Quote

20-04-2010, 18:00:25

Two 5870s seem to be a good way forward, as does overclocking a 5970 to 5870 speeds with afterburner, although I'm struggling to get much more than 900MHz on 1.16V.

The Fermis apparently scale OK, but not as well as the 5870s. The fermi's are fast, but I'd be a little bit worried aout sticking them in a case with my other kit. I mean its fine for them to run hot apparently, but my processor and RAID controller are a little bit less happy with 90C+Quote

21-04-2010, 07:35:05

The SLI scaling isn't as good as it can be atm. The beta drivers are showing better results, along with profiling ofc.

Correctly installed/setup, the 480 with a voltage tweak and running at 850+ on stock cooling is breaking into 90 degrees

5870 in xfire is outstanding btw.Quote

21-04-2010, 12:26:39

will there be a review of the gtx470? this thing is mad hot,if you do a review of the gtx 470 could it be the gainward one?Quote

27-04-2010, 21:24:32

Yet again nVidia take a giant dump on ATi's face but unfortunately charge us with their cab fare. I have been waiting for these for SO long. ATi is flashy numbers not substance and my watercooling is banging. SLi 480s will be awesomeQuote

28-04-2010, 05:09:53

How are ATi's numbers flashy, and why do they not have substance? As far as I can tell, their frame rates are above those for the 480s with the 5970 and represent better value with the 5870s.

No matter how good the nvidia cards are, I would still worry about sticking that runs so hot into my case, where all the other components will get hot. Same applies with watercooling unless you have a couple of triple or quads to cool the cards.Quote

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