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Thread: MSI GTX480 review with CPU scaling

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    MSI GTX480 review with CPU scaling

    Hey guys,

    Before I start playing my favourite game, which is 3dmark, I thought I'd have a go at a bit of a GPU review with an MSI GTX480 and some game benches with some focus on the effects of CPU, ram and uncore scaling.

    Introduction



    There are a thousand reviews out there on the net showcasing the performance of graphics cards which tend to follow a fairly similar methodology, which is fair enough considering the gaming audience. I thought I would differentiate a little. In addition to reviewing the performance of the GTX480 across a range of game benchmarks, I want to see the effect a high CPU overclock has on performance. Since a lot of us here are overclockers, I intend to run some benchmarks with no less than an i7 980x processor running at 5ghz. My reasoning behind this is simple: To show what the GTX480 can do with a minimized CPU bottleneck, show if games can benefit from added CPU performance and hopefully give an indication of how the card will perform with future higher performing processor architectures and platforms.

    So let's begin

    The card and packaging



    The MSI GTX480 is based on the Nvidia reference design. It features a 480sp GF100 core manufactured with TSMC's 40nm process with upwards of 3 billion transistors. It comes with a 384bit memory bus width with a 1.5gb GDDR5 frame buffer. Clocks are a fairly conservative 700/1400mhz to help keep TDP in check.

    Moving on to the MSI package itself: It comes with the usual accessories that you would expect from a performance graphics card. It comes with DVI to VGA and DVI to HDMI adapters, 6 pin to 8pin PCI-E adapter, a twin Molex to 6pin PCI-E adapter, user manual and driver CD. Included on the CD is the cherry on top, which is the Afterburner overclocking utility that sets the MSI card apart.

    The MSI Afterburner utility is used to overclock the GTX480. Coded by Unwinder, the creator of Rivatuner upon which it is based, Afterburner has become the most popular utility to overclock cards and adjust voltages. It offers a simple user interface, monitoring, fan control and the ability to save profiles. It really is an excellent utility offering ease of use, simplicity and reliability. Kudos to MSI for allowing not just their own cards to be used and abused with it, but tacitly those from other vendors as well.

    I am glad it does not come with costly extras such as a free game or 3dmark licence. It keeps the cost down, helping the cost/performance ratio and delivers the best price on what matters most. The card itself.

    The full specifications are available at the MSI website.







    Test setup and methodology


    Intel Core i7 980x Processor with stock air and cascade cooling built by Kayl
    MSI BigBang Xpower motherboard. BIOS v1.2
    MSI N480GTX-M2D15 Graphics Card using ForceWare 258.69
    3x2gb Corsair Dominator GT 2000mhz 8-9-8-24 rev. 7.1 (Powerchip IC's)
    Corsair HX1000 Power Supply
    Dell 2405FPW @ 1920x1200
    Windows 7 32bit



    I used four different sets of settings for the following benchmarks. They are:
    A: No overclock on either the CPU or GPU
    B: No overclock on the CPU, but overclock on the GPU
    C: Overclock on the CPU, but no overclock on the GPU
    D: Overclock on both the CPU and GPU

    Here is a screen grab of the four performance states. They are the CPU and platform at stock settings and overclocked, as well as the GTX480 at stock settings and overclocked. No AA or AF was used in any of the tests. I chose the overclocked settings primarily because they are nice round numbers. Both CPU and GPU are capable of higher clocks, but I wanted some grounding in reality. Higher clocks are really the domain of the 3dmarkers.

    CPU/platform stock and overclocked







    Stock and overclocked GTX480




    The results are the average of three runs at each of the four performance states.
    Last edited by Booj; 08-20-2010 at 12:04 AM.

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    Results


    STALKER: Call of Pripyat is the latest instalment in the STALKER franchise from GSC Studios. It brings Full DX11 support including tessellation. It's a features an atmospheric dystopian landscape that is highly demanding on the graphics card.

    These results were obtained using the standalone benchmarking tool, which runs a predetermined route with four different conditions. Overcast, night, rain and sunshafts. Rather than come up with a huge graph, I have taken the averages of the 4 tests to produce graphs similar to the other games. The sunshaft test was by far the most taxing test. The HDR and bloom effects are quite demanding.



    A strong showing by the GTX480 here. This game is a piece of cake at 1920x1200 at ultra high in DX11 mode. Hitting over 100fps average in this showcase DX11 title is awesome. At stock settings Call of Pripyat is perfectly smooth at 85fps avg, and overclocking brings great scaling.

    The CPU OC results are interesting too. A gamers rig should get a nice boost in minimum fps with a CPU overclock. Depending on the settings used it could be the difference between some stuttering or not during intensive scenes. The average fps is not much different as to be expected at graphically demanding settings.



    Far Cry 2, released in 2008, is a first person shooter developed by Ubisoft that takes place in an African setting and is another game highly dependent on graphics power.

    These results were obtained using the Ranch Long test which is part of the inbuilt benchmarking tool.



    The GTX480 flies through Far Cry 2. Have no fear turning on the AA and AF with average FPS numbers like these. There are very clear gains to be had by overclocking the card, whilst the CPU overclock, like Stalker, helps minimum fps rates again. Even without any overclock, a GTX480 gamer can comfortably enjoy Far Cry 2 at maximum settings.



    Flight Simulator X is the most recent installment in Microsoft's decades long running franchise. It features detailed scenery, realistic maps, support for multithreading and DirectX 10 with the SP2 patch, but it does need a powerful machine to run.

    This test was run using a pre recorded sequence contained in the FSXmark07 tool. The results of the 5 minute run were recorded using FRAPS. The game was set to 1920x1200 resolution with graphical settings on the ultra high preset.




    Here's something a bit different. FSX is a totally CPU limited game. The scaling in average fps is basically linear with the increase in CPU overclock. This one needs every MHz it can get to run smoothly to the point where a GPU OC does nothing, even on the ultra high preset where you would expect some GPU scaling. I bet the old school flight sim buffs get a rude shock when they take it home and run it on a single core P4.

    Whilst there are thousands of objects on screen at a given time such as trees, buildings and even moving cars, you can't help but feel this game needed to be better optimized.



    Crysis remains a benchmark for stunning graphics on the PC even 3 years after its release. To this day high end PC's still struggle with it on the highest settings.

    These results were obtained using the Assault Harbour test of the Crysis benchmark tool. I chose it because it has gunfire and explosions which should be more representative of general gameplay. The test was run in DX10 mode with ultra high quality at 1920x1080 resolution.
    Can it play Crysis? Does a bear in the woods?



    Again we see that both a CPU along with a GPU overclock help Crysis. A GPU OC predictably delivers higher average framerates while a CPU OC boosts minimum fps. In fact a CPU OC does more to help minimum fps than a GPU OC. The difference is not much, but it's there. You still want to throw maximum GPU grunt at it though. Not that it really needs it. At all stock, above 40fps average at the highest settings barring AA/AF looks superb. Previously I tried that setting with HD4890 dual and triple crossfire and it was a slideshow in comparison to a single GTX480.

    The last 2 games only report an average fps number, so it's a bit harder to conclude much from the results.



    Alien vs. Predator
    is a first person shooter developed by Rebellion Developments. It is one of the few games currently available that supports Direct X 11. I am pleased not to be committing a crime by using this as it was initially to be banned from sale in Australia.




    The results show AvP to be a highly graphics intensive game, perhaps because of the tessellation taking place. An overclock on the CPU makes no difference to the average fps results obtained. This one will take all the graphics power you can throw at it. At stock the GTX480 still handles the benchmark without any apparent slowdowns.



    Resident Evil 5 is the final game tested. Who doesn't love blowing the heads of zombies Similar to Alien Vs Predator, the RE5 benchmark only reports an average fps number. This test was run using the default quality settings at 1920x1200 res.





    RE5 is another one that likely gets a good boost in minimum fps from a CPU overclock. The gains from a GPU OC are not as much as I expected, but are more apparent with an OC CPU. Regardless, this game is perfectly smooth even at all stock settings, and looks pretty good in DX10 mode too.
    Last edited by Booj; 08-20-2010 at 12:02 AM. Reason: ficksed sum speling

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    Summary and conclusion


    In conclusion, the results show (predictably) that a GPU OC will always help boost your average framerates (FSX excepted). What mightn't be as obvious is the effect a CPU overclock has in boosting minimum frame rates. A 50% overclock isn't exactly realistic, but if you can pick up a few FPS here and there it might make the difference between annoying slowdowns or not during intensive scenes. Who knows those few frames might give a bigger percentage boost than is immediately obvious. For the hardcore gamers, I would expect nice boosts in minimum FPS with a next generation Sandy Bridge or Bulldozer purring along at 4ghz+ powering your GPU(s).

    Other than playing 3dmark (which it rules in), this was my first good look at the performance of the GTX480. I am quite impressed. The card overclocks well, performance is excellent across a range of titles, drivers appear to have greatly matured and the fan noise is perfectly acceptable for a high end card. The downside is it runs hot. Very hot. Particularly once you start adding voltage to it. Ideally you want to be watercooling this card if you're planning on running it overclocked 24/7. At the very least good case airflow is an absolute must if you want to push it.

    What sets the MSI GTX480 apart is the Afterburner utility. All other things considered I believe it is enough to put it on top amongst a sea of reference cards


    My favourite game is still 3dmark and that's where this particular GTX480 is headed next. Forget the 5ghz 980x. 6ghz+ under ln2 is where the fun is at there. But that's a story for another thread

    Big thanks to the folks at MSI Australia for the GTX480 and BigBang Xpower motherboard and Corsair for the Dominator GT RAM and HX1000 PSU.

    Cheers

    Booj
    Last edited by Booj; 09-18-2010 at 01:17 AM.

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    Reserved

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    Nice write up there Booj .
    We are waiting for lightning now

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    I never OC my GPU because it will increase the max fps but not the min fps which is more important than the max fps

    e.g without OC my GPU i got 30-60 fps in some games , and with OC my GPU i got 32-80 fps in the same games
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    Interesting outcome. Enjoyed the write up.
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    Conclusion: when overclocking the cpu a brutal 50% we get this gains:

    10% in Stalker.
    2.5% in FC2
    50% in Flight Simulator X
    10% in Crysis.
    0% in AvP
    3% in RE5

    So, is it worth it to overclock the cpu so much? Unless you play Flight Simulator X, obviously NOT.
    Quote Originally Posted by NKrader View Post
    im sure bill gates has always wanted OLED Toilet Paper wipe his butt with steve jobs talking about ipad..
    Mini-review: Q6600 vs i5 2500K. Gpu scaling on games.

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    Quote Originally Posted by koc View Post
    I never OC my GPU because it will increase the max fps but not the min fps which is more important than the max fps

    e.g without OC my GPU i got 30-60 fps in some games , and with OC my GPU i got 32-80 fps in the same games
    Are you looking at the same graphs we are ?... surely you'll agree they tell a different story.

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    Cheers guys

    Quote Originally Posted by prava View Post
    Conclusion: when overclocking the cpu a brutal 50% we get this gains:

    10% in Stalker.
    2.5% in FC2
    50% in Flight Simulator X
    10% in Crysis.
    0% in AvP
    3% in RE5

    So, is it worth it to overclock the cpu so much? Unless you play Flight Simulator X, obviously NOT.
    Remember these are high res, high settings benches in graphically demanding games. You shouldn't expect drastic gains from the CPU alone. Also some of the minimum results with the with the CPU and card overclocked are much greater than the percentages you give eg Crysis and Farcry 2.

    A 50% OC with say a i7 920 is possible, common and will yield better minimum fps, which is important to a lot of folks.

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    Quote Originally Posted by sofos1990 View Post
    Nice write up there Booj .
    We are waiting for lightning now
    you are greedy my friend

    you and me are wating

    hey booj nice work man..thats alot of hours of work...

    its a good thing the fan that the 480 uses is not as loud as the 5870 fan..


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    Quote Originally Posted by dengyong View Post
    Are you looking at the same graphs we are ?... surely you'll agree they tell a different story.
    Yes im looking at the same graphs , and OC CPU & GPU give a good increase in min fps in games (+10 fps) .

    BUT
    in my system i got only 2-5 fps with OC GPU , So i just OC my CPU and i can max all the games .

    thank you Booj for the review
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    Great review !

    Thanks Booj

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    Interesting results and valuable information- thanks for sharing this and thumbs up for your excellent work

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    Would be interesting to add second GTX480 for SLI test, that would show bigger difference when CPU not overclocked.
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    Nice write-up man. I wonder what changes once AA and AF are added into the mix?


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    Thanks for this write up... I was thinking about getting a 980x CPU. (running a 920 @ 3.85GHz right now) but now I see a 5GHz 980x vs a 3.33GHz 980x doesn't show "real world" noticability in games.

    Great write up and thanks for able to clocking that 980x as high and showing stock (3.33GHz) numbers! Gives me a lot to think about.

  18. #18
    No 3DMark?

    Quote Originally Posted by prava View Post
    So, is it worth it to overclock the cpu so much? Unless you play Flight Simulator X, obviously NOT.
    If you're running a 980X, other CPU's will not have the same power out of the box as the six core beast.

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    Booj...finally had to chime in and say thanks for the detailed review. Just the right speed write up, images, and look at the card. Cheers!
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    Thanks a lot guys, I'm glad it's been useful

    Quote Originally Posted by G H Z View Post
    No 3DMark?
    Soon mate soon

    Quote Originally Posted by .aT View Post
    Booj...finally had to chime in and say thanks for the detailed review. Just the right speed write up, images, and look at the card. Cheers!
    Thanks man, 1st post after 2 years! Welcome!

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