The Fastest Mobile GPU in the World: NVIDIA's GeForce GTX 480M

We'll cut to the chase: NVIDIA's GeForce GTX 480M does indeed reclaim the crown of fastest mobile GPU from ATI's strangely anemic Mobility Radeon HD 5870. And it ought to: after all, in a break with tradition the GeForce GTX 480M is actually properly named. The GPU core of the GeForce GTX 480M is indeed a Fermi GF100 lovingly crammed into a notebook form factor. NVIDIA cut that same 3.1 billion transistor you've all come to know and love down to a still-egregious 100-watt TDP, the highest of any mobile graphics hardware to date.

While the GeForce GTX 285M was just another rehash of the G92 and ATI's Mobility Radeon HD 5870 is a mobile version of their desktop Radeon HD 5770, NVIDIA's GTX 480M uses the same cut-down—but still Fermi—core found in desktop GeForce GTX 465 cards. That means 352 of NVIDIA's "CUDA cores" and a 256-bit memory bus connected to GDDR5 memory. The difference is that while the GTX 465 only gets 1GB of GDDR5, the GTX 480M gets a full 2GB in our review notebook. Clock speeds aren't as comparable, though, with the 480M's clock speed down from the GTX 465's 607 MHz to just 425 MHz. The shader clocks get cut down, too, dropping from 1.2 GHz to 800 MHz. Probably the most alarming drop is the GDDR5: running at 3.2 GHz on the desktop card, the 480M has its effective speed cut to just 2.4 GHz, the lowest speed we've ever seen on GDDR5 and actually a slower effective clock speed than the GDDR3 on the desktop GeForce GTX 285!

It's not unreasonable to expect cuts had to be made to fit Fermi into a notebook form factor, but given how underwhelming the performance of the desktop GTX 465 that the GTX 480M borrows its hardware from is, one can begin to become genuinely concerned about NVIDIA cutting too deep to get the GTX 480M to fit into its 100-watt TDP. Both ATI's Radeon HD 5830 and NVIDIA's GeForce GTX 465 have proven that it's possible to hit a wall of diminishing returns when harvesting high-end GPU die; both of these cards are barely faster than their substantially smaller predecessors.

Still, it's impressive Fermi made it into a notebook form factor at all. 352 of NVIDIA's CUDA cores are nothing to sneeze at, and a 256-bit memory interface connected to 2.4 GHz GDDR5 still produces a healthy 76.8GB/sec of bandwidth. The GeForce GTX 480M also brings to the table full DirectX 11 support along with all of NVIDIA's usual trimmings: CUDA, PhysX, and 3D Vision. With Eyefinity largely out of the equation in notebooks, the Mobility Radeon HD 5870 can certianly begin to feel feature light compared to NVIDIA's hardware.

So that's all well and good, but how does the GeForce GTX 480M actually fare in practice?

Introducing the Fermi-in-Your-Backpack Synthetic Benchmarks
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  • my_body_is_ready - Thursday, July 8, 2010 - link

    Any news on what ASUS will be doing with this chip? I hear they are refreshing their G series and adding 3D Vision
  • JarredWalton - Thursday, July 8, 2010 - link

    If ASUS doesn't someone else will. I suspect we'll see that sort of notebook come fall.
  • drfelip - Thursday, July 8, 2010 - link

    IIRC the Asus G73JW is going to sport a GTX 480M, but probably a downclocked one...
  • LtGoonRush - Thursday, July 8, 2010 - link

    Given the very tiny lead of the GTX 480M, I'm very much looking forward to the next enthusiast mobile graphics products from AMD. Given that the Mobility 5870 has a 50TDP and is essentially a desktop R5770, they may be able to cram an underclocked desktop R5870 into a 100W TDP like the GTX 480M, maybe call it the Mobility 5970? Ah well, it will be exciting to see what the Mobility 6870 brings to the table, I'm assuming we'll see a Southern Islands-derived mobile GPU lineup.
  • blyndy - Thursday, July 8, 2010 - link

    Isn't ATI supposed to release some new mobile parts about now?
  • james.jwb - Thursday, July 8, 2010 - link

    Sorry to bring this up here, but the front page carousel is killing the front page performance. I've heard lot's mention this over time, and it's now started happening to me. I think some random update, possibly to Flash or Firefox has caused this for me.

    Is this problem being acknowledge or ignored? I kinda expect more form a site like this, with this much traffic.

    Using Firefox.
  • JarredWalton - Thursday, July 8, 2010 - link

    If you're not at native size (i.e. no magnification), performance is okay. I'm on a quad-core 3.2GHz Kentsfield system, and the main page is fine normally but if I magnify suddenly it's super slow. Like, peg a core of my CPU at 100% for a couple seconds slow. If you were on a slower system, I imagine it would be terrible.

    FWIW, I believe we're talking about killing the carousel. I thought it sounded like a good idea in the design phase, but in practice I don't like it that much.
  • tommy2q - Thursday, July 8, 2010 - link

    the carousel is a cpu hog and makes the front page harder/slower to browse for information because it takes up way too much space...
  • B3an - Thursday, July 8, 2010 - link

    It would be better to keep it, but make it Flash. For any sort of animations Flash runs much better with less CPU usage - if done right.

    I make stuff like this all the time, you're looking at around 2 - 4% CPU usage with Flash on a average quadcore. Even an Atom CPU would easily cope.

    But Anand seems to be a big crApple supporter, so i cant see that happening.
  • strikeback03 - Thursday, July 8, 2010 - link

    I just tried on my work computer (3GHz Q6600) and I get processor usage spiking to about 28% spread across 2-3 cores when the carousel shifts. Using the keyboard buttons to magnify doesn't change the processor usage any.

    I never look at it though, without any defined beginning and end I find myself having to watch the whole thing to see what might be new, it is far easier to just look at the static listing.

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