TechSpot: Nvidia GeForce GTX 480 SLI vs. ATI Radeon HD 5870 Crossfire

Recently we revisited the battle between the high-end Nvidia GeForce GTX 400 and ATI Radeon HD 5000 graphics cards series using updated drivers and a new testing method that saw us abolish all time demos. This comparison was limited to single GPU testing at what we consider to be the mainstream screen resolution for high-end PC gaming.

But for those amongst you that like to take things to the next level, gaming at 2560x1600 with 30-inch displays and beyond. For extreme users that do not necessarily care about value, power consumption or even heat... who offers the best gaming solution? This question leads us to a new showdown between ATI and Nvidia, only this time using a pair of GeForce GTX 480 graphics cards in SLI versus a pair of Radeon HD 5870 using Crossfire technology.

For many of us the prospect of spending $400 on a Radeon HD 5870 graphics card seems a little crazy, let alone the $500 Nvidia is asking for the GeForce GTX 480. So it goes without saying that those willing and able to purchase two of these mighty graphics cards are in the minority. Still, such configurations do exist and those of you looking to go down that path will be interested to check our findings. 

Read: Nvidia GeForce GTX 480 SLI vs. ATI Radeon HD 5870 Crossfire

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OMG i cant stand people specially fanbois who just would say anything to justify their brand preference or purchase

@people saying biased unfair comparison "they should compare it to the 5970"
Looks like many ati fanbois are butt hurt at how well Fermi scales on SLI and the power of the GTX 480, even more now with the new drivers

Ok to start off the 5970 is a dual GPU and the GTX 480 is a single GPU
Second of all in the USA the 5970 cost $200 more than the GTX 480, whereas the GTX 480 only costs $100 more than the 5870.

New egg is the one of best places where you can buy Computer parts here in the USA and has the some of the best prices around here
It list the 5970 at $700 http://tiny.cc/73be8 and the GTX 480 at $500 http://tiny.cc/38zm5 and the 5870 at $400 http://tiny.cc/dv5q1

Point one:
2 GTX 480 on SLI are way faster, it easily beats ONE 5970

Point two:
The 5970 scales like **** on crossfire when you add a second 5970, it is almost a waste of money, on average just 10 to 15 percen faster than 2 way SLi GTX 480, also important to note that is some cases 2 GTX 480 match or even outperform quad 5970 depending of res and Anti Aliasing NOT to mention it quad 5970 would cost you $400 MORE than the nvidia configuration

Point three:
5970 should only be bought if thats would be your only graphics card and you DON'T plan to add a second one in the future, since it would be a waste of money considering how bad it scales on quad crossfire when you add a second 5970

Point four:
3 way SLI GTX 480 costs $1500
Quad crossfire 5970 costs $1400
So the the 3 way SLI nvidia configuration would blast the **** out of the quad 5970 for just $100, considering that even 2 way GTX 480 matches quad 5970 in some games/cases

http://www.maingearforums.com/...ant-To-Buy-A-GeForce-Part-2

Note
I wouldn't go as far as 3 way sli, 2 way sli is the best choice, add water blocks to each card ($300 total) overclock the 2 way sli GTX 480 and you would get 3 way sli level performance at cool temperatures that do NOT surpass 60 °C at almost silent levels thanks to the water cooling


IMPORTANT NOTES (that enraged fanbois always forget to mention when they call fermi an sub par product)

-GTX 480 has superb dx 11 tessallation support, it does it better than any ati card, as games mature and start utilizing tessellation more heavily the GAP is just going to get bigger

-Fermi scales great on SLI anywhere from 80 to 90 percent

-GTX 480 handles Anti Aliasing like no other, it really has superb performance, it takes a much lower performance hit when jumping from 4XAA to 8/16xAA (if you enable 8/16 AA the GTX 480 can be 40% faster than the 5870)

-One word: GPGPU aka CUDA as of now fermi has no competition on the GPGPU field it folds like crazy, it really is the best card for video editing/edition, photoshop etc

- Better drivers, well.. DUH...

Final note:
Its pathetic when people mention power consumtion of 2x GTX 480 Vs 2X 5870
One would think that ANYONE planning to spend 800/1000 dollars on Graphics card would have at LEAST an decent 1000 watt PSU. Only enthusiast would spend that much on graphics cards and enthusiast clearly have beefed up power supply and don't have a problem with power consumption

"ZOMGZ my electricity bill"
All i have to say ti this is *facepalm* it wold probably cost you $40 more than the ati configuration A YEAR in your electricity bill

This is a pretty biased test. They're comparing the #1 NVIDIA card against the #3 ATI card. Pit the GTX 480 SLI up against a couple of HD 5970s, and things will be back to normal.

MightyJordan said,
This is a pretty biased test. They're comparing the #1 NVIDIA card against the #3 ATI card. Pit the GTX 480 SLI up against a couple of HD 5970s, and things will be back to normal.

5970 is a crossfire card, it's 2 5870s in 1. The 480 is 1 gpu.

Which I why I mentioned earlier I wonder how the hd 5970 will perform against sli 480. To compare a 2x 5970 vs 480 SLI, would be plain stupid. You now have 4 gpus vs. 2 gpus. Gee, I wonder what the result will be. Plus if you have 2 4gb 5970s, you would have almost 8gb of ram.

If you want to compare it on price, the 5970 is probably the best bang for your buck. It's just a bit more expensive than the 480 (100 or so bucks more, yes the bit is subjective lol) and will most probably perform much better

/- Razorfold said,

5970 is a crossfire card, it's 2 5870s in 1. The 480 is 1 gpu.

Which I why I mentioned earlier I wonder how the hd 5970 will perform against sli 480. To compare a 2x 5970 vs 480 SLI, would be plain stupid. You now have 4 gpus vs. 2 gpus. Gee, I wonder what the result will be. Plus if you have 2 4gb 5970s, you would have almost 8gb of ram.

If you want to compare it on price, the 5970 is probably the best bang for your buck. It's just a bit more expensive than the 480 (100 or so bucks more, yes the bit is subjective lol) and will most probably perform much better


5970 clocks in at $700 minimum new in the US.

a 480 beats or matches the 5970 in min frames, the 5970 wins in max frames, as per the limits of cf scaling and multi gpu cards.

and according to reviews ot he newer ati cards with double the ram, simply adding more ram with a factory OC doesn't do much if anything for performance. yeah having enough ram is important on teh high-ultra high end, but there comes a point where the difference between 1gb and 2gb per gpu is only marketing hype and production costs.

treemonster said,

5970 clocks in at $700 minimum new in the US.

a 480 beats or matches the 5970 in min frames, the 5970 wins in max frames, as per the limits of cf scaling and multi gpu cards.

and according to reviews ot he newer ati cards with double the ram, simply adding more ram with a factory OC doesn't do much if anything for performance. yeah having enough ram is important on teh high-ultra high end, but there comes a point where the difference between 1gb and 2gb per gpu is only marketing hype and production costs.

You can get 1 for about 650 in canada, and usually we have higher prices, so I'm sure you could find it for cheaper than 700.

I'd say the ram matters as you get into the really high resolution+AA

WICKO said,

You can get 1 for about 650 in canada, and usually we have higher prices, so I'm sure you could find it for cheaper than 700.

I'd say the ram matters as you get into the really high resolution+AA


i haven't seen them for cheaper than $700 in canada, got a link for that? even with rebates or price matching(ncix) it's still $700+

and the 5000 series doesn't handle high aa as well as the 400 series even on the refreshes with double the ram. so no it really doesn't do much in a practical way for ati. though i understand what you were trying to say.

treemonster said,

i haven't seen them for cheaper than $700 in canada, got a link for that? even with rebates or price matching(ncix) it's still $700+

and the 5000 series doesn't handle high aa as well as the 400 series even on the refreshes with double the ram. so no it really doesn't do much in a practical way for ati. though i understand what you were trying to say.


Exactly
One of the things people always seem to forget is how good fermi handles anti aliasing
with 8/16xAA 2 GTX 480 either match or outperform 2X5970

Biased as hell - they should compare cards in the same price and performance range e.g. a GTX480 to HD5970, 2xGTX480 to 2xHD5970, GTX470 to a HD5870.
This 'benchmark' is like comparing a pimped 50 000$ sports car to a 15 000$ value-car.
Oh and did they miss the performance per Watt and Performance per Dollar comparisions ?? As I said - Biased as hell.

PrEzi said,
Biased as hell - they should compare cards in the same price and performance range e.g. a GTX480 to HD5970, 2xGTX480 to 2xHD5970, GTX470 to a HD5870.
This 'benchmark' is like comparing a pimped 50 000$ sports car to a 15 000$ value-car.
Oh and did they miss the performance per Watt and Performance per Dollar comparisions ?? As I said - Biased as hell.

5970 is a crossfire card, it's 2 5870s in 1. The 480 is 1 gpu.

Which I why I mentioned earlier I wonder how the hd 5970 will perform against sli 480.

PrEzi said,
Biased as hell - they should compare cards in the same price and performance range e.g. a GTX480 to HD5970, 2xGTX480 to 2xHD5970, GTX470 to a HD5870.
This 'benchmark' is like comparing a pimped 50 000$ sports car to a 15 000$ value-car.
Oh and did they miss the performance per Watt and Performance per Dollar comparisions ?? As I said - Biased as hell.

+1 to the post above. a 5970 is also $200 more than a 480.

although there are reviews where the 470 beats a 5870 and it's $50 cheaper too.

To me the question is not which card is the best. Obviously the 480 is the best.

The real question is who is willing to pay that much for a combo of video cards ? I have a good salary and i could actually afford two 480 cards. But why would I ? This is just silly imo to spend so much money on video cards specially since with the 480s you will also need an expensive power supply to go with them.

I replaced my 8800gts 320 with a 5850. I just can't justify to pay more than 300$ on a video card and for 300$ the 5850 was the best bang for the bucks specially since i use my pc as a media center and the hdmi output is really nice with power dvd.

LaP said,
To me the question is not which card is the best. Obviously the 480 is the best.

The real question is who is willing to pay that much for a combo of video cards ? I have a good salary and i could actually afford two 480 cards. But why would I ? This is just silly imo to spend so much money on video cards specially since with the 480s you will also need an expensive power supply to go with them.

I replaced my 8800gts 320 with a 5850. I just can't justify to pay more than 300$ on a video card and for 300$ the 5850 was the best bang for the bucks specially since i use my pc as a media center and the hdmi output is really nice with power dvd.

Don't confuse "best" with "fastest". Granted the 480 might be "fastest" but as mentioned, with the price, noise and heat issues it certainly isn't the "best".

Athernar said,

Don't confuse "best" with "fastest". Granted the 480 might be "fastest" but as mentioned, with the price, noise and heat issues it certainly isn't the "best".


it's only not the best if you give a large amount of weight to heat and noise, both of which are hiostorically in line, an doverblown by newbs who bought ati this round and want to justify their pourchase but have no idea about the history of videocards within the las t5 generations or so.
the 400 series' heat and noise "issues" are pretty typical for video cards. the 5000 series is just unusually cool and quiet(on non release/reference designs-which are quite common).

so yes the 480 is the "best" single gpu card in every way that really matters to anyone who knows wtf they're talking about. it's like saying a bugatti is too loud going 300mph therefore it's not the best high end luxury sports car on the market.

LaP said,
To me the question is not which card is the best. Obviously the 480 is the best.

The real question is who is willing to pay that much for a combo of video cards ? I have a good salary and i could actually afford two 480 cards. But why would I ? This is just silly imo to spend so much money on video cards specially since with the 480s you will also need an expensive power supply to go with them.

I replaced my 8800gts 320 with a 5850. I just can't justify to pay more than 300$ on a video card and for 300$ the 5850 was the best bang for the bucks specially since i use my pc as a media center and the hdmi output is really nice with power dvd.

for people that enjoy this level of power $500 is historically a decent price. if you personally cannot justify more than $300 then you'll have to play at lackluster(to ppl like me) settings and performance. that being said, while i own a single 480, i personally cannot justify the costs involved with going sli with 2 480s, so me personally i am limited to the limits one 480 can offer. chances are there are solutions and limitations to every price range, and for most PC gaming tends to be more expensive overall anyway, and choose to spend less money but more often on consoles(ie rrod, $60 games, xbl gold costs etc)

treemonster said,

it's only not the best if you give a large amount of weight to heat and noise, both of which are hiostorically in line, an doverblown by newbs who bought ati this round and want to justify their pourchase but have no idea about the history of videocards within the las t5 generations or so.
the 400 series' heat and noise "issues" are pretty typical for video cards. the 5000 series is just unusually cool and quiet(on non release/reference designs-which are quite common).

so yes the 480 is the "best" single gpu card in every way that really matters to anyone who knows wtf they're talking about. it's like saying a bugatti is too loud going 300mph therefore it's not the best high end luxury sports car on the market.

It's easy to dismiss major downsides when you're an ignorant fanboy I guess.

The 4-series's issues are nowhere close to typical, unless you have a thing for being ripped off for a substandard product.

Athernar said,

It's easy to dismiss major downsides when you're an ignorant fanboy I guess.

The 4-series's issues are nowhere close to typical, unless you have a thing for being ripped off for a substandard product.


let's look at history shall we?
4870 loud as a motorbike and so hot at temps it wasn't designed to operate at that on reference cooling designs it would show artifacts within half an hour at mild settings and resolution. 3870? loud as a motorbike and hot 2900? loud as a motorbike and hot. 1900? loud as a motorbike and hot 9800? good card overall.
now my 480 idles lower than my 8800 gts 512, and has yet to show artifacting with reference cooler(in a good case) hell it has yet to break 90degree c.
YES the 5000 series is cool normally and quiet with the aggressive non reference coolers that are commonly available, but will ati be able to make the 6000 series just as cool?
not to mention 6 months after launch of terrible drivers from all reports for the 5000 series, and from what i hear 10.5 was pretty bad too.
how is it substandard? 10-20% performance increase vs the competition for a premium, with the ability to crank up the settings to unfair levels and maintain performance?

I am finding terrible driver support with NVidia and Windows 7 64bit ... I currently have a GeForce 8800GT, and I did not look into ATi support really. But I bet because of this reason my next video card will be coming from ATi...

este said,
I am finding terrible driver support with NVidia and Windows 7 64bit ... I currently have a GeForce 8800GT, and I did not look into ATi support really. But I bet because of this reason my next video card will be coming from ATi...

never had a any problems with drivers for my 8800 GTS 512(released about the same time as your 8800 GT), although they stopped improving the drivers for that series more than a year ago.
nvidia's drivers are unified so the latest 257 win 7 64bit will run your card just fine.
also if you have issues with nvidia drivers expect even bigger problems from ati.

treemonster said,

never had a any problems with drivers for my 8800 GTS 512(released about the same time as your 8800 GT), although they stopped improving the drivers for that series more than a year ago.
nvidia's drivers are unified so the latest 257 win 7 64bit will run your card just fine.
also if you have issues with nvidia drivers expect even bigger problems from ati.

Never had any issues with my 2x4890 in win7 x64. ATI drivers are just as good as nvidia's nowadays. Either way, I wouldn't let that influence my decision too much, so long as they are both acceptable in terms of stability. It boils down to cost and performance for me.

WICKO said,

Never had any issues with my 2x4890 in win7 x64. ATI drivers are just as good as nvidia's nowadays. Either way, I wouldn't let that influence my decision too much, so long as they are both acceptable in terms of stability. It boils down to cost and performance for me.


massive reports of gsods for the first six months of the 5000 series says otherwise. it was mostly fixed with 10.3 though from what i hear.
although there are other issues that pop up in the game tech support forums i read every week related to ati drivers and ccc. like in game text corruption and such.

Im getting anATI card withmy new PC im ordering today, just cause the nvidia costs alot more, and itll make a difference in my power bill that will just add up every month to cost even more..as much as i hate ATI's drivers i guess im stuck with it

ATI drivers are not that bad. They are defintely better than what they used to be. Still not as good as nVidia though.

But the CCC really sucks. It's terrible.

I have a 5850 and it's a very good value. Silent even under load. And i love the HDMI pass through since i use my PC as a media center.

Neoauld said,
Im getting anATI card withmy new PC im ordering today, just cause the nvidia costs alot more, and itll make a difference in my power bill that will just add up every month to cost even more..as much as i hate ATI's drivers i guess im stuck with it

for a an ultra highend WCed 4x sli 480 pc OCed running at load 24/7 it would cost about $60 a year to run in electricity.

treemonster said,

for a an ultra highend WCed 4x sli 480 pc OCed running at load 24/7 it would cost about $60 a year to run in electricity.

There's no way that's accurate as this system is pulling about 780W, lets assuming 4xSLI is only pulling 1000W which is probably being generous. At roughly 10 cents a kiloWatt, that's 2.40 a day to run the system 24/7.

Using this test review system as an example, you'd spend ~$520 running ATI in crossfire vs. ~$690 running Nvidia in SLI. Again this is assuming you're running them under load for a year 24/7 as you indicated in your post.

Edited by Boxster17, Jun 23 2010, 11:02pm :

Boxster17 said,

There's no way that's accurate as this system is pulling about 780W, lets assuming 4xSLI is only pulling 1000W which is probably being generous. At roughly 10 cents a kiloWatt, that's 2.40 a day to run the system 24/7.

Using this test review system as an example, you'd spend ~$520 running ATI in crossfire vs. ~$690 running Nvidia in SLI. Again this is assuming you're running them under load for a year 24/7 as you indicated in your post.

i don't recall the math involved but they did the math on evga forums for a ultra high ec system and depending on your specs it came out to $30-60 a year.

i think your understanding of the math is off personally but i can't really argue the point.

treemonster said,

i don't recall the math involved but they did the math on evga forums for a ultra high ec system and depending on your specs it came out to $30-60 a year.

i think your understanding of the math is off personally but i can't really argue the point.

The math isn't hard at all, I think maybe you're mistaken (granted this is still assuming you're running at load 24/7 which is highly unlikely):

Watts x Hours Used / 1000 x Cost per kilowatt hour = Total Cost

787 (watts) x 24 (hours used) / 1000 x 0.10 (cost per kilowatt hour) = $1.88 (total cost for 1 day) x 365 (days) = $689.42 total cost to run the computer for 1 year.

Something must have been wrong in Crysis warhead test.

On my single ATI 5870 mobile card I run Crysis on higher frame rates (1920x1080 resolution, enthusiast settings, 8xaa), the only difference is the resolution, while I didn't measure the frame rates the game is pretty much smooth.

Denvildaste said,
Something must have been wrong in Crysis warhead test.

On my single ATI 5870 mobile card I run Crysis on higher frame rates (1920x1080 resolution, enthusiast settings, 8xaa), the only difference is the resolution, while I didn't measure the frame rates the game is pretty much smooth.


2560x1600 is a workout for any card or sli/cf config on most games, let alone the unoptimized crap that is crysis(warhead)
also if you don't measure your own frames how can you you objectively compare to what's in the review?

treemonster said,

2560x1600 is a workout for any card or sli/cf config on most games, let alone the unoptimized crap that is crysis(warhead)
also if you don't measure your own frames how can you you objectively compare to what's in the review?

I could tell the difference between 20 - 30fps and 2 - 4 fps

Ridlas said,
GTX 480 clearly wins this one.

It better anyways, all that heat and noise it makes.

And money it costs Bring on the price cuts!

Holy **** 348-787 watts? Dam

Correct me if I'm wrong but isn't the 5970 just 2 5870s in one? Not to mention it is also cheaper. So I wonder what the results would be if they compared a single 5970 to a 480 SLI

/- Razorfold said,
Holy **** 348-787 watts? Dam

Correct me if I'm wrong but isn't the 5970 just 2 5870s in one? Not to mention it is also cheaper. So I wonder what the results would be if they compared a single 5970 to a 480 SLI


well a single 480 beats a 5970 for minimum fps, and the 5970 only gets about 15-20% more max fps so you fiigure out. btw the 5970 is basically 2 5870s underclocked, so it's not quite as good as 5870 cf.

Whao what happened to ATi in the Crysis Warhead benchmark? I'm assuming it has something to do with CUDA or a driver issue...

Looks like nVidia is king!

Conjor said,
Whao what happened to ATi in the Crysis Warhead benchmark? I'm assuming it has something to do with CUDA or a driver issue...

Looks like nVidia is king!

For $200 more and more power usage, they better be LOL

Conjor said,
Whao what happened to ATi in the Crysis Warhead benchmark? I'm assuming it has something to do with CUDA or a driver issue...

Looks like nVidia is king!

5970 beats the 480 though. Although crossfire has always seemed worse than SLI.