For the launch of the first GF100-based video cards – the GTX 480 and GTX 470 – NVIDIA sent over a 3 card reviewer’s kit containing two GTX 480s and a single GTX 470. This allowed us to do SLI testing with the GTX 480 (a money-is-no-object setup) but not with NVIDIA’s significantly cheaper GTX 470. As part of a comprehensive SLI & CrossFire guide we’re working on for next month we needed a second GTX 470 for testing GTX 470 SLI operation, and MSI answered our call with their N470GTX.

Today we’ll be taking a look at MSI’s GTX 470. We’ll also be taking a sneak-peek of our forthcoming SLI/CF guide with a look at GTX 470 SLI performance.

  GTX 480 GTX 470 GTX 465 GTX 460 1GB GTX 285
Stream Processors 480 448 352 336 240
Texture Address / Filtering 60/60 56/56 44/44 56/56 80 / 80
ROPs 48 40 32 32 32
Core Clock 700MHz 607MHz 607MHz 675MHz 648MHz
Shader Clock 1401MHz 1215MHz 1215MHz 1350MHz 1476MHz
Memory Clock 924MHz (3696MHz data rate) GDDR5 837MHz (3348MHz data rate) GDDR5 802MHz (3208MHz data rate) GDDR5 900MHz (3.6GHz data rate) GDDR5 1242MHz (2484MHz data rate) GDDR3
Memory Bus Width 384-bit 320-bit 256-bit 256-bit 512-bit
Frame Buffer 1.5GB 1.25GB 1GB 1GB 1GB
FP64 1/8 FP32 1/8 FP32 1/8 FP32 1/12 FP32 1/12 FP32
Transistor Count 3B 3B 3B 1.95B 1.4B
Manufacturing Process TSMC 40nm TSMC 40nm TSMC 40nm TSMC 40nm TSMC 55nm
Price Point $499 ~$300 $249 $229 N/A

MSI’s N470GTX is a reference-derived GeForce GTX 470 that’s largely – but not exactly – similar to the reference GTX 470. Clocked at the reference clocks of 607MHz core, 1215MHz shader, and 837MHz (3348MHz data rate) memory, the stock performance of the card is identical to the reference design. This also extends to cooling, where the card uses the reference GTX 470 cooler, and in terms of display capabilities with the card using the NVIDIA-standard 2xDVI + 1x HDMI configuration.

In terms of hardware, the biggest difference is the choice of component selection. MSI advertises this card of being part of their “Military Class” program, signifying that it uses solid state capacitors, chokes, and Hi-c (Tantalum) capacitors where appropriate. In practice the reference design already uses these types of components, however not in the number that MSI does. On our NVIDIA reference card there are a few locations for choke that were left open, whereas MSI has filled these locations with chokes.

Top: MSI N470GTX. Bottom: NVIDIA Reference

With only minor differences for the hardware, the bigger differentiating feature for the N470GTX is the software. As is the case with the rest of their cards, MSI bundles the N470GTX with their dynamic duo of overclocking tools: Afterburner and Kombustor.

Afterburner is MSI’s Rivatuner-based overclocking and monitoring suite, and a wonderful tool altogether. Going beyond straightforward overclocking controls, graphing, and an OSD, the most unique feature in Afterburner is that it offers support for voltage control on most of MSI’s cards, allowing for greater overclocking potential than what can be achieved on stock voltage alone. In the case of the GTX 470, MSI even enables overvolting support on non-MSI cards by allowing overvolting to be used with any reference-alike cards using the same VRMs as the N470GTX. This is a particularly generous move on MSI’s behalf, as it would be trivial to limit this feature to just MSI cards.

Meanwhile Kombustor is MSI’s FurMark-based load testing utility. In practice it’s virtually identical to FurMark, replacing FurMark’s furry donut with a furry version of the MSI logo.

The other significant piece of software included in the package is a voucher from NVIDIA and Capcom for one of 3 Capcom games: Street Fighter IV, Resident Evil 5, or Dark Void. The voucher is in lieu of a specific pack-in title, which is an interesting take on the pack-in game concept. Pack-in games can be hit & miss depending on whether you like the game or not, so a voucher is a much more interesting way to go about things, as it lets the buyer pick from a variety of games. The downside of course is that you’ll need a broadband connection to download the game since it’s delivered purely as a downloadable title rather than having any kind of disc packed-in.

Rounding out the package is the usual collection: a driver/utility CD, a multilingual quick-start guide, 2 molex-to-6pin PCIe power adaptors, a DVI-to-VGA adaptor, and a DVI-to-HDMI adaptor. The warranty on the card is 3 years.

As of this writing, Newegg has the card listed at $299 with a $20 mail-in rebate from MSI. Depending on your feelings towards MIRs, this is either some $30 below the GTX 470 MSRP of $330 a few short weeks ago, or at $280 approaching the price of the cheapest Radeon HD 5850s. NVIDIA and MSI have done a great job of being price competitive here, and as a result the N470GTX is priced only a stone’s throw away from the 5850 while being appreciably faster and including a free game at a time when most 5850s do not.

The Test
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  • afkrotch - Monday, August 2, 2010 - link

    Let's not forget that these same cards end up with different firmware and get called Quadros, FireGL, or whatever else.
  • Solidstate89 - Friday, July 30, 2010 - link

    First time poster in the Anandtech comments, just want to first off say that this is a great site and I've been reading it for years. By far the most unbiased and intelligently written tech site.

    However regarding this MSI 470; I assume you did a review on this because of its claims of using superior hardware like the chokes you mentioned. However I was wondering why you didn't do it on the MSI GTX 470 Twin Forzr II that uses MSI's special dual-fan cooling system. I've been looking at the card since it was first announced I've yet to find one site that has done a review on it. The closest I found was a review for the 465 Twin Frozr II on Guru3D, but I wanted to see the temps for the 470. I have a feeling you might even pleasantly surprised by the temps of a GF100 card if they do indeed fall in line with what the 465 was getting.

    Perhaps you could do it as part of a special Non-reference design article like you did with the 5870s not too long ago. I'm not even sure if you read these comments, but I just thought I'd give input for something that I'd like to see and I'm sure many others might find interesting as well, especially if you were to do a comparison piece.
  • Patrick Wolf - Friday, July 30, 2010 - link

    That would be cool if they tested all card's with special coolers. But I don't think they chose the MSI card. They needed an extra 470 for the article and MSI was the one that accepted the requet.
  • Ryan Smith - Friday, July 30, 2010 - link

    That's pretty much the correct answer. We needed a reference-style GTX 470 and MSI obliged our request. We review a lot of custom cards, but you'll find that we are unable to review every last custom card due to the fact that there are a ton of them.
  • edi_opteron - Friday, July 30, 2010 - link

    AMD sold 16 Million 5000 series during these 6months while nVidia was Silent! I'm really interested in this amazing performance...really....It's very interesting for me to see a 470GTX beats AMD's top-end HD5870! but let's be honest after six months nVidia must release sth like fermi to at least compete AMD's VGAs...but don't go so far, AMD's Southern Islands will be in stores after few months and i don't think that nVidia could reply AMD except with it's fermi ! and i advise you guys to go for AMD's 6000 series if you can wait for some days!
  • ggathagan - Saturday, July 31, 2010 - link

    ... and when AMD releases the 6000 series, someone else will same the same thing regarding Nvidia's next generation of GPU.
    Most people are better off buying the best they can get for the money they want to spend at the time they want to buy it.
    Otherwise, it turns into a never-ending waiting game.
  • billdcat4 - Friday, July 30, 2010 - link

    Newegg has a promo code for the MSI GTX 470 cutting 10% off of its original price

    This brings the card to $269 before $20 MIR
  • politbureau - Friday, July 30, 2010 - link

    Still somewhat disappointed not to see Vantage numbers in Anand GPU reviews. This would be an easily repeatable benchmark for home users that doesn't involve strictly game benchmarks. I surmise the mindset is that Vantage is purely a benchmark or WR tool, but then I'd question why there has been such a recent push on benchmarking hardware (ie "Four Flagship X58 Motherboards Reviewed").

    This is pretty much the only reason I've switched to reading GPU reviews from Guru3D, as I much prefer the tone and clarity here at Anand.

  • Ryan Smith - Friday, July 30, 2010 - link

    The short answer is that we use different tools for different types of articles.

    Synthetic benchmarks can be very handy for isolating specific aspects of a piece of hardware's performance. For example if we want to do texturing tests then Vantage is the de-facto way to go. However when it comes to overall performance, synthetic benchmarks do not tell you how a game will play on the card because they are in fact not a game - they're synthetic.

    More specifically, AMD and NVIDIA put a lot of effort in to their drivers to optimize the performance of their products on games and benchmarks alike. However they don't have the resources to work on every last game, and a large factor in deciding what to spend their limited time on is to see what review sites are using. Optimizing their drivers for commonly benchmarked games can directly impact their sales by making the performance of their cards improve in the games that ultimately impact the recommendations of editors. Or to put this another way: it's to their benefit to optimize their drivers to make their cards look good in reviews.

    It goes without saying that we would prefer that every game is appropriately optimized, but this isn't realistic. So we have to pick our games based on what we think is going to be the most relevant to our readers while taking in to consideration that we're indirectly affecting what games get optimized.

    So what does this have to do with 3DMark? As we previously established, 3DMark is synthetic - it isn't a game. If GPU manufacturers focus on improving 3DMark performance, then they're doing so at the detriment of real games. For a GPU review we do not use 3DMark as part of our general benchmark suite because it would only tell you how well a card performs on 3DMark, and it would be a signal to GPU makers to optimize for synthetic benchmark. People buy video cards to play games and run GPGPU applications, not to run 3DMark.

    As for other types reviews, this is not an issue. In other articles the GPU is held constant, so we're using these tools purely as a diagnostic tool rather than to evaluate a GPU. For GPU makers there's nothing to "win" in those reviews, and motherboard makers they can't optimize for 3DMark. It's a problem that's distinctly GPU-only.
  • Quidam67 - Saturday, July 31, 2010 - link

    Your rationale seems well thought out, but I'm not entirely buying it. Calling 3DMark "synthetic" is in my opinion semantics. It's no more synthetic than a game were you to compare it to another game using a different 3D engine. If anything, it's more well rounded as it is specifically designed to test 3D performance under a number of different metrics. Also, 3D Mark is an evolving product. It's not like they only ever wrote one version. Vantage is just the latest version, designed to keep the metrics contemporary with the latest hardware; drivers and API's. Also, you seem to contend that people who play games therefore aren't interested in running 3D mark. I've been a gamer since the Commodore Vic 20 and I always run 3D mark whenever I get a new card. Yes, I know it's not going to tell me everything I need to know about the performance of the card, but it is one piece of the jigsaw puzzle, besides of which, it is a fun and easy way to gauge impacts and stability especially when overclocking your system (not just the GPU). I for one would appreciate seeing published results as part of a GPU review.

    Lastly, while it is probably almost certainly true that drivers are optimised with 3D Mark in mind, it is hard to believe they are optimised in such a way as to offer zero percent benefit to any other application other than 3D Mark. I mean, 3D Mark is after all using a common set of API's. From what I've observed, game-specific driver optimisations (ATI and nVidia) typically offer gains only in the single % digit range. For example it's not as if Crysis has been "mastered" by driver optimisations -a poorly programmed game can't be fixed by improving drivers (just the same as a good hair-cut doesn't guarantee you are going to get laid, at least it never worked for me)

    In my view, Anandtech should reconsider its position not to include this so-called synthetic bench-mark, as I sincerely think you guys are making way too much out of it.

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