Looking first at DX9 and DX10 performance, the GTX 470 certainly keeps comfortably ahead of its predecessor, the GTX 285. However, apart from Far Cry 2, it delivers about the same performance as an HD 5850 and is markedly behind the HD 5870. At current prices this simply isn't good enough. Yes, in Far Cry 2 it pulls out a healthy lead over both ATI's cards but one game in four isn't enough to our minds.
As for DX11 gaming, we see a fairly even split with the GTX 470 holding a consistent lead in Colin McCrae:DIRT 2, both cards delivering about the same performance in Battlefield: Bad Company 2, and the HD 5850 holding a healthy lead in Just Cause 2. However, when we bring in value again, the HD 5850 or indeed the HD 5870 would be the better choice.
Looking at power draw and the picture doesn't get any rosier for the GTX 470. At idle it's 10W more power hungry than an HD 5870 and under load it sucks up 66W more. While it may not add hundreds of pounds to your energy bill, it's certainly not ideal.
It's a similar story when we look at noise level as the GTX 470 is more noisy than both the HD 5870 and HD 5850 at both idle and when under load. However, it's worth noting that none of these cards are exactly silent when idling and the GTX 470 isn't significantly more distracting when gaming than the rest - all these cards make a noticeable whooshing sound.
One thing nVidia does have going for it, is its exclusive technology, particularly PhysX and 3D gaming. The former still crops up as an added extra in some games and it really adds to the spectacle when it does. As for 3D gaming, we still think it's a bit of a gimmick but with nVidia claiming compatibility with over 400 games already, it could well be set to take off. All told though, neither of these features feels to us like enough to justify the extra cost of the GTX 4x0 cards.
We've waited a long time for nVidia's true next generation graphics hardware to arrive and on a technical level it looks to have been worth the wait. The Fermi architecture packs in oodles of features and certainly has the potential to push forward gaming and non-gaming application performance. However, in the cold light of day, the architecture is all theoretical and so far the final product just doesn't deliver. The GTX 470 is simply over-priced and under-performing.