Fermi then is first being implemented in the GF100 chip which is powering the GTX 480 and GTX 470. It uses four GPCs making for a total of 512 Cores, 64 texture units, 16 PolyMorph engines, and four Raster engines. These are coupled with 48 ROPs split up into six groups of eight, with each group being serviced by a 64-bit memory controller.
Now the thing to note here is that 512 Cores is more than I mentioned the GTX 480 having at the start of this article. This is because nVidia has disabled one of the SMs, and there can be only one conclusion as to why: nVidia simply can't consistently make GF100s that work in their entirety. This is a common problem and is generally the reason why graphics cards like the GTX 470 exist. By disabling those part of the chip that aren't working, you can still get a working chip but it has lower performance. However, it's the first time we've ever seen a company resort to disabling parts of a chip for a flagship product. Such is the risk of making a chip as large as GF100, containing as it does three billion transistors. The clock speeds of these cards are also quite low so if nVidia can improve its manufacturing fortunes there could well be a faster clocked card using the whole, uninhibited GF100 chip in the near future.
For now, though we have two cards available to pre-order (stock will be shipping come April 14th). Prices start at £448.99 for a GTX 480 while GTX 470's demand £319.99. At these prices, the GTX 480 is some 40 per cent more expensive than the HD 5870 and is only £50 short of the dual-chip HD 5970. As for the GTX 470, it's the same price as an HD 5870 and £60 more than an HD 5850. At these sorts of prices, these cards are going to need some seriously impressive performance figures to come close to a recommendation.
As mentioned earlier, we'll be looking at the flagship GTX 480 in due course but for now, let's take a closer look at the GTX 470. Considering the build up to this launch and the knowledge of how technically advanced its GPU is, the GTX 470 is rather unassuming in the flesh (though, in fairness, the GTX 480 is more of a spectacle). At 9.5in long, it's the same length as a motherboard is wide so should have no problems fitting in most ATX-size PC cases. It's also relatively light and has a fairly conventional looking cooler so again should be easy to accommodate.
Thanks to the chip's 40nm manufacturing process, it has relatively low power consumption for its complexity so requires only two six-pin PCI-E power plugs, so most modern power supplies should have no problem with it. That said, with a total board power of 215W, this card will suck up more juice than even an HD 5870.
ATI's current crop of high-end cards have four display outputs (two Dual-link DVI-I, one HDMI and one DisplayPort), which means one of them has to encroach on the second card slot, which is normally used to exhaust hot air from the card. However, nVidia has stuck to three display outputs (two Dual-link DVI-I, and one mini HDMI) meaning the full expanse of the second slot is set aside for exhausting hot air.