A few months ago, the first Fermi parts were released, and I gave my opinion on the first cards. A quick recap:
The Fermi architecture has a lot of potential for the future, with its good tessellation and GPGPU performance… However, it seems it hasn’t quite reached its sweet-spot yet. I personally find them a bit too power-hungry. Perhaps TSMC can get the power consumption down over the next few months as the production process matures, and perhaps with small bumps in clockspeed and driver improvements, the power/performance ratio can become more acceptable. Or perhaps we need to wait for a die-shrink to get there.
I would have considered the GTX470 for myself… but I’m not too comfortable with its power consumption. So I think I’ll give it a few months to see how Fermi matures. If TSMC can get power consumption down, if nVidia can get the performance up via the drivers, and if the retail price is attractive enough, then I will buy one. But the first impression is not good enough for me to pre-order a card right away.
It could also be that one of the ‘stripped down’ variations of the Fermi architecture will turn out to be a good deal. It could be that a smaller die size will have such a favourable effect on yields that it turns performance and power consumption around completely. That the full-blown Fermi is a bit too ‘obese’, but a leaner and meaner variation of the architecture does hit that sweet-spot.
Sadly, the GTX470/480 didn’t really improve in terms of performance or power consumption, and the GTX465 wasn’t much more attractive either. Prices didn’t go down to compensate for these facts, so I never got into the temptation to buy a Fermi-based card.
Today, nVidia released the GeForce GTX460. Unlike the 400-series cards so far, this one is not built on the original GF100 chip, but on the newer, smaller GF104 chip. It looks like my suspicions were correct: the smaller die delivers about the same performance as the GF100-based GTX465, but does this with lower power consumption. It runs cooler, and according to early reviews, it has a lot of overclocking potential. The new GF104 chip is very much a leaner and meaner Fermi.
nVidia has also tweaked the architecture a bit, regrouping the execution units a bit, and implementing superscalar execution. This should make the chip more efficient in the average case.
In short, nVidia has finally made a Fermi-card that I find acceptable. The power consumption and noise are very acceptable. And the price is great too. Currently this card is the leader in terms of price/performance in this price segment. That makes the choice really easy for me. The only downside is the image quality… but that is mostly theoretical. Aside from that, it is better than my Radeon 5770 in every way… More advanced GPGPU architecture, PhysX support, better tessellation performance, and also nVidia’s better drivers, especially for OpenGL, and their excellent developer support via SDKs, presentations and such, the choice is easy.
I’m going to pre-order the GeForce GTX460 1 GB!