Graphics chipset maker Nvidia has just released its first graphics cards based on the Fermi chipset, highlighted by the top-end GeForce GTX 480 that the company labeled as the “fastest GPU in the world.” Along with the GTX 470, the two new cards are Nvidia’s first GPUs to fully support Microsoft’s DirectX 11 and OpenGL 4.0 (once 4.0 comes out), but the spotlight is on the GTX 480, which claims to comfortably beat “the closest competitive product” (read: ATI’s Radeon HD 5800 series) in DirectX 11 gaming performance.
The GTX 480 currently sits on top of Nvidia’s performance ladder, armed with 480 visual processing cores clocked at 700MHz, 16 geometry units, and four raster units, plus a new PolyMorph Engine for DirectX 11 tessellation that enables incredibly detailed game characters and terrain with high-speed 32x anti-aliasing and smoother edges. Taking out the geek-speak, that means that this card can handle pretty high-end gaming eye-candy, like realistic water effects and lifelike flowing hair strands.
That’s what you’ve always wanted, right? Realistic hair in games? No? Well, the new GTX 400 cards is also listed to be the first consumer-class GPUs to enable interactive ray tracing for photo-realistic scenes. That means the next crop of games might not look like games anymore, which means that the next crop of Need for Speed-type games should look awesome with realistic cars and tracks, but photo-realistic violence on the next crop of WWII-type shooters (or a DX11-based sequel to Left4Dead) might take some getting used to.
The new GPUs are also designed to support Nvidia’s 3D Vision Surround technology, which will let you link up to three monitors in full stereoscopic 3D—as long as you have the right stuff. That means three 3D-worthy, 120Hz displays, and Nvidia’s 3D Vision active shutter glasses if you want to pull it off. That’s on top of the GTX 480 GPU’s starting price of $500.
$500 sounds a little too crazy for you? The GTX 470 is a little toned down, with 448 cores clocked at 607MHz and slightly slower memory configurations. It’ll also support 3D Vision Surround and comes with the same tech, but with a price that starts out at $350.