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GeForce GTX 470: Fermi attenuated
Ultimately, the card that may arouse more interest in the buying public is the GeForce GTX 470, another GF100 variant that's been detuned a bit. For this product, Nvidia disables a second SM unit, along with a ROP partition and its associated memory controller. The resulting specs line: 448 ALUs, 56 texture units, 40 ROPs, and a 320-bit path to memory. The GTX 470's core clock speed is 607MHz, and its 1280MB of GDDR5 memory ticks along at 837MHz—or 3348 MT/s.

This is a smaller, 9.5"-long card with a 215W max power rating and only two six-pin aux power plugs. With an expected e-tail price of $349, the GTX 470 should probably slot in between the Radeon HD 5850 and the 5870. However, the 5850 long ago left its initial list price of $259 in the dust and has climbed into the $299-329 range, not far from where the GTX 470 is expected to land.

Surround Fermi?
The GTX 470 sports the same set of display outputs as the GTX 480: two DVI ports and a Mini HDMI connector. We should note, though, that the GF100's display block can only drive two outputs at a time. Nvidia announced plans at CES to counter AMD's Eyefinity feature with a triple-monitor Surround Gaming capability, along with 3D Vision Surround, which will incorporate support for 3D glasses to add the impression of depth. Thanks to the GF100's display output limitations, you'll need a pair of GTX-400-series graphics cards in SLI in order to drive three monitors. That's a shame, since a card like this is easily powerful enough to drive at least three multi-megapixel displays competently in modern games, as AMD's Eyefinity initiative has proven. On the flip side, given our experiences with 3D Vision, we expect you'd need two very fast GPUs in order to get decent performance across three displays with it.

Driver support for both Surround Gaming and 3D Vision Surround is still pending. Nvidia tells us it will add these features in its 256 driver release, slated for "early April." This driver will purportedly come out of the gate with bezel compensation—a capability AMD has only recently added to its Catalyst drivers. Still, given the fact that AMD has a broad lineup of Radeon HD 5000-series cards capable of supporting three monitors and a six-monitor Eyefinity6 card whose release is imminent, Nvidia has miles to go to catch up on the multi-monitor front.

Team AMD's new ringer

Since it's had Radeon HD 5870 cards in the market for half a year, AMD has the luxury of meeting the new GeForces with some specially tailored competition. The card pictured above arrived in Damage Labs just as the GF100 cards did, and it's a Radeon HD 5870 that's hopped up on Adderall. Part of Asus' Matrix series, this 5870 has a custom cooler and a pair of eight-pin power connectors. Together, those things should allow a fair bit of additional overclocking headroom. Also, right out of the box, the Matrix card should be a little faster than a vanilla 5870 thanks to its 894MHz core clock—44MHz above stock—and 2GB of onboard RAM.

Cards like this one should be available for purchase in early April. We don't have pricing yet, but I'd expect them to be priced at or below the GeForce GTX 480's $499 mark.

We've included the Matrix 5870 2GB in our tests, alongside a regular Radeon HD 5870. The Matrix card is labeled as "Radeon HD 5870 2GB," but keep in mind that its performance may be more influenced by its bumped-up core clock speed than by the additional video RAM. In fact, memory may be a limiting factor in this card's performance, since its clock speed hasn't budged from the usual 1200MHz.