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nVidia Geforce GT430 Review

Rating: 5.0.

nVidia launched DX11 a full 6 months behind AMD’s Radeon 5000 series and it’s been playing catch-up ever since. Today we are looking at the GT430, the latest and lowest priced model in the new Fermi range. It will be nVidia’s first Fermi fired into the huge sub-£100 market. Winning will be everything here, so just how many sales can nVidia hope to capture with the GT430?  KitGuru investigates.

While nVidia’s briefing notes say that  GT430 will replace the GT220, it’s street price of £65 to £70 puts it head-to-head with the 512MB Radeon HD5670 – a formidable budget card.

We had expected the GT430 to go head to head with the sub £50 HD5500 but this isn’t the case.

Searching the net on a Sunday afternoon, we’ve even seen the 1GB version of the HD5670 on sale for around £80 inc vat, which is a fantastic price point to achieve. Rumour on the grapevine is that the 1GB HD5670 is set for a price drop soon, to around £70 inc vat.

Let’s start with nVidia’s target market. Hardcore gamers are not likely to buy this kind of card, so the DX11 GT430 is clearly aimed at the media audience who might also want to game at modest resolutions (720p) with realistic IQ settings.

Has the GT430 got enough horsepower and image quality to compete with the excellent AMD 5670 in the same price zone? Today we will find out.

The GT430 is shipped in a box immediately recognisable as a Zotac product. We have a futuristic cyborg style character emerging from an orange tinted firey background.

The Bundle includes a manual and warranty information as well as an adapter and software disc. There is also a leaflet offering deals on ‘Geforce accelerated software’ such as vReveal (30% off).

The Zotac GT430 features a chunky heatsink design with a small orange fan with 11 blades. It is a tiny, single slot card which will make it even more attractive to the HTPC audience.

On the rear, we have connectivity for HDMI (1.4a compliant), Displayport and Dual Link DVI-I. All the major digital bases are covered and we are glad to see they have removed VGA from the reference design.

The card is not SLI capable. On the plus side, it does take all the power it needs from the PCI-Express slot, meaning no power connectors are required.

The graphics core clock is 700mhz and the CUDA cores run at 1400mhz. Memory speed is set at 1800mhz (DDR3). The GeForce GT430 includes one GPC with two Streaming Multiprocessors (SMs), two frame buffer partitions (FBs), and one half ROP partition (four ROP units). It also supports CUDA, PhysX and 3D Vision. nVidia recommend a 300 Watt power supply for a system built around this discrete solution. The current version of GPUz has some issues getting the default clock speeds as seen above.

When testing the GT430, we feel it is important to have a system which an enthusiast might use in this specific sector. We are using the Core i5 760 quad core as the foundation of our system build. We have connected the system to a Panasonic 42inch 1080p Plasma TV and will run most of the tests at 720p today (1280×720) to tie in with the potential audience.

We only received the card a few days ago so we are focusing on comparing directly to the best AMD product at this specific price point (around £65).

Test System:

Zotac GT430 1GB

Comparison card:
Sapphire HD5670 512mb (reference 775mhz Core 4000mhz GDDR5)

Processor: Intel Core i5 760
Memory: Corsair 4GB DDR3 @ 1600mhz
Motherboard: ASRock P55 Extreme4
Cooler: Thermaltake Frio Cooler
Chassis: Bitfennix Colossus
Power Supply: ThermalTake ToughPower XT 775W PSU
Monitor: Panasonic 42inch NeoPDP Plasma 600hz 1080P TV

Windows 7 Ultimate 64 bit
Unigine Heaven Benchmark
Stone Giant
3DMark Vantage
HQV Benchmark
Catalyst 10.9 Driver
Fraps Professional
Steam Client
Forceware 260.77 beta

Technical Monitoring and Test Equipment:
Keithley Integra unit
Thermal Diodes
Raytek Laser Temp Gun 3i LSRC/MT4 Mini Temp
Extech digital sound level meter & SkyTronic DSL 2 Digital Sound Level Meter

Resident Evil 5
Lost Planet 2
Far Cry 2
Mafia 2
Tom Clancy H.A.W.X.
Left4Dead 2

All the latest BIOS updates and drivers are used during testing. We perform under real world conditions, meaning KitGuru tests all games across five closely matched runs and average out the results to get an accurate median figure.

Our minimum frame rate game graphs have three main zones. These are sampled over a specific 30 interval period of time and then mapped into a chart. These are handy reference guides to detail worst case performance of the product being reviewed. When we test video cards we try to find the best combination of resolution and image quality settings while still maintaining playable frame rates.

Over 30fps is the zone most people want at all times, this means perfectly smooth frame rates with no hitching.

Between 30fps and 25fps is the KitGuru ‘Playable’ zone, although some people might notice occasional stuttering in specific scenes.

Under 25fps is classed as the KitGuru ‘Danger Zone’ which means that the game experience will be less than impressive. Settings and/or resolution would need lowered to help smooth out the frame rate.

Unigine provides an interesting way to test hardware. It can be easily adapted to various projects due to its elaborated software design and flexible toolset. A lot of their customers claim that they have never seen such extremely-effective code, which is so easy to understand.

Heaven Benchmark is a DirectX 11 GPU benchmark based on advanced Unigine engine from Unigine Corp. It reveals the enchanting magic of floating islands with a tiny village hidden in the cloudy skies. Interactive mode provides emerging experience of exploring the intricate world of steampunk.

Efficient and well-architected framework makes Unigine highly scalable:

  • Multiple API (DirectX 9 / DirectX 10 / DirectX 11 / OpenGL) render
  • Cross-platform: MS Windows (XP, Vista, Windows 7) / Linux
  • Full support of 32bit and 64bit systems
  • Multicore CPU support
  • Little / big endian support (ready for game consoles)
  • Powerful C++ API
  • Comprehensive performance profiling system
  • Flexible XML-based data structures

1080p is a standard resolution we use with the Heaven Benchmark on all graphics cards, this means all review results are comparible throughout previous months. Today however we have also tested however at 720p (1280×720).

Shaders are set to high, Tessellation to normal, anistrophy to 4 and Anti Aliasing is disabled.

Unigine is a tessellation heavy benchmark which favours nVidia hardware. In this case however the Sapphire 512MB HD5670 is significantly faster than the 1GB GT430 at both 1080p and 720p resolutions.

Futuremark released 3DMark Vantage, on April 28, 2008. It is a benchmark based upon DirectX 10, and therefore will only run under Windows Vista (Service Pack 1 is stated as a requirement) and Windows 7.  This is the first edition where the feature-restricted, free of charge version could not be used any number of times. 1280×1024 resolution was used with performance settings.

3DMark Vantage shows that in all the tests, the HD5670 comes out on top, by a significant margin. The overall score for the HD5670 card is 5227 and for the Zotac GT430 card 3703. The AMD board wins this test easily.

Stone Giant is a 3rd party Direct X 11 benchmark developed by BitSquid and FatShark to demonstrate the benefits of pervasive tessellation in a game setting. BitSquid is a start up formed in 2009 from the lead engineers at GRIN, who were the developers of Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter (and others). Their publisher, FatShark, is based in Sweden and recently released ‘Lead and Gold” on Steam.

This benchmark uses tessellation extensively and DirectCompute to render high quality depth of field with soft bokeh.

We run this benchmark at 1280×720.

The GT430 outperformed the HD5670 in this tessellation heavy benchmark, by around 5 frames per second. It was noticeably smoother in specific points, but both cards were clearly struggling to maintain smooth frame rates, even at 720p.

HQV Benchmark 2.0 is an updated version of the original tool and it consists of various video clips and test patterns which are designed to evalute motion correction, de-interlacing, decoding, noise reduction, detail enhancement and film cadence detection.

There are two versions of the program, standard definition on DVD and high definition on Bluray. As our audience will be concentrating on HD content so will we.

This has a total of 39 video tests which is increased from 23 in the original and the scoring is also up from a total of 130 to 210. As hardware and software gets more complicated, the software has been tuned to make sure we can thoroughly maximise our analysis.

Read our initial analysis over here.

Zotac GT430
Sapphire HD5670
Dial with static pattern 5 5
Gray Bars 5 5
Violin 5 5
Stadium 2:2 0 5
Stadium 3:2 5 5
Horizontal Text Scroll 5 5
Vertical Text Scroll 5 5
Transition to 3:2 Lock 5 5
Transition to 2:2 Lock 5 0
2:2:2:4 24 FPS DVCAM Video
5 5
2:3:3:2 24 FPS DVCam Video
5 5
3:2:3:2:2 24 FOS Vari-Speed
5 5
5:5 FPS Animation
5 5
6:4 12 FPS Animation
5 5
8:7 8 FPS Animation
5 5
Interlace Chroma Problem (ICP)
5 5
Chroma Upsampling Error (CUE)
5 5
Random Noise: Sailboat
5 5
Random Noise: Flower
5 5
Random Noise: Sunrise
5 5
Random Noise: Harbour Night
5 5
Scrolling Text
0 5
Roller Coaster
5 5
Ferris Wheel
5 5
Bridge Traffic
5 5
Text Pattern/ Scrolling Text
5 5
Roller Coaster
5 5
Ferris Wheel
5 5
Bridge Traffic
5 5
Luminance Frequency Bands
2 5
Chrominance Frequency Bands
5 5
Vanishing Text 5 5
Resolution Enhancement
15 15
Theme Park
5 5
Driftwood 5 2
Ferris Wheel
3 5
Skin Tones
3 7
Total 180 193

These figures are close however we are finding that ATI are still having issues with the Transition to 2:2 Lock test while nVidia aren’t. We did notice however that the GT430 appears to be having a problem with the Stadium 2:2 test which had lost it 5 points compared to higher cost Fermi solutions. Luminance Frequency bands also proved an issue for the Zotac GT430 solution. When the final scores are calculated, the HD5670 comes out on top at 193 points compared to the GT 430’s 180 points.

Resident Evil 5, known in Japan as Biohazard 5, is a survival horror third-person shooter video game developed and published by Capcom. The game is the seventh installment in the Resident Evil survival horror series, and was released on March 5, 2009 in Japan and on March 13, 2009 in North America and Europe for the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360. A Windows version of the game was released on September 15, 2009 in North America, September 17 in Japan and September 18 in Europe. Resident Evil 5 revolves around Chris Redfield and Sheva Alomar as they investigate a terrorist threat in Kijuju, a fictional town in Africa.

Within its first three weeks of release, the game sold over 2 million units worldwide and became the best-selling game of the franchise in the United Kingdom. As of December, 2009, Resident Evil 5 has sold 5.3 million copies worldwide since launch, becoming the best selling Resident Evil game ever made.

We performed testing at 720p with 4AA and 8AA enabled.

*Red HD5670 * Green GT430

Resident Evil 5 always performs well on AMD graphics hardware. Both cards in our review can handle this engine at 720p with a high level of Anti Aliasing enabled. The HD5670 is yet again, significantly in the lead.

Far Cry 2 (commonly abbreviated as “FC2 or “fc2″) is an open-ended first-person shooter developed by Ubisoft Montreal and published by Ubisoft. It was released on October 21, 2008 in North America and on October 23, 2008 in Europe and Australia. It was made available on Steam on October 22, 2008. Crytek, the developers of the original game, were not involved in the development of Far Cry 2.

Ubisoft has marketed Far Cry 2 as the true sequel to Far Cry, though the sequel has very few noticeable similarities to the original game. Instead, it features completely new characters and setting, as well as a new style of gameplay that allows the player greater freedom to explore different African landscapes such as deserts, jungles, and savannas. The game takes place in a modern-day East African nation in a state of anarchy and civil war. The player takes control of a mercenary on a lengthy journey to locate and assassinate “The Jackal,” a notorious arms dealer.

Far Cry 2 is still a popular game and the open world environment can be taxing on even the latest hardware available today.

Our settings: 720p (60Hz), D3D10, Fixed Time Step(No), Disable Artificial Intelligence(No), Full Screen, Anti-Aliasing(4x), VSync(No), Overall Quality(Optimal), Vegetation(High), Shading(High), Terrain(High), Geometry(High), Post FX(High), Texture(High), Shadow(High), Ambient(High), Hdr(Yes), Bloom(Yes), Fire(Very High), Physics(Very High), RealTrees(Very High).

*Red HD5670 * Green GT430

Far Cry 2 is an engine that has always delivered great performance on nVidia hardware, but in this case the HD5670 outperforms the GT430.

Mafia II is a gritty drama which chronicles the rise of World War II veteran Vito Scaletta, the son of Sicilian immigrants. As the game progresses, Vito will join the Falcone Crime Family and become a made man. There are 15 chapters in the game, connected into one storyline.

We tested at 720p(1280×720) with fullscreen: on, antialiasing:on , Anisotrophic filtering: 16x, Shadow Quality: High, Ambient Occlusion: on, Geometry Detail: High and APEX PhysX: off.

*Red HD5670 * Green GT430

Mafia 2 was a big focus for nVidia close to release, but we have found that AMD cards perform very well with this engine. Again the AMD HD5670 is significantly out in front.

Lost Planet 2 is a third-person shooter video game developed and published by Capcom. The game is the sequel to Lost Planet: Extreme Condition which is also made by Capcom, taking place ten years after the events of the first game, on the same fictional planet. The story takes place back on E.D.N. III 10 years after the events of the first game. The snow has melted to reveal jungles and more tropical areas that have taken the place of more frozen regions. The plot begins with Mercenaries fighting against Jungle Pirates.

After destroying a mine, the Mercenaries continue on to evacuate the area, in which a Category-G Akrid appears and attacks them. After being rescued, they find out their evacuation point (Where the Category-G appeared) was a set-up and no pick up team awaited them. Lost Planet 2 runs on the MT-Framework 2.0, an updated version of the engine used in several Capcom-developed games.

We are running the benchmarks at 720p in Direct X 11 mode.

*Red HD5670 * Green GT430

Both cards struggle with this intensive DX11 engine, however the HD5670 gives a slightly smoother experience throughout. Settings would need to be lowered in the game settings however (or DX9 mode used) for a fully smooth experience. This game is new however and we would expect new driver revisions to enhance performance over the coming months.

Left 4 Dead 2 is a cooperative first-person shooter game. It is the sequel to Valve Corporation’s award-winning Left 4 Dead. The game launched on November 17, 2009, for Microsoft Windows and Xbox 360 in the United States; it launched November 20 in Europe. It builds upon the cooperatively-focused gameplay of the original and uses Valve’s proprietary Source engine, the same game engine used in Left 4 Dead. The game made its world premiere at E3 2009 with a trailer during the Microsoft press event.

In a similar fashion to the original, Left 4 Dead 2 is set during the aftermath of an apocalyptic pandemic, and focuses on four survivors fighting against hordes of the infected. The survivors must fight their way through levels, interspersed with safe houses that act as checkpoints, with the goal of reaching a rescue vehicle at the campaign’s finale.

*Red HD5670 * Green GT430

Again the HD5670 is a good head and shoulders ahead of the GT430 solution when powering the Source engine.

Tom Clancy HAWX is set in the same universe as Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter; as Captain Scott Mitchell, the Ghost leader, is featured in a few missions of the missions. Plot elements are carried over from other Tom Clancy games such as the missile defense system found in Tom Clancy’s EndWar. G4′s interview with H.A.W.X’s lead designer Thomas Simon reveals that the game takes place in between Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter 2 and Tom Clancy’s EndWar.

The player begins the game in 2014 as the player assumes the role of former U.S. Air Force pilot, David Crenshaw, who is part of an elite unit called H.A.W.X (“High Altitude Warfare eXperimental squadron”), provides fire-support missions for the Ghost team carrying out covert operations in Ciudad Juárez, Mexico. However, shortly after the mission, the Air Force decides to deactivate the H.A.W.X squadron and its pilots, including Crenshaw, are recruited into the PMC Artemis Global Security.

We are testing : DX 10.1 with shadows high, sun shafts high, ambient occlusion (SSAO) very high. view distance high, forest high, environment high, texture quality high, HDR on, Engine heat on and DOF on.

*Red HD5670 * Green GT430

Tom Clancy H.A.W.X. was a very popular game which runs well on both nVidia and AMD hardware. In this case the HD5670 is delivering an extra 10fps with both 4AA and 8AA.

The tests were performed in a controlled air conditioned room with temperatures maintained at a constant 24c – a comfortable environment for the majority of people reading this. These results are taken with the system built inside the Bitfenix Colossus which offers great airflow.

Idle temperatures were measured after sitting at the desktop for 30 minutes. Load measurements were acquired by playing Crysis Warhead for 30 minutes and measuring the peak temperature. We also have included Furmark results, recording maximum temperatures throughout a 30 minute stress test.

The GT430 is a cool running card, peaking around 60c when gaming. Furmark pushes the card to 67c which shows in theory how hot the card could get.

Return to ambient is a feature we have recently added to our reviews … we measure the time it takes for a solution to return to idle temperatures, immediately after full load. The faster the time, the better the cooler – for example a Noctua NH D14 cooler will return an Intel processor to idle temperatures much faster than a reference cooler. This is a good indication of how quickly a heatsink can dissipate heat.

One of the inherent issues with a single slot cooler is that the return to idle state can be slower. After 30 minutes of Furmark full load, it takes a full 24 seconds for the cooler to return to the starting point.

Recently we have changed our method of measuring noise levels. We have built a system inside a Lian Li chassis with no case fans and have used a fanless cooler on our CPU. We are using a heatpipe based passive power supply and an Intel SSD to keep noise levels to a minimum. The motherboard is also passively cooled. This gives us a build with completely passive cooling and it means we can measure noise of just the graphics card inside the system when we run looped 3dMark tests. Ambient noise in the room is around 20 dBa. We measure from a distance of around 1 meter from the chassis and 4 foot from the ground to mirror a real world situation.

Why do this? Well this means we can eliminate secondary noise pollution in the test room and concentrate on only the video card. It also brings us slightly closer to industry standards, such as DIN 45635.

KitGuru noise guide
10dBA – Normal Breathing/Rustling Leaves
20-25dBA – Whisper
30dBA – High Quality Computer fan
40dBA – A Bubbling Brook, or a Refridgerator
50dBA – Normal Conversation
60dBA – Laughter
70dBA – Vacuum Cleaner or Hairdryer
80dBA – City Traffic or a Garbage Disposal
90dBA – Motorcycle or Lawnmower
100dBA – MP3 player at maximum output
110dBA – Orchestra
120dBA – Front row rock concert/Jet Engine
130dBA – Threshold of Pain
140dBA – Military Jet takeoff/Gunshot (close range)
160dBA – Instant Perforation of eardrum

Under Furmark load, the fan spins up quite fast, although the noise levels never get that intrusive, even more impressive when considering the modest single slot cooler used. The challenge here for nVidia is that AMD’s partners already offer many media cards around this price-point which are completely passive – including Sapphire’s Ultimate range.

Overclocking today was performed with MSI’s Afterburner tool.

Our overclocking session went well, with the core hitting 836mhz before we noticed slight artifacting (tiny dots). We wanted to see how this would affect the temperatures.

After we applied our manual overclock, temperatures rose by around 4-6c, not bad at all for such a single slot cooler.

We wanted to run a few benchmarks at our maximum overclocked state to see how performance would be improved.

Almost 2 extra frames per second with Unigine at 720p settings.

An additional 7 frames per second with our considerable overclocks, very noticeable improvements.

Given the overhead available in the GPU core and the underwhelming performance of the GT430 in general, we’re shocked that nVidia has not been much more aggressive with the reference clocks for this product.

To test power consumption today we are using a Keithley Integra unit and we measure power consumption from the VGA card inputs, not the system wide drain. The best way to get maximum load results is by using Furmark, and even though it is not indicative of a real world situation it shows the limits the card can theoretically demand. The ‘gaming’ results are measured when playing Crysis Warhead and is a more valuable result to take from this.

The power consumption figures of the GT430 are excellent, with it averaging around 37 watts when gaming. Under Furmark load it peaks around 50 watts, which is still very conservative and ideal for a media center environment. When KitGuru ran the world’s first ‘50 Watt Fermi‘ story back in May, we got a lot of stick from forums across the globe. After seeing the GTX480/470 cards, no one could believe that it was possible to get a Fermi product down to just 50 watts. nVidia has proven those critics wrong.

While we know that the nVidia GT430 is a budget card aimed at a cost conscious user group, we don’t feel that £65 inc vat makes for a sound purchase. Instead of being in the same category as the HD5500 series, it is having to contend with the excellent HD5670, which as we have seen, makes for a very one sided outcome.

This is a problem that nVidia is facing in this sector, AMD’s aggressive pricing. With a 512MB HD5670 available for £60 inc vat it becomes extremely hard to recommend the GT430, on any level.

On the plus side, the Zotac card is well built and looks rather fetching with the brightly coloured orange fan. Also, it is a single slot solution, which is always more appealing for media systems.

Sadly for its board partners, on a performance level, the Radeon HD 5670 walks all over nVidia’s GT430.

Not only that, but for media fanatics the Radeon HD 5670 is a superior solution in regards to image quality, as the HQV Benchmark testing verifies. nVidia has made improvements with its drivers for higher-end cards, but the lower-end GT430 seems to have issues with a few of the tests, such as Stadium 2:2 and Luminance Frequency bands. It’s worth pointing out that this isn’t the case with the GTS450 or GTX460.

Gaming on the GT430 is a limited experience, even at 720p with modest settings. Sure, if you are used to Intel onboard graphics then it will be a step up, but bear in mind that Intel isn’t asking you to part with an additional £65.

So, after living with this card for several days, what’s our conclusion?  The GT430 is a very mundane card – significantly hampered by a massive pricing error.  nVidia needs to instruct its partners to drop the price below £50 before it would become even remotely worth considering as a DX11 proposition.

Given the huge success we had in overclocking Zotac’s card, we are utterly confused as to why nVidia has told its partners to ship at these clocks. It could be that Zotac has a better PCB/cooling solution than its competitors, which allows for higher overclocking than a run-of-the-mill GT430, but KitGuru believes that the clock speeds and pricing make it currently very undesirable.

KitGuru says: The pricing of nVidia’s GT430 is all wrong when you look at the relative performance levels. nVidia’s GT430 seems to be priced almost 40% higher than cards like the Radeon HD 5550, but it actually steps into the ring against the Radeon HD 5670 and the result is completely one sided. Unless nVidia can work some magic and get the street price of the GT430 down closer to £45 in the next couple of weeks, it will sell very few of these cards. That said, all of the initial reviews will have been published by then and so there’s is no easy way to re-build momentum even if the price is corrected. What can we say?  We were hoping for so much more.

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