The first NVIDIA GeForce 400 series GPUs have broken cover in the shape of the GTX470 and the GTX480. Representing the first of the Fermi line of consumer products, the gaming graphics units offer dense geometric and photo-realistic image rendering, full high definition 3D performance and the ability to expand screen real-estate across three displays.

It's been some months since NVIDIA first revealed its plans to release graphics processing units based on the Fermi GF100 architecture which holds the promise of up to 512 Compute Unified Device Architecture (CUDA) cores, 48 Raster Operations Pipelines and 384-bit GDDR5 memory. The company says it will have the first couple of units on the shelves in April, the GeForce GTX480 and GTX470.

Both units sport a geometry processing engine which caters for more detailed image modeling and is geared towards generating a more realistic DirectX11 or OpenGL 3.2 gaming experience. As well as utilizing software to automatically convert over 400 standard 2D games into stereoscopic adventures without additional patches, the units benefit from NVIDIA's 3D Vision Surround which delivers up to 746 million pixels per second at 1080p full HD and gives users the option of expanding their gaming views over three displays to offer a whopping 5760 x 1080 immersive visual experience.

NVIDIA says that its new GeForce units represent "the world’s first consumer GPU to enable interactive ray tracing," which traces the path of light through a 3D scene to create photo-realistic image rendering. Further image enhancement is achieved thanks to 32 times anti-aliasing which smooths away any of the jagged mess at the edges of graphics.

The company claims that at maximum resolution, the US$499 GTX480 is 27 percent faster than any other GPU on the market today. Under the hood are 480 CUDA cores (that is by no means full tilt for the Fermi GF100 architecture upon which it is built and does lend itself to the probability of more powerful GPUs coming in the future), 700MHz graphics and 1401MHz processor and 1.5GB onboard GDDR5 memory running at 1848MHz. NVIDIA says that the unit could need up to 250W of power to run (which means it's likely to be a hot potato) so is recommending system power units of at least 600W.

The GTX470 weighs in at US$349 and is basically a scaled down model with 448 CUDA cores, 607MHz graphics and 1215MHz processor and 1.2GB onboard GDDR5 memory running at 1674MHz. It also needs slightly less power to run, 215W with a recommended system power unit of at least 550W.

More detailed information is available on the product pages, including demos of NVIDIA's tessellation technology and interactive ray tracing in action.

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