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GTX 480 excels not just at standard ray tracing, but also at advanced global illumination algorithms such as path tracing, which uses a much larger number of rays to collect ambient lighting information from the scene. Early evaluations of path tracing show GTX 480 performing up to 3.5x faster than GT200.
One of the largest benefits to tessellation is being able to reduce and increase detail in a game model based on distance from the user. When an object is far away there is no need to have high detail so the polygon count can be reduced. When an object is close the meshes can be increased to give the model amazing detail with real textured edges without adding complexity to the underlying model structure.