NVIDIA Geforce GTX 570 Reviewccokeman -
Category: Video Cards
Price: $349 MSRP
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Here we are, December 7, 2010, Pearl Harbor Day, just a few weeks after NVIDIA threw down the gauntlet in the GPU wars, just the same way the US was drawn into WWII on this "Day that will live in Infamy", with the introduction of the GTX 580. It proved to be, without a doubt, the fastest single-GPU video card on the planet, at times giving the dual-GPU HD 5970 from AMD a run for its money. Now that the dust has settled and we are waiting for the delayed AMD Cayman-based HD 6900 series to see what the response will be in terms of performance, NVIDIA is ready to launch its more budget-conscious offerings.
The GTX 570 is not what you might originally think, in that it is not a drop-in replacement for the GTX 470, but rather a compliment to the hierarchy that will now be GTX 580, GTX 570, GTX 470, GTX 460. So where does this leave the GF 100 based GTX 480, you ask? It will live on under the Quaddro umbrella and will not be available to the consumer as the GTX 480. The GTX 570 is said to be 25% faster on average than the GTX 470, with gaming performance higher than AMD's top single-GPU card, the HD 5870. Those are some strong claims that will surely be investigated.
The GTX 570 comes with all the improvements made to the GTX 580, which includes modifying most of the transistors in the GF 110 core so that the card is more power efficient and runs cooler. Both of these are improvements that have been needed to make the GF 110 a so-called success. Even though the GTX 580 is the fastest single GPU card on the market right now the discussions changed from pure performance to power efficiency as the big discussion point instead of the performance delivered by the video cards we now use every day in our gaming rigs. Some folks want their cake and the ability to eat it as well. We have seen how the GTX 580 performs and it is currently the king of the hill in single-GPU performance with, at this point, no real peers. Let's see how competitive the GTX 570 is by comparison. Priced at $349 the GTX 570 is poised to fill this price point with a new performance leader.
The reference GTX 570 looks much the same as the GTX 580 that I looked at just a few short weeks ago with the exception being the addition of the green highlights and subtlety-raised NVIDIA logo on the front cover. Measuring 10.5 inches from the I/O bracket to the end of the fan shroud, the GTX 570 is a full size graphics card that should fit in the majority of the current crop of chassis on the market. The blower-style fan is still used on this reference card from NVIDIA and makes the GTX 570 a dual-slot cooling solution much like the vast majority of performance video cards in use today. Being that the GTX 570 is just a lesser-powered clone of the GTX 580, the noise profile should provide the same low-pitched hum to the ears. The rear of the PCB looks the same and is covered with surface mount components. Again, there is no cutout for an air intake as the airflow into the card has been tweaked with the new shroud.
Connectivity options mirror the GTX 580 with a single Mini HDMI 1.4a port and a pair of Dual Link DVI ports. In this configuration, you will need two cards to run a three-monitor surround setup or, by adding another piece of the NVIDIA ecosystem in its 3D Vision system, you can get a 3D Surround setup at resolutions up to 7680x1600. By adding the 3DVision system, you can enjoy 3D Blu-ray content over your 1080p display. The rear of the card is unchanged from the GTX 580 with a small depression on the back end, as well as a chamfered edge that allows additional airflow into the fan when you run two or more of these cards in an SLI configuration. An improvement over prior designs.
On the top of the card are two SLI bridge connections that allow up to three GTX 570 cards to be run in TRI SLI mode for added graphics performance. By running two or more cards, you get the option of running a surround setup. Some may see this as a disadvantage over running only a single card since you need to buy two cards. NVIDIA took the stance that if you are going to do it then you want to have the best possible gaming experience. That means turning up the eye candy, which takes some graphics firepower in today's games. Two will beat one in an FPS performance race when you turn up the settings. Power connections for this card come in the form of two 6-pin PCIe power connections. The GTX 570 has a lower TDP of 219 watts and the recommended power supply is only 550 watts.
The similarities to the GTX 580 are evident all the way to the point where you take off the shroud over the PCB. The fan's airflow is still ducted directly to the heat sink for maximum cooling. The heat sink assembly used on the GTX 570 is slightly different from the one used on the GTX 580 in that it does not have a cutout at the top of the assembly. This gives the GTX 570 a little more capacity in the cooling department. A Vapor Chamber design is still used on this implementation and should prove to offer lower temperatures with the reduction in the amount of hardware in the GF 110 core. The GPU heat sink sits above the aluminum plate that covers the VRM circuits and memory modules and serves as a means to remove the heat from these components. The airflow over this aluminum plate is carried out of the chassis through the venting in the I/O plate. An illustration of how the Vapor Chamber heat sink works is included to clear up any concerns on how this system works. Think of it as a large flat heat pipe!
The heat sink used on this card is slightly different than the one used on its more powerful sibling. The assembly is a Vapor Chamber design that runs the complete length of the fin array for maximum heat dissipation. This design has been proven an efficient solution to the thermal problems of today's cards. While the top of the heat sink looks similar, the bottom is much different in that the Vapor Chamber is slimmer than the one used on the 580 and has a higher contact pad. So much so that the screwdriver I used to disassemble the card is not as thick as the contact surface. I'm not sure how this will impact performance, but should prove an interesting test. One thing you will notice when you look closely is that all avenues for air to flow around the heat sink are blocked with foam strips. In this way, you can improve efficiency just by running all the air through the heat sink instead of around it. It's always the little things that make the difference.
Last, but not least, we get to the GTX 570 version of the GF 110 core. This version is built using the same 40nm process with the same 3 billion transistors, but that's where the similarities end. This card has 480 CUDA cores like the GTX 480, but has seen a reduction of the Texture units to 60, the ROP units to 40, and the shared L2 cache to 640KB, while the GDDR5 memory drops to 1280MB running through a 320-bit bus with clock speeds bumped to 732MHz on the fixed function units and 950MHz (1900MHz) on the Samsung GDDR5 memory. What this effectively does is give the GTX 570 one more streaming multi processor, four more texture units, 32 more CUDA cores, and higher clock speeds than the GTX 470 is delivered with. Kind of a hybrid of the GTX 470 and 480 if you will, with the implementation of the transistor level improvements made to the GF 110 core.
Now that we know a little more about the GTX 570, it's time to see just how well it competes with its more powerful sibling, the GTX 580, as well as how it stacks up against the GTX 480 and the best single-GPU cards from AMD.