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NVIDIA GTX 580 Review

ccokeman    -   November 9, 2010
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There is no doubt that NVIDIA was late to the DX 11 party, allowing AMD to stack the deck against them. Here they are seven months later with their competition getting ready to drop yet another high end DX 11 card into the market. NVIDIA has struck first and set the benchmark to beat. They have done this in a convincing fashion with the GF 110 based GTX 580. This is the card we hoped the GTX 480 would have been when it was introduced. Through refinements to the Fermi architecture, NVIDIA has finally upped the ante in the video card wars. The architectural improvements come in the form of full speed FP-16 texture filtering and new tile formats for improved Z cull efficiency. The hardware was redesigned down to the transistor level for improved efficiency that allowed for increased clock speeds with lower power consumption. On top of that, the GTX 580 gets the full compliment of 512 CUDA cores (up from 480), an additional Streaming Multiprocessor and an extra Polymorph Engine. During the game testing, it was evident that there is nothing but a high-end dual GPU setup that can compete with it in heads-up fashion. In many of the games, the GTX 580 was even able to deliver performance higher than the reference based HD 5970. That is some serious firepower!

All this graphics firepower allows you to increase the eye candy in the games you play and to take advantage of NVIDIA's arsenal of technologies. Technologies such as: PhysX in titles like Mafia II, Batman Arkham Asylum and Metro 2033; the strength of its tessellation engines in games such as in Hawx 2; and then its parallel processing strengths in Just Cause 2 where CUDA is used to simulate realistic water. It does not stop there. NVIDIA's 3DVision system and Surround technology for a 3D Surround experience needs to be seen to be believed. The GTX 580, much like the GTX 480, is Tri-SLI capable for an immense increase in graphics horsepower. This should allow for excellent frame rates in resolutions up to 7680 x 1600. If that much power is not enough there is always the ability to overclock the GTX 580. I was concerned that the voltage monitoring and driver package would let the performance degrade when you start overclocking due to higher than expected power demands when increasing the voltage to the core. In our press briefing, I was told that would not be the case. So, as soon as utilities are available with the ability to increase the voltage on the core, we will take another stab at overclocking. When it came to this overclocking exercise, the amount of headroom left on this card was a meager 56Mhz on the core and 106Mhz on the memory. Not really what I was expecting after seeing the improvements in the overclocking ability of the GF 106 and GF 108 silicon but it's still something. Overclocking did allow for increased performance when push came to shove but at this level, it's just icing on the cake.

By using less power, NVIDIA went back to the drawing board for the cooling solution and decided on a more efficient Vapor Chamber heat sink assembly much like the one used by AMD on the HD 5970. This allowed the card to stay relatively cool under load while still keeping reasonable noise signatures. Under load, I saw 81 degrees Celsius when the card controlled the fan at stock speeds and a cool 59 degrees Celsius when overclocked and the fan speed was set to the maximum 85% ratio. This is a big improvement over the GTX 480. Pricing on a card of this caliber is going to run on the high end of the scale but when you buy a Ferrari you know it's going to cost you a few pennies. What you get with the GTX 580 is the 'Bionic Man' version of the GTX 480 that has been rebuilt to be stronger, faster, quieter and cooler running - that can play any game out there and defend its territory with impunity. With NVIDIA's second winner at the top end of the single GPU market, I can't wait to see what happens in the next few weeks. It's gonna be interesting.

Pros:

  • Fastest Single GPU card on the planet
  • High performance
  • Lower Noise
  • Lower Heat
  • Vapor Chamber Cooling
  • PhysX
  • Tri-SLI capabilities
  • Surround
  • 3D Surround

 

Cons:

  • Pricing
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  1. Introduction & Closer Look
  2. Specifications & Features
  3. Testing: Setup & Overclocking
  4. Testing: Far Cry 2
  5. Testing: Metro 2033
  6. Testing: Crysis Warhead
  7. Testing: Call of Duty Modern Warfare 2
  8. Testing: Just Cause 2
  9. Testing: Unigine 2.1
  10. Testing: Batman Arkham Asylum
  11. Testing: Resident Evil 5
  12. Testing: 3DMark 06
  13. Testing: 3DMark Vantage
  14. Testing: Temperatures
  15. Testing: Power Consumption
  16. Conclusion
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