Nice, yeah I certainly like what NVIDIA has done with the GF110 GPU. No matter how you look at it, it is new silicon that runs much more efficiently and thanks to more shader processors, higher clocks, faster memory and tweaks and optimizations at transistor level we get extra performance as well. The end result it a product that at is, give or take, 20% faster than the GTX 480, which is a product that already was blazingly fast of course.
Now, that GTX 480 already was the fastest chip on the globe, yet was haunted by high noise levels and heat issues. We stated it in all our reviews, would the GTX 480 have been more silent and running less hot, then everybody would have been way milder with their opinion of that product.
The GeForce GTX 580 is exactly that, it is the GTX 480 in a new jacket, now comes with vapor chamber cooling, improved PCB and most of all a more refined GPU. Don't get me wrong here, the GPU itself is still huge, but who cares about that when the rest is right? And the rest is right... much higher performance at very okay noise levels with a GPU that runs at decent GPU temperatures. The one downside we measured was an increase power consumption, slightly higher than ther GTX 480. Now we really need to mention that the board used for this article (engineering sample) had an older BIOS and that power consumption on this board might be a tad higher as a result of it.
The cooling performance is better thanks to the vapor chamber cooler, a technology that has been widely adopted in many CPU and VGA cooling solutions already in the past. Even with an overclock towards 850 MHz on the GPU core rediculously stressed we still did not pass 85~87 Degrees C, and trust me that the GPU humped, stressed and dominated with a whip. Mind you that in your overall gaming experience the temperatures will definitely be somewhat lower as we really give the GPU a kick in the proverbial nuts here. 80 Degrees C on average is a number I can safely state is what you'll be seeing.
If you take a reference baseline GTX 480 and compare it to this product we already have 20% faster performance. At an overclocked 850 MHz clock frequency that's accumulated 25% to 30% extra performance easily over that baseline GTX 480 NVIDIA product, and in the world of high-end that is a mighty amount of extra performance. Of course any game to date will play fine at the highest resolutions with a minimum of 4x Antialising enabled and the very best image quality settings. So performance is just not an issue, as well as heat and noise.
Now if you come from an factory overclocked GTX 480 like the KFA2 Anarchy or MSI Lightning, then the difference is NIL really as these cards are clocked faster at default. There's no reason to upgrade whatsoever. However if you're in the market for a pre-overclocked GTX 480 or this reference 580, then obviously the 580 must have your preference as that card at default is as fast as the standard overclocked GTX 480 cards, and then has more room for tweaking. That certainly is a bitter message for KFA2, MSI and Gigabyte who all recently released the supadupa OC models of the GTX 480. It's the reality though, the GTX 580 is the logical choice here.
The new advanced power monitoring management function is well ... dissapointing. If the ICs where there as overprotection for drawing too much power it would have been fine. But it was designed and implemented to detect specific applications such as Furmark and then throttle down the GPU. We really dislike the fact that ODMs like NVIDIA try to dictate how we as a consumer or press should stress the tested hardware. NVIDIA's defense here is that ATI has been doing this on R5000/6000 as well, yet we think the difference is that ATI does not enable it on stress tests, yet is simply a common safety feature when you go way beyond specs. We have not seen ATI cards clock down with Furmark as of recently, unless we clocked say the memory too high after which it clocked down as safety feature. No matter how you look at it or try to explain it, this is going to be a sore topic for now and in the future. There are however many ways to bypass this feature and I expect that any decent reviewer will do so. Much like any protection, if one application does not work, we'll move on to the next one.
Alright, time to round up this review. Saying that the GeForce GTX 580 is merely a respin product would not do NVIDIA justice, this certainly is a new taped out revision that has been tweaked and made more efficient. The end result is a card that is something we expected early 2010, but is faster. The only thing that can ruin NVIDIA's all new release will be AMD's upcoming Cayman (Radeon HD 6970). The performance and pricing of that card is still an unknown. Anyway, if priced right and if it falls within your budget, then we do like to recommend the GeForce GTX 580, but we are afraid that the 479 EUR (499 USD) price tag will scare away many people. High-end anno 2010 should be 400 EUR tops, imho.
The GeForce GTX 580... well this is the product that really should have been launched in Q1, it would have made all the difference in the world for NVIDIA. Though we do not see any groundbreaking new stuff, the performance went up with a good enough margin and 'the feel' of the product is just so much better compared to the GeForce GTX 480 launch. Definitely a card I wouldn't mind having in my PC, now then .. Call of Duty Black Ops bring it on !
For those interested in GTX 580 SLI performance, have a look here. Oh and we also added a 3-way SLI article which you can find right here.
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