The SOC series from Gigabyte upholds a build quality that we like and agree with very much. The usage of durable components, the tweakability, the cooling. It just all seems to work out really well. As such we are impressed what we have in our hands here. A factory (significantly) overclocked graphics card that still has heaps more room left for overclocking, and all that while remaining quite inaudible with perfectly fine temperatures.
To date this is the fastest GTX 580 we've had in our hands, and in fact this is the fastest single GPU graphics card tested to date. Now we tried to nitpick and look for small subtleties that could be better, but quite honestly, there isn't much worth even mentioning. We came up empty as all negative variables on this product seem to have been ruled out. Let's run through some worthwhile pointers though.
Starting with noise and cooling, the WindForce 3X cooler does its job really well. You can hear it slightly with the default factory clocks but really, that's all. The temperatures of this pre-overclocked product remain very well under control and the sheer looks of the cooler are just dazzling. A little big though.
The card comes factory overclocked for you, and where a regular and spectacular GTX 580 has a 772 MHz base frequency and 1000 MHz (4000 effective) on the memory, Gigabyte brings that number up-to 855 MHz on the base clock and 4100 MHz on the memory (effective data-rate). Since the GeForce cards are really sensitive of performance changes when you overclock them, you'll immediately notice a performance increase over the reference product, and that's very nice to see as it's rewarding to tweak these values a little more. The baseline performance of this product is just grand.
Once you start to manually overclock you can get close to 900 MHz, but it would be a shame to not voltage tweak at the very least the GPU a tiny bit. Grab GBT's own software or even AfterBurner. We set the voltage at 1.15V and took the GPU into sixth gear, and we actually ended at a lovely 961 MHz without breaking a sweat, 100% stable. Had we taken some more time to fiddle around with the cooler RPM, then that 1 GHz might be a barrier we could have reached, although after 950 MHz things will get increasingly difficult, plus your noise and heat levels would go up quite a bit.
But yeah that's the fun factor a product like this offers; the card allows you to do that stuff without too much risk. Heck the durable class components and strong VRM design makes the product go where other can't. As mentioned in the review, there's a second BIOS as well, screw up the first with an OC firmware tweak, then you can revert to the default BIOS and reflash the corrupted firmware. A nice fail-safe.
Now the product is grand in many ways, however the one wish that has come from many end users lately seems to be that these uber-high-end enthusiast class cards should be doubled up on memory, yes .. we notice the need for a 3 GB model. People have cards like these in mind for Surround view (three monitor) setups, and the extremely-high-resolutions certainly do like more graphics memory especially with high AA modes in mind.
But that's all I can remark really, the design works out well, the features are very decent, the component selection good and the overclocking potential even better. In terms of build quality it's not there at the same level as MSI's Lightning as that product really offers a little more, but it's getting darn close. As such we like to grant the GTX 580 SOC our tweakers essential award.
Priced right this product might be very attractive to many enthusiast end-users out there.
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