NVIDIA GeForce GTX 580 Review

Author: Michael "SKYMTL" Hoenig
Date: November 8, 2010
Product Name: NVIDIA GeForce GTX 580
Part Number: N/A
Warranty: N/A
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…And Many Things New

While NVIDIA was prioritizing critical rendering paths with higher speed transistors, some additional improvements were made to the underlying Fermi architecture as well. Most of these were relatively minor in the grand scheme of things but when compounded they can lead to some impressive performance increases in certain scenarios.

While the GF100 architecture fully supported FP16 HDR texture formats, the GF110 now has the capability to process these textures at a higher throughput. With this “full speed” FP16 texture filtering, the TMUs within cards like the GTX 580 are able to operate at a slightly higher efficiency than the previous generation.

In addition to the increased FP16 performance, two other areas were prioritized: z-cull efficiency and the L1 cache. An overall bump in z-cull efficiency will mean quicker processing of certain draw calls which are sent through the GF110’s Raster Engine. In addition, the 64KB of shared memory and L1 cache now has additional configuration options which can in theory augment texture performance by speeding up the texture units’ communication with the rest of the rendering pipeline.

Some may remember that NVIDIA’s GF104 core handled instructions in a slightly different manner than the higher end Fermi GPUs. This was mostly due to the larger number of cores per Streaming Multiprocessor. However, since the GF110 maintains the same 32 cores per SM, it maintains the same instruction issuance as the GF100.

All of the advances we have been talking about can amount to some significant improvements in framerates across a cross section of games. Since the architectural enhancements are specifically targeted to certain areas of the rendering process, the impact they have varies from one game to the next. However, in DX11 apps or games that use a large amount of texture data, the focus upon high level geometry performance does prove to be beneficial.

The focus upon transistor layout also allowed for higher clock speeds so when the butcher’s bill is tallied, some games can see a performance jump of about 30%.

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