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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Even before NVIDIA’s Fermi architecture made it into the hands of enthusiasts, it was being criticized on a number of fronts. From power consumption to supposed profit margins to how many chips could effectively be produced; speculation ran wild and for the most part NVIDIA proved their detractors wrong in the months following launch.

Through all of this success, there were was still one small problem: the flagship GTX 480 didn’t really fit into the new realities of a market that was highly focused upon efficiency. It was a class-leading product in terms of overall performance but it fell behind in the performance per watt category against AMD’s HD 5800 and HD 5900 series. High temperatures and noise weren’t to everyone’s liking either and with AMD’s refreshed cards drawing ever closer, NVIDIA needed to dig deep and offer up a response. They have and it’s called the GTX 580.

The GTX 580 is what you would call the tip of Fermi’s “mid-life kicker” iceberg and is meant to keep the title of the world’s fastest DX11 GPU firmly within NVIDIA’s grasp. To do this, their engineers took the GF100 architecture and basically optimized it for better overall performance, lower power consumption and greater efficiency throughout the rendering pipeline. The result is a revised GF 100 core named the GF110 which has rendering power where it counts and should compete well against AMD’s upcoming high end offerings.

At it is most basic, the GTX 580 uses a full-enabled GF100 core with additional rendering and efficiency features walking hand in hand with some transistor rationalization on a microarchitectural level. Considering the outgoing GTX 480’s raw and unadulterated horsepower along with the possibilities of the GF110, not many will likely complain about these improvements necessitating a change in product family names. Especially when you consider the GTX 580 is only the beginning of NVIDIA’s top to bottom refresh.

When the GTX 480 was launched, one of the main topics of conversation was how late NVIDIA was to the DX11 party. As a result AMD had months of free sailing and massive sales figures. Now, a little more than seven months later both companies are launching their mid-life refreshes within a few weeks of one another. This really begs the question of whether NVIDIA has officially erased most of the lead AMD enjoyed over the last year or so. We have a feeling the answer will only arrive once actual availability of the GTX 580 hits the channels but word on the street is this will be a hard launch.

So what we are looking at is a potential market-leading card from NVIDIA that should be available soon after you read this. But will it maintain a sizable enough lead over the GTX 480 to justify its price of $499?


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