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We've reviewed a handful of cards from Gigabyte's Super Overclock series, and we've yet to be disappointed by one (though we did recently encounter a hiccup with a Windforce-equipped GeForce GTX 560 Ti that kept overheating in Tom's Graphics Card Guide: 32 Mid-Range Cards Benchmarked). Even still, we have high expectations of the GV-N580SO-15I. It comes from the company sporting 855/1710 MHz core and shader clocks, along with 1536 MB of 1025 MHz GDDR5 memory, making it the highest-clocked product in our roundup.
The Windforce 3x cooler is similar to what we've seen from Gigabyte's high-end line, with three 80 mm axial fans. Two 8 mm heat pipes work in conjunction with a vapor chamber, resulting in excellent noise and temperature characteristics, as we’ll see in the benchmarks. We also like that everything fits comfortably within a dual-slot form-factor. At 11.4” x 5.7” x 1.8”, the card is slightly longer than Nvidia's reference GeForce GTX 580, but not by much.
The sample we were sent didn't come with the retail package's accessories. But according to Newegg, it should have included an HDMI mini-to-HDMI cable, Molex-to-six-pin PCIe and Molex-to-eight-pin PCIe power cables, a DVI-to-VGA converter, a driver CD, and a manual. It would have been nice to see some value-added software accompanying this high-end product; however, Gigabyte sticks to the basics.
Gigabyte guarantees its card for three years, which is better than the industry average one- or two-year term.
The card is equipped with two dual-link DVI outputs and a single HDMI mini output, identical to the reference GeForce GTX 580 we tested at launch. Under the hood, however, Gigabyte claims it uses its GPU Gauntlet binning process to pick the GF110 GPUs most receptive to overclocking.
We found the GV-N580SO-15I selling on Newegg for $535. That's about $55 more than most reference GeForce GTX 580 models, and quite a bit cheaper than the $750 GeForce GTX 590 (assuming you can even find one for sale).
Gigabyte includes its OC Guru software with this card, which is able to increase operating frequencies and alter GPU/memory voltages. It’s rare enough to find a manufacturer willing to expose GPU voltage modifications, but control over memory voltage is almost unheard of.
Initially, we tried to push an even higher overclock by increasing the card's fan speed to maximum and pushing the clocks as high as they'd stably go in FurMark. We increased the GPU and memory voltages from their stock settings of 1.06/1.59 V to the highest 1.161/1.695 V the utility would allow. It's worth nothing, though, that the GeForce GTX 580 incorporates circuitry to circumvent the unrealistic workloads applied by "power bugs" like FurMark. So, while we were able to hit a 970 MHz core clock and a 1090 MHz memory setting, it wasn't surprising that the GV-N580SO-15I wouldn't run at those speeds in actual games.
Unfortunately, it would crash during multi-run Crysis 2 benchmarking sessions, compelling us to bring the board down to a more grounded 930 MHz GPU clock and 1050 MHz memory frequency. Even at those elevated settings, though, the card continued to run quietly.