Our opinion of Nvidia's $349 GeForce GTX 570 changes depending on the frame of reference. Compared to Nvidia’s GeForce GTX 480—the short-lived flagship—GeForce GTX 570 is a home run. It’s faster, cooler, quieter, and less expensive. Relative to GeForce GTX 580, the 570 performs and is priced appropriately.
We know that the GTX 480 is already off of Nvidia’s product lineup, and we have to imagine the company is anxious to discontinue anything currently based on GF100. That means the 480 will need to drop more than $100 to even be a consideration. I can’t imagine value-seekers touching it anywhere north of $300. The 470 already saw its massive haircut ahead of AMD’s Radeon HD 6800-series launch. At $250ish, that’s a fairly appropriate price.
But then there’s the competition. AMD can’t universally beat the GeForce GTX 580 with a pair of Radeon HD 6850s, but it certainly trades blows with the $500 card for a lot less money. Of course, that means the $30 extra you pay for two 6850s is worthwhile compared to Nvidia’s GeForce GTX 570. At the same time, AMD shoots its own Radeon HD 5970 in the foot. If it’s not worth paying $500 for a GTX 580, then it’s not worth paying $500 (or more, since only one model sells for that price) for a 5970 when you can get these newer cards for $380.
Then again, this assumes CrossFire is an option for you. GeForce GTX 570 is perhaps most attractive to the enthusiasts who don’t want to pay flagship prices, but only have room for a single dual-slot card. AMD doesn’t have anything that can compete right now in that price and performance range. You’re either looking at $500+ for 5970 or $280 for Radeon HD 5870. We’re still waiting on the Radeon HD 6900-series to see what’ll end up falling between.
Do we recommend waiting for the Cayman-based parts? On principle, I want to say no. After all, we gave AMD a free pass in our GeForce GTX 580 review one month ago, recommending enthusiasts wait for the planned November 22nd launch before committing. After a confirmed delay and no new official word from AMD when those parts will hit store shelves, it’s most fair to say keep moving. But we have enough inside information to know when the cards should be arriving here in Bakersfield; it still seems silly not to wait just a little bit longer. Unofficially, AMD is expected to make a pre-Christmas launch with shipping product, but availability is going to be tight, which means cards will sell out fast and probably be priced beyond the MSRP. This one has the potential to be a real circus, and we can’t say we envy anyone hoping to battle for a 6900-series board before the beginning of 2011.
The bottom line today is that Nvidia has a solid solution for anyone looking to run one high-performance graphics card. It incorporates the things we liked about GeForce GTX 580 for $150 less. AMD has a better value in two CrossFire’d Radeon HD 6850s, but you have to be willing to give up four expansion slots worth of space on your CrossFire-capable motherboard.
In response to GeForce GTX 570, the GTX 480 will need to be swept under a rug by board partners with cards on-hand still. I’ve said it before: GF110 is what GF100 should have been. While Nvidia would have undoubtedly been in a better position with this graphics processor nine months ago, at least we have it now—and it’s a undeniably a strong performer with significantly better thermal and acoustic properties than GeForce GTX 480—all for $100 less.
The next two weeks will determine whether the two top GF110-based cards, GeForce GTX 580 and 570, arrived just in time to fill a hole left by AMD’s GPU lineup or just in time to get leapfrogged by the competition’s latest creation.