GeForce GTX 580 And GF110: The Way Nvidia Meant It To Be Played


It was certainly no secret that GeForce GTX 480 fell short of Nvidia’s aspirations. Nevertheless, the 480 still managed to outpace AMD’s Radeon HD 5870 (I’m not sure the Radeon HD 5970 was ever really in that board’s crosshair).

Nvidia armed the GeForce GTX 480 with an attractive feature set that included great performance in today’s games, design cues that’d help augment frame rates in more demanding geometry-heavy titles (it looks like the company’s projections are actually coming to pass through games like HAWX 2), CUDA support, PhysX, and 3D Vision. Weighing down that list was a more palpable collection of cons, including a high price tag, incredible heat, and a distractingly-loud cooler. Those dings were enough to hold us back from a recommendation.

Before the 480 even launched, though, Nvidia was back to the drawing board, righting some of what it knew enthusiasts would find wrong. Eight months later, we have the product of those efforts: GeForce GTX 580.

Is the 580 too little too late?

That depends on the type of buyer you are. On one hand, Nvidia addressed the noise issue. And while this board sports the same TDP as its predecessor, Nvidia’s engineers used the thermal headroom they freed up through rearranging the chip to crank the clocks and enable its 16th SM. Yay for more performance. What’s more, the GTX 580 should fill the 480’s price point, ducking in under $500. There’s not a whole lot new here, but we’ll certainly take those improvements and give the card a much more enthusiastic thumbs-up. As one of the company's partners jokingly said to me during a recent conversation, "It's like they go through this cycle of ego, reconciliation, and innovation. The last step is when we get good hardware." The GeForce GTX 580 is the culmination of that cycle, just as the GeForce FX 5900 Ultra fixed the FX 5800 back in 2003.

On the other hand, we all know that AMD is planning to unveil its high-end Cayman design before the end of the year—and there’s not a ton of time between then and now. Regardless of how Cayman performs, it’s a fairly safe bet that prices will shift to reflect the relationship between that that card and this one. There's a twist, though. Back when the Radeon HD 6870/6850 launched, we were given a date for the Cayman debut. As we inch closer to it and nobody anywhere knows anything about it (board partners haven't seen cards, system builders are still in the dark), it begins to look like there may be delays. From what I've heard, AMD won't even be briefing its partners until after that original embargo date passes.

Of course, I could just be wrong here, and AMD is simply doing a good job of maintaining a low profile to avoid cannibalizing sales of its fastest Radeon HD 5000-series cards. Sometimes, silence speaks volumes, though.

I’m normally fairly decisive, but this is one of those occasions where AMD and Nvidia are launching in such close proximity that it'd almost be silly not to see what happens with Cayman. That launch could be what cements this board's appeal. Or, it could completely justify the short wait. Without a doubt, though, AMD’s next single-GPU flagship stands to face much more intense competition than it would have in a world dominated by GTX 480.

Chris Angelini
Chris Angelini is an Editor Emeritus at Tom's Hardware US. He edits hardware reviews and covers high-profile CPU and GPU launches.
  • xurwin
    its the beast(best)! no doubt nvidia is making a way to combat 6900's
    The last bit of the article is the most important I think. Anyone who drops $500 on this card right now, before Cayman releases, should have their head examined. With two companies releasing so close together, it would be in a person's best interest to see what the other is bringing to the table before shelling out such a large chunk of change.

    If the 6850 and 6870 have shown one thing.. they are much better then the last gen in many ways (power, noise and scaling) and the cayman is much more robust then the barts. So, before you start calling a winner here, wait and see. That is my advise.
  • awood28211
    Sound performance but the game here seems to be...double leap-frog. You can just release a product that competes with the competitors current offerings, you gotta compete with what he releases next... If AMD's next offering is significantly faster than it's current, then NVIDIA will still be playing catchup.
  • Wheat_Thins
    Kinda pointless article other then the fact that the 580 offers superb performance but until I see power and noise set in stone I honestly don't care.

    A single GPU nearly outperforming a 5970 is quite a statement. Wonder if AMD has what it takes to answer this as the 6850 IMPO is pretty disappointing other then the price.
  • nevertell
    So it's basically what the 480 should have been. Fair enough, I'll wait for the 470 version of the gf110 and buy that.
  • TheRockMonsi
    The price right now for this card is way over $500 on newegg. For that price NVIDIA better be giving me a bj as well.
  • It'll certainly be interesting, even if i don't agree with NVIDIA playing catchup. The 480 had its flaws, but it still was the fastest single GPU around.

    We'll see what the 69xx have to offer. NVIDIA releasing now puts somewhat of a time constraint on AMD though. If it takes them too long to get something out the door, even some people waiting now may just get the 580 for christmas.
  • kevin1212
    Nvidia is embarrassed by the power draw of the gtx 580, haha. Improvement in performance but uses the same amt of power... still not a big enough improvement in efficiency, and no big leap in value either. AMD will wipe the floor with this card.

    By the way, i know you guys decided to drop crysis, and i can understand that, but given that this is a high end card, maybe you should have considered it, since frankly anyone buying a card like this would probably want it for crysis more than anything else. A 6870 is more than enough for the others.
  • iamtheking123
    Looks to me that the 580 is somewhere between a 5870 and a 5970. Might have been more impressive if it was Q2 2010 and not Q4 2010.

    With ATI's meat-and-gravy bits of the 6000 series on the launchpad, you'd be an idiot to buy one of these at this price.
  • Blink
    On Civ 5 benchmark the 5970 has the worst 'Zoomed Out' fps. Strange?