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

GeForce GTX 580 Goes To Eleven

It’d be naïve to think that Nvidia was happy with its GeForce GTX 480 launch. You don’t design a GPU with 512 shader cores, ship a flagship board based on that chip with some of them turned off, and then say, “yeah, we meant to do that.” Nevertheless, even the cut-back GF100 GPU was powerful enough to knock AMD’s Radeon HD 5870 down to the humble position of second-fastest single-GPU card. The performance picture painted by GeForce GTX 480 was actually quite good.

Less impressive was the finger-searing heat generated by GF100 as it went about its business, and in turn, the noise emanated from the blower that’d try to keep up with cooling. Two GTX 480s in SLI had to be spaced three slots apart, leaving enough room for ample air circulation. The situation was ugly enough that Nvidia even had to issue a list of recommended cases and motherboards able to cope with the card’s unique “qualities.” And so the fastest single-GPU card in the world became a bit of a pariah—not to the extent of the old GeForce FX 5800, but it inspired its fair share of satirical videos.

GF110: Very similar to GF100

Very few folks knew that, by the time GeForce GTX 480 launched back in March, Nvidia was already working on its replacement—a GPU referred to as GF110. That part would go on to tape out two months later in May, setting the stage for today’s introduction. Call this a bug-fixed GF100 positioned to steal thunder from AMD’s upcoming Cayman launch if you must. Gamers care little about snarky accusations, though.

So, what really matters? Performance matters. Price matters. Features matter. Availability matters. And the competitive landscape matters.

Of course we’ll be digging into performance in the following pages. Nvidia says it’s shooting for an initial price of $500, which is right where the 480 sits prior to launch (though rebates commonly drop that to $450 or so). Feature-wise, there’s really not a whole lot to talk about—this card really is very GTX 480ish from a spec sheet perspective. And while I’ve heard claims to the contrary, I approached several of Nvidia’s board partners who are adamant that allocation of GeForce GTX 580 is markedly higher than GTX 480. Companies that received 70 or 80 cards for the prior launch are getting hundreds this time around. If you want to buy cutting-edge, you should be able to.

How about the competition? You can find Radeon HD 5870s for as low as $330 and Radeon HD 5970s sell for roughly $600 (though AMD did get one SKU on one Web site knocked down to $470 after rebate, in case that's a deal you can't pass up; no promises on how long it'll last). We all know AMD’s Cayman and Antilles parts are right around the corner, but the company remains tight-lipped about those boards, their performance, and availability, so they can’t be compared in any way here. Just know that they’re coming—sooner than later. Today, the Radeon HD 5870 and 5970 are our basis for comparison.

GeForce GTX 580 Arrives

And so Nvidia succeeds its flagship without really upsetting the current hierarchy of performance. The company’s fastest single-GPU card puts an even greater distance between itself and the competition’s fastest single-GPU card, but as you’ll see, is generally not as powerful as the fastest graphics card available: AMD’s Radeon HD 5970.

Truly, then, GeForce GTX 580 becomes the Fermi-based card that should have launched earlier this year. It’s here now, though, and what we’re seeing today is a far more compelling offering. The GF110 GPU is still hot, it still uses a lot of power, but the board that employs it handles both attributes far more gracefully, adding a healthy dollop of performance in the process.

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?