With overclocked frame rates so close to the reference results, more features, less noise, and better cooling potential are the important advantages that these products have to offer over the very first GeForce GTX 580 that found its way into our lab. Performance isn't the bottom line any more when it comes to modified cards from board partners; you just don't get enough of it to justify spending the extra money.
Gigabyte GV-N580SO-15I Super Overclock
For $535, Gigabyte provides the card with the highest factory overclock in our roundup. Along with that, you get a much quieter card than the reference design. While Zotac's VF3000N-equipped GTX 580 AMP²! is quieter at its stock speed, the GV-N580SP-15I Super Overclock is the quietest when the fans are set to run as fast as they can.
At this highest setting, the Gigabyte board is so quiet, in fact, that it generates less noise than the reference cooler on Sparkle's X580 Captain at its stock speed. And it achieves all this while maintaining excellent temperatures at overclocked frequencies. For this reason, Gigabyte's Super Overclock card is a good choice for performance enthusiasts who want to run high fan speeds without excessive noise pollution, and aren't interested in a water-cooled setup.
MSI N580GTX Twin Frozr II/OC
MSI's entry shines when you consider its $499 price tag, which is the lowest in our test group and only $20 more than most reference designs. For that price you get the addition of MSI's Twin Frozr II cooler, a capable heatsink and fan combination able to keep the GPU as cool as Gigabyte's Windforce 3x solution, while only generating slightly more noise.
Although its factory overclock is the lowest in the test group, this card keeps pace with the higher-priced options when it's pushed, making it a great choice for overclockers on a budget.
Calibre X580 Captain
The Calibre entry is unique in our test group because it's less focused on raw performance and more oriented to the folks who care about multi-monitor flexibility. It does boast the second-highest factory overclock in our round-up, but the real reason to get this card is Calibre's Maxwide technology, which expands the two display pipelines native to Nvidia's GF110 and makes the card compatible with up to four screens at the same time. Normally, this would require two cards in SLI to achieve, and it helps mitigate one of AMD's clearest generational advantages over all Nvidia-based cards.
Although it's great to see a manufacturer design a solution able to compete with AMD's Eyefinity technology, the X580 Captain can only be connected to one screen through DVI. The other two or three monitors can only be attached to the mini-DisplayPort connectors. This is not a limitation AMD's cards share. Another concern is the card's reference cooler, which is louder than the competition. That's a strange trait when you consider that this product is marketed under Sparkle's luxury Calibre brand.
But the most pressing issue is pricing. At $649, the X580 Captain costs $170 more than a reference GeForce GTX 580 and only $80 less than a GeForce GTX 590. But the real competition for this card is two GeForce GTX 570 cards in SLI, a setup that costs about the same, performs faster, can also game across three monitors using Nvidia's Surround, and works with monitors that only have DVI inputs, if you want.
The one saving grace we see is that there aren't any GeForce GTX 570 cards with 3072 MB of memory that we've seen. So, an X580 Captain with more on-board GDDR5 could theoretically serve up an advantage at higher resolutions (like 5760x1200) in certain scenarios. Calibre's unique take on a premium GeForce GTX 580 offering might appeal to some folks, but the company realistically needs to drop its price (right after it sorts out retail availability) before we're able to get excited about the innovation going on.
Zotac GeForce GTX 580 AMP²! Edition
The Zalman VF3000N cooler on Zotac's GeForce GTX 580 AMP²! delivers the lowest stock noise level and the lowest temperatures. In addition, this is the only card in our round-up equipped with 3072 MB of RAM. And while the advantage of that extra GDDR5 memory never manifested itself as increased performance in our benchmarks, there are scenarios where the extra memory come in handy.
Let's also not forget that this is the only product that comes bundled with a game (Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood, no less). For these reasons, we think Zotac's $549 asking price is fairly reasonable, and the GeForce GTX 580 AMP²! will appeal to buyers who see the value in its software bundle and aftermarket cooler, already installed, saving you the hassle.