Product: Nvidia GeForce GTX 580
Company: nVIDIA
Authour: James Prior
Editor: Charles Oliver
Date: November 9th, 2010
Summary & Conclusions

NVIDIA's GeForce GTX 580 will be controversial. While NVIDIA's engineers have put substantial effort into the redesign, the resulting chip might not be considered worthy of the jump to GTX 500 series status, especially so close to the roll out of 400 series - which, by some accounts, isn't yet complete. However, if AMD can position 'Barts' into the 6800 series, then NVIDIA can label GF110 the GTX 580; and it's not like this is the first time we've seen such a move from NVIDIA. Being a transistor up redesign it's a nice step up from previous branding, let's call them 'adjustments'.

Branding strategy aside, NVIDIA's GF110 represents a significant bump in their top end performance product, with increased performance/watt, on the same manufacturing process. Not too shabby, especially for a process node reputed to give both AMD and NVIDIA heartburn from day one. NVIDIA obviously took the 'too hot, too late, too slow' reporting of GTX 480 to heart and went all out to provide an ultra-enthusiast product that not only delivers the requisite horsepower, but the luxury use experience the high-end consumer desires.

GeForce GTX 580
GeForce GTX 580

In some circumstances, NVIDIA's sixteen Polymorph engines are claimed to offer up to eleven times the performance of Barts' single 7th generation AMD tessellation unit in high tessellation factor scenes. While one part of the DX11 specification addressed improving the use of high-quality textures, the future of DirectX performance might be geometry throughput, using high detail models and scenery to create better visuals on the fly. Like AMD, NVIDIA advocates adaptive tessellation (varying tessellation factor to increase model detail where needed) to deliver improved visuals, but they're not going to 'stop the slider' when you get to 16pixel triangles because of peak rasterizer efficiency. If game developers making the second round of DirectX 11 titles decide to go for a polygon heavy approach to increasing detail, NVIDIA's got the brute power to deliver the polygons.

Despite the advances of GF110, there are still a few weak spots - multi-display gaming requires two cards to run three displays, lesser support for HDMI audio than the recently introduced lower priced cards, and it's still a big, expensive, power hungry card. The GTX 580 is not alone in any of those last three regards, for sure, but despite offering a slap to the face of the fastest graphics card in the world in some tests, it's still more expensive. NVIDIA's proprietary features might be a value-add for some, but as open standard and multi-vendor alternatives come to provide GPU accelerated physics and Stereo3D solutions, the thought of a vendor lock-in becomes less attractive. However, if you want it now, you've at least got the option to buy it and enjoy it today.

GeForce GTX 580
GeForce GTX 580

At $500 you've got a few options, from the Crossfire on a stick ATI Radeon HD 5970, dual ATI Radeon HD 5870 1GBs, or dual 6800 series. We're not neglecting the existence of the the GTX 460 and 470 - we simply didn't have available for this review, so aren't able to comment on how they might compete with the GTX 580. Each of these alternatives has drawbacks - the Radeon HD 5000 series is soon to be replaced, multi-GPU performance relies on driver profiles and cooperative programming from developers. NVIDIA claim that the GeForce GTX 580 is also designed with SLI in mind, for building the fastest gaming rig on the planet. Hopefully we'll be able to bring you a look at that aspect soon. This will be a hard launch, with product availability as you read this. Official word on yields and supply is 'Great!', so we're hopeful there will be sufficient stock for anyone who wants one to be able to grab one between now and Christmas. Bottom line - NVIDIA is competitive, they're adamant about keeping their 10% lead in desktop discrete market share, and this year they're lined up for Christmas. Will AMD, rumored to be launching their next high-end performance part this quarter, be ready for Christmas too? Whatever the case may be, one thing is sure - the competitive bar just got bumped up a notch.

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