The first feature-reduced version of the GTX 580 arrives, rendering the GTX 480 obsolete and body-slamming the Radeon HD 5870.
This is the silly season for PR presents. Technology writers and product reviewers receive boxes in the mail, sometimes elaborately giftwrapped, from public relations people in the industry. Usually, what we find inside are fruit, chocolate, calendars with generic photographs and assorted pastries. So when we got a gift box from Nvidia, we naturally thought it was one of the usual holiday PR gimmicks.
We were wrong. When we got around to opening the box, we found this.
This is the follow-up to the GeForce GTX 580. Unsurprisingly, it’s called the GTX 570. As with the earlier GTX 470, it’s a cut-down version of the mother chip, offering 480 compute cores instead of the GTX 580’s 512 cores. Other features have been scaled back as well.
What’s obvious by comparing specs is that the GTX 570 is pretty much a juiced up GTX 480, with a couple of minor differences. Memory interface width is narrower and the 570 has fewer ROPs. Plus, the GTX 570 ships with 1.2GB of GDDR5, which runs at a higher clock speed than the GTX 480.
Nvidia’s suggested price for reference level GTX 570s will be $349. Factory overclocked cards will likely cost a little more. Better warranties also tend to push prices up slightly. That also puts the GTX 570 squarely in the price range occupied by AMD’s Radeon HD 5870.
From the specs, it looks like the GTX 570 makes the GTX 480 obsolete. Let’s see if the reality lines up with the theoretical.
After installing the GTX 570 into our reference graphics system, we fired it up, installed the driver, and ran our entire benchmark suite. All tests were run at 1920x1200, with 4x AA enabled. Our test system consisted of a Core i7 975 at 3.3GHz, with 6GB of DDR3/1333 memory, running on an Asus P6X58D Premium motherboard, with a Seagate 7200.12 1TB drive, an LG Blu-ray ROM drive, a Corsair TX850w 850W PSU, and Windows 7 Ultimate 64-bit.
What we found was a category killer. At the $349 price point – assuming you can actually buy cards at that price – the GTX 570 simply crushes everything else. The only cards that beat it was the GTX 580 and the dual GPU Radeon HD 5970. But nothing within shouting range of $350 could touch it.
3DMark Vantage and Unigine Heaven
Let’s take a quick perusal at a couple of synthetic benchmarks. We don’t put much weight to these results, but it’s interesting to check them out.
With a new 3DMark now on the scene, this is probably the last time we’ll report 3D Mark Vantage scores. While the hard-to-find Radeon HD 5970 comes out on top, the GTX 570 is the only card under $400 that breaks 20,000 for the final score.
The GTX 570 is also in a dead heat with the GTX 480 in Unigine – not really that much of the surprise, given the relative similarity between the two cards.
The games we tested for DX10 performance include Far Cry 2 (two different scenes), Just Cause 2 (the Concrete Jungle benchmark), Tom Clancy’s HAWX and the aging, but still gorgeous, Crysis.
While the GTX 570 loses to the older GTX 480 in a couple of benchmarks, it’s performance envelope is really quite similar. The card also leaves all the AMD cards gasping in its wake.
The DX11 games we tested are a mixed bag. Some, like the recently released Tom Clancy’s HAWX 2 and Metro 2033, make heavy use of DX11 features. HAWX2, in particular, uses DX11 hardware tessellation very heavily. Others, like BattleForge, DiRT2, Aliens vs Predator or Call of Pripyat, use DX11 features a little more judiciously.
HAWX 2 uses tessellation in an extreme way, but the result is gorgeously rendered, near-photorealistic landscapes. Fermi’s ability to tessellate and render down to very small meshes plays very well in this test.
Metro 2033 was also interesting, mostly because of how poorly the single GPU Radeon HD 5870 fared. This result was repeatable, and we’re not quite sure what’s going on, since the newer HD 6870 managed a reasonable, if low score.
At the suggested $350 price point, the GTX 570 once again leaves its competitors in the dust.
Nvidia’s new card ships with a pair of 6-pin power connectors, so we expect it to be a little more efficient than the GTX 570. And it is – a little.
At idle, the GTX 570 actually consumes a little less power than XFX’s Radeon HD 5870 XXX edition. However, under a heavy rendering load, power consumption climbs well beyond AMD’s cards, but does fall a little shy of the older GTX 480 and the high end GTX 570.
At $350, the GTX 570 occupies what we might call the lower part of the high end graphics card segment. That price still makes many users pause, and the real sweet spot is still in the $250 category, which is currently ruled by the AMD Radeon HD 6870.
That said, the GTX 570 is considerably cheaper than the GTX 580, and should even come in lower than many currently shipping GTX 480 cards. It’s pretty much on par in terms of performance with the GTX 480, and is a bit more power efficient to boot. While Radeon HD 5870 cards cost slightly less, the difference will be minimal, and there’s no reason you shouldn’t get a GTX 570 over an HD 5870. The GTX 570 is even a little smaller, at a true 10.5 inches, and will fit comfortably in many midrange towers.
The real question is availability and pricing. It’s unlikely we’ll see a broad swath of these cards shipping before the holidays. And it’s likely that any cards that do ship will quickly be snapped up. How many of those products will actually be available at the $350 price point is open to question. Yes, the GTX 570 is a fast card, but if actual prices get too close to the $400 mark, then it becomes much less attractive. Let’s hope that Nvidia’s real holiday surprise is the ability to buy a GTX 570 at the suggested price. That would be a welcome stocking stuffer.