Nvidia’s latest GPU release, the GF110, is essentially a re-engineered version of the original Fermi chip, with the addition of a few tweaks. By re-spinning the original, the full potential of Fermi is now realized, with all 512 compute cores active. (The original GeForce GTX 480 had the same number of compute cores, but 32 of them were deactivated.) Besides that, the GF110 features other enhancements, like improved FP16 texture performance, which boosts the frame rate in scenes using high dynamic range (HDR) rendering. The new chip also clocks higher; reference cards run at 772MHz core and 1,000MHz memory.
EVGA delivers a slightly tweaked GTX 580, making the fastest single GPU a little faster—albeit at a steep price.
EVGA’s GeForce GTX 580 SC version of the card juices the clock speeds a bit, with the core running at 797MHz and the memory at 1,012MHz. The clocks don’t come free, though. The EVGA card’s power consumption was a bit higher over the reference card at full throttle; in our tests, power at load came in at 395W, versus 385W for the reference GTX 580. That’s also higher than the power consumption of the original GTX 480, but Nvidia likes to stress that “performance per watt” has improved.
Despite its incomplete nature, the GTX 480 was the fastest single-GPU card available; the extra compute cores, plus the higher clocks, allows the GTX 580 to considerably up the performance ante.
We popped EVGA’s new progeny into our reference test system and took it for a spin. The result was a clean sweep across the benchmark board, as the GTX 580 easily trumped the performance of its predecessor as well as the top two single-GPU AMD products. In fact, when we dropped in a dual-GPU Radeon HD 5970, the GTX 580 still won in the majority of tests, and the difference was marginal in those benchmarks the HD 5970 won. So, not only is the GTX 580 the fastest single-GPU card you can get, it’s pretty much the fastest card, period.
As with other Nvidia-based cards, you also get Nvidia’s PhysX GPU physics feature in the games that support it. And if you’re willing to dig deeper into your wallet, you can pick up a 3DVision kit for stereoscopic 3D gaming and movies, provided you have the requisite 3D LCD with a 120Hz refresh rate. Unlike AMD, however, you’ll need a second card if you want to drive more than two displays.
The GTX 580 costs a pretty penny: The lowest price we’ve seen is around $540. So, if you’re burning for the fastest graphics card you can get, and have the power supply to handle it, you’ll have to pay for the privilege. AMD enthusiasts may like to play the efficiency card, but sometimes we just crave raw speed.
EVGA GeForce GTX 580 SC
Unbeatable gaming performance; full Fermi capabilities unleashed.
Really expensive; steep power draw at full throttle.
EVGA GTX 580 SC
Asus ENGTX 480
XFX Radeon HD 5870 XXX
XFX Radeon HD 6870
3DMark Vantage Perf
Unigine Heaven 2.1 (fps)
BattleForge DX11 (fps)
Far Cry 2/Long (fps)
Metro 2033 (fps)
HAWX DX10 (fps)
STALKER: CoP DX11 (fps)
Just Cause 2 (fps)
Aliens vs. Predator (fps)
Dirt 2 (fps)
HAWX 2 DX11 (fps)
Power @ idle (W)
Power @ full throttle (W)
Our test bed is a 3.33GHz Core i7-975 Extreme Edition in an Asus P6X58D Premium motherboard with 6GB of DDR3/1333 and an 850TX Corsair PSU. The OS is 64-bit Windows 7 Ultimate. All games are run at 1920x1200 with 4x AA. Note that lower numbers are better for power consumption.