GeForce GTX 580 vs. GeForce GTX 460 1GB SLI

We will pit the GeForce GTX 580 against GeForce GTX 460 1GB SLI to see if the less expensive GTX 460 1GB SLI alternative can compete in performance. Real gameplay evaluations tell you what canned benchmarks will not...once again.


Performance Summary

What strikes us about our gameplay experiences today is the fact that with GTX 460 1GB SLI the 1GB of RAM on the GTX 460 may be holding it back at higher resolutions with AA. In all of our gameplay testing, we were surprised how well GTX 460 1GB SLI keeps up with the more expensive GeForce GTX 580. While it comes close, and at times exceeds it in framerate, it doesn’t deliver the same gameplay experience. The GeForce GTX 580 has more RAM on board, 1.5GB to be exact, and this seems to be giving it an advantage in some DX11 games when AA is enabled at high levels.

The game that showed the most fluctuation in performance with the GeForce GTX 460 1GB SLI was Civilization V. in this game, the GTX 580 maintained much smoother performance with 8X MSAA enabled. While GTX 460 1GB SLI had higher framerates, its framerates were all over the place. The change in framerate is noticed by gamers, and it can be quite annoying as you are playing the game and the framerate suddenly drops. The fact is, the GTX 580 not only maintained smoother performance in that game, but also allowed a higher playable setting by further turning on higher AA transparency options.

We experienced this fluctuation in framerate in many games, where the GTX 460 1GB was also pulling in lower minimum framerates. It seems if you want to crank up the AA settings very high, a single GeForce GTX 580 is going to give you more room to do that, and makes those settings useable. If you are running at lower settings however, with lesser amounts of AA, then the GTX 460 1GB SLI may produce higher framerates depending on the game. In F1 2010 we were running at a lower AA setting, 4X AA, but the GTX 580 was still faster, so it isn’t always the case that lower settings means the GTX 460 1GB will be faster.

We have found it to be very game dependent, with no clear pattern on which type of game will allow one video card to provide better performance than the other. The overall feeling we got is that with DX11 games that use more graphics card RAM, the GTX 460 1GB SLI will run into limitations at higher resolutions with AA. The GeForce GTX 580, overall, offers smooth and consistent gameplay at high resolutions with AA in DX11 games. And worth mentioning, with the GeForce GTX 580 you can install a second card to boost framerates well beyond GTX 460 1GB SLI.

The Bottom Line

GeForce GTX 460 1GB SLI is currently a lot less expensive than a single GeForce GTX 580. Current pricing can put you in the driver seat of GTX 460 1GB SLI for $330, while GeForce GTX 580’s are going for ~$529 right now, over the MSRP of $499, with supplies dwindling. (Galaxy is even selling a GTX 460 1GB SLI "Reference" card kit for $320.)

GeForce GTX 460 1GB SLI offers performance that competes with a single GeForce GTX 580, but ultimately is limited by its 1GB of memory per GPU at high resolutions with AA. The GeForce GTX 580 offers a smoother gameplay experience and higher playable settings. The GeForce GTX 580 may be more expensive, but that price can pay off as we move into new DX11 games pushing the boundaries of graphics card memory capacity. The fact is GeForce GTX 580 offers you more options by allowing you to install a second video card that improves performance even more.

On the other hand though, if you want to install a multi-display gaming environment the GTX 460 SLI supports NV Surround where it will cost you an "extra" $728.00 to do that with a GTX 580 SLI configuration.

If you are on a budget, and want to get into the NV Surround and/or SLI game, there is no questioning that GeForce GTX 460 1GB SLI is the best value. It provides high framerates and incredible SLI scaling. We are continued to be impressed by GeForce GTX 460 1GB SLI. If you have the money though, a GeForce GTX 580 is going to offer you more and provide a better gameplay experience without the hassle of worrying about SLI being supported in new games. With the GeForce GTX 580, you get all of the performance 100% of the time, with a higher memory capacity to boot.

One thing is for certain, there are a lot of options right now in the graphics market, and NVIDIA does offer good value in both the GeForce GTX 460 1GB SLI and GeForce GTX 580.