Today's Hard|Forum Post
Today's Hard|Forum Post

NVIDIA GeForce GTX 580 Video Card Review

The GeForce GTX 580 heralds a huge comeback by NVIDIA to deliver the best DX11 gaming experience. The fastest single-GPU performance, a cooler running GPU and quiet? Is this Fermi combination possible? We explore all of this as we compare it to the GeForce GTX 480 and Radeon HD 5870.


Performance Summary

NVIDIA has made some very interesting claims about the new GeForce GTX 580. First, NVIDIA claims the GTX 580 is the fastest DX11 GPU on the planet. With a bold statement like that, NVIDIA had better hope it really is when gaming; not just commanding leads in canned benchmarks. We can say with the utmost certainty that our gaming has proven this claim to be correct. In all of our DX11 gaming, the GeForce GTX 580 came out on top, delivering the highest framerates, and the best gameplay experience. In F1 2010 the GTX 580 consistently had the highest framerates. In Civ5 the GeForce GTX 580 had a superior gameplay experience, and faster performance than both video cards. In Metro 2033 and BC2 this lead continued, and the GeForce GTX 580 offered higher performance.

Another claim was that the GeForce GTX 580 would be 20-30% faster than the GeForce GTX 480. We never saw a full 30% faster performance in real-world gaming, so if this does exist in some game, this would be the extreme. We did often experience a 20% performance improvement over the GeForce GTX 480; some games more, some games less. The kind of performance advantage you will see varies on the game as expected. We didn’t see a clear pattern from this evaluation as to which API or what kind of game would allow more of a performance improvement. In fact, the game that seemed to provide us the most performance advantage over the GTX 480 was Medal of Honor, which is an Unreal 3 Engine DX9 game. Generally though you can expect approximately a 20% performance advantage on average when comparing GTX 580 to GTX 480 in actual gameplay.

In comparison to the Radeon HD 5870, we were surprised as to how well the aging 5870 holds up against the GeForce GTX 480. In all games however, the GeForce GTX 580 surpassed the Radeon HD 5870. We experienced the GeForce GTX 580 to be about 30% better performing than the Radeon HD 5870 on average. Once again, Medal of Honor showed the greatest performance difference, with the GTX 580 being 42% faster than the Radeon HD 5870.

What the GTX 480 Should Have Been

The GeForce GTX 580 undoubtedly leaves us with the feeling that it is what the GeForce GTX 480 should have been. Our gameplay performance along with the GTX 580's sound and heat profiles have shown us what NVIDIA truly wanted for the GTX 480 back in March. In all games, the GeForce GTX 580 is a significantly better performing video card than the Radeon HD 5870.

We all know something is waiting on the wings from AMD this month. We don’t often talk about new video card releases in product launches, but in this case the situation is a bit different. AMD has already announced that the Radeon HD 6900 series is nearing launch. If it were possible, we would have compared the GeForce GTX 580 to the new 6900 series GPUs from AMD. Will NVIDIA be able to stay ahead? AMD has been at NVIDIA’s heels very closely this year and certainly has excelled in the performance per watt landscape for a good while. The GeForce GTX 580 surpasses the Radeon HD 5870, but the GTX 580's real competition is going to be the Radeon HD 6900 series, and it is not far off. Again, if the GTX 580 had been the GTX 480, then we might be seeing a refresh of the 580 by now. Certainly we would have loved to have seen all the engineering dollars go towards that rather than making the GTX 480 "right." Things are as they are though, and the GeForce GTX 580 is going to have some more competition in the coming months. We have no idea how it is all going to turn out, but we look forward to finding out.

The Bottom Line

The GeForce GTX 580 is a huge success for NVIDIA. We are greatly impressed with this new Fermi GF110 GPU. The fact that NVIDIA was able to provide 20-30% more performance, with slightly less power utilization, and a quiet running video card compared to the GTX 480, demands kudos. We talk about efficiency often, and AMD has some of the most efficient GPUs on the planet. The GeForce GTX 580 from NVIDIA is also an efficient GPU. There is a tremendous amount of efficient performance in the GTX 580, and NVIDIA is able to keep that performance inside an acceptable power and noise envelope.

The pricing level is welcome as well. NVIDIA could have charged an arm and a leg for the GTX 580; we wouldn’t have been surprised if this were a $600 video card given NVIDIA's track record. This is not the case and NVIDIA knew it had to compete. AMD is fighting hard, and price drops on video cards lately have made things very competitive. At $499, the GTX 580 competes strongly with ATI Radeon HD 5870 Eyefinity6 2GB video cards. We considered adding the Radeon HD 5970 into our review, but at the time it was fetching a $660 cost. As of yesterday, we are now finding one HD 5970 for $499.99 so surely we are already seeing the GTX 580 have an impact on the high end video card market. And of course this change in price demands a new comparison review from us.

We feel NVIDIA deserves big praise for the GTX 580! It has impressed us with its incredible gameplay and exceeded all of our expectations in terms of cooling and sound. It provides a better gameplay experience than the GeForce GTX 480, uses less power, and runs cooler. All of this adds up to the fact that we feel the GeForce GTX 580 earns our Gold [H] Editor's Choice award.

Now all NVIDIA needs to do is bring multi-display gaming to a single GPU card as AMD still fully owns that niche.

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NVIDIA GeForce GTX 580