Let's dive into what different about the card, and how it performs against its nearest competitors.
But to run with 512 cores and not suffer the same heat and power problems of the GF100, Nvidia had to re-engineer some the GF110 at the transistor level. More accurately, they reallocated the type of transistors used in different parts of the core, opting for lower "leakage" transistors on low-priority processing paths. These lower leakage transistors aren't as fast as the more wasteful fast-switching transistors, but Nvidia has placed them in non-critical areas to maximize performance while keeping heat down. As a result, the GF110 can run 32 more SM cores than its predecessor, while also using slightly less power; the GTX 580 operates at a max TDP of 244Watts, down from the blistering 250Watts of the GTX 480.
Betting Big on TessellationWhile the GTX 580 is obviously no slouch when it comes to pure core specs, there's more to this card than brute force. In our meeting with Nvidia, they made it clear that their performance goal with the GTX 580 was to not only be the fastest GPU, but take a clear lead in next-gen gaming performance. That means DX11 and tessellation performance. There are 16 dedicated tessellation processors (Nvidia calls them Polymorph Engines) in the GF110, diminishing the performance drop when this feature is turned on in DX11 games like Civilization V and Metro 2033. Tessellation, if you recall, is the ability to dynamically add geometric (physical) detail to in game objects without the use of high-polygon models. This allows for highly-detailed terrain and character detail at a relatively low performance cost.
We ran the demos on our test bed at 1280x720 for the purposes of recording, and the minor dips in framerate were due to CPU and hard drive limitations. At full-screen 1920x1080, the demos ran perfectly.
Meet the GeForce GTX 580
Speeds and Feeds
|Spec||Nvidia GTX 580||Nvidia GTX 480||Nvidia GTX 470||Nvidia GTX 460 1GB|
|Transistors||3.0B||3.0B||3.0B ||1.95B |
|Die Size||529 mm^2||529 mm^2||529 mm^2||368 mm^2|
|Compute Cores/ |
|512||480||448 ||336 |
|Texture Units||64||60||56 ||56 |
|ROPs ||48||48||40 ||32 |
|Core Clock ||772MHz||700MHz||607MHz ||375MHz |
And here's how the GTX 580 compares to AMD's top cards (note the 6870 is not the high-end AMD part).
|Spec||GeForce GTX 580||Radeon 6870||Radeon 5870||Radeon 5970|
| Die Size||529 mm^2||255 mm^2||334 mm^2||334 mm^2|
|Compute Cores/ |
| 512 |
|Core Clock ||772MHz||900MHz||850MHz||725MHz|
Benchmarking PerformanceFor performance testing, I used the same test bed used in our Radeon 6870 review, a mid/high-end Core i5 system that fairly represents the typical system of most PC gamers. In addition to benchmarking the GTX 580, we included a GTX 460 into the mix-- the card I believe many gamers may be upgrading from if they're considering the GTX 580. Unfortunately, we don't have a GTX 480 in house for a direct comparison, though I'll update our charts when we're able to get one. The other important comparisons are with the Radeon 5870 and 5970 video cards, AMD's current top two performers. Note that the 5970 is a dual-GPU card.
Test Bench SpecsCPU: Intel Core i5 750 @ 2.67GHz
Motherboard: Asus P55
RAM: 4GB DDR 3
HD: Seagate 7200.12 1TB @7200RPM
Monitor resolution: 1920x1080
Individual Game Benchmark SettingsCrysis: DX10 mode, all settings Very High, using the built-in GPU Benchmark.
Dirt 2: DX11 mode, all settings set to Ultra, using the in-menu benchmark.
Far Cry 2: Both Action and Ranch (Medium) benchmarks, DX10 mode, all settings maxed out.
STALKER Call of Prypiat: Stand-alone benchmark demo, all settings maxed out, DX11 mode.
We've added two new benchmarks to our suite, which are good indicators of next-gen DX11 gaming. Metro 2033 is very taxing benchmark, while H.A.W.X. 2 is more representative of a next-gen console port that will run fine on most mid-range system but still employs tessellation. I ran both of these benchmarks with tessellation on and off.
Metro 2033: DX11 and DX10 modes, all settings maxed out, using the built-in GPU benchmark.
H.A.W.X. 2: DX11 and DX9 modes, all settings maxed out, 4xAA, using the stand-alone benchmark demo.
|Radeon 5870||Radeon 5850 1GB||Radeon 5970|
| Crysis (no AA)||44.67||27.15||39.34||35.1 ||52.75|
| Crysis (8x AA)||40.06||22.43||32.18 ||29.01 ||46.92|
| Dirt 2 (no AA)||97||76.9||78.8 ||71.9 ||100.9|
| Dirt 2 (8x AA)||88.9||65.1||69.5 ||64.9 ||94|
| Far Cry 2 Action (no AA)||44.45||44.06||62.97||62.21 ||59.72|
| Far Cry 2 Action (8x AA)||46.54||46.14||61.86||58.3||57.6|
|Far Cry 2 Ranch (no AA)||97.29||81.43||96.94||89.1||109.84|
|Far Cry 2 Ranch (8x AA)||87.54||62.48||66.6||61.45||92.24|
|Stalker CoP (no AA)||105.4||67.47||92.6||82.7||123.4|
|Stalker CoP (4x AA)||82.77||49||54||48.9||98.5|
|Game||GeForce GTX 580||GeForce GTX 460|
| Metro 2033 DX 11, No AA||31.67||17.67|
| Metro 2033 DX 11, 4x AA||26.33||14.67|
| Metro 2033 DX 10, 4x AA |
| H.A.W.X. 2 DX 11||149||106|
| H.A.W.X. 2 DX 9 |
The GTX 580 couldn't match the performance of the Radeon 5970, though. We asked Nvidia whether the new core would allow for a future dual-GPU card using the GF110, but they couldn't say at this time. My bet is that we'll see a slightly-clocked down GTX 570 model in the future, which may then be used for a dual-GPU part, if at all.