Final Thoughts

Even though NVIDIA is only launching a single card today there’s a lot to digest, so let’s get to it.

Since the GeForce GTX 580 arrived in our hands last week, we’ve been mulling over how to approach it. It boils down to two schools of thought: 1) Do we praise NVIDIA for delivering a high performance single GPU card that strikes the right balance of performance and temperature/noise, or 2) Do we give an indifferent thumbs-up to NVIDIA for only finally delivering the card that we believe the GTX 480 should have been.

The answer we’ve decided is one of mild, but well earned praise. The GTX 580 is not the true next-generation successor to the GTX 480; it’s the GTX 480 having gone back in the womb for 7 months of development. Much like AMD, NVIDIA faced a situation where they were going to do a new product without a die shrink, and had limited options as a result. NVIDIA chose wisely, and came back with a card that is both decently faster and a refined GTX 480 at the same time.

With the GTX 480 we could recognize it as being the fastest single GPU card on the market, but only by recognizing the fact that it was hot and loud at the same time. For buyers the GTX 480 was a tradeoff product – sure it’s fast, but is it too hot/too loud for me? The GTX 580 requires no such tradeoff. We can never lose sight of the fact that it’s a high-end card and is going to be more power hungry, louder, and hotter than many other cards on the market, but it’s not the awkward card that the GTX 480 was. For these reasons our endorsement of the GTX 580 is much more straightforward, at least as long as we make it clear that GTX 580 is less an upgrade for GTX 480, and more a better upgrade for the GTX 285 and similar last-generation cards.

What we’re left with today is something much closer to the “traditional” state of the GPU market: NVIDIA has the world’s fastest single-GPU card, while AMD is currently nipping at their heels with multi-GPU products. Both the Radeon HD 5970 and Radeon HD 6870 CF are worthy competitors to the GTX 580 – they’re faster and in the case of the 6870 CF largely comparable in terms of power/temperature/noise. If you have a board capable of supporting a pair of 6870s and don’t mind the extra power it’s hard to go wrong, but only if you’re willing to put up with the limitations of a multi-GPU setup. It’s a very personal choice – we’d be willing to trade the performance for the simplicity of avoiding a multi-GPU setup, but we can’t speak for everyone.

So what’s next? A few different things. From the NVIDIA camp, NVIDIA is promising a quick launch of the rest of the GeForce 500 series. Given the short development cycles for NVIDIA we’d expect more refined GF10x parts, but this is very much a shot in the dark. Much more likely is a 3GB GTX 580, seeing as how NVIDIA's official product literature calls the GTX 580 the "GeForce GTX 580 1.5GB", a distinction that was never made for the GTX 480.

More interesting however  will be what NVIDIA does with GF110 since it’s a more capable part than GF100 in every way. The GF100 based Quadros and Teslas were only launched in the last few months, but they’re already out of date. With NVIDIA’s power improvements in particular, this seems like a shoo-in for at least one improved Quadro and Tesla card. We also expect 500 series replacements for some of the GF100-based cards (with the GTX 465 likely going away permanently).

Meanwhile the AMD camp is gearing up for their own launches. The 6900 series is due to launch before the year is out, bringing with it AMD’s new Cayman GPU. There’s little we know or can say at this point, but as a part positioned above the 6800 series we’re certainly hoping for a slugfest. At $500 the GTX 580 is pricey (much like the GTX 480 before it), and while this isn’t unusual for the high-end market we wouldn’t mind seeing NVIDIA and AMD bring a high-intensity battle to the high-end, something that we’ve been sorely missing for the last year. Until we see the 6900 series we wouldn’t make any bets, but we can certainly look forward to it later this year.

Power, Temperature, and Noise
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  • StevoLincolnite - Tuesday, November 09, 2010 - link

    I would have called them the 6750/6770 personally... Or at the very least the 6830/6850.

    There were also some architectural changes in the GTX 580 as well.
    Reply
  • slickr - Tuesday, November 09, 2010 - link

    Whats real and whats not real for you?
    6850 and 6870 are essentially more shaders, rops and higher clocks with few architectural improvements.
    It will be same for the 6900 series.

    GTX 580 again is same as the above, few architectural improvements, higher shaders, textures and clocks.

    Credit must be given where its due and even though this was supposed to be the 480, its still a great product by its own, its faster, cooler, quieter and less power hungry.
    Reply
  • ninjaquick - Thursday, December 02, 2010 - link

    Umm, 6850 and 6870 are DECREASES on all but ROPs and Clocks. The architecture is only similar and very much evolutionary:

    numbers are: Universal Shader : Texture Mapping Unit : Render Output unit.

    5850: 1440:72:32
    6850: 960:48:32

    5870: 1600:80:32
    6870: 1120:56:32

    So, 5-10% slower and 33% component shrink, which is to say ~1.4x perf increase per shader. So a full blown (6970) NI at an assumed 1600 shaders like the previous gen would be the rough equivalent of a 2400 shader evergreen when it comes to raw performance, so 1.4 to 1.5 times faster. It can be safely assumed that the shader performance will be higher than 2 5830s in CFX. 2 5830s are about 30% faster than a GTX 580.

    That is theoretical performance based on a lot of assumptions and Ideal drivers. My point is NI is not a ground up redesign but it is a vastly superior and vastly different architecture to Evergreen.
    Reply
  • boe - Thursday, November 18, 2010 - link

    I can't wait to see a comparison with the 6970. I don't know which will win but it will help me decide which to get - I'm still using a 4870 so I'm ready for something new!

    The other thing that will help me decide is card options. The 4870 had some very nice "pre-silenced" modified cards right after release. The 6870 already has some "pre-silenced" cards on the market. The factory standard 580 is pretty loud although it is quieter than the 480 by far. I'm hoping there will be some modified 580's on the market with much quieter but at least as effective cooling solutions.
    Reply
  • Will Robinson - Tuesday, November 09, 2010 - link

    This is a much better effort than GTX480.
    Cooler,quieter and faster.
    AMD will have a tough fight on their hands with Cayman XT versus this new part.
    Reply
  • StevoLincolnite - Tuesday, November 09, 2010 - link

    Can't wait for a price war, something that seemed to be missing with Fermi and the 5xxx series. Reply
  • Sihastru - Tuesday, November 09, 2010 - link

    Let's hope so. This way both fanbois camps will win when it comes to how much lighter their wallets will be after their purchase (in some cases their parents wallets - only children act like fanbois). Reply
  • B3an - Wednesday, November 10, 2010 - link

    I -wish- only children acted like fanboys. The fact is that a lot of these guys are well into there 20's and 30's.
    They really are pathetic people.
    Reply
  • mino - Tuesday, November 09, 2010 - link

    Well not that it was hard to beat 480 ... that part was not ready for prime time in the first place. Reply
  • donjuancarlos - Tuesday, November 09, 2010 - link

    Along that line it's shoo-in, not shoe-in. :) Reply

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