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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  • Ryan Smith - Tuesday, November 09, 2010 - link

    In this house we obey the laws of thermodynamics!

    Thanks for the heads up, Don.
    Reply
  • Troll Trolling - Tuesday, November 09, 2010 - link

    You guys made my day. Reply
  • samspqr - Tuesday, November 09, 2010 - link

    more important, where it says:

    "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."

    it should say:

    "Both the Radeon HD 5970 and Radeon HD 6870 CF come out on top of the GTX 580 – they’re faster in nearly all benchmarks, and in both cases largely comparable in terms of price, power and temperature; 6870CF is also comparable in terms of noise, while 5970 comes out significantly louder."
    Reply
  • DominionSeraph - Tuesday, November 09, 2010 - link

    No, it should say, "Both 6850 CF and GTX460 SLI blow everything else out of the water given that they're practically giving away the highly overclockable 6850's for ~$185, 1GB GTX 460's for ~$180 AR, and 768MB GTX 460's for $145 AR." Reply
  • DreamerX5521 - Tuesday, November 09, 2010 - link

    by looking at the test results, I guess 6870CF is a better choice than a single 580 in term of performance/watt, price (about the same), temperature, noise, etc.. Reply
  • Kim Leo - Tuesday, November 09, 2010 - link

    I noticed that as well, a little surprising I did expect a bit more considering all the hype, but then again it's built on the Fermi.
    I'm not sure what's up with the pricing? Do they think that there will be a market for GTX480 when Cayman comes and with the GF110 out?
    Reply
  • Sihastru - Tuesday, November 09, 2010 - link

    If you can live with the sub-par minimum framerates that plagues so many games with CF setups. Reply
  • JarredWalton - Tuesday, November 09, 2010 - link

    Amen. I'm a 5850 CF user (and 4870X2 before that), and I can tell you I'd much rather have a single GPU and forget about profiles and other issues. But then, 30" LCDs need more than a single GPU in most games. Reply
  • B3an - Wednesday, November 10, 2010 - link

    30" monitors dont need anything more than a high-end single GPU for most games. 99.9% of PC games are playable maxed out plus AA at 2560 res with just one of my 5870's in use, of with my previous 480. Theres only a handful of games that need dual GPU's to be playable at this res. Mainly because most games are console ports these days.

    And the OP is wrong, 6870 CF is not any better than the 580 with temperature or noise. 580 being better under load with noise, better with temps at idle, but only very slightly hotter under load.
    Reply
  • knutjb - Tuesday, November 09, 2010 - link

    I agree guys it should be a 485 not a 580.

    The 6870 is a sore spot on an otherwise solid refinement. Curious to see its SLI performance. $559 on Newegg this am.
    Reply

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