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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  • Iketh - Thursday, November 11, 2010 - link

    ok EVERYONE belonging to this thread is on CRACK... what other option did AMD have to name the 68xx? If they named them 67xx, the differences between them and 57xx are too great. They use nearly as little power as 57xx yet the performance is 1.5x or higher!!!

    im a sucker for EFFICIENCY... show me significant gains in efficiency and i'll bite, and this is what 68xx handily brings over 58xx

    the same argument goes for 480-580... AT, show us power/performance ratios between generations on each side, then everyone may begin to understand the naming

    i'm sorry to break it to everyone, but this is where the GPU race is now, in efficiency, where it's been for cpus for years
    Reply
  • MrCommunistGen - Tuesday, November 09, 2010 - link

    Just started reading the article and I noticed a couple of typos on p1.

    "But before we get to deep in to GF110" --> "but before we get TOO deep..."

    Also, the quote at the top of the page was placed inside of a paragraph which was confusing.
    I read: "Furthermore GTX 480 and GF100 were clearly not the" and I thought: "the what?". So I continued and read the quote, then realized that the paragraph continued below.
    Reply
  • MrCommunistGen - Tuesday, November 09, 2010 - link

    well I see that the paragraph break has already been fixed... Reply
  • ahar - Tuesday, November 09, 2010 - link

    Also, on page 2 if Ryan is talking about the lifecycle of one process then "...the processes’ lifecycle." is wrong. Reply
  • Aikouka - Tuesday, November 09, 2010 - link

    I noticed the remark on Bitstreaming and it seems like a logical choice *not* to include it with the 580. The biggest factor is that I don't think the large majority of people actually need/want it. While the 580 is certainly quieter than the 480, it's still relatively loud and extraneous noise is not something you want in a HTPC. It's also overkill for a HTPC, which would delegate the feature to people wanting to watch high-definition content on their PC through a receiver, which probably doesn't happen much.

    I'd assume the feature could've been "on the board" to add, but would've probably been at the bottom of the list and easily one of the first features to drop to either meet die size (and subsequently, TDP/Heat) targets or simply to hit their deadline. I certainly don't work for nVidia so it's really just pure speculation.
    Reply
  • therealnickdanger - Tuesday, November 09, 2010 - link

    I see your points as valid, but let me counterpoint with 3-D. I think NVIDIA dropped the ball here in the sense that there are two big reasons to have a computer connected to your home theater: games and Blu-ray. I know a few people that have 3-D HDTVs in their homes, but I don't know anyone with a 3-D HDTV and a 3-D monitor.

    I realize how niche this might be, but if the 580 supported bitstreaming, then it would be perfect card for anyone that wants to do it ALL. Blu-ray, 3-D Blu-Ray, any game at 1080p with all eye-candy, any 3-D game at 1080p with all eye-candy. But without bitstreaming, Blu-ray is moot (and mute, IMO).

    For a $500+ card, it's just a shame, that's all. All of AMD's high-end cards can do it.
    Reply
  • QuagmireLXIX - Sunday, November 14, 2010 - link

    Well said. There are quite a few fixes that make the 580 what I wanted in March, but the lack of bitstream is still a hard hit for what I want my PC to do.

    Call me niche.
    Reply
  • QuagmireLXIX - Sunday, November 14, 2010 - link

    Actually, this is killing me. I waited for the 480 in March b4 pulling the trigger on a 5870 because I wanted HDMI to a Denon 3808 and the 480 totally dropped the ball on the sound aspect (S/PDIF connector and limited channels and all). I figured no big deal, it is a gamer card after all, so 5870 HDMI I went.

    The thing is, my PC is all-in-one (HTPC, Game & typical use). The noise and temps are not a factor as I watercool. When I read that HDMI audio got internal on the 580, I thought, finally. Then I read Guru's article and seen bitstream was hardware supported and just a driver update away, I figured I was now back with the green team since 8800GT.

    Now Ryan (thanks for the truth, I guess :) counters Gurus bitstream comment and backs it up with direct communication with NV. This blows, I had a lofty multimonitor config in mind and no bitstream support is a huge hit. I'm not even sure if I should spend the time to find out if I can arrange the monitor setup I was thinking.

    Now I might just do a HTPC rig and Game rig or see what 6970 has coming. Eyefinity has an advantage for multiple monitors, but the display-port puts a kink in my designs also.
    Reply
  • Mr Perfect - Tuesday, November 09, 2010 - link

    So where do they go from here? Disable one SM again and call it a GTX570? GF104 is to new to replace, so I suppose they'll enable the last SM on it for a GTX560. Reply
  • chizow - Tuesday, November 09, 2010 - link

    There's 2 ways they can go with the GTX 570, either more disabled SM than just 1 (2-3) and similar clockspeed to the GTX 580, or fewer disabled SM but much lower clockspeed. Both would help to reduce TDP but with more disabled SM that would also help Nvidia unload the rest of their chip yield. I have a feeling they'll disable 2-3 SM with higher clocks similar to the 580 so that the 470 is still slightly slower than the 480.

    I'm thinking along the same lines as you though for the GTX 560, it'll most likely be the full-fledged GF104 we've been waiting for with all 384SP enabled, probably slightly higher clockspeeds and not much more than that, but definitely a faster card than the original GF104.
    Reply

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