Compute & Normalized Numbers

Moving on from our look at gaming performance, we have our customary look at compute performance, bundled with a look at theoretical tessellation performance. Unlike our gaming benchmarks where NVIDIA’s architectural enhancements could have an impact, everything here should be dictated by the core clock and SMs, with the GTX 570’s slight core clock advantage over the GTX 480 defining most of these tests.

Our first compute benchmark comes from Civilization V, which uses DirectCompute to decompress textures on the fly. Civ V includes a sub-benchmark that exclusively tests the speed of their texture decompression algorithm by repeatedly decompressing the textures required for one of the game’s leader scenes.

The core clock advantage for the GTX 570 here is 4.5%; in practice it leads to a difference of less than 2% for Civilization V’s texture decompression test. Even the lead over the GTX 470 is a bit less than usual, at 23%. Nor should the lack of a competitive placement from an AMD product be a surprise, as NVIDIA’s cards consistently do well at this test, lending credit to the idea that it’s a compute application better suited for NVIDIA’s scalar processor design.

Our second GPU compute benchmark is SmallLuxGPU, the GPU ray tracing branch of the open source LuxRender renderer. While it’s still in beta, SmallLuxGPU recently hit a milestone by implementing a complete ray tracing engine in OpenCL, allowing them to fully offload the process to the GPU. It’s this ray tracing engine we’re testing.

SmallLuxGPU is rather straightforward in its requirements: compute and lots of it. The GTX 570’s core clock advantage over the GTX 480 drives a fairly straightforward 4% performance improvement, roughly in line with the theoretical maximum. The reduction in memory bandwidth and L2 cache does not seem to impact SmallLuxGPU. Meanwhile the advantage over the GTX 470 doesn’t quite reach its theoretical maximum, but the GTX 570 is still 27% faster.

However as was the case with the GTX 580, all of the NVIDIA cards fall to AMD’s faster cards here; the GTX 570 is only between the 6850 and 6870 in performance, thanks to AMD’s compute-heavy VLIW5 design that SmallLuxGPU excels at. The situation is quite bad for the GTX 570 as a result, with the top card being the Radeon 5870, which the GTX 570 underperforms by 27%.

Our final compute benchmark is a Folding @ Home benchmark. Given NVIDIA’s focus on compute for Fermi and in particular GF110 and GF100, cards such as the GTX 580 can be particularly interesting for distributed computing enthusiasts, who are usually looking for the fastest card in the coolest package.

Once more the performance advantage for the GTX 570 matches its core clock advantage. If not for the fact that a DC project like F@H is trivial to scale to multi-GPU configurations, the GTX 570 would likely be the sweet spot for price, performance, and power/noise.

Finally, to take another look at GTX 570’s performance, we have the return of our normalized data view that we first saw with our look at the GTX 580. Unlike the GTX 580 which had similar memory/ROP abilities as the GTX 480 but more SMs, the GTX 570 contains the same number of SMs with fewer ROPs and a narrower memory bus. As such while a normalized dataset for the GTX 580 shows the advantage of the GF110’s architectural enhancements and the highter SM count, the normalized dataset for the GTX 570 shows the architectural enhancements alongside the impact of lost memory bandwidth, ROPs, and L2 cache.

The results certainly paint an interesting picture. Just about everything is ultimately affected by the lack of memory bandwidth, L2 cache, and ROPs; if the GTX 570 didn’t normally have its core clock advantage, it would generally lose to the GTX 480 by small amounts. The standouts here include STALKER, Mass Effect 2, and BattleForge which are all clearly among the most memory-hobbled titles.

On the other hand we have DIRT 2 and HAWX, both of which show a 4% improvement even though our normalized GTX 570 is worse compared to a GTX 480 in every way except architectural advantages. Clearly these were some of the games NVIDIA had in mind when they were tweaking GF110.

Wolfenstein Power, Temperature, & Noise
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  • TheHolyLancer - Tuesday, December 07, 2010 - link

    likely because when the 6870s came out they included an FTW edition of the 460 and was hammered? Not to mention in their own guild lines they said no OCing in launch articles.

    If they do do OC comp, most likely in a special article, possibly with retail brought samples rather than sent demos...
    Reply
  • Ryan Smith - Tuesday, December 07, 2010 - link

    As a rule of thumb I don't do overclock testing with a single card, as overclocking is too variable. I always wait until I have at least 2 cards to provide some validation to our results. Reply
  • CurseTheSky - Tuesday, December 07, 2010 - link

    I don't understand why so many cards still cling to DVI. Seeing that Nvidia is at least including native HDMI on their recent generations of cards is nice, but why, in 2010, on an enthusiast-level graphics card, are they not pushing the envelope with newer standards?

    The fact that AMD includes DVI, HDMI, and DisplayPort natively on their newer lines of cards is probably what's going to sway my purchasing decision this holiday season. Something about having all of these small, elegant, plug-in connectors and then one massive screw-in connector just irks me.
    Reply
  • Vepsa - Tuesday, December 07, 2010 - link

    Its because most people still have DVI for their desktop monitors. Reply
  • ninjaquick - Tuesday, December 07, 2010 - link

    DVI is a very good plug man, I don't see why you're hating on it. Reply
  • ninjaquick - Tuesday, December 07, 2010 - link

    I meant to reply to OP. Reply
  • DanNeely - Tuesday, December 07, 2010 - link

    Aside from apple almost noone uses DP. Assuming it wasn't too late in the life cycle to do so, I suspect that the new GPU used in the 6xx series of cards next year will have DP support so nvidia can offer many display gaming on a single card, but only because a single DP clockgen (shared by all DP displays) is cheaper to add than 4 more legacy clockgens (one needed per VGA/DVI/HDMI display). Reply
  • Taft12 - Tuesday, December 07, 2010 - link

    Market penetration is just a bit more important than your "elegant connector" for an input nobody's monitor has. What a poorly thought-out comment. Reply
  • CurseTheSky - Tuesday, December 07, 2010 - link

    Market penetration starts by companies supporting the "cutting edge" of technology. DisplayPort has a number of advantages over DVI, most of which would be beneficial to Nvidia in the long run, especially considering the fact that they're pushing the multi-monitor / combined resolution envelope just like AMD.

    Perhaps if you only hold on to a graphics card for 12-18 months, or keep a monitor for many years before finally retiring it, the connectors your new $300 piece of technology provides won't matter to you. If you're like me and tend to keep a card for 2+ years while jumping on great monitor deals every few years as they come up, it's a different ballgame. I've had DisplayPort-capable monitors for about 2 years now.
    Reply
  • Dracusis - Tuesday, December 07, 2010 - link

    I invested just under $1000 in a 30" professional 8-bit PVA LCD back in 2006 that is still better than 98% of the crappy 6-bit TN panels on the market. It has been used with 4 different video cards, supports DVI, VGA, Component HD and Composite SD. Has an ultra wide color gamut (113%), great contrast, matt screen with super deep blacks and perfectly uniform backlighting along with mem card readers and USB ports.

    Display Port, not any other monitor on the market offers me absolutely nothing new or better in terms of visual quality or features.

    If you honestly see an improvement in quality spending $300 ever 18 months on a new "value" displays then I feel sorry for you, you've made some poorly informed choices and wasted a lot of money.
    Reply

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