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Overclocked NVIDIA GeForce GTX 580 Round-Up
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Date: Mar 16, 2011
Section:Graphics/Sound
Author: Mathew Miranda
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Introduction

When the GeForce GTX 580 arrived, it extended NVIDIA's lead in the single-GPU graphics card market. Although the green team's own GTX 480 previously held the title of fastest single-GPU, its reign was temporary as the first generation Fermi card required some tweaks in order to unleash all 512 shader cores, reduce heat output and power consumption, and minimize noise levels. With these issues addressed in the GTX 580, NVIDIA continues to be a leader in single-GPU graphics performance. AMD's Radeon HD 6970 was initially targeted to take on the GTX 580 in the high end market, but it's obvious now that those expectations were unrealistic. Rather, it's more competitive with the GTX 570 and the dual-GPU powered Antilles (Radeon HD 6990) is AMD's real heavyweight contender.


Today we're looking at a handful of graphics cards made specifically for enthusiasts that accept no compromise. These factory overclocked GeForce GTX 580 cards from Gigabyte, MSI, and ZOTAC represent the most powerful single GPU boards you can buy. Without a doubt, you'll be able to crank up the eye candy with one of these monsters in your rig. Read on to find out how well they perform and which of them have what it takes to be your next upgrade.

Overclocked NVIDIA GeForce GTX 580 Round-up
Let's Get It On!

Gigabyte GV-N580UD-15I 
795 MHz Core / 1002 MHz Memory
$504*
MSI N580GTX M2D15D5/OC
823 MHz Core / 1069 MHz Memory
$509*
ZOTAC Amp! ZT-50102-10P
815 MHz Core / 1025 MHz Memory
$549*
                 * Current street pricing

Each manufacturer has taken the original recipe for the GTX 580 from NVIDIA and spiced it up in order to provide additional performance and features. And when compared to reference design models which clock in at 772MHz core and 1002MHz memory, the trio of cards you see above sport overclocks that will undoubtedly translate into additional frame rates. How much of a boost can you expect to see?  That's what we're here to find out. But before we get to the benchmark numbers, let's take a closer look at each individual card to see what makes them stand out.

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Gigabyte GV-N580UD-15I GTX 580

First up is the GTX 580 from Taiwan based hardware manufacturer, Gigabyte Technology. Well known for their motherboards, Gigabyte has expanded their product line up to include cases, coolers, power supplies, notebooks, and peripherals, as well as graphics cards. During the past couple of years, we have seen a steady stream of reference and overclocked versions of video cards featuring both AMD / ATI and NVIDIA GPUs sporting the Gigabyte logo. And here we get our hands on the latest release from their Ultra Durable line.  



 Gigabyte N580UD GTX 580
 Specs and Features

Model
GV-N580UD-15I

Core Clock
795 MHz
   
Memory Clock / Size
1002 MHz / 1.5 GB

Accessories
Mini HDMI to HDMI Cable
DVI to VGA Adapter
PCIe Power Adapters

Warranty
3 years

Price

$504



Gigabyte offers two different models based on the GTX 580 currently. The base model is a re-badged reference design card from NVIDIA, sporting a dual slot, single fan cooling solution, and offers a core clock of 772 MHz. It comes with a 3 year warranty and sells for $499, the standard price for a stock GTX 580. The card we're looking at here is the Ultra Durabe VGA (UDV) model and sports a factory overclock to 795 MHz and Windforce 3x cooling solution. Moreover, the PCB has been redesigned to incorporate Gigabyte's 2 oz copper layers and top of the line components. The pleasant surprise here is that the N580UD retails for only $5 more than the stock GTX 580.

 





The N580UD features a dual slot cooler with three PWM fans sitting on a vapor chamber heat sink that stretches across the entire length of the card. In addition, three copper heat pipes are used to help to dissipate heat. Triple fan cooling solutions are becoming more common in the market place, especially with hot running, high end models. Gigabyte claims the advantages of this particular design are increased heat dissipation and quieter operating environment. Like the reference design, this card requires one 6-pin and one 8-pin PCI Express connection from the power supply.


As with every enthusiast class product, the manufacturer includes a small accessory bundle to assist with initial installation. Gigabyte includes two Molex to PCIe power adapters, a DVI to VGA adapter, and a mini HDMI to HDMI cable. We also find a user manual and utilities disk included.

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MSI N580GTX GTX 580

Micro Star International (MSI) manufactures a variety of computer components. Established in 1986, they originally focused on the motherboard and graphics card markets, but now produce a variety of notebooks, barebone systems,and wireless networking devices as well. Here we look at a re-badged reference design GTX 580 with a very aggressive factory overclock.



 MSI GTX 580
 Specs and Features

Model
N580GTX-M2D15D5/OC

Core Clock
823 MHz
   
Memory Clock / Size
1069 MHz / 1.5 GB

Accessories
Mini HDMI to HDMI Cable
DVI to VGA Adapter
Two PCIe Power Adapters

Warranty
3 Yr Parts / 2 Yr Labor

Price

$509



MSI offers several versions of the GTX 580. They consist of the base model with stock clocks, the Twin Frozr II/OC, the HydroGen/OC, and the M2D15D5/OC, which is the model we're reviewing today. Both the Twin Frozr II and HydroGen cards boost frequencies to 800 MHz core / 1024 MHz memory, but the Twin Frozr II comes with MSI's aftermarket air cooling system, while the HydroGen sports a liquid cooling solution. The M2D15D5/OC features NVIDIA's reference design but comes with a factory overclock of 823 MHz core / 1069 MHz memory. It's the fastest air cooled GTX 580 on the market. Only the water cooled Hydro Copper 2 from EVGA offers faster a GPU frequency (850 MHz core).


  


Besides the attractive decals, this card is physically identical to every other stock GTX 580 on the market. That's not necessarily a bad thing, as NVIDIA's design features a vapor chamber cooler with a smooth copper base fused to a dense array of thin aluminum cooling fins. And of course, the M2D15D5/OC requires both a 6-pin and 8-pin PCIe power connection from the PSU.



This bundle includes a user's manual, utility disk featuring MSI's Afterburner software, a DVI to VGA adapter, mini HDMI to HDMI cable, and a couple of PCIe power adapters.

 

 

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ZOTAC GTX 580 Amp! Edition

Established in 2006, ZOTAC is relatively new to the industry. The company manufactures graphics cards, motherboards, and mini-PCs. It derives its name from two words, zone and tact. On the graphics side, they are an exclusive NVIDIA AIB partner and regularly offer pre-overclocked Amp! Edition models.



 ZOTAC Amp! Edition GTX 580
 Specs and Features

Model
ZT-50102-10P

Core Clock
815 MHz
   
Memory Clock / Size
1025 MHz / 1 GB


Accessories
DVI to VGA Adapter
Mini DP to DP Adapter
PCIe Power Adapters

Warranty
Limited Lifetime

Price

$549






ZOTAC makes a couple of GTX 580 variations.There's the basic reference design card, clocked at 772MHz, and their Amp! Edition which is set to 815MHz. Like the MSI M2D15D5/OC, the Amp! Edition is physically identical to every other stock GTX 580 available. The biggest advantage it has over the other two cards in this round up is the lifetime warranty it provides its owners once they register the product. Both Gigabyte and MSI offer only 3 years of coverage.

 


The bundle includes user guides, utilities disk, two PCIe power adapters, a DVI to VGA adapter, and the Prince of Persia game. The disk provides several programs such as the Firestorm OC utility, vReveal 2.0, Nero Vision Xtra, Cooliris, XBMC, and Kylo.

 

 

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Test System and 3DMark

HOW WE CONFIGURED THE TEST SYSTEM: In order to provide comparable results, the graphics cards tested here were installed on the same, high end X58 based test system. The components we used consisted of an Asus Rampage III Extreme motherboard, Core i7 980X Extreme Edition processor, and 6GB of OCZ Blade memory. Within the BIOS, we configured the processor to an overclocked speed of 4.27GHz and memory to 1857MHz.

We feel these settings will minimize the occurrences of CPU performance bottlenecks during benchmark runs and allow the graphics cards to show their true potential. Furthermore, our Crucial M225 solid state drive entered the testing process with a clean copy of Windows 7 Professional 64-bit installed. Once installation was complete, we fully updated the OS and installed the latest drivers and applications relevant to the review article.

HotHardware's Test System
Core i7 Powered

Hardware Used:
Intel Core i7 980X Extreme Edition
Overclocked 4.27GHz

Asus Rampage III Extreme Motherboard
X58 Express Chipset

Gigabyte N580UD GTX 580
MSI M2D15D5/OC GTX 580
Zotac Amp! Edition GTX 580
XFX HD 5970 Black Edition
Zotac Amp! Edition GTX 570
Asus DirectCU II HD 6970
Asus DirectCU II HD 6950

6GB OCZ Blade DDR3-1857
(3 X 2GB) 7-8-7-20 1T


Crucial M225 128GB SSD
Firmware 1916

Display:
Dell 3008WFP LCD Monitor
2560 x 1600 Resolution

Relevant Software:
Windows 7 Professional 64bit
NVIDIA GeForce Driver Release 266.58
ATI Catalyst Display Driver 11.1

Benchmarks Used:

3DMark Vantage
3DMark 11
Aliens vs Predator
Civilization V
Dirt 2
Far Cry 2
Lost Planet 2
Metro 2033
S.T.A.L.K.E.R. Call of Pripyat

To get a sense of how fast these overclocked GTX 580's really are, we gathered several of the most powerful cards currently on the market. From AMD, we tested the XFX HD 5970 Black Edition, Asus DirectCU II HD 6970, and HD 6950. We also ran numbers from a Zotac GTX 570 Amp! Edition, the next step down from a GTX 580. For reference, we tested MSI's card at stock speeds and posted those results as well. The group of GPU's we're comparing in this article represent the best of the best from both NVIDIA and AMD.

Futuremark 3DMark Vantage
Synthetic DX10 Performance


3DMark Vantage

Futuremark's synthetic 3D gaming benchmark, 3DMark Vantage, is specifically bound to Windows Vista-based systems because it uses some advanced visual technologies that are only available with DirectX 10. With this latest version of the benchmark, Futuremark has incorporated new graphics tests, CPU tests, several feature tests, and support for the latest PC hardware. We tested the graphics cards here with 3DMark Vantage's Extreme and Performance preset options.

With a new DX11 test out, we probably won't post DX10 Vantage numbers much longer. Nevertheless, we find all three factory overclocked 580's occupying top spots. It seems that even modest increases in GPU and memory clocks can bump Vantage performance noticeably. Note the 580's edge out the HD 5970 using the performance preset, but not in extreme mode.



Futuremark 3DMark11
Synthetic DirectX Gaming


3DMark11

The latest version of Futuremark's synthetic 3D gaming benchmark, 3DMark11, is specifically bound to Windows 7-based systems because it uses the advanced visual technologies that are only available with DirectX 11, which isn't available on previous versions of Windows.  3DMark11 isn't simply a port of 3DMark Vantage to DirectX 11, though.  With this latest version of the benchmark, Futuremark has incorporated four new graphics tests, a physics tests, and a new combined test.  We tested the graphics cards here with 3DMark11's Extreme and Performance preset options.

In 3DMark11, the performance differences between the 580's are minimal. Unlike Vantage, the HD 5970 leads the way in both Extreme and Performance presets, by a wide margin. The following pages consist of our real world gaming tests, so let's find out how these overclocked GTX 580's perform in that environment.

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Alien vs Predator - DX11

Alien vs Predator
DX11 Gaming Performance


AvP

Alien vs Predator is a DX11 title from British developer Rebellion, the same team behind the 1999 original PC game. It brings the war between two of science fiction's most popular characters to the first person shooter gaming world. AvP delivers three single player campaigns and provides unique 3-way multiplayer gaming as well. For our testing, we used the AvP stand alone benchmark using multiple resolutions and high image quality settings.





The Alien vs Predator DX11 benchmark continues to be a handful for the latest crop of graphic cards. With the settings cranked up, the HD 5970 takes the top spot but is closely followed by our trio of GTX 580 video cards. As expected, the MSI model is slightly faster than ZOTAC's product, while Gigabyte's card follows closely behind. Truth be told, the deviation between them is only 1 or 2 frames per second and undetectable during game play.  

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Civilization V - DX11

Civilization V
DX11 Gaming Performance


Civ 5

Sid Meier's Civ 5 is a turn based strategy game developed by Firaxis released in September 2010, and is the latest game in the Civilization series. You start off in prehistoric times and venture into the future on a procedurally generated map. A number of different victory conditions are achieved through research, expansion, economic development, government and military conquest. For our testing, we utilized the built in benchmark using multiple resolutions and maximum image quality settings.





The GTX 580's put up some impressive scores in Civilization V. As we saw with Alien vs Predator, the performance difference between the three overclocked 580's was very small. We saw only a 2 to 3 FPS advantage going from Gigabyte's card at 795 MHz to MSI's model at 823 MHz.  

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Dirt 2 - DX11

 Dirt 2
 DX11 Gaming Performance


Dirt 2

Dirt 2 was released in September 2009 and provides a sequel to the original Colin McRae: Dirt racing game. Codemasters delayed the PC version of the game in order to enhance their Ego engine with DirectX 11 effects. Dirt 2 is also a solid benchmark for multi-core processors since DX11 is designed to take advantage of multi-threaded system architectures.



We encountered more of the same with our Dirt 2 performance results. The MSI GTX 580 led the pack, followed closely by Zotac's Amp! Edition and Gigabyte's N580UD. The HD 5970 was able to match the 580's performance during the 2560x1600 resolution test, but noticeably trailed in the other two tests.

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Far Cry 2 - DX10

FarCry 2
DX10 Gaming Performance


FarCry 2

Like the original, FarCry 2 is one of the more visually impressive games to be released on the PC to date.  Courtesy of the Dunia game engine developed by Ubisoft, FarCry 2's game-play is enhanced by advanced environment physics, destructible terrain, high resolution textures, complex shaders, realistic dynamic lighting, and motion-captured animations.  We benchmarked the graphics cards in this article with a fully patched version of FarCry 2, using a built-in demo run recorded in the Ranch Map. The test results shown here were run at multiple resolutions and maximum image settings.





In Far Cry 2, the MSI M2D15D5/OC takes the top spot in all three resolution tests. Of course, Zotac's Amp! Edition and Gigabyte's N580UD aren't far behind and trail the top spot by only 1 to 3 FPS.

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Lost Planet 2 - DX11

 Lost Planet 2
 DX11 Gaming Performance


Lost Planet 2

Lost Planet 2 is a third person shooter developed by Capcom. It is the sequal to Lost Planet: Extreme Condition, and takes place ten years after the events of the first game. The plot begins with Mercenaries fighting against Jungle Pirates, while featuring major boss battles, extreme terrain, and the ability to pilot mechanized armor suits. We tested the game engine using the stand alone benchmark provided by Capcom, at multiple resolutions, 8x AA, and high image settings.

In Lost Planet 2, we saw a small victory for Zotac's Amp! Edition GTX 580 as it was able to close the performance gap held by MSI's card in two of three tests. Moreover, none of the AMD models performed well in this benchmark. Even the GTX 570 offered more FPS than the HD 5970.

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Metro 2033 - DX11

Metro 2033
DirecX11 Gaming Performance


Metro 2033

Metro 2033 is your basic post-apocalyptic first person shooter game with a few rather unconventional twists. The game is loosely based on a novel by Russian Author Dmitry Glukhovsky. It boasts some of the best 3D visuals on the PC platform currently including a DX11 rendering mode that makes use of advanced depth of field effects and character model tessellation for increased realism. We tested multiple game resolutions and in-game image quality options set to High Quality mode, with DOF effects disabled.





Another strong showing by all three GTX 580's. Even with image quality on high, playable frame rates were achieved. Here we find the higher the resolution, the better the HD 5970 performed in comparison to NVIDIA's flagship model. It was actually able to top the 580's in the 2560x1600 resolution benchmark.
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S.T.A.L.K.E.R. Call of Pripyat - DX11

S. T. A. L. K. E. R. - Call of Pripyat
DX11 Gaming Performance


S.T.A.L.K.E.R.

Call of Pripyat is the third game in the STALKER series and throws in DX11 to the mix. This benchmark is based on one of the locations found within the latest game. Testing includes four stages and utilizes various weather conditions, as well as different time of day settings. It offers a number of presets and options, including multiple versions of DirectX, resolutions, antialiasing, etc. SunShafts represents the most graphically challenging stage available. We conducted our testing with DX11 enabled, multiple resolutions, and Ultra settings.





Given the results from the six previous games, STALKER continues the trend as the GTX 580's dominate the rest of the comparison cards. MSI, Zotac, and Gigabyte take the top three spots, in that order. The only surprise here is the poor showing by AMD's HD 5970, which was slower than the GTX 570 in this benchmark.

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Overclocking Performance


Overclocking is not an exact science. When it comes to overclocking headroom, every GPU is different. And just because your friend's GTX 580 hit 1000MHz doesn't mean that yours will, even using the same settings and hardware. Many factors can influence what a graphics card is capable of, starting with the unique capability of each GPU. These factors may also include complementary components within the system, but we find the primary influence is the type of cooling employed on the graphics card.

Overclocking 
Push it to the limit



We expect the type of consumers interested in these cards want to get the most out of their investment. While it may seem excessive for some, raising the frequencies on pre-overclocked cards should drive even more pixel pushing ability than already available. It merely requires a bit of effort and patience to massage frequencies and voltages while achieving stable operating conditions. We've taken that step for you in order to show the possible gains of manually overclocking the GeForce GTX 580 and these cards. For this testing, we employed MSI's Afterburner overclocking utility since it's free, widely available for download, and compatible with any brand of graphics card.

Although the Gigabyte N580UD comes with most conservative overclock of the three cards, it proves to have the most overclocking headroom by an ample margin. With voltage at 1.15V on the core, we managed a blazing 1005 MHz GPU speed and 1265 MHz memory frequency. That equates to a 26% overclock over the card's rated speeds of 795 MHz core and 1002 MHz memory.

The MSI GTX 580 was no slouch either. It went from its rated speeds of 823 MHz core / 1069 MHz memory to frequencies of 940 MHz / 1145 MHz. These settings give you a 14% GPU overclock  and 7% on the memory.

Zotac's Amp! Edition offered overclocking headroom up to 925 MHz core / 1250 MHz memory. If not for the blistering speeds hit by the other two 580's, we'd be a little more excited. But the lesson learned here is that NVIDIA's latest batch of high end Fermi GPUs will award its owners with more performance if they take the time to tweak the settings.


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Power Consumption and Temps

Before bringing this article to a close, we'd like to cover a few final data points--namely power consumption and temps. Throughout all of our benchmarking and testing, we monitored how much power our test system was consuming using a power meter. Our goal was to give you all an idea as to how much power each configuration used while idling and while under a heavy workload. Please keep in mind that we were testing total system power consumption at the outlet here, not just the power being drawn by the graphics cards alone.

Power Consumption and Operating Temperatures
How low can you go?



The variance between the power consumption of the three 580's was modest but perceptible. Requiring 238W idle / 437W load, Gigabyte's card narrowly edged Zotac's Amp! Edition. Furthermore, MSI's GTX 580 consumed more power than the competition, but not enough to be a deal breaker.




To compare cooling performance, we manually adjusted each card to identical settings. With GPU core clocks at 800 MHz, memory frequency at 1050 MHz, and voltage set to 1.00V on all three cards, we fired up Furmark to measure the idle and load temps with approximately 15 minutes of burn in.

Sporting the reference design coolers, the cards from MSI and Zotac performed similarly. In comparison to the M2D15D5/OC, the Amp! Edition GTX 580 ran one degree cooler under load, but a couple of degrees warmer while idle. On the other hand, Gigabyte's custom, triple fan cooling solution lived up to the hype by demonstrating superior cooling performance by keeping the GPU core temperature in check, big time. At only 60 degrees fully loaded, the N580UD ran 20 degrees or 33% cooler than the competition.

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Performance Summary and Conclusion

Performance Summary: Before running a single test, you could get a line relatively easily on how the performance numbers would play out. The MSI N580GTX M2D15D5/OC had the most aggressive GPU and memory settings out of the box and proceeded to rip every benchmark we threw at it with a vengeance. It consistently turned in the highest frame rate in the majority of the tests conducted. Only in a few tests could the dual GPU HD 5970 top its performance. But clearly, the MSI N580GTX was the strongest card in this round up.

Gigabyte's Ultra Durable VGA GTX 580 did well in all the tests, but trailed the other two cards by a small margin. The card really stood out once we fired up the overclocking utility to see how far it could go though. With the limited time we had, we were able to push the N580UD to extreme settings of 1005 MHz core / 1265 MHz memory. That's a significant increase over the overclocks achieved on the other two 580's, and equals the manual overclock we achieved with EVGA's liquid cooled Hydro Copper 2 GTX 580. It's also worth noting the fantastic cooling performance provided by its triple fan design and custom PCB. We're left wondering why Gigabyte decided to incorporate such a modest overclock since it's clear this model has boatloads of OC headroom.

Last but not least, Zotac's Amp! Edition GTX 580 did not disappoint. It routinely produced the second fastest results during testing, usually just one or two frame rates behind MSI's card. It had no problems beating out Gigabyte's N580UD due to its higher factory overclock straight out of the box. In addition, the Amp! Edition performed on par with the M2D15D5/OC in power consumption and temps, but had the lowest GPU overclock of all three GTX 580s. Of course, hitting 925 MHz on the core is definitely nothing to whine about.


 

The Recommendation: With that tax refund burning a hole in your pocket, we know it's tempting to splurge a little bit. While we can think of better ways to blow $500, enthusiasts will always figure out a justification to upgrade their systems, especially if it involves graphics performance. In this round up, all three cards performed admirably and the differences between them are relatively minimal in most cases. Zotac's Amp! Edition comes with a decent factory overclock and offers its owners a lifetime warranty with registration. At $549, it's considerably more expensive than the competition, but if warranty length is important to you then maybe the extra cost is justified.

The M2D15D5/OC from MSI turned in the highest scores in most of our benchmarks, thanks to its ambitious overclock. And for about the same price as a stock model, this particular card makes a strong option for consideration at $509. If you're looking for the fastest air cooled GTX 580 you can buy, then this is a solid choice.

But if we were to choose one card from this trio as our next upgrade, it would have to be Gigabyte's N580UD. Yes, in every benchmark we ran, it was a tad slower than the MSI and Zotac models. So why does it get the nod? Well, the gaming performance disparity between the cards was negligible in most cases (1 to 3 FPS). And at $504, Gigabyte's card is the least expensive out of the three we looked at, almost matching the current price for stock GTX 580's. Equally important, we suspect many owners would invest the time to overclock their high end graphics card in order to squeeze every ounce of performance out of it. That's precisely where the N580UD excels and its owners will be rewarded. The icing on the cake is the exceptional cooling performance served up by the card's custom PCB and triple fan design. If you're looking to purchase a high end, no compromise video card, we highly recommend the GV-N580UD-15I from Gigabyte.




  • Gigabyte GV-N580UD-15I GTX 580

  • MSI M2D15D5/OC GTX 580
  • Zotac Amp! Edition GTX 580

 



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