NVIDIA GeForce GTX 580: A New Flagship Emerges

Article Index

Our Summary and Conclusion

Performance Summary: Before we get to the actual performance summary, we have to give NVIDIA's software engineers some much deserved recognition. When the GeForce GTX 480 first launched, it was clearly the fastest single-GPU available, but we found its performance advantages over the then 7-month old Radeon HD 5870 to be relatively minor (5-15%) given the GTX 480's higher price point. In these last few months, however, NVIDIA's software engineers have tuned their drivers significantly and given the GeForce GTX 480 such a measurable performance boost, that its lead over the Radeon HD 5870 has more than doubled in some games. Good job, NVIDIA.

With that said, summarizing the GeForce GTX 580's performance is simple. To put it bluntly, the GeForce GTX 580 is without question the fastest, single-GPU on the planet at this point. If we disregard the odd, CPU-bound test, the GeForce GTX 580 is between 30% and 50% faster than AMD's current flagship, single-GPU, the Radeon HD 5870 in actual game tests. Take the synthetic tests like Unigine into account and the GTX 580 can be up to twice as fast. In comparison to the Radeon HD 5970, however, the GeForce GTX 580's performance isn't quite as strong. In fact, despite being about a year old, the Radeon HD 5970 is still the fastest graphics card overall.

The GeForce GTX 580 is a clearly superior product to the GeForce GTX 480 it supplants at the top of NVIDIA's current GPU line-up. In virtually every category, the GTX 580 is preferable to the GTX 480; power consumption, performance, noise, form factor--you name it. The GeForce GTX 580 is simply a better product, period. And at this point in time there is no other single-GPU that can touch it in terms of performance.

It's not all sunshine and roses, however. While the GTX 580's power consumption is technically lower than the 480's, it still uses a lot of power relative to AMD's offerings, and as such, it still pumps out a lot of heat too. In terms of efficiency, the GF110 GPU at the heart of the GeForce GTX 580 is a definite improvement over the GF100 in the GeForce GTX 480, but it's not nearly as efficient as AMD's offerings. We're sure some of you will also be perplexed by NVIDIA's decision to name this new card the GTX 580, when it's technically a refinement of current-gen technology. Perhaps GeForce GTX 490 would have been a better choice?  NVIDIA's position is that since this card offers clear improvements in terms of performance, power, and noise, over the GTX 480 it was deserving of the 580 moniker. We're somewhat indifferent to the branding ourselves--the enthusiasts who are interested in cards like this are usually very informed about what they're buying. NVIDIA could call it the Premiere Pixel-Pushin' PCB From Palookaville and still sell a ton of 'em. Regardless, at least the GeForce GTX 580 is clearly faster than the GTX 480. We can't say the same for a Radeon HD 6870 to HD 5870 comparison.


The GeForce GTX 580 is set to drop right into the market segment currently occupied by the GeForce GTX 480 and it will be priced at around $499. (Update:  as of 10AM today, we are unable to find a card for $499 but NewEgg has them for $559.  Hopefully NVIDIA will get that cleaned very up soon.) For a time, the GeForce GTX 580 and GTX 480 will co-exist in NVIDIA's product stack, but pricing on the current crop of GTX 480s will likely be headed south. And NVIDIA plans to eventually replace some current GTX 400 series offerings with GTX 500 series parts. GTX 580 parts should be available immediately in limited quantities, while production ramps up in the coming weeks.

At $499, the GeForce GTX 580's price is about on par with the Radeon HD 5970, which can be had for approximately $469 - $599 depending on the model and brand. While we found the 5970 to be faster overall and its power consumption is lower, the GTX 580 is still attractive at this price point for a few reasons. First, it uses only a single GPU, so there are no multi-GPU scaling issues to worry about with new games. And the GeForce GTX 580 also offers support for PhysX, 3D Vision, and the array of CUDA-enabled applications out there. AMD does have support for Eyefinity configurations with a single-card though, so pick your proprietary feature of choice.

Ultimately, the release of the GeForce GTX 580 is all good. NVIDIA has a better performing, quieter, and somewhat lower-power card at the top of their product stack, that's arriving at the same price point as the GeForce GTX 480. Over the last few days, the impending arrival of the GTX 580 also resulted in lower prices for the Radeon HD 5970--another good thing for consumers. So for now, NVIDIA has extended their leadership position in the singe-GPU space, with the fastest single-GPU powered graphics card out there. NVIDIA's position may be short lived, however. It's no secret AMD is prepping the Radeon HD 6900 series, in both single-GPU (Cayman) and dual-GPU (Antilles) flavors. We can't say with any certainty just yet that Cayman will re-take the single-GPU performance crown, but it's a safe bet that the dual-GPU powered Antilles product will be the fastest single graphics card when it arrives. Time will tell.


  • Excellent Performance
  • Quieter Than GTX 480
  • Lower-Power Than GTX 480
  • PhysX, 3D Vision, CUDA Support
  • Arrives At Same Price As The GTX 480 (hopefully)
  • Still Uses A Lot Of Power
  • Doesn't Beat The 5970
  • Relatively Hot Running

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