The GTX580 is still, many months after it's release, the absolute single-GPU king.
Indeed the performance is so spectacular that if you're in the market for some hardcore performance then three of these will out-perform any quad-GPU setups such as GTX590s in SLI or Crossfire HD6990s.
So with this in mind we were excited to get the Gigabyte Super Overclock version of the GTX580 in the office. These are cherry-picked FM110 cores making sure that you get only the very best chips nVidia can produce on your card. The benefits of this are multiple. Not only does it ensure that you get a chip that will overclock like a demon, but also one that doesn't require a nuclear power plant strapped to it to do so. As if that isn't enough it also comes with Gigabytes first foray into the world of triple-fan coolers and they've gone the whole hog with a vapour-chamber as well as the massive heatpipe and fin arrangement we're used to.
You all know what the GTX580 is about by now, so we shall crack on.
As you can see out of the box it appears to be a fairly standard GTX580. Then you note those clock-speeds and get a feel that something special is going on with the Gigabyte GTX580 SOC. As is often the case though the specifications don't tell the full story. So let's grab a look at the card shall we.
|Chipset||GeForce GTX 580|
|Core Clock||855 MHz|
|Shader Clock||1710 MHz|
|Memory Clock||4100 MHz|
|Process Technology||40 nm|
|Memory Size||1536 MB|
|Memory Bus||384 bit|
|Card Bus||PCI-E 2.0|
|Digital max resolution||2560 x 1600|
|Analog max resolution||2048 x 1536|
There is no denying from the box that this is the Super Overclock variant. As befits a product at the very top of the Gigabyte range of graphics cards the packaging is subtle, rather than shouty. There is a lot to be said for a minimalist approach.
The internal box is sturdy indeed, with the chromatic Super Overclock logo embossed. Once opened you can see how much foam protection is around the card itself. There is no chance of it being damaged in transit.
And here it is. There barest hint of a shield surrounding the three fans to ensure maximum heat dissipation. Something it's worth noticing is that the GTX580 SOC is just thinner than a standard GTX580, despite having three fans and a monumental cooler.
Power is provided, as always, by an 8pin and 6pin PCIe. The business end has an HDMI and two DVIs for all your display requirements.
Up Close continued
If you're one of those people who play with sub-zero cooling in an attempt to break records the SOC comes equipped with dual-BIOS, one of which is specifically tailored to the needs of the LN2 brigade, and here is the switch that makes it all possible.
There is a huge amount of GDDR5 and power control built in to the GTX580 SOC. The cooler is a work of art, being amazingly thin but also built with a serious attention to detail and high quality standards. Just look at it.
Yes this is a genuine vapour-chamber cooler. The give-away is that little nipple from where it's been filled.
The very definition of business-like. No fancy frippery here, just a monster cooler with plenty of space to exhaust the heat.
Accessories are as one would expect, although it's nice to see the inclusion of a HDMI cable in the package.
As is always the case with our graphics card reviews we're using our X58 setup and the very latest game patches and system drivers.
Gigabyte GTX580 Super Over Clock
ForceWare 285.38 beta
Intel Core-i7 950 @ 4GHz
Gigabyte G1 Assassin
6GB Mushkin Redline
Windows 7 Ultimate x64
The SOC comes with Gigabytes OC Guru which makes overclocking an absolute breeze, thanks to a combination of the robust software (which reminds us of the equally great MSI Afterburner) and the monster GPU that beats at the heart of the GTX580 SOC.
For those of you who place a lot of importance on big numbers, yes we managed to overclock the core to 1016 MHz. Just past the magical 1GHz barrier. It wasn't wholly stable in just a couple of our tests, but we always stick to an overclock that works in everything and so we backed it off to 988MHz to run our tests.
Temperatures were well under control and although the card is slightly louder when idle than a reference card, largely in part to having three fans moving as opposed to one, when under load the quality of the heatsink and fan arrangement means that it's a fair bit quieter than a reference design despite the monster clock speeds. Power and quiet. An intoxicating combination.
If you are an avid Folder, there is no question that this card can churn out the big numbers.
3D Mark 11
Obviously the big comparison in our testing is between this GTX580 SOC and the reference model. If that is the sole measure of it then oh my are we in for a treat. It completely spanks the reference card and, as if that wasn't enough, the overclock gains even more performance. Yes it really isn't that far behind the GTX590.
3D Mark Vantage
It speaks volumes about the amount of performance the SOC is capable of when it sits with the dual-GPU cards and isn't disgraced at all. The HD6990 is a monster of a card yet, in P score at least, the GTX580 SOC leaves it in the dust. The reference GTX580 is no match, and that's a beast of a GPU.
Unigine Heaven 2.1
Unigine Heaven has been producing some curious results for a while now. We aren't sure if the way it calculated scores uses some tricks that have been patched out of both the ATI and nVidia drivers, but nothing we've tested recently has given us results close to those we first obtained. So it's with wide-eyes that we see the Gigabyte SOC is still capable of producing frame-rates higher than the original reference tests. The overclock definitely brings results too of 6 and 3 FPS improvement over the stock GTX580 SOC.
It might have been superseded by Crysis 2 but it's worth having a look at old Crysis Warhead. Note that we've got different cards in the graph for both Gamer and Enthusiast tests. Without the anti-aliasing on and with the shaders and effects set to just Gamer the Super Overclock just shrugs its shoulders and eats the game alive. Insane scores.
With everything set to maximum in the Enthusiast testing it's up against mainly dual-GPU/dual-card setups and yet still just monsters it. The GTX590 is no match for this single card, let alone the reference GTX580.
Moving on to the seriously demanding test that is v1.9 of Crysis 2 with the Hi-Res Texture pack, the GTX580 SOC just laughs at it. At stock it's just a shade below the magic 60 FPS barrier but our overclock swiftly despatches that marker. Either way it's quite something to see a single GPU card beat out the top of the range AMD HD6990.
Metro 2033 has always preferred any dual card setup to a single card, but the SOC makes a damn good fist of it, giving the highest single GPU result we've ever seen. It can't match the dual GPU nVidia stuff but is still miles ahead of the reference GTX580. We're swiftly running out of superlatives.
Alien vs Predator
Once again the GTX580 SOC makes mincemeat out of the other single-GPU cards on test in the always gorgeous AvP.
Far Cry 2
We finally reach a result in which the Gigabyte GTX580 SOC doesn't stand astride the graph like a colossus. Admittedly it's Far Cry 2 which is a little older than most of our games, and hasn't faired too well with various driver updates. None the less we have to report what we find and the SOC is slightly slower than its reference brethren in this test.
The GTX570 is so good we use it as the main GPU in our CPU and motherboard test rigs, and it's about the best value price/performance card around. It's some mark of how good the GTX580SOC is that in Mafia 2 it's 60% better than the GTX570. In fact it's so good that it's knocking on the door of the HD6990.
The Witcher 2
Gaining 6FPS in The Witcher 2 might seem like a small gain, but when you consider it's only 19 frames behind the mighty MARS 2 it starts to put things into perspective. Make no mistake, The Witcher 2 is fearsomely tough on graphics cards, but the GTX580 makes a seriously good stab at it.
What can we say about the Gigabyte GTX580 Super Overclock that isn't obvious to anyone who has read the preceding pages? And if you haven't read the preceding pages, stop skipping to the conclusion and go back, there is a wealth of useful information there.
When we heard that there would be an overclocked version of the GTX580 we confess we were fairly nonplussed. It wouldn't be the first factory overclocked card, and we've seen a few that have good performance so it really had to be something special to catch our eye.
Something special it most certainly is. The looks capture you first. It's not the most aesthetically pleasing card if you like little touches that don't add anything, but if you appreciate epic engineering then it's most certainly a charmer. The thin-ness of the card is a particular highlight as tri-fan solutions normally mean triple-slot too. This is, albeit a few mm, but thinner than the dual-height PCI bracket. Not only has it got three big PWM fans and a huge load of fins, but it's got a genuine vapour-chamber too, and this really moves the cooling into another league.
Performance is even more startling than the cooling though. In a lot of our tests it provided the highest GTX580 score we've ever seen and was often either neck and neck, or even above, some of the dual-GPU setups we tested. It's staggering. Our thesaurus has been well-thumbed trying to find other superlatives to describe the GTX580 SOC, and we think that says it all.
If you want the fastest single-GPU on the market, look no further. This is insanely fast. If you want to take your overclock to new levels it has that covered too. Both with the dual-BIOS LN2 switch, or just on air with the OC Guru software. We saw north of 1GHz on the core capable of stability on most of our tests, and with a little extra time for those finite tweaks we're sure it would be stable on anything you threw at it.
We love it, you'll love it. It's so phenomenal that not only is it worthy of our Gold Award, but our performance award too. Stunning.
Thanks to Gigabyte for providing the GTX580SOC for review. Discuss in our forums.