It's no great secret that the GTX570 is our favourite graphics card here at OC3D. Although there are higher performing ones the combination of extremely usable performance and good pricing leave it at the top of our pile. It's close enough to a GTX580 that to get a serious leap in performance you have to move to the top-end HD6990 or GTX590 which are at least double the price.
So it's easy to imagine the interest we had in taking a look at the KFA² GTX570, one which comes with a unique cooler.
KFA² are the high-end arm of the Galaxy company who've been producing nVidia graphics cards for as long as we care to remember. Anyone who knows what the BFG stood for in Doom should be able to work out what the KFA stands for, and for those who don't let's just say that they are all out of gum.
Out of the box the KFA² GTX570 seems to be a fairly standard GTX570 design. Of course pure numbers don't tell all the story.
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Let's take a look at what makes this so different.
The packaging is a nice combination between the fairly standard GeForce font and text, and the KFA² design which definitely has its roots in graffiti culture.
The card itself is gorgeous. The cooler is plastic, but looks like metal and certainly wouldn't look out of place in any near-future science fiction. In fact we reckon it could be just the thing to pull out as HAL slowly sings "Daisy". KFA² state that they use non-reference circuit boards along with non-reference coolers, and so it proves. It's hard to see a blue board without thinking of Sapphire, but it nicely matches the fan.
At the business ends of the card we find the usual GTX570 arrangement of twin DVI-D and a single HDMI output, with power provided by two PCIe 6-pin inputs.
The centre-piece is clearly the cooler and in a stroke of genius the fan can be lifted up. How many times have we tried to clean our graphics cards only to be either thwarted by immovable shields, or requiring the flexibility of a Russian Gymnast? Now a simple lift up and all the dust and fluff can be quickly removed. Brilliant.
As always with our GPU reviews we're running the Core i7 950 @ 4GHz to make sure we've got sufficient oomph to keep things going smoothly.
Intel Core-i7 950 @ 4GHz
Gigabyte G1 Assassin
6GB Mushkin Redline
Windows 7 Ultimate x64
The KFA² overclocks very well managing to hit a very good 860MHz completely stable without any voltage tweaks. Almost more impressive still is how well the cooler manages to keep on top of things. The reference 5 series cooler from nVidia is no slouch, but the KFA² is amazingly even quieter and cooler. It's a majestic bit of kit.
3D Mark Vantage
At stock the KFA² is very close to the reference design, and when overclocked the situation is similar. Huge gains are there just by shifting the GPU Speed slider a little to the right.
3D Mark 11
Such is the nature of the shader heavy 3D Mark 11 that we'd expect the gains to be less remarkable from the overclock, whereas they are even larger. Indeed you'd have to spend a boatload of cash to get anywhere near the KFA² GTX570. Over 2000 X Marks is superb.
Unigine Heaven has been producing some rather strange results of late. On both nVidia and ATI hardware the recent frame-rates we've achieved are markedly lower than those we achieved upon its release. With this in mind it's probably wise to just look at the comparison between the stock and overclocked results and the KFA² gives us a decent improvement across the board.
The only thing we can expect from Crysis Warhead is that it's nothing if not a fussy thing. So it proves with the KFA² giving an enormous score at stock and about what we'd predict when overclocked. Either way it's an improvement over the reference design.
It's sequel, Crysis 2, is one of the newer games on our test rotation and so we've only got one comparison for the moment. The vanilla version in all it's console-based DX9 finery is solid if unspectacular and you can certainly see that with low levels of detail there is a lot to be said for a cheap dual-card configuration.
However, ramp that Image Quality up with the DX11 patch and the Hi-Res texture pack and it's clear that the underlying architecture can make a huge difference. The KFA² GTX570 puts up some stunning numbers. The level of detail is amazing and yet we're still north of 40 FPS average.
Alien vs Predator
By virtue of being a strict benchmark test AvP shows how well the KFA² performs when compared to the standard GTX570. A 7 frame-per-second improvement in both stock and overclocked trim is not to be sniffed at.
The Witcher 2
We're always on the lookout for fresh games to make our graphics cards sweat. When Crysis Warhead first appeared we never imagined anything would get close to playable, yet modern hardware dispenses with it easily. Enter The Witcher 2. This is a hugely scalable game capable of being played on almost any setup, with the obvious reductions in detail that lower settings entails.
However what we're interested in is the full-on Ultra settings, which even the creators admit is designed for future hardware. Be in no doubt that this will bring anything to its knees. The KFA² GTX570 makes a good fist of things, being around the 25 FPS mark which isn't bad considering this is the finest looking game on the planet right now.
Far Cry 2
Finally we take a look at two stalwarts who shall both soon be receiving sequels, beginning with Far Cry 2. Despite its age the Dunia engine still looks good and the KFA² GTX570 is on a par with the reference version. Who doesn't enjoy setting fire to a tree or two.
Whilst we sit tight awaiting Metro : Last Light, the KFA² GTX570 is happily munching through 2033. We've often mentioned how the game engine seems to have a finite limit on how well it performs with a single GPU and the KFA² GTX570 is no different. Although at overclocked it's the same as the reference there is certainly some improvement with the stock card.
We do enjoy it when a product such as the KFA² GTX570 comes across our desk.
For one thing we already know how brilliant the plain nVidia GTX570 is and it's the card we use in our bench rigs so we have plenty of experience of it on a daily basis. Barring a monumental snafu it's going to do well.
KFA² have wisely not fiddled too much with the basic architecture but rather focused their efforts on providing a very novel cooling solution. The basic idea, lots of fins, large heat-pipes and a good fan, isn't exactly startling but the way it's all been put together and designed is what really raised the KFA² GTX570 above many of the other versions we've seen.
The ability to lift the fan to make for easy cleaning is so wonderful we're amazed nobody else has bothered to do it before. Even more notable is that this moveable fan doesn't lead to extra rattles or reduced cooling performance. In fact the KFA² GTX570 is cooler and quieter than the already pretty damn quiet stock cooler.
Performance is excellent too, as we'd expect. The card performs well in stock trim and overclocks nicely. It's not just a 'big number' overclock either as the card makes full use of the boost to provide an effective increase in average frame-rates.
As if those weren't enough reasons to place the KFA² GTX570 into our highly recommended list, the price is pretty eye-opening too. Normally such a unique cooler would have a heavy price premium, yet the KFA² GTX570 is available for just shy of £240.
Amazing performance, stunning looks, cool and quiet. We can't think of anything we don't like about it and it's an easy winner of the OC3D Gold Award.
Thanks to KFA² for providing the GTX570 for review. Discuss in our forums.