Yesterday we took a look at the latest nVidia card, the GTX580.
Unquestionably this fixed a lot of the issues that we all had with the GTX480, primarily the heat and noise but also the cut down performance.
We were left with the overriding impression of the decimating horsepower available at our fingertips and how nVidia have regained the top spot as the graphics card of choice.
One thing though is missing. If one card is good, then two cards must surely be great. We couldn't resist finding out and so a quick phone call to ASUS and we had two reference GTX580s on hand, ready to see if we have enough rendering performance to change the rotation of the Earth.
The card is a reference design again and so is almost identical to the Zotac from yesterday. The main differences are the tiny increase in stock core speed, and the inclusion of the always excellent ASUS Voltage Tweak BIOS.
NVIDIA® GeForce® GTX580
PCI Express® 2.0
4008MHz (1002MHz GDDR5)
DVI max resolution
2560 x 1600
D-Sub max resolution
2048 x 1536
Mini HDMI-to-HDMI adaptor x1
8-pin to 6-pin Power Cable x1
ASUS utilities and driver
The box is the easily recognisable ASUS design. RPG-style man on horseback, lots of big logos, but everything clear and easy to see.
Internal packaging follows the standard ASUS formula of the incredibly sturdy black box with the gold ASUS logo we're all used to, as well as the standard set of accessories.
The cards sport the same reference cooler that the we looked at with the Zotac. The main difference here is the stealthy look of the ASUS card. Wholly black but with a large white ASUS logo, it clearly is ready to be "blinged" when the higher performance variants are released.
Following the reference design we saw yesterday we have the twin DVI and mini HDMI, along with 8 and 6pin PCIe power connectors.
Of course it wouldn't be a SLI review if we only had one card now would it.
They certainly look lovely next to each other.
Time to take a look at our test setup for today.
Not only are we testing in SLI today, but we're also going to run the single card too, just to see what the ASUS version has to offer with the Voltage Tweak. We'll compare against the stock GTX480 again, and also two GTX480s in SLI at stock speeds.
ASUS GTX580 SLI
ASUS Rampage III Extreme
Intel i7 950 @ 4GHz
6GB Mushkin Redline RAM
Corsair AX1200 PSU
Windows 7 Ultimate 64-bit
Overclocking and Temperatures
Being an ASUS card we have two methods of overclocking available to us. The primary way is the same as always, ramp up the speeds until it cries enough. Using this we were able to increase the GPU Core speed from 775MHz to 882MHz.
The second way is to use the ASUS Voltage Tweak to help stabilise the card and hopefully eke even more speed out of it. Using this we hit a whopping 950MHz on the core. A massive increase.
If you were running the cards in a water-cooled setup, or perhaps you're deaf, then you could certainly get even more performance out of the cards with the Voltage Tweak BIOS.
The ASUS cards performed so much better both in overclocking and thermally than the Zotac we saw yesterday that we're wondering if either the Zotac was an unlucky chip, the ASUS is a lucky one, or some combination of the two.
With auto fans the card barely span up to an audible level and was noticeably quieter than the Zotac.
3D Mark Vantage
At stock the GTX580 spanks the GTX480 pretty comprehensively, but even more impressive is how close the overclocked ASUS gets to the GTX480 in SLI.
Once we pair up the GTX580s though the scores go mental. 28145 3D Marks at the Extreme preset is mind-blowing. With a bit of extra time to tweak and some better cooling, 50K on the P-Score should be easy.
It's a similar story with Unigine. We never thought we'd see the day, at least so soon, when the GTX480 was made to look under-powered, but the ASUS GTX580 tramps all over it.
In SLI it's a little closer than it was in 3D Mark, but that's like saying that only getting 4 numbers on the lottery is closer to winning it than 3. It's still a long way behind.
Once we push the Image Quality to its limits it's clear where the old GTX480 used to cry enough thanks to its inability to contain the heat, the GTX580 just keeps pounding out insane frame-rates.
In SLI we almost don't need to say anything here. The difference is clear. It's in a different league entirely.
Alien Vs Predator
The modifications to the texture filtering in the GTX580 really stands out in AvP. The graph is almost stair-like in its linearity and although the GTX480 puts up a good fight, the ASUS GTX580 still trumps it comprehensively. If a single card is impressive then in SLI it's doubly so.
Batman Arkham Asylum
Gothams finest is the poster child for PhysX and nVidia hardware in general, and so it proves here. Although we're getting massive frame-rates from all of our test cards the GTX580 SLI results really made us triple-take. 300 FPS in a game that's barely a year old, with everything maxed?
Normally we run our Crysis Warhead testing at Gamer level and zero anti-aliasing. Partly because that's how we've always done it thanks to the ability of most graphics cards, and partly because Crytek didn't bother to optimise it. However as we've got more graphics power than we know what to do with it just begged to be maxed out completely, so with Enthusiast settings and 16xAA we headed back to the Island.
We ended up with quite a surprise. Although a single card is, as ever, way too little to be playable, the GTX580 in SLI can still churn out over 60FPS with these settings. Ok it's the thick end of £800s worth of silicon, but the results are undeniable.
Although it was sprouted from the same genes as Crysis, FarCry 2 took a different, but still gorgeous, route to its goal.
A single GTX580 is more than plenty to run the game with everything on Ultra High. The ASUS GTX580 when overclocked rocks over a hundred frames a second. Add another and we see 150 on the board. We're as open-mouthed as you.
Well this is a strange one. The average results seem to imply that HAWX 2 is frame-limited to 222 FPS. But that's a very odd number and the maximum rate soars well above it. We're really not too sure what to make of this apart from nodding sagely at another console game and moving on.
We'll finish up with the Crysis of the current generation, Metro 2033. It's a feast for the eyes and a kick in the plums to the computer. Finally we find the setup that gives us playable results though and it's yet another win for the latest nVidia card, the GTX580 SLI. It's a shame this isn't Quake because this setup clearly is the BFG.
Writing a summary of something like this is harder than writing one for something that is awful.
If a product sucks, you can point out all the places for improvement. But when, like the ASUS GTX580, it's stunning in every department it does tend to leave us a bit short of different ways to say "buy it now".
Starting off with the ASUS in single card formation, we're are left with the over-riding impression that the Zotac was, almost unbelievably, an unlucky chip in the silicon lottery. When we tested that we were astounded by its performance and how relatively cool and quiet it is.
The ASUS on the other hand is faster still, even quieter, even cooler. One of the down-sides to any new batch of chips is that sometimes you get a good one and sometimes you don't. This is a corker.
It comes out the box with an extra few MHz up its kilt, and is eager to push on further even leaving the voltage at stock. With a judicious tweak of the voltage thanks to the superb ASUS Voltage Tweak BIOS we hit the giddy heights of 950MHz. Let there be no doubt at all that once the "Ultra" editions of this card come out, 1GHz Core Speed should be easily achieved. You could do it on this if you've got a waterblock to hand.
If single-card is great, SLI leaves us completely breathless.
Futureproofing as much as possible is always the goal we strive for when upgrading our PC. How ironic it is then that one of the most futureproof setups you can have is an evolutionary step coming hot on the heels of one of the shortest-lived catastrophes around.
We've had a great think around the office about what could possibly bring this card down in the near future, and we can't think of anything. Unless Crytek completely mess up and Crysis 2 ends up being a bigger performance hog than Metro 2033, which is unlikely given the console roots of it, then you can buy a couple of these and be safe for as far as we can see into the future.
Of course the downside is the amount of green you'll need to put down to get a couple of these. £800+ should be a minimum if you've got the PSU and CPU to give it the backup it needs.
As a single card the improvements mean this is a winner of the OC3D Gold Award. For once the performance in SLI is enough that we'll overlook the wallet emptying price and give the SLI a OC3D Gold Award alongside our OC3D Performance Award.
Thanks to ASUS for providing the cards for todays review. Discuss in our forums.