Nvidia took a bit of a beating from AMD last year, but the green team has been ramping up products in response. Let's take a look at how Nvidia's latest video card, the high-end GTX 580, does against the competition.
Need More Power, Captain!
If Nvidia was a wrestler, it'd be the Undertaker. Big, mean, and not particularly personal, Nvidia tries to choke-slam the competition whenever possible. The company offers plenty of products along a broad range of prices, but it is clearly proudest and most interested in its ultra-high end video cards.
This has been a problem before. ATI's Radeon 4800 series undercut the GTX 200 series cards at every turn, and when Nvidia responded with the GTX 480 (and other GF100 based cards) it found its new GPU was a costly and power-hungry beast.
But while Nvidia is rarely subtle, the company often makes up for this with force. And so we have the latest video card from the company - the Nvidia GTX 580.
The Nvidia GTX 580 uses Nvidia's latest GPU designed, code-named GF110. It is essentially a direct refinement of GPU that powered the GTX 480, with only a handful of minor changes. The GTX 480 was great card from a performance standpoint, so Nvidia's efforts have focused on power efficiency.
But don't mistake this as an indication that the GTX 580 is slow. It's not. The GTX 480 was the fastest single-GPU video card ever made, and the GTX 580 has now inherited that throne. In fact, the GTX 580 is able to fight with the Radeon 5970, which has two GPUs packed on a single card, for the title of fastest video card. The Radeon 5970 wins some fights, while the GTX 580 wins others.
No game currently available is capable of bringing the GTX 580 to its knees. Even Metro 2033, arguably the most demanding and beautiful game currently available, achieves 30 frames per second at a resolution of 1920x1080 with detail set to very high.
Performance Per Dollar
Of course, high-end hardware tends to be very expensive. This is also the case with the Nvidia GTX 580, which currently has an MSRP of $509. Most examples of the GTX 580 are selling for even more than that, most likely because of scarce supply.
Needless to say, this hurts the value of the GTX 580. The GTX 570 is only somewhat slower, but it retails for $350. The Radeon 6970 is under $400, and the Radeon 6950 can be had for as little as $300. While these cards are not as fast, they're quick enough for most games at most resolutions. It's hard to justify the price of the GTX 580 unless you play games at resolutions beyond 1080p.
Overall, the GTX 580 is a good product. It clearly offers outstanding performance, and it manages to solve the power consumption issues of the GTX 480 while doing so.
These improvements aside, it's clear that Nvidia has continued its Undertaker approach to the business. This card is far more than most gamers will ever need, and it's price far higher than most gamers can afford. It body-slams the competition, sure - but do you really want to invite it into your home?
Still, I am willing to recommend this product. Practicality aside, there are indeed gamers with $500 to spend and a desire to own the faster video card possible. If that's what you're looking for, the GTX 580 is unquestionably the card to buy.