PROS / The updated memory clock speed and use of Fermi technology make this card exceptional.
CONS / It only has a single GPU.
VERDICT / The fastest single GPU on the market hands down.
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In early 2010 Nvidia released their GTX 400 series of graphics cards for the hardcore gamers out there. However, just six months later they released the Nvidia GeForce GTX 580, the first model in the 500 series from this outstanding company. Much like the 480, this model uses DirectX 11 and has a single GPU. Most of the primary features that affect the 3D rendering and speed were updated to meet today's standards and the reality is that the GTX 580 is one of the fastest and best-performing graphics cards on the market.
Nvidia chose to stay with the single GPU for the GTX 580, which is by no means a bad choice; they have been making this type of video card for years and know exactly what they are doing. This is by far the most powerful single-GPU card on the market when it comes to overall power output and benchmark tests. If you compare this card to that of the older 480 model you will notice that the specs are slightly higher across the board and that the power needed to run the card is slightly less than most of the competition. The transistor count was upped ever so slightly from their previous model and still outnumbers that of any card on the market.
When it comes to finding a graphics card that will be able to play any game at top performance it's important to look at the clocked memory and overall memory. The Nvidia GTX 580 has the highest clocked memory speed we've seen – 2004 MHz – which even outperforms any dual-GPU cards on the market today. You are going to love the 1.5GB of memory because this will ease the amount of RAM needed to render the intense graphics of games like "COD: Black Ops" and other graphics-intensive games.
The memory in this graphics card is GDDR5, which is the new standard for any card that wants to compete with other high-end gaming hardware. The memory bus width did not change from the 480 model and stayed at 384-bits, which should still do just fine compared to most graphics cards on the market today. An amazing 192.4 bandwidth was added which comes very close to dual-GPU cards.
The Nvidia GTX 580 is like most other graphics cards from Nvidia and simply offers the connections that are most common. In this case they offer dual-channel DVI, Mini-HDMI 1.3 and also support VGA. Dual-channel DVI is by far the most common connection type and pretty much makes up for the omission of an HDMI connection. This card has the type of connections that are in demand and not a lot of extra ones which can be nice if you don’t know a lot about graphics cards and want to install your own.
With the release of Windows 7 also came the very important DirectX 11 update to graphics cards. Nvidia's first card to offer this DX 11 was the 480, so it was no surprise to see their replacement model with the same technology. The reality is that both of these cards use Fermi architecture based on CUDA and also use DirectX 11 for superior tessellation, which has always been one of Nvidia's strongest areas and will most likely stay that way.
The Nvidia GTX 580 graphics card is the second series of models to use what Nvidia likes to call Fermi; this is basically what CUDA was but with greater potential. CUDA allowed for higher performance, a wider array of applications to run at once, full-spectrum computing and just about anything else in terms of computing power. Now take that and add in the capability to work with everything DirectX demands and you have the new and improved Fermi. This technology is designed to aid developers, allowing them to create even better games for all of us to enjoy.
One of the main areas that Nvidia focuses on with their graphics cards is tessellation. This technology basically allows complex, intricate images such as clothing, water and fire to render faster. Things that have a lot of moving parts such as hair or grass are much harder to render because there are thousands or even millions of objects that have to move according the wind or the movement of an object. Tessellation makes it possible for each blade of grass or flame in a fire to act like it would if you were to see it in real life. This technology is always improving and will always be a huge since games will continue to become more lifelike and even more detailed.
The ability to run multiple screens at the same time is another thing that most gamers and game developers need. This graphics card only allows for three displays which is enough for most gamers out there but will fall short for those developing the games of the future.
All Nvidia cards can support up to 3 GPUs at the same time and for the most part this is about all you would ever need for any system. The graphics card itself is cooled by a fan and is also cooled by the fans or liquid cooling system installed into your machine; the combination should have no problem keeping this card at a reasonable temperature. The card is quite thick at 4.4 inches high which will take up 2 slots of most mother boards; keep this in mind if you are planning on adding two cards to your system.
When push comes to shove, the Nvidia GeForce GTX 580 is going to beat out just about every other graphics card. In terms of tessellation, there is no graphics card on the market that can outdo the GTX 580. We would love to see Nvidia add a dual-GPU card to their lineup, but we're more than confident that this card will impress any gamer out there. Now if you want to really destroy the competition you can link two 580s together with Nvidia's own SLI multi-GPU solution; that would outperform anything on the market without even breaking a cyber-sweat.