ASUS is one of many manufacturers that have factory overclocked video cards even during hard launches like the GTX 580 was. ASUS’ ENGTX580 (GTX 580) Voltage Tweak edition video card is slightly clocked higher than the reference GTX 580s.
The launch of the Nvidia GeForce GTX 580 came very fast, and while the card performed exceptionally well all around, some people were disappointed by the SLI performance that it had to offer. In some cases the GTX 480s in SLI performed better than the GTX 580s in SLI. Some of these problems were caused by the the hard launch and premature drivers that Nvidia released, but is the same still true after 3 weeks? When we first reviewed the Nvidia GTX 580, we were using the ForceWare 262.99 drivers, but Nvidia reecently came out with the ForceWare 263.09 drivers, which could have some performance increase over the past 262.99 driver. We’ll go into more detail about that in the following pages.
When the GTX 580 launched, most manufactures were not able to come out with their own overclocked versions of the GTX 580. ASUS was one of the few manufacturers to have factory overclocked cards with the launch: the ASUS ENGTX580 Voltage Tweak. It is a bit ridiculous that the core speed on this card has only been raised from 772MHz to 782MHz, but ASUS claims it produces about 50% more speed, higher performance, and greater satisfaction. We’ll put that statement to the test in our overclocking section, and we’ll also have some numbers for certain benchmarks.
For those that missed the launch of the GTX 580, there was lots of information going around about the new GF110 core improvements, and the new implementation of a vapor chamber design cooling. ASUS follows the same design, which proved to be very successful for the Nvidia reference cards. With stock cooling, we were able to overclock the Nvidia GTX 580 to a stunning 933MHz on the GPU from 772MHz, and 2550MHz on the memory frequency, about 542MHz higher than stock frequency of the memory. With the ASUS GTX 580, we are going to try our best to get stable clocks with higher performance than what we were able to achieve with the reference card. However, because ASUS is using the same reference design, we doubt that there will be much of a difference between the two cards.
To summarize the GF110 chip, Nvidia raised the core count from 480 cores to 512 CUDA cores. The core and memory frequencies have been slightly raised as well, and new PolyMorth and Raster Engines have been added to help tessellation rendering and speed up the conversion of polygons to pixel fragments. We’ll have more on the next page for a GF110 recap.
The GF110 Architecture – Improved / Optimized FERMI
As we mentioned on the previous page, the GTX 580 has went through a lot of architectural enhancements and the two major changes were the FP16 texture filtering, which helps with texture-intensive applications, and the new tile formats that improve Z-cull efficiency. The chart below from Nvidia shows how the architectural enhancements improved performance from the GTX 480, the extra performance granted from the faster clock speeds on the core and memory, as well as the extra 32 cores that were unlocked on the GTX 580, making it a true 512 CUDA core GPU.
Earlier there was a Nvidia GTX 480 video cards which had 512 cores, but the power consumption was also much higher. With the optimized GF110 chip, the GTX 580 can maintain the same power efficiency as the GTX 480, and still gain performance.
With the new GF110 chip, PolyMorph and Raster Engines have been added to help with tessellation. While the new PolyMorph engine helps with tessellation performance in games, the extra Raster Engine helps with the conversion of polygons to pixel fragments. Now with 16 PolyMorph Engines and 512 CUDA cores, the 580 is able to achieve a stunning 2 billion Triangles per second. That is a tremendous amount of polygons, something we would only see in Hollywood blockbuster movies. Now all of this can easily be rendered real-time with the GTX 580 GPU. Nvidia’s new demo Endless City shows this off, rendering and playing back everything in real-time.
The Radeon HD series video cards still have a much harder time with tessellation based benchmarks, which means that when games start incorporating extensive tesselation into their geometry, the Nvidia cards will have an advantage over their AMD counterparts. There are some games that already take advantage of tessellation, like H.A.W.X II (coming out on 11/12/10). The Unigine Heaven 2.1 benchmark also tests tessellation capabilities. While the tessellation visual improvement is very limited at the moment, we believe that tessellation will be taken much further in the future, making it possible to make characters, terrain, and objects much more belieavable than they are now.
For the GF110 design, Nvidia completely re-engineered the previous GF100, down to the transistor level. The previous chip had to be evaluated at every block of the GPU. To achive higher performance with lower power consumption, Nvidia modified a very large percentage of the transistors on the chip. They used lower leakage transistors on less timing sensitive processing paths, and higher speed transistors on more critical processing paths. This is why Nvidia was able to add the extra 32 cores to the final Fermi architecture, while also adding another SM to the chip.
To compare the power consumption of a GTX 480 to that of a GTX 580, we tried to overclock the GTX 480 as far as we could, trying to match the performance of the GTX 580. While it was difficult to reach the performance of the GTX 580 with our Galaxy GTX 480, we got within 2 FPS of the performance of the GTX 580. While the performance was very close, the shocking part was that we were using well over 100W of power. The performance-to-power consumption ratio is definitely improved on the GTX 580′s GF110 chip. The following chart compares the GTX 480 with the GTX 580 for overall performance per watt, showing that the GTX 580 can perform over 35% better than the GTX 480 in 3DMark Vantage.
For many of Nvidia’s previous video cards, the GPU’s thermal protection features meant that the GPU would be downclocked when at extreme temperatures. This would protect the cards from unwanted damage. However, with the release of stressing applications such as FurMark, MSI Kombustor, and OCCT, the latest video cards can reach dangerously high currents, potentially causing damage to components on the card. Nvidia integrated a new power monitoring feature into the GTX 580, which will dynamically adjust performance in certain stress applications if the power levels exceed the card’s specifications. These dedicated hardware circuitries run real-time, monitoring the current and voltage on each of the 12V rails. These rails include the 6-pin, 8-pin, and the PCI-Express edge connector.
Nvidia made improvements when developing the GTX 580 based on what consumers said about the GTX 480. The thermal characteristics of the GF110 chip are also much better than of the GF100. We’ll go into more detail about the GTX 580 reference card’s cooling solution on the following pages. What we see on this chart is that the GTX 480 is roughly about 9-10 dBA higher than the GTX 580. Generally, a human perceives each 10 dBA increase as being twice as loud as the previous noise level. The GTX 580 will perform much quieter than any high-end card Nvidia has released in the past few years.
Based on the tests we did in our labs, the GTX 580 does indeed perform very quietly during high loads. We tested the thermal improvements and acoustic improvements on the card, and with our Silverstone TJ-10 chassis and some acoustic dampaning on each side panel, the GTX 580 was totally inaudible during gaming. The other fans in the system were a bit louder than the GTX 580. When we ran Furmark, the fan speed starts getting faster. However Furmark is not a real-life based application because it actually pulls more power and heat out of the video card than a real-life application would. Also, if we push the fan speed on the GTX 580 to 100%, we can definitely hear the fan loud and clear. During our testing period, we played Metro 2033 for about an hour in a closed chassis with no side ventilation, and the fan speed only reached up to 66%, which kept a very quiet environment for gaming.
The new cooling solution on the GTX 580 uses a special heatsink design, including what is called a vapor chamber. Think of the vapor chamber as a heatpipe solution, but instead of just contacting the heatsink fins in certain areas, the vapor chamber 100% contact with every fin of the heatsink. This helps tremendously by spreading the heat out over a large block of a heatsink.
The GTX 580 also has a new adaptive GPU fan control, and the card is designed for great cooling potential in SLI setups. The fan has been redesigned to generate a lower pitch and tone, which allows for lower acoustic noise. The back of the cover is designed to route the air towards the rear bracket, improving SLI temperature performance.
The vapor chamber is a sealed, fluid-filled chamber with thin layered copper walls. When the heatsink is placed on the GPU, the GPU quickly boils up the liquid inside the vapor chamber, and the liquid evaporates to vapor. The hot vapor spreads throughout the top of the chamber, transferring the heat to the heatsink fins. Finally, the cooled liquid goes around and returns to the bottom of the vapor chamber, allowing the whole process to restart again. The hot heatsink fins are cooled by the air being pushed through the fins of the heatsink.
Continue onto the next page, where we examine the Nvidia GeForce GTX 580 in more detail.
Specifications & Features
The difference between the older GTX 480 (GF100) and the new GTX 580 (GF110) becomes visible once we take a look at the specs for the GTX 580. We can clearly see that the number of CUDA cores has been raised from 480 to 512. The Graphics Clock, Processor Clock, and Memory Clock frequencies have also been increased, allowing the GTX 580 to get ahead of the GTX 480 quite a bit. The ASUS ENGTX580 Voltage Tweak version of the reference GTX 580 comes with a slightly overclocked GPU core from the standard 772 MHz to 782 MHz. This overclock is frankly laughable, because we highly doubt that it will give even 1 FPS higher performance in today’s latest games, like Metro 2033, etc. On the reference GTX 480 and GTX 580, the Graphics Clock has jumped from 700MHz to 772MHz, and the Processor Clock speed from 1401MHz to 1544MHz. The memory frequency has gone from 1848MHz to 2004MHz, allowing the user to achieve a fantastic memory frequency of 4008MHz. Of course these numbers can be overclocked, and that’s exactly what we are going to do with the ASUS ENGTX580 Voltage Tweak video card.
|Graphics Engine||Nvidia GeForce GTX 580 (ASUS ENGTX580 Voltage Tweak)|
|Bus Standard||PCI Express 2.0|
|Graphics Processing Clusters||4|
|Engine Clock (Graphics Clock)||782 MHz (772 MHz Standard)|
|Shader Clock||1564 MHz|
|Memory Clock||4008 MHz ( 1002 MHz GDDR5 )|
|Total Video Memory||1536MB GDDR5|
|Texture Filtering Rage (Bilinear)||49.4 GigaTextels/sec|
|Transistor Count||3 Billion|
|Power Connectors||1 x 6-pin, 1 x 8-pin|
|Recommended Power Supply||600 Watts|
|Thermal Design Power (TDP)||244 Watts|
|Resolution||D-Sub Max Resolution : 2048×1536
DVI Max Resolution : 2560×1600
|Interface||DVI Output : Yes x 2 (DVI-I)
HDMI Output : Yes x 1 (via Mini HDMI to HDMI adaptor x 1)
HDCP Support : Yes
|Accessories||1 x Power cable
1 x Mini HDMI to HDMI adaptor
|Software||*Please follow the driver setup instruction to download SmartDoctor application on ASUS website prior to use|
|Dimensions||11 ” x 5 ” Inch|
As a result of the GPU redesign, the GeForce GTX 580 also has a lower temperature threshold than its predecessor. Whereas the 480′s GF100 chip had a temperature threshold of 105C, the 580′s GF110 has a threshold of 97C.
The power protection circuits on the GTX 580 video cards also prevent applications like FurMark and OCCT from using dangerous currents which could damage the video card in the long run. It has been reported that because of this, the performance and temperatures users get from FurMark and OCCT are significantly exaggerated from the actual power consumption and temperatures a user would get in a real-life application, such as a video game. On the other hand, for those looking into pushing their cards even further than what they were designed for, the latest build of GPU-Z allows the GTX 580 to bypass the current restrictions that were set up by Nvidia.
The length of the card has not changed at all from the GTX 480, and while the main specs for SLI state that the card is designed for up to 3-way SLI, actual 4-Way SLI motherboards are capable of running 4 x Nvidia GeForce GTX 580s in 4-way SLI.
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What is CUDA?
CUDA is NVIDIA’s parallel computing architecture that enables dramatic increases in computing performance by harnessing the power of the GPU (graphics processing unit).
With millions of CUDA-enabled GPUs sold to date, software developers, scientists and researchers are finding broad-ranging uses for CUDA, including image and video processing, computational biology and chemistry, fluid dynamics simulation, CT image reconstruction, seismic analysis, ray tracing and much more.