Article by NV News Editor In Chief John "ragejg" Grabski
November 9, 2010
In the hobby/tech/enthusiast world we've become familiar with the term “refresh”. Often used to attach a new and positive connotation to a product or service that has previously underperformed in one way or another, this “re-do” of sorts has become a welcome sight with regards to certain technologies over the years. Successful refreshes of recent products include Ford's Mustang (a model-year 2011 refresh put a lustworthy and fuel-efficient standard 300 hp v6 under the hood, replacing an outdated 4.0L unit, garnering the v6 model more attention than it's ever seen)
... and Microsoft's Windows 7, operating system where optimization of OS processes and resources, as well as user interface tweaks made this well-publicized refresh an attractive option versus much of the PC world's view of its predecessor, Windows Vista).
Both of these product refreshes had a couple things obviously in common: an increase in efficiency and improvements to ease-of use. GPU pioneer NVIDIA is no stranger to product refreshes. From the Geforce 256 DDR to the 7900 series, NVIDIA proved to the GPU enthusiast market that tweaks to existing technologies that improved efficiency and ease-of-use could make for marketable improvements in user experiences.
As of this writing in late 2010, NVIDIA has been marketing and selling its first generation of Fermi-based GPUs with limited success. The flagship model GTX 480, although a popular discussion subject on GPU-related forums, communities and review sites, has not exactly lit up the sales charts. Given that it is a “Halo” GPU, it's not expected to be a volume seller anyway, but a few nagging issues such as noise, heat output and power consumption have made it an easy target for rival AMD which markets their GPU products in a way that attempts to play off of Fermi's inherent weaknesses. That's not to say that NVIDIA can't do the same thing right back to AMD, as Fermi-based GPUs have proven to perform DirectX 11 features such as hardware tessellation more efficiently than comparable AMD GPUs.
NVIDIA is ready to introduce a new “Halo” GPU which is a refresh of the original Fermi tech. Called the GTX 580, this improved chunk of silicon was engineered to increase efficiency and improve ease-of-use for high-end gamers and PC hardware enthusiasts. To quote NVIDIA, the Geforce GTX 580 is “designed for gamers who want to enjoy their games at the maximum graphics settings and screen resolutions, with high levels of AA enabled”. To me that sounds like this GPU could likely run every game out there at 1920x1080 to 2560x1440 with at least 4x AA. Well, since the GTX 580 is coming to the market priced at $499 USD I sure hope it can do at least that, if not a little more.
Shown alongside the other Fermi-based GPUs with gaming capabilities, it appears from the outset on a superficial level that the GTX 580 is simply a natural progression... evolution over revolution. It appears that the improvements continue the lockstep of performance gains seen when going from GTS 450 to GTX 460/465 to GTX 470 etc. It is worth noting that the GF104-based GTX 460 cards seemed to offer “more efficient” performance than their GF100 counterparts, however... they ran cooler, consumed less power, and when overclocked properly, a GF104 GTX 460 could almost catch a GTX 470 in many games. So has NVIDIA taken notice of some of the efficiencies of GF104, and will they bolt some of that logic onto GF100 to make for a well-received refresh? And might there be other improvements, ones that don't show up on paper?