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Old 12-07-10, 07:21 AM   #2
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Less than a month after NVIDIA's release of the $499 GeForce GTX 580 based on the updated and improved GF110 GPU, the Santa Clara company has followed up with another high-end product for enthusiasts – the GTX 570. This is intended to be a replacement of the GTX 470 which has enjoyed generally positive reviews regarding performance, but the words haven't been so positive when talking about GF100-equipped graphics cards on the noise level and power consumption front. The GTX 580 left reviewers and customers impressed with it's increased performance over the GTX 480, along with less noise, less heat and less power consumption. The GTX 570 aims to do the same thing, except at a lower price point.

The Transition from GF100 to GF110:
By now most GPU enthusiasts are familiar with the GF100 architecture, which took NVIDIA's brute-force approach to new heights with outstanding fillrate and memory bandwidth, with a new focus on geometry as well as the now well-known Direct3D 11 feature – tessellation. The GF100 GPUs excel at this feature, and in many gaming scenarios where moderate to heavy tessellation is used, NVIDIA's offerings outperform AMD's in dramatic fashion. Antialiasing performance was also superb, making use of the new Coverage Sample AA (CSAA) to help overall image quality. Surround gaming is also a Fermi exclusive, and when coupled with NVIDIA's 3D Vision technology, the gameplay experience is amplified to an even more exciting level.

The GF110 architecture, which is still not completely understood in some circles, represents a refresh of the GF100 Fermi GPU, and is often referred to as “Fermi Done Right”. Increases in efficiency allowed the new chip to run fully-enabled, something the GeForce GTX 480 (the best example of this) could not do. Technically speaking, the GF100, namely the GTX 480, came to market with only 480 of its 512 CUDA cores enabled, and it is generally believed that NVIDIA's initial GF100 offerings had some memory controller issues as evidenced by the relatively low GDDR5 effective memory speeds. Heat output, power consumption and noise levels gave the GF100 cards a slightly soured reputation, despite the great performance and features. GF110 (occasionally referred to internally as GF100B) aimed to fix as many of the original Fermi's shortcomings as possible. Aside from the fact that the GTX 580 was fully-enabled with higher in clock speeds, representing a 6.6 to 10% performance increase, there were other things going on under the surface. The Z-culling engine was improved, allowing GF110 to better dispose of unneeded pixels during rendering. Also, the original Fermi texture filtering architecture was replaced with that of the GF104 GPU, allowing GF110 to process 4 half-precision (FP16) pixels per clock, whereas GF100 could only filter 2. These changes also account for an 8% performance improvement as stated by NVIDIA. Physically speaking there were changes to the GF100 die to decrease signal noise and refine (to put it broadly) the chip.

The changes in the GPU and resulting video card architecture weren't meant only to improve 3D rendering performance, they also applied to Fermi's Achille's Heel, power consumption, heat output and noise levels. Power consumption at idle and under load was improved by around 10%, but given that the GTX 480 consumed more power than the dual-GPU HD 5970, the 10% improvement still places it in the “power-hungry” category. But an improvement is an improvement; no need to belittle NVIDIA's efforts, especially given the 40nm manufacturing process that they likely wanted to have ditched by now in favor of something smaller. As far as heat level is concerned, I can personally attest that the NVIDIA reference GTX 580 put off less heat than the only GF100 card I've reviewed, a GTX 465. GF100 load temperatures generally hit about 95 degrees Celcius, and the GTX 580 came in quite a bit cooler, usually by15-20%. These lower temperatures were attained by use of a new vapor chamber cooler,

... a GPU that just plain puts off less heat, and the heat output is managed much better due to improved fan controlling software. On the noise front, GF110 cards are a lot quieter than GF100, due once again to the improvements NVIDIA made to the fan software, as well as the design of the fan itself. Fan spin-ups and spin-downs are less abrupt, fan speeds themselves don't have to be as high due to improved fan and shroud design, and the cooling design helps keep things cooler so the fan doesn't have to run as much. Furthermore the new GF110 power monitoring circuitry, seen here, offers on-the-fly voltage protection for each 12v rail on the video card itself, protecting the GPU and components from damage due to combinations of high clock speeds and heat.

In summary, GF110 is a marked improvement over GF100 on many fronts. Reviewers, gamers and hardware enthusiasts alike have had good things to say about the GTX 580, but now at a much lower $349 price point, the GeForce GTX 570 has appeared. Now, let's look more specifically at NVIDIA's newest of their Fermi-based 5-series GPUs.

Article Index/Navigation

Previous: Title
Next: A Look at NVIDIA's GeForce GTX 570

  1. Title/Contents/Review Goal
  2. Introduction
  3. A Look at NVIDIA's GTX 570
  4. EVGA's GTX 570 SuperClocked
  5. Testing Environment
  6. Performance Results - Gaming Tests
  7. Performance Results - Synthetic Benchmarks
  8. Overclocking, Temperature & Noise Comments
  9. Conclusion
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