Nvidia introduced its first Fermi graphics cards in March last year. The GeForce GTX 480 and GTX 470 were about six months late. Based on the GF100 architecture, both cards used a surprising amount of power and therefore ran extremely hot. It goes without saying that we were a bit disappointed from the start. Here is an excerpt from what we had to say about the GTX 480 back then …
"Either way, the GeForce GTX 480 isn't the beast we were hoping for. It's the main competitor, the Radeon HD 5870 isn't a sucker, so beating it in almost every test, but many, is a real feat." Cases it wasn't. " t much faster, which makes it harder to justify a price hike on the 6 month old Radeon. "
Nvidia was able to improve the performance of the two GeForce GTX 480 and GTX 470 in the months that followed, which improved their position. Still, the cooler, quieter, and cheaper Radeon HD 5870 was a very compelling case, and we preferred it over Fermi's flagship offerings.
In early July, Nvidia had enough time to develop a proper version of the GF100, codenamed GF104. The new GPU brought the GeForce GTX 460 to life, a more performance-conscious offering that offers mainstream consumers the perfect performance-to-price ratio.
To address the immediate threat posed by the GTX 460, AMD had to cut prices on its Radeon HD 5830 and followed suit with the launch of its Radeon HD 6800 series late last month. The Radeon HD 6870 and 6850 graphics cards outperform both the 768MB and 1GB GeForce GTX 460, effectively ending their three-month tenure and putting pressure on Nvidia again.
Nvidia is now staring at the barrel of AMD's 6900 series (expected next month) and has decided to take the first shot. Fermi is back with all his might and presents the new GeForce GTX 580 based on GF110.
Despite the new naming scheme, the GeForce GTX 580 is basically a nifty GTX 480. When it launched in the spring, the GeForce GTX 480 wasn't the product Nvidia intended. The streaming of multiprocessor cores and TAUs (Texture Addressing Units), which packaged only 480 out of 512 possible cores and 60 out of 64 potential TAUs, was easy to spot. The GeForce GTX 580 offers all 512 SMs and 64 TAUs as well as some other improvements.
The GF104 architecture (GTX 460) has been updated with new texture hardware that improves performance. This design is also used for GF110 cards. Originally the GF100 was able to compute a single texture address while fetching four 32-bit / INT8 texture samples, two 64-bit / FP16 texture samples, and one 128-bit / FP32 texture sample per clock. The GF104 and GF110 can compute a single texture address while retrieving four 32-bit and 64-bit texture samples.
According to Nvidia, the tessellation boost is possible thanks to the improved Z-culling. This is another important adjustment that means the map will spend less time rendering polygons that you won't see. This should make the new GeForce GTX 580 even more powerful in titles that make heavy use of tessellation, such as Metro 2033.
According to Nvidia, the GeForce GTX 580 runs cooler and quieter than the GeForce GTX 480 while offering better performance. This is an exciting prospect for gamers. We look forward to putting this Asus GeForce GTX 580 board through its paces. But let's first take a closer look at the hardware itself.