Articles: Graphics

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Although Nvidia has made some serious progress recently, AMD’s graphics department is still in the lead when it comes to dual-processor graphics cards. Announced as far back as November 18, 2009, the Radeon HD 5970 remains the fastest single-PCB graphics solution available. You can only build a faster graphics subsystem by using multiple graphics cards whereas the Radeon HD 5970 needs just a single PCI Express x16 slot and a high-wattage power supply.

We had supposed that Nvidia would offer an alternative with two GF100 or GF104 cores to AMD’s dual-processor product. We had even estimated its potential performance by benchmarking SLI tandems of GeForce GTX 470 and GeForce GTX 460 cards in modern games and got most impressive results, but the successor to the GeForce GTX 295 never emerged.

Why? Perhaps the GF100 chip would be too expensive for such a product and the GF104 would not be fast enough. Thus, the GeForce 400 series has reached the end of its lifecycle without ever including a dual-chip model. It is now being replaced by the new GeForce 500 line-up. We are still waiting for the mainstream GeForce GTX 560 based on a revised GF104 core, but the senior models of the new series, featuring an improved GF100 processor, have debuted successfully.

We might expect Nvidia not to have any dual-processor card on their plans because their GeForce GTX 580, even though inferior to the Radeon HD 5970 in performance, is more than enough for the vast majority of gamers. Those few users who are not satisfied can build SLI configurations after all. However, AMD has explicitly indicated a dual-processor monster codenamed Antilles in their roadmap. It is also known as Radeon HD 6990. Although delayed recently, this card is still going to come out inevitably, so Nvidia might think it a matter of personal pride and technical prestige to offer their own dual-processor alternative.

What would a GeForce GTX 590 or 595 be like if it is ever produced? If based on two GF110 or two GF114 chips, it is going to be similar to SLI tandems of GeForce GTX 570 or GTX 560 cards. The latter variant is far simpler to design and cheaper to make but the former seems to be more likely to come out because it is faster. Of course, such a card would not affect the total sales volumes much, yet it would help maintain Nvidia’s image as a maker of super-fast premium-class graphics cards capable of competing and beating the Radeon HD 6990. That variant would also look promising in terms of technical specs:

Having two samples of the GeForce GTX 570, we now want to perform another test like those we did earlier and see how fast this hypothetic dual-GF110 product may be. Its technical specs are impressive and superior to those of the old Radeon HD 5970 in everything save for texture-mapping performance which is a well-known bottleneck of the Fermi architecture. Even a single Radeon HD 6970 is as good as the proposed GeForce GTX 590 in this respect, and the Radeon HD 6990 is head above the latter at processing textures. On the other hand, Nvidia can offer faster geometry processing and tessellation, so it is not very clear who’s going to come out the best.

One of the cards to be used in our GeForce GTX 570 SLI tandem is Zotac’s GeForce GTX 570 (ZT-50201-10P model). Let’s take a closer look at it.

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