We’ve frequently criticized Nvidia for its predilection to developing exceedingly sophisticated single-processor graphics cards that often go too far ahead of their time. For example, the early versions of the G200 chip were manufactured on 65nm tech process that wasn’t appropriate for a graphics core incorporating as many as 1.5 billion transistors. As a result, the GeForce GTX 280 card had a TDP of over 200 watts and was measured to consume up to 178 watts in our own tests. It was only inferior to the dual-processor GeForce 9800 GX2 in this respect. Besides being hot and uneconomical, the G200 was also not very profitable to make on the tech process available for Nvidia at that time. The company eventually corrected this problem by releasing a 55nm version of the core under the codename of G200b.
Later, we had the same story with the GF100 which consisted of 3 billion transistors: the GeForce GTX 480 card consumed as much as 260 watts in 3D mode. It surpassed the power requirements of the Radeon HD 5970 which itself was far from economical.
Luckily for Nvidia, the situation improved with the introduction of 40nm tech process. While the GeForce GTX 480 could not lay claim to the title of the best single-processor graphics card of its time, the revised GF110 core made it possible for Nvidia to roll out the successful GeForce GTX 580. Thus, Nvidia’s tactical inferiority has proved to be a strategic victory. The company now has a premium-class product that can satisfy most gamers and is free from the typical downsides of multi-GPU solutions.
AMD hasn’t yet released anything like that. Its Radeon HD 6970 is obviously inferior to the GeForce GTX 580 whereas the Radeon HD 6990 is a dual-processor card and depends on software support to deliver its best performance. Nvidia’s GeForce GTX 590 is software-dependent as well, though. Generally speaking, single-card dual-processor products are largely the result of compromises the developer has to concede in terms of GPU configuration and clock rates to meet the size, temperature and electrical constraints. The resulting multi-GPU card is of course inferior to multi-card solutions, although faster than any other single graphics card.
Dual-processor graphics cards are very expensive and may cost you as much as $700 now. Their target audience is rather limited, especially as people who can afford them may prefer to build a graphics subsystem out of two or more top-end single-processor cards from AMD or Nvidia. So, our today’s review is for those users who are considering the option of buying a couple of GeForce GTX 580s and running them in a SLI tandem.