The GeForce GTX 580 SLI configuration offers an expectedly high level of performance. Costing about $1000, it is more expensive than the premium-class single cards such as GeForce GTX 590 and Radeon HD 6990, yet it is also generally faster than either of these products which come at a recommended price of about $700. With such price tags, the additional $300 can hardly matter much for an enthusiast who wants to have the fastest gaming computer. The unprecedented performance of the GeForce GTX 580 SLI subsystem is indicated by the summary diagrams:
Premium-class graphics subsystems are hardly ever used with inexpensive monitors which are limited to this display resolution. Anyway, we can note that the average advantage of the GeForce GTX 580 SLI over the Radeon HD 6990 is about as high as 29%. It is also 14% ahead of the GeForce GTX 590. SLI technology boasts superb scalability, the SLI tandem being up to 98% faster than the single GTX 580. It must be noted that the frame rate is often limited by factors other than the graphics subsystem performance when you play at this resolution.
At the resolution of 1920x1080, the average advantage of the SLI tandem over the GeForce GTX 590 increases to 16-17% but the Radeon HD 6990 gets somewhat closer (26%). As a matter of fact, there is no real need for the huge computing resources provided by the SLI pair of GeForce GTX 580s even at this resolution, perhaps with the exception of Aliens vs. Predator and Dragon Age II. Nvidia’s insistence on developing sophisticated single-processor graphics cards is finally justified because the single GeForce GTX 580 can satisfy 99%, if not 100%, of gamers at 1920x1080 which is the most popular display mode today.
Finally, we’ve reached the Ultra HD display mode which is the main battlefield for premium-class graphics subsystems. The GeForce GTX 580 SLI subsystem shows its best, beating the Radeon HD 6990 by 26% on average and by 60-80% in individual tests. The only exception is Dragon Age II which, incidentally, is used by AMD for promoting its graphics cards. The increased speed of the GeForce GTX 580 SLI can make a difference in terms of playability in such games as Aliens vs. Predator and Total War: Shogun 2. Otherwise, the GeForce GTX 590 should be quite enough.
The GeForce GTX 580 SLI has the typical downsides of any SLI configuration. First of all, it is bulky. In our case, it is especially bulky because one graphics card has a triple-slot cooler. There are not so many system cases and mainboards that are ready to accommodate it. Second, the GeForce GTX 580 SLI needs a lot of power. You have to double the power consumption of a single GeForce GTX 580, which is 265 watts, by two. The resulting number is very high. Moreover, you have to take care about proper ventilation to avoid overheat. Finally, this graphics subsystem is going to depend on software support on the side of the driver and game engine, but this problem is typical of single-card SLI-based solutions as well.
All in all, the GeForce GTX 580 SLI is a fast, expensive, hot and uneconomical toy for computer enthusiasts whose priority is speed. At the current moment, it is the fastest dual-GPU solution based on two individual graphics cards. If you want even more speed, you should consider 4-way configurations built out of two Radeon HD 6990s or GeForce GTX 590s.
ASUS ENGTX580 DirectCU II Summary
As for the particular card we used for this review, the ASUS ENGTX580 DirectCU II is quite an exciting version of GeForce GTX 580 which features high-quality components, a custom-made PCB, and an advanced cooling system. It is targeted enthusiasts, especially at overclockers. It combines high quality with high performance. The single downside we can note about it is the large dimensions of its cooler. This card alone can occupy a lot of space inside your computer case, so you can hardly use a lot of other expansion cards alongside it.
- Made with highest quality components;
- Best performance in its class;
- High performance with enabled tessellation;
- Wide range of supported FSAA modes;
- Minimal effect of FSAA on performance;
- Fully-fledged hardware HD video decoding;
- High-quality HD video post-processing with scalability;
- Supports Nvidia’s exclusive PhysX and 3D Vision technologies;
- Wide range of GPGPU applications developed exclusively for Nvidia CUDA;
- Low noise;
- Highly efficient cooling system;
- Good overclocking potential.
- Large cooling system;
- Modest accessories bundle;
- High price.