by Alexey Stepin , Yaroslav Lyssenko
06/06/2011 | 12:13 PM
The GeForce GTX 580 graphics card is surely Nvidia’s most advanced and successful product today. As we know from our tests, this top-end single-processor card can satisfy most gamers, especially if they do not use super-high resolutions like 2560x1600 or 2560x1440. After all the mishaps with the G200 and GF100 processors, Nvidia’s stake on high-performance single-chip solutions has finally won.
However, the price of that product can repel quite a lot of gamers. The GeForce GTX 580 currently sells at its recommended price of $499 and it is but rarely that you can find it for $10-20 less. At the same time, the GeForce GTX 570 is considerably cheaper. Its recommended price is $329 and it can be found in retail for $300-310. And it is as good as the GeForce GTX 480 in its specs and surpasses the old GF100-based flagship in overclockability.
We already tried to make a GeForce GTX 570 perform like a GeForce GTX 580 in one of our earlier reviews. We found out that factory-overclocked GTX 570s cannot do that since their performance is only 7 to 10% higher compared to the reference GTX 570. But there is indeed a chance of overclocking a GeForce GTX 570 to the level of a GTX 580 if you do that manually.
So now we are going to pick up the topic we started in our article called Pre-Overclocked Nvidia GeForce GTX 570: Gainward vs. Zotac and check out three more GeForce GTX 570 cards in the same test:
Each of these graphics cards is special in its own way, and we are going to dwell on their peculiarities, but the subject matter of this review is in finding out the overclocking potential of the cards and checking out the real-life benefits of overclocking them. We will also talk about their consumer properties such as noisiness and cooling system performance.
First, let’s take a closer look at each of the products we are going to test today.
The first card is in many ways a copy of the more advanced ASUS ENGTX580 DCII we tested earlier.
We don’t see any differences in the quality or design of the packaging except for the model name and the specs. It’s good that ASUS indicates the card’s GPU clock rate right on the box. This information is important but very few manufacturers disclose it in such a way.
The external wrapper conceals a black cardboard box with gold embossing. The graphics card lies in a foam-rubber tray. Its accessories can be found in the two smaller boxes.
The accessories are the same as those of the ENGTX580 DCII. The flexible SLI bridge is a must due to the nonstandard dimensions of the PCB which prevents you from using a standard rigid SLI connector. There is everything necessary to use the graphics card but we guess that such a pompous product might have come with more accessories.
The two models from ASUS’s DCII series look almost the same. They even seem to be based on the same PCB (the GTX 570 model - on the left, the GTX 580 model - on the right):
However, this is not exactly so, as we can see by looking at their reverse sides. And after we remove the cooler, we have no doubts whatsoever:
The differences are significant. Particularly, this card has 8 power phases as opposed to 10 phases on the ENGTX580 DCII. The power system employs the same controllers, though. These are an ASUS SHE ASP0907 (we still do not know the original name of this chip) and an uP6223 chip.
A 6-pin power connector is installed instead of the senior model’s 8-pin one.
The most interesting thing about this PCB is that it can be used not only for GeForce GTX 570 but also for GeForce GTX 580 as is indicated by the two empty seats for GDDR5 chips. In other words, the PCB has a 384-bit memory bus but two 32-bit channels are not used for the GeForce GTX 570 which is supposed to have a 320-bit bus. We wonder why ASUS needs such a flexible solution if the senior model of the DCII series has a different PCB.
The graphics card is equipped with K4G10325FE-HC04 memory from Samsung Semiconductor. These 1-gigabit chips are rated for a frequency of 1250 (5000) MHz but clocked at 950 (3800) MHz, which is the memory frequency of the reference GTX 570. Considering the complex wiring of the memory bus, we cannot expect the chips to set any records at overclocking, yet we should get as high as 4200-4400 MHz with some luck. There are 10 chips on board for a total of 1280 megabytes of graphics memory, which is more than enough for every modern game at any resolution.
It’s hard to make out the markings on the GPU in the photograph except for the model and revision number, but we could discern that this sample of GF110 was manufactured on the 48th week of 2010. Its clock rates are 742/1484 MHz, which is a mere 10/20 MHz above the reference card’s GPU clock rates. That’s not much in terms of factory overclocking but ASUS seems to leave it up to the user to overclock the card further or not. The GPU configuration is cut down in comparison with the GeForce GTX 580 and includes 480 active ALUs (out of the physically available 512 ALUs), 60 out of 64 texture-mapping units, and 40 out of 48 RBEs. The GPU voltage is 0.91 volts in 2D mode and 0.96 volts in 3D mode. Running a little ahead, we can tell you that this voltage is by far not the highest among the graphics cards we are going to test today.
The ASUS card’s connectivity options seem more adequate to us than those of Nvidia’s reference sample. It supports all modern interfaces, namely DVI, HDMI and DisplayPort, without making you use any adapters. Analog connection is supported by means of the bundled DVI-I->D-Sub adapter. The card can work with three monitors simultaneously in SLI mode only.
The cooling system is a copy of the one we saw on the ENGTX580 DCII.
It is based around a dual-section heatsink with two 92mm fans. Five heat pipes are press-fitted into the base of one heatsink to directly contact the GPU’s heat-spreader. Judging by the thermal grease imprint, the contact is good, each of the five pipes being utilized fully. The voltage regulator’s power transistors are additionally equipped with a small heatsink, and there is also a metallic plate with elastic thermal pad on the reverse side of the PCB. The cooling system looks efficient but also bulky. Like the ENGTX580 DCII, this card needs not one but two slots for its cooler. You may even want to leave a third slot free to avoid blocking its fans. This product is definitely not meant for compact computers.
This card is packed into Gigabyte’s traditional glossy box. Despite the gloss, the box design is demure and restrained.
It is as informative as the box of the ASUS card, so you can learn the card’s GPU frequency and that it belongs to the famous Ultra Durable series, for example.
The packaging offers as much protection to the product as the ASUS’s. The accessories are almost the same, too.
We’ve got a minimum of accessories here, in fact. There is no SLI bridge in the box but you can use a standard rigid one that is included with many SLI-compatible cards since the Gigabyte GV-N570OC-13I has standard PCB dimensions.
The graphics card itself has an original appearance thanks to the eye-catching cooling system with as many as three fans:
Gigabyte’s gigantomania is different from ASUS’s. Instead of adding a second tier to the cooler, the manufacturer has stretched it out horizontally and added a third fan. We’ll discuss the WindForce 3X cooler in detail shortly. Right now we are taking it off by unfastening the four spring-loaded screws around the GPU and four more screws that hold the small heatsink on the voltage regulator. Here is what we see after that:
The PCB is obviously a variation of Nvidia’s reference design developed for GeForce GTX 580/570. However, it is not a copy since the “2oz Copper PCB” technology means thicker metallization layers for better cooling. Like the original PCB, this one can be used for GeForce GTX 580 as well: a 384-bit memory bus is wired on it.
The power circuit is the same as on the reference card and consists of a 4-phase GPU voltage regulator and a 2-phase memory voltage regulator.
Like on Nvidia’s reference sample, the regulators are based on CHL8266 and APW7088 controllers. The card has one 6-pin and one 8-pin power connectors, just like the reference GTX 570.
As for graphics memory, we see the same K4G10325FE-HC04 chips from Samsung Semiconductor with a capacity of 1 gigabit and rated frequency of 1250 (5000) MHz. The graphics card has a total of 1280 megabytes of onboard memory and clocks it at 950 (3800) MHz in 3D mode, which is the memory frequency of the reference sample as well. Coupled with the 320-bit memory bus, this ensures a peak bandwidth of 152 GBps.
The graphics core manufactured on the 50th week of the last year is pre-overclocked by the manufacturer to 780/1560 MHz. That’s good compared to the ASUS card but not good enough to make us benchmark the Gigabyte at its default frequencies. The GPU configuration is standard with 480 unified shader processors, 60 texture-mapping units, and 40 RBEs. The GPU normally works at 0.95 volts, but we achieved our best overclocking results with this card at a GPU voltage of 1 volt, which is somewhat higher than the GPU voltage of the ENGTX570 DCII.
Considering the reference PCB design, it is no wonder that the Gigabyte card has a standard configuration of interfaces: two DVI-I connectors and a mini-HDMI. There is no DisplayPort connector. The vent slits in the mounting bracket do not do any good because the heatsink fins are perpendicular to them and the hot air is not exhausted outside.
The WindForce cooling system is the key feature of the GV-N570OC-13I card and even has a dedicated page on the manufacturer’s website. Three fans are already quite impressive. What’s good, the cooler takes up only two slots.
Of course, it is desirable not to install a large expansion card into the neighboring slot, too, but the most important thing is that the GV-N570OC-13I features an evaporation chamber, like Nvidia’s reference cooler. We already made sure of the high efficiency of that solution in our tests of GeForce GTX 580 and 570. Here, the evaporation chamber is complemented with a heat pipe which is connected to the additional heatsink section. You’ll see shortly how this cooler performs in practice.
The Palit GeForce GTX 570 Sonic Platinum has the largest box among the three products we are discussing. Its design justifies the word Platinum in the product name.
The box isn’t informative, though. You can only learn the type and amount of the graphics memory. The Sonic Platinum sticker informs you that the card is pre-overclocked but does not tell you the exact numbers. The graphics card and its accessories are protected with a piece of foam plastic. The accessories include the following:
We don’t see too many things here, but the accessories to the Gigabyte GV-N570OC-13I are hardly any better. The power adapter isn’t very handy as it requires two 6-pin PSU connectors for one 8-pin connector on the graphics card. You may run short of PCIe connectors with some PSUs. Power adapters from 4-pin Molex (PATA) connectors are much handier in this respect.
This GeForce GTX 570 looks very Platinum and eye-catching.
We’ve seen this design in our earlier reviews, though. For example, the Palit GeForce GTX 470 and the Gainward GeForce GTX 570 GS GLH looked very much the same. The main difference is the silvery color of the cooler casing. We had to unfasten more screws to the take the latter off than with the cooler of the Gigabyte card. We then saw the following:
Like Gigabyte and ASUS, Palit employs a PCB which is equally suitable for both GeForce GTX 570 and GeForce GTX 580. The same PCB is used in the abovementioned Gainward GeForce GTX 570 GS GLH. The unified design seems to be the trend now: you only have to add more memory chips and install an unlocked GF110 processor to produce the more advanced graphics card. Indeed, these two models from Nvidia do not differ as much as to justify the development of an original PCB with 320-bit memory bus.
The PCB does not copy the reference one, though. It is developed by Palit and features a 6+2 power circuit, like that of the ASUS ENGTX570 DCII.
The GPU voltage regulator is based on an ADP4100 controller from ON Semiconductor whereas the memory voltage controller is a tiny mysterious chip labeled as “DQ=CK 41E”. The graphics card has one 6-pin and one 8-pin power connector.
We don’t get any variation in terms of graphics memory with this card, either. The Palit GeForce GTX 570 Sonic Platinum has the same 1-gigabit K4G10325FE-HC04 chips rated for 1250 (5000) MHz. The card’s memory frequency is 1000 (4000) MHz, providing a peak bandwidth of 160 GBps (8 GBps higher than that of the reference sample).
The Palit card has the oldest GPU in this review. It was manufactured on the 47th week of 2010. Otherwise, it is the same cut-down GF110 as in any other GeForce GTX 570 with 480 ALUs, 60 TMUs and 40 RBEs. What’s interesting about the Palit card is that its GPU clock rates are increased to 800/1600 MHz and its GPU voltage is as high as 1.12 volts in 3D mode. It’s good to have such GPU frequencies out of the box, but the high GPU voltage means that the card is going to be very hot.
Like the ASUS card, this one supports all modern interfaces including HDMI, DVI and DisplayPort. The ASUS and Palit are definitely superior to the Gigabyte in their connectivity options. You can use more than two monitors simultaneously if the card works in SLI mode.
You can refer to our review of the Gainward GeForce GTX 570 GS GLH for a detailed description of the cooling system installed on the Palit GeForce GTX 570 Sonic Platinum.
The difference is only in the color and shape of the plastic casing. The cooler has a classic design with heat pipes. It doesn’t use nonstandard technologies like direct touch or evaporation chamber. It has a large aluminum heatsink connected to the copper base with four heat pipes and a couple of 80mm fans (probably Power Logic PLA08015B12HH, like in the Gainward-branded version). This cooler is effective but the GPU voltage may turn to be too high for it. Let’s check this out right now.
So, we’ve got three original GeForce GTX 570 cards each of which has some special feature. It’s time to check out which one is better in practical terms, particularly in terms of noisiness and temperature. We’ve got the following results in 2D and 3D modes at an ambient temperature of 23 to 25°C:
We can see one loser right away. It is the Palit GeForce GTX 570 Sonic Platinum which has the highest factory frequencies and GPU voltage in 3D mode. As a result, the graphics card is as hot as the GeForce GTX 580 when running heavy applications, and it also has the worst idle-mode result among the tested cards.
The ASUS ENGTX570 DCII and Gigabyte GV-N570OC-13I both boast high cooling efficiency. The ASUS is 2°C better in 3D mode but the thick metallization layers in the Gigabyte’s PCB help it to be as cool as 33°C in idle mode. Do not forget that the Gigabyte is a dual-slot card whereas the ENGTX570 DCII has a bulkier triple-slot cooler. Now what about their noisiness?
At an ambient temperature of 38 dBA our digital noise-level meter Velleman DVM1326 reported the following:
The Palit GeForce GTX 570 Sonic Platinum is the noisiest card of the three, which is the natural consequence of its high heat dissipation. We must admit that its noise is not irritating subjectively, yet it is going to be audible in 3D applications even if the rest of the computer components are not quiet.
The ASUS card comes out the winner in its duel with the Gigabyte thanks to its large heatsink and two 92mm fans. On the other hand, the difference between the ENGTX570 DCII and GV-N570OC-13I can hardly be perceived by the ear at a distance of 1 meter from the computer. Both are very, very quiet. It means that the Gigabyte GV-N570OC-13I may be a preferable solution, especially if your system case cannot accommodate the triple-slot ASUS. Moreover, one fan of our sample of the ASUS ENGTX570 DCII was brushing against the cooler casing, producing an irritating sound. We corrected this defect in a couple of minutes, yet it spoiled our impression from the product somewhat.
Here is the behavior of the graphics cards’ fans during this test:
The Palit’s fans are as fast as 3500 RPM under load, but the cooler barely copes with its job. That’s the consequence of the too high GPU voltage.
And the last test is about overclocking. Let’s see which card has the highest overclocking potential.
ASUS ENGTX570 DCII
Palit GeForce GTX 570
The Gigabyte GV-N570OC-13I wins this test, reaching GPU clock rates of 900/1800 MHz, which should help it to be as fast as a GeForce GTX 580. The Palit GeForce GTX 570 Sonic Platinum is second, but could not get higher than 850/1700 MHz in GPU frequency despite its 1.12V voltage. We should note that such experiments may be dangerous considering the high heat dissipation of this card.
The ASUS ENGTX570 DCII is quite a disappointment as we couldn’t reach even 800/1600 MHz of GPU frequency with it. Its memory frequency is higher than the Gigabyte’s, but this is still an unlucky day for ASUS.
The Gigabyte GV-N570OC-13I seems to be the best product in terms of the properties we’ve tested in this section of our review. Let’s now see how the three GeForce GTX 570s will perform in games and benchmarks.
We are going to investigate the gaming performance of three GeForce GTX 570 models using the following universal testbed:
We used the following ATI Catalyst and Nvidia GeForce drivers:
The ATI Catalyst and Nvidia GeForce graphics card drivers were configured in the following way:
Below is the list of games and test applications we used during this test session:
First-Person 3D Shooters
Third-Person 3D Shooters
Semi-synthetic and synthetic Benchmarks
We selected the highest possible level of detail in each game. If the application supported tessellation, we enabled it for the test session.
For settings adjustment, we used standard tools provided by the game itself from the gaming menu. The games configuration files weren’t modified in any way, because the ordinary user doesn’t have to know how to do it. We ran our tests in the following resolutions: 1600x900, 1920x1080 and 2560x1600. Unless stated otherwise, everywhere, where it was possible we added MSAA 4x antialiasing to the standard anisotropic filtering 16x. We enabled antialiasing from the game’s menu. If this was not possible, we forced them using the appropriate driver settings of ATI Catalyst and Nvidia GeForce drivers.
Besides the three testing participants described above, we also tested the following products:
Performance was measured with the games’ own tools and the original demos were recorded if possible. We measured not only the average speed, but also the minimum speed of the cards where possible. Otherwise, the performance was measured manually with Fraps utility version 3.4.2. In the latter case we ran the test three times and took the average of the three for the performance charts.
Just as expected, the Gigabyte takes the lead. When overclocked, it makes a worthy alternative to the more expensive GeForce GTX 580. The gap between them is very small at every resolution. The ASUS card is the slowest of the GTX 570s while the Palit, working at a GPU clock rate of 850 MHz, is somewhere in between.
Our overclocking is beneficial in the Ultra HD mode where we get a substantial boost to the bottom speed and make the game playable even with the ASUS ENGTX570 DCII which has the lowest overclocking potential. As for the GTX 570 with the highest overclocking potential, it even beats the GeForce GTX 580 at 1920x1080!
We don’t see anything interesting in this game due to its rather low system requirements. Overclocking such top-performance cards as GeForce GTX 570 is not necessary here because the frame rate is never lower than 80 fps even at 2560x1600. Still, we can note that the overclocked Gigabyte is competitive against the GeForce GTX 580.
Although Crysis 2 has lower system requirements than its predecessor, graphics cards like GeForce GTX 570 or Radeon HD 6970 cannot run it fast enough in the Ultra HD mode. Overclocking doesn’t help here. We only manage to lift the frame rate to 27-33 fps on average but it bottoms out to 15-16 fps. On the other hand, the overclocked GTX 570s perform very well in the Full HD mode.
This game is tested with the tessellation option turned on.
The bottom speed of the tested cards is too low but we can see that a well-overclocked GeForce GTX 570 can be as fast as a regular GeForce GTX 580. The Gigabyte card even beats its opponent at 2560x1600.
This game runs with enabled tessellation.
Overclocking brings benefits in this game at 2560x1600. The increase in the bottom speed from 20 to 25 fps is a nice reward for lifting the GPU clock rates up to 900/1800 MHz. The other two GTX 570s are not that successful, yet the Palit performs more or less well. As opposed to the previous tests, the GeForce GTX 580 is unrivalled. The number of active GPU subunits turns out to be more important for this game than GPU and memory clock rates.
The graphics cards are ranked from the ASUS to the Gigabyte, like in the previous tests. The overclocked Gigabyte almost makes the resolution of 2560x1600 playable, yet its bottom speed of 22 fps is still rather too low.
It is but rarely that overclocking can bring you any tangible benefits, yet we seem to have an exception from this rule with our GeForce GTX 570s. Here, our overclocking helps these cards deliver a higher bottom speed and ensure smoother and more enjoyable gameplay.
We use a patch with high-res textures and FSAA.
You may want to overclock your GeForce GTX 570 to reach a comfortable bottom speed at resolutions up to 1920x1080. The game being AMD-optimized, the Radeon HD 6970 easily beats even the GeForce GTX 580.
We enforced full-screen antialiasing using the method described in our special Mass Effect 2 review.
Overclocking boosts the average frame rate of the graphics cards in Mass Effect 2 but it was already high enough even at the highest resolutions. A regular GeForce GTX 570 with reference frequencies can easily deliver 60 fps on average at 2560x1600 and keep the frame rate above 38-40 fps in the most complex scenes.
There is no point in overclocking your GTX 570 for this game because the game itself has rather low system requirements and the difference between the average and bottom speed is very small here. There is a performance gain, of course, and the Gigabyte card is about 17% faster than the reference one at 2560x1600, for example. But you can hardly feel the difference in practice.
Again, overclocking your GeForce GTX 570 doesn’t make sense if you play at resolutions up to 1920x1080, but it can improve the bottom speed in the Ultra HD mode. Your card doesn’t have to set new overclocking records for that, by the way. The modest overclocking results of our ASUS are quite sufficient.
The latest patch allows using FSAA without disabling special effects.
The bottom speed of the GeForce GTX 570s does not grow up as much as to bring any tangible benefits. The good news is that a well-overclocked GeForce GTX 570 can beat a regular and more expensive GeForce GTX 580 in this real-time strategy.
We minimize the CPU’s influence by using the Extreme profile (1920x1200, 4x FSAA and anisotropic filtering). We also publish the results of the individual tests across all resolutions.
3DMark Vantage proves that the GeForce GTX 570 can be competitive against the GeForce GTX 580. You only need to overclock it as hard as our Gigabyte GV-N570OC-13I. The Palit card is somewhat slower than the GTX 580.
We use the Extreme profile here. As opposed to 3DMark Vantage, this profile uses a resolution of 1920x1080 pixels.
The graphics card’s clock rates are even more important in this version of 3DMark than in 3DMark Vantage. Here, the GeForce GTX 580 is overtaken even by the overclocked Palit GeForce GTX 570 Sonic Platinum.
This benchmark makes wide use of tessellation to render the surface of the earth. The number of polygons per one frame can be as high as 1.5 million!
The Radeon HD 6970 falls behind the other graphics cards because this test is optimized for Nvidia’s Fermi architecture. Like in most of the gaming tests, a well-overclocked GeForce GTX 570 can challenge a GeForce GTX 580.
We use Normal tessellation in this test.
The results of the last test on our list agree with what we’ve seen above except that the overclocked GeForce GTX 570s, even the ASUS card, are ahead of the GeForce GTX 580 at 2560x1600.
What have we found out by benchmarking three original versions of the GeForce GTX 570 graphics card? First, a well-overclocked GeForce GTX 570 can be as fast as a GeForce GTX 580 at a much lower price. For example, by overclocking one GTX 570 to GPU clock rates of 900/1800 MHz and to a memory frequency of 4300 MHz, we increased its average performance by 20 to 30% depending on the particular game and display resolution. Of course, there is no guarantee that every GeForce GTX 570 is going to be that good at overclocking. Among the three cards we tested the worst overclocking result was actually delivered by the most impressively-looking product.
But if you are lucky enough, your overclocked GeForce GTX 570 will compare with the GeForce GTX 580 and Radeon HD 6970 as follows:
As we’ve repeatedly noted in our reviews, regular overclocking is but rarely of any practical worth, but the GeForce GTX 570 proves to be an exception. It is only through overclocking that we could make that card deliver a playable speed in some tests at high resolutions: in Battlefield: Bad Company 2, S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Call of Pripyat, Lost Planet 2 and StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty at 2560x1600 and in Dragon Age II and Crysis 2 at 1920x1080. So we guess overclocking your GeForce GTX 570 is worth considering if you’ve got a monitor that supports one of the two Ultra HD modes: 2560x1600 or 2560x1440 pixels. Playing at a nonnative resolution isn’t enjoyable while the faster graphics card may be unaffordable for some users.
Now we are going to add a few words about each graphics card we’ve used for this review. The Gigabyte GV-N570OC-13I features a quiet but effective cooling system, high quality of manufacture, and excellent overclocking potential. This GeForce GTX 570 has everything to win the customer’s heart, so we award it with our Editor’s Choice.
Second goes the Palit GeForce GTX 570 Sonic Platinum which is going to be a good buy for people who don’t want to bother about overclocking. It comes pre-overclocked to GPU and memory clock rates of 800/1600 and 1000 (4000) MHz, respectively. It also looks very stylish. Unfortunately, this graphics card is rather noisy, obviously due to the increased graphics core voltage. This is also the reason why it is so very hot in heavy 3D applications. The Palit card won’t be a good choice if you want a quiet computer.
Finally, the ASUS ENGTX570 DCII certainly deserves our Ultimate Innovation award due to its truly unique design.
Unfortunately, unlike its elder cousin ENGTX580 DCII we tested earlier, it is a bit of a disappointment. Despite its massive and rather effective cooling system, its overclocking results are rather poor. We must have been not lucky with our sample, yet we have to admit that the ASUS card proved to have the lowest overclocking potential among the three. The fan brushing against the cooler casing with its impeller didn’t add any points to the ENGTX570 DCII, either. We corrected this defect in a couple of minutes, but users aren’t supported to correct the manufacturer’s flaws, are they?
So, we’d rank our pre-overclocked GeForce GTX 570s in the following way:
Of course, this is but three out of the numerous GeForce GTX 570 models available, yet we hope that our tests will help you make a better shopping choice.