NVIDIA geforce gtx 580

So here it is, the fastest DirectX 11 graphics card around today. No caveats here. There's none of the GTX 480's distraction over the dual-GPU HD 5970: this is as fast as it currently gets.

AMD will argue that the HD 5970 is still a faster card, but only if you select your tests carefully.

The really impressive thing is the GTX 580's performance boost has come in a cooler, quieter, less power-hungry package. Granted, the power and temperature drops aren't quite as significant as we might have hoped, but the fact they've come without having to follow a die-shrink is definitely worth noting.

It's a simple sell as well. The GTX 480 is being completely replaced by this new card – essentially the card it should have been all along – and comes in at the same price point too.

Still, that's £400 for a graphics card, but with the safe knowledge that it's the fastest, most future-proof thing on a single PCB right now.

And that timing is significant too.

The GTX 580 has sneaked up quietly, stealing the HD 6870 and HD 6850's weak rumbles of thunder. What's more, those cards were just caught up in the crossfire, since what the GTX 580 is really gunning for is the supposedly imminent launch of AMD's new top-end cards: the Caymen GPU-powered HD 69xx cards.

The rumours say they'll appear towards the end of November, but then there have also been rumours that there's some delay keeping stock away from AMD's board partners.

With Nvidia setting out its stall in this fashion, the onus is definitely on AMD to produce something special to try and beat the GTX 580. From speaking with the green company, though, its thinks this latest Fermi card has got the top-end GPU battle sewn up for the foreseeable.

The only slightly sticky point for the GTX 580 is the SLI performance of cheaper cards. A twin GTX 460 setup will come incredibly close to the top-end card's figures and for £100 less. Pair up a couple of GTX 470s and they will spank it for the same price.

So if you're sitting there with a GTX 460 and wondering whether it's time to go the whole hog and buy a GTX 580, have another think. You may be better served paying £250 less and just getting another GTX 460 for your rig.

However, that's only if you've got a PSU beefy enough to cope with SLI and a certified motherboard too.

We liked:

The increased clocks, reengineered parts and reintegrated GPU components all add up to some impressive performance metrics. A new top-end card should deliver those, though. What we weren't necessarily expecting was that all to come alongside quieter, cooler and less thirsty running too.

We disliked:

There's really not a lot to dislike about the GTX 580. Nvidia has addressed pretty much all the issues we ever had with the GTX 480 it's directly replacing. The only remaining niggle is that it's bloody expensive, but bringing this card out for less than £400 would turn the GPU industry on its head.

With no new top-end AMD cards to put the GTX 580 up against there is no clear competition for what is now the fastest DX11 card available. Even the twin-GPU HD 5970 has met its match. Until the Caymen cards make an appearance, this is as good as it gets.

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