The Zotac GTX 570 is the daddy in graphics cards terms. At a chunk under £300 it's a card that will more than likely take up most of your upgrade budget, so is it worth that outlay on a single component?
Well, as we've seen before the answer is not that easy. Dropping in the fastest, most expensive GPU is not always the magic pill to deliver instant frame rate bonuses for your favourite games.
But this GF 110-powered graphics card is a quite excellent example of just why the Fermi architecture is so good, especially in this second generation of Nvidia's GPU.
It carries the same number of CUDA cores and texture units and only drops 8 ROPs compared with that gaming behemoth. Thanks to a transistor-level tweak of the Fermi architecture Nvidia was able to drop operating power-draw and heat production, meaning it could open up far more of the full Fermi GPU for the GTX 5xx series.
So as well as being quieter, cooler and less power hungry, this latest line up of Nvidia cards are also significantly quicker. And that's definitely no mean feat of engineering.
Despite the difference in price between the GTX 570 and the AMD HD 6950 there isn't a huge gulf in performance between them when you take the CPU out of the equation. Indeed, as we mentioned before, when it comes to the serious work of DirectX 11 tessellation in Metro 2033, the HD 6950 actually scales much better in terms of resolution compared with the GTX 570.
When we're talking about upgrades though we always have to keep the CPU in the equation and that's where things get really interesting.
On the Intel side the Nvidia architecture seems to favour its processors; scaling much better than competing AMD graphics cards. With AMD graphics cards on an AMD setup there is actually very little difference in the GPU's performance as you swap in faster, more powerful CPUs.
With the Nvidia cards though they rely much more on the CPUs performance for their own speed. The Nvidia-favouring DiRT 2 benchmarks aside, the HD 6950 is just as capable as the more expensive GTX 570 with high-performance AMD CPUs and far better at coping with lower-end processors in general.
So in the end it comes down to your platform choice. If you want the fastest frame rates on an Intel rig then Nvidia cards will generally deliver the performance you expect, and on an AMD setup pairing up its CPUs and GPUs is the way to go. Makes sense really.
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