The GF110 GPU at the heart of the stock GTX 580 is the performance behemoth that Fermi should've been all along.
Not that Nvidia's flagship GeForce GTX 480 was any kind of slouch, but it wasn't the order-of-magnitude leap that we'd hoped for over the 2-series cards. The 580 came along and changed all that, delivering at last the blistering framerates that Fermi had promised.
The headline difference between the 480 and 580 – both essentially based on the same GPU – lies in the Streaming Microprocessor count.
Initial GPU yields, so the rumour goes, were too low to create a product-line that hit the 580's numbers. With tweaks to the manufacturing process, Nvidia has now achieved those yields, and as a result, the 580's GF110 offers 512 CUDA cores to the GTX 480's 480 cores.
Transistor-level refinements also mean that the GTX 580 actually draws less power than the GTX 480.
In addition, excellent heat-transference is provided by a vapour-chamber cooler, which vaporises and re-condenses internal cooling-fluids to cycle heat away from the GPU.
The Zotac GeForce GTX 580 AMP! edition ships with the same, super-efficient cooler as a stock 580, which translates into lower in-rig temperatures and considerably quieter operation than the last few generations of Nvidia card.
It's a pretty nifty arrangement of whirligigs.
The only real difference between the stock and the Zotac GeForce GTX 580 AMP! then, is the BIOS-tinkering which results in improved core-clock and memory speeds. It runs faster, but not tangibly hotter or noisier.
And as the GTX 580 also outsrips the AMD competition in performance terms, the Amp! Edition's only real competition is with the stock GTX 580.
Let's see how they fare in games-performance terms.