A scant few weeks after the launch of the GeForce GTX 580 comes Nvidia's next salvo in the battle for your bucks: the GeForce GTX 570. A cool £300 gets you a taste of the revamped Fermi architecture that's baked into the GTX 580, at a cost that should be a bit more palatable to the fledgling graphics card enthusiast.
Nvidia's GeForce GTX 480 came and went without much fanfare, which didn't bode well for the GPU manufacturer's first foray into the DirectX 11 market. The Fermi architecture proved powerful but unwieldy, resulting in a deskbound jet engine that crushed benchmarks whilst making you fast friends with the electric company.
The GTX 580 took things back to the drawing board, retooled at the transistor level to reduce heat, power consumption and operating noise while simultaneously edging out the GTX 480 in performance.
With the "World's Fastest" feather tucked into their cap (for now), Nvidia took a slightly more economical route with the GTX 570. They scaled down the specs and shaved $150 off of the asking price, without skimping too much in the way of performance. The GTX 570 offers a slightly lower core clock speed than the 580: 732MHz, versus the latter's 772MHz.
It also offers 480 shader units (Nvidia calls them CUDA cores), versus the 580's 512 shader units. The underlying GF110 architecture remains exactly the same, for a full breakdown, be sure to check out Jason Cross' deep dive on the GTX 580 and Nvidia's Fermi architecture.
The GeForce GTX 570's £300 price tag places it alongside AMD's £310 Radeon HD 5870. That card is just over a year old but remains a hardy competitor, having topped the charts for what seems like ages. For our tests, we pitted the GTX 570 against the aforementioned Radeon HD 5870, with the recently launched Radeon HD 6870 tucked in for good measure.
Performance: Unigine Heaven
Synthetic benchmarks generally aren't indicative of a GPU's real world performance, but they're an accepted industry standard and can give us a general idea of how a card's performance will pan out in the real world.
They're also an opportunity to stress cards in ways that individual applications can't, to really give us an idea of a particular component's operating range.
First up is Unigine's Heaven benchmark, a synthetic test for a DirectX 11 game engine. It stresses tessellation, dynamic lighting and shadows and offers extensive environmental detail.
Nvidia has been beating the geometric-realism drum for some time now, so it's unsurprising that their card excels where geometry heavy tests are concerned. AMD has also taken note: their newer, midrange card edged out its high end predecessor, a nod to the 6870's improved tessellation engine.
Performance: 3DMark 11
3DMark 11 is the new Direct X 11 based iteration of Futuremark's popular benchmarking tool and it's designed to put systems and their components through their paces. 3DMark 11 offers up a set of environment demos, based under water and in a dense jungle.
The tests vary between stressing lighting and tessellation, and feature scenes packed with complex shadows and geometry.
We tested the cards at the Extreme (1920-by-1080 resolution) and Performance (1280-by-720 resolution) profiles. The GTX 570 maintains a lead over both cards, though the distance becomes less substantial under the Extreme settings. Of particular interest is the 6870, nipping at the heels of its beefier sibling.