NVIDIA GeForce GTX 580 SLI Benchmarking w/ ASUS ENGTX580 « The Best of Hardware Reviews

ASUS GeForce GTX 580 Video Card

A couple weeks ago we got an e-mail from ASUS that caught us a bit off guard. ASUS wanted to know if we were interested in a second sample of the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 580 graphics card for SLI based testing. of course we jumped at the opportunity as we would love to see what a pair of NVIDIA flagship video cards has to offer in SLI and we are sure you would love to see the numbers as well. we also liked the fact that ASUS didn’t want all the focus on their own card. It’s not every day you see a company wanting to send you a sample and letting you put the focus on something else. In all honesty the ASUS GeForce GTX 580 video card they sent out differs from the NVIDIA GTX 580 reference design in that it has a 10MHz GPU overclock from the factory. Everything else on the card from the PCB design to the cooling solution is based off the NVIDIA reference card. we have already done a review on the GeForce GTX 580 video card, so we will be skipping the in-depth look at the card and the architecture as you can go back and read all about that if you’d like.

Today is all about benchmarking SLI, but we will take a couple of pit stops along the way.  we haven’t seen a retail bundle on the GTX 580 and we must look at the ASUS Smart Doctor utility as we have yet to increase the Vcore voltage on the GTX 580. we have heard many good things about how voltage increases really improve the overclocking numbers you can reach on this new GF110 ‘Fermi’ core used on the GeForce GTX 580.

ASUS GeForce GTX 580 Video Card Key Features:

  • Part Number: ENGTX580/2DI/1536MD5
  • NVIDIA Core: GF110 Fermi Core with 512 Processor Cores
  • Memory: 1536MB GDDR5
  • Core Clock: 782MHz
  • Shader Clock: 1564MHz
  • Memory Clock: 1002MHz (4008MHz effective)
  • 3-Year Limited Warranty

Retail Box and Bundle

The retail box for the ASUS ENGTX580/2DI/1536MD5 video card lists the main features that the card comes with. The main focal point of the box is the part where it says that the card comes with ASUS Voltage Tweak Technology for up to 50% performance by being able to adjust the GPU voltage for improved overclocking.

Turning the retail box over, we see even more marketing text in many different languages and more details on features like Voltage Tweak, DirectX 11 and the display connectors available on the video card.

The ASUS GeForce GTX 580 video card bundle included with the ENGTX580/2DI/1536MD5 graphics card includes a quick installation guide, a drivers CD with the multi-language manual, a dual 6-pin PCIe to single 8-pin PCIe adapter and a mini-HDMI to HDMI adapter.

When you fire up the driver CD that comes with the card you’ll see this GUI that allows you to check out the user manual and install the drivers and utilities if needed.

Taking a closer look at the utility section of the VGA driver disc we can see that it also comes with just one utility that might come in handy.

  • ASUS GamerOSD – Overclock during gameplay

We were told that the ASUS SmartDoctor utility will be included as part of the bundle and that our card was an early release. SmartDoctor is the utility that most overclockers will use as it allows you to adjust the card’s voltages and to overclock it to the max!

The Test System

All testing was done on a fresh install of Windows 7 Ultimate 64-bit with all the latest updates installed. All benchmarks were completed on the desktop with no other software programs running. The Kingston HyperX T1 DDR3 memory modules were run in triple-channel mode at 1866MHz with 8-8-8-24 1T timings. The ATI Radeon HD 5000 series cards were all tested using CATALYST 10.10 drivers, the NVIDIA GeForce cards all used Forceware 260.89 WHQL drivers (263.09 WHQL were used on the GTX480 and GTX580) and the ASUS P6X58D-E motherboard was run using BIOS 0303 with the processor running stock settings and Turbo enabled.

Windows 7 Drivers Used:Intel Chipset Inf Update Program V9.1.1.1025Realtek Audio Driver V6.0.1.6037 for Windows 64bit Windows 7.(WHQL)Marvell Yukon Gigabit Ethernet Driver V11.10.5.3 for 32/64bit Windows 7.(WHQL)Marvell 9128 SATA 6Gbps Controller Driver V1.0.0.1036 for 32/64bit Windows 7.

Here is the Intel LGA 1366 Test platform:

Intel Test Platform 

ProcessorIntel Core i7-970 

MotherboardASUS P6X58D-E 

Memory6GB Kingston DDR3 1866MHz 

Crucial C300 256GB SSD 

Power SupplyCorsair HX850W 

None (Open Bench) 

Operating System 

Windows 7 Ultimate 64-Bit

Video Cards Tested:

ASUS GeForce GTX 580 Video Card GPU-Z 0.4.8 Details:

NVIDIA GeForce GTX 580 Video Card GPU-Z 0.4.8 Details:

Aliens vs. Predator

Aliens vs Predator D3D11 Benchmark v1.03 is a standalone benchmark test based upon Rebellion’s 2010 inter-species shooter Aliens vs. Predator. The test shows xenomorph-tastic scenes using heavy tessellation among other DX11 features.

We cranked up all the image quality settings in the benchmark to the highest level possible, so we were running 4x AA and 16x AF with SSAO enabled at both 1920×1200 and 1280×1024 on all the video cards.

Benchmark Results: The NVIDIA GeForce GTX 580 was 16.2% faster than the GeForce GTX 480 in AvP with a resolution of 1920×1200.  when you run a pair of GeForce GTX 580 video cards in SLI the performance is insane and we saw 80FPS at 1920×1200 with the image quality settings maxed out in the benchmarks control panel. If you have a 24″ to 30″ monitor this is great news!

Batman: Arkham Asylum GOTY

Batman: Arkham Asylum is an action-adventure stealth video game based on DC Comics’ Batman for PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 and Microsoft Windows. it was developed by Rocksteady Studios and published by Eidos Interactive in conjunction with Warner Bros.

For our testing we set everything as high as it would go including Multi Sample Anti-Aliasing as we set that to 8x.

Benchmark Results: Batman: Arkham Asylum GOTY edition showed the GeForce GTX 580 was 18.1% faster than a GeForce GTX 480 at 1920×1200! when you add a second card to the system performance jumped up another 63%.

Just cause 2 

Just cause 2 is a sandbox style action video game currently under development by Swedish developer Avalanche Studios and Eidos Interactive, published by Square Enix. it is the sequel to the 2006 video game, Just cause.

Just cause 2 employs a new version of the Avalanche Engine, Avalanche Engine 2.0, which is an updated version of the engine used in just cause. The game will be set on the other side of the world, compared to Just cause, which is on the fictional tropical island of Panau in Southeast Asia. Rico Rodriguez will return as the protagonist, aiming to overthrow the evil dictator Pandak “Baby” Panay and confront his former boss, Tom Sheldon.

Benchmark Results: The NVIDIA GeForce GTX 580 was 12% faster than the GeForce GTX 480 at a resolution of 1280×1024 on just cause 2. The SLI scaling wasn’t what we expected, but we did notice a 29% performance increase.

Metro 2033

Metro 2033 is an action-oriented video game with a combination of survival horror and first-person shooter elements. The game is based on the novel Metro 2033 by Russian author Dmitry Glukhovsky. it was developed by 4A Games in the Ukraine. The game is played from the perspective of a character named Artyom. The story takes place in post-apocalyptic Moscow, mostly inside the metro station where the player’s character was raised (he was born before the war, in an unharmed city), but occasionally the player has to go above ground on certain missions and scavenge for valuables.

This is another extremely demanding game. Settings were left at High quality with AA and AF at lowest values- AAA and AF 4x, respectively, for each DirectX 9, 10 & 11 APIs. Advanced DirectX 11 settings were left at default. The section of Metro 2033 tested was the Prologue with fraps polling from when you are climbing up the ladder until opening the door to exit the metro station. this section includes many features found throughout the game including four creatures which attack you before you exit the building, dense particles, ammo in cabinets, a few computer controlled sections and, of course, Miller, your first companion.

Benchmark Results: Metro 2033 is tough on most graphics cards, but NVIDIA video cards do very well on this benchmark.  Here we see the GeForce GTX 580 is 14% faster than a GeForce GTX 480 at 1920×1200 resolution. by adding a second card into the mix we got another 76% boost in the frames per second.

S.T.a.L.K.E.R.: Call of Pripyat

The events of S.T.a.L.K.E.R.: Call of Pripyat unfold shortly after the end of S.T.a.L.K.E.R.: Shadow of Chernobyl following the ending in which Strelok destroys the C-Consciousness. Having discovered the open path to the Zone’s center, the government decides to stage a large-scale operation to take control of the Chernobyl nuclear plant.

S.T.a.L.K.E.R.: Call of Pripyat utilizes the XRAY 1.6 Engine, allowing advanced modern graphical features through the use of DirectX 11 to be fully integrated; one outstanding feature being the inclusion of real-time GPU tessellation. Regions and maps feature photo realistic scenes of the region it is made to represent. There is also extensive support for older versions of DirectX, meaning that Call of Pripyat is also compatible with older DirectX 8, 9, 10 and 10.1 graphics cards.

The game S.T.a.L.K.E.R.: CoP has no internal benchmarking tools built into the game engine, but they do have a standalone benchmark available that we used for our testing purposes. The screen capture above shows the main window of the benchmark with our settings. Notice we are running Enhanced full Dynamic Lighting “DX11″ as our renderer.

Under the advanced settings we enabled tessellation and 4x MSAA. we didn’t enable ambient occlusion as we wanted to use these test settings for mainstream cards down the road and these settings should be tough enough to stress any and all DX11 enabled video cards.

Benchmark Results: S.T.a.L.K.E.R. Call of Pripyat showed that the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 580 was 16% faster than the GeForce GTX 480. by adding in the ASUS ENGTX580 and enabling SLI we saw a 55% performance boost thanks to a multi-GPU setup at a resolution of 1920×1200.

H.a.W.X. 2 Benchmark

We wanted to include a new benchmark for this review, so Tom Clancy’s H.a.W.X. 2 was added in to see how it looked. this benchmark got some attention recently for not being neutral over the failure to use optimized code for better tessellation performance on AMD and NVIDIA cards, but that doesn’t matter to us as we will be using this benchmark to look at just AMD cards.

Aerial warfare has evolved. so have you. As a member of the ultra-secret H.a.W.X. 2 squadron, you are one of the chosen few, one of the truly elite. you will use finely honed reflexes, bleeding-edge technology and ultra-sophisticated aircraft – their existence denied by many governments – to dominate the skies. you will do so by mastering every nuance of the world’s finest combat aircraft. you will slip into enemy territory undetected, deliver a crippling blow and escape before he can summon a response. you will use your superior technology to decimate the enemy from afar, then draw him in close for a pulse-pounding dogfight. and you will use your steel nerve to successfully execute night raids, aerial refueling and more. you will do all this with professionalism, skill and consummate lethality. Because you are a member of H.a.W.X. 2 and you are one of the finest military aviators the world has ever known. H.a.W.X. 2 is due out on November 16, 2010 for PC gamers.

We ran the benchmark in DX11 mode and cranked up all the Antialiasing and Advanced image quality settings. we also enabled hardware tessellation as without that setting turned on the cards were getting well over 120FPS at a resolution of 1920×1200 and over 160FPS at 1280×1025. we wanted to stress the cards a bit and enabling tessellation appeared to do the trick as you’ll see below.

Benchmark Results: this benchmark looks amazing and you should really download it and try it out if you haven’t done so yet. we are primarily using this benchmark to check out the performance of the GeForce GTX 580 versus the GeForce GTX 470. we are seeing a 12% performance increase with the GTX 580 over the GTX 480 at 1920×1200, and just 11% at 1280×1024.  by tossing in a second GTX 580 graphics card for SLI we saw a 43% increase in performance at 1920×1200 and a 28% gain at 1280×1024. The GeForce GTX 580 SLI setup was over 200FPS in this benchmark at both resolutions, so as you can see this game title is more than playable even with 8x AA and DX11 tessellation enabled.

3DMark Vantage

3DMark Vantage is the new industry standard PC gaming performance benchmark from Futuremark, newly designed for Windows Vista and DirectX10. it includes two new graphics tests, two new CPU tests, several new feature tests, and support for the latest hardware. 3DMark Vantage is based on a completely new rendering engine, developed specifically to take full advantage of DirectX10, the new graphics API from Microsoft.

The Extreme settings were used for testing, so a resolution of 1920×1200 was used.

Benchmark Results: 3DMark Vantage showed that the GeForce GTX 580 SLI dominates any other video card setup that we have run on this test system, and with over 20 cards in the chart that is impressive to see such a big gap on the top of the chart there.

Unigine ‘Heaven’ DX11

The ‘Heaven’ benchmark that uses the Unigine easily shows off the full potential of DirectX 11 graphics cards. it reveals the enchanting magic of floating islands with a tiny village hidden in the cloudy skies. with the interactive mode emerging, experience of exploring the intricate world is within reach. Through its advanced renderer, Unigine is one of the first to set precedence in showcasing the art assets with tessellation, bringing compelling visual finesse, utilizing the technology to the full extent and exhibiting the possibilities of enriching 3D gaming. The distinguishing feature of the benchmark is a hardware tessellation that is a scalable technology aimed for automatic subdivision of polygons into smaller and finer pieces so that developers can gain a more detailed look of their games almost free of charge in terms of performance. thanks to this procedure, the elaboration of the rendered image finally approaches the boundary of veridical visual perception: the virtual reality transcends conjured by your hand.

We ran the Heaven v2.1 benchmark that just recently out with VSync turned disabled, but with 8x AA and 16x AF enabled to check out system performance. we ran the benchmark at 1920×1200 and 1280×1024 to see how the benchmark ran at some different monitor resolutions. it should be noted that we ran the new extreme tessellation mode on this benchmark.  These are the toughest settings that you can run on this benchmark, so it should really put the hurt on any graphics card.

Benchmark Results: anyone that has run this benchmark before knows that it is a killer for video cards and that you need an impressive system to get over 60FPS on this benchmark with extreme tessellation enabled. The pair of NVIDIA GeForce GTX 580 video cards running in SLI was nearly enough to reach 60FPS at 1920×1200 and what is even more amazing is that SLI scaling was seen to be 90.3% at the same resolution!

FurMark 1.8.2

FurMark is a very intensive OpenGL benchmark that uses fur rendering algorithms to measure the performance of the graphics card. Fur rendering is especially adapted to overheat the GPU and that’s why FurMark is also a perfect stability and stress test tool (also called GPU burner) for the graphics card.

The benchmark was rendered in full screen mode with no AA enabled on both video cards.

Benchmark Results: Furmark showed the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 580 performing poorly as the GTX580′s new power monitoring hardware kicked on and slowed the card’s performance down. NVIDIA said the GTX580 dynamically adjusts performance in certain applications (Furmark and OCCT) in order to keep the power within their specifications.  Here we see an example of where the new hardware monitoring management system hurts the card’s performance. we have concerns about this, but NVIDIA said they can make changes in the driver, so if a game comes out down the road a simple driver update is all that is needed to change the power level. when running a pair of GeForce GTX 580 video cards in SLI we saw more than twice the performance of a single card.  this is also due to the power monitoring hardware on the video card as it is more relaxed in SLI as the algorithm used knows the cards will run hotter in an SLI system.

Power Consumption

For testing power consumption, we took our test system and plugged it into a Kill-A-Watt power meter. For idle numbers, we allowed the system to idle on the desktop for 15 minutes and took the reading. For load numbers we measured the peak wattage used by the system while running the OpenGL benchmark FurMark 1.8.2 at 1280×1024 resolution.

Power Consumption Results: Here we see the GeForce GTX 580 SLI setup uses the most power at both idle and load power states. These results actually paint the GeForce GTX 580 SLI setup in good light as the power monitoring software kicks in and throttles the cards’ power back. when running the benchmarks for this article we kept an eye on the power meter and noticed that it spiked up to 640 Watts for a split second when running 3DMark Vantage. Our Corsair HX850 power supply had no issues handling this setup though, but be sure to be use a quality power supply if you are going to be building a system with two or more GeForce GTX 580 video cards.

ASUS GeForce GTX 580 Overclocking

Overclocking the ASUS GeForce GTX 580 graphics card with Smart Doctor 5.68 was fairly easy.

ASUS Smart Doctor allows you to adjust the GPU Vcore and the clock speeds of the memory ICs and the GPU core.  The adjustment varies on every card, but on this card we noticed that core clock was adjustable from 532MHz to 1032MHz and the range of the memory clock was from 3208MHz to 4808MHz.  The one thing this utility has that other utilities like EVGA Precision doesn’t have is the Vcore adjustment.  The ASUS ENGTX580 comes with the Vcore at 1.025V, but you can increase this up to 1.213V.  this allows for an 18% voltage increase for the GTX580′s Vcore and that means that we should be able to overclock the card further than stock voltage settings.

When we first reviewed the GeForce GTX 580 reference card from NVIDIA we hit a wall at 850MHz core, 1700MHz shaders and 1125MHz on the memory.  we used EVGA Precision to overclock that card and there were no voltage adjustments available at that time.  The ASUS ENGTX580 hit a wall right around the same point, but then we maxed out Vcore and the card just kept on overclocking!  when the dust settled we were at 926MHz core, 1852MHz shaders and 1202MHz on the memory. it should be noted that the memory clock was maxed out in ASUS SmartDoctor and we couldn’t push it any further with these clock settings.  If we pushed the core clock just 2MHz beyond 926MHz the system would lock up in 3DMark and in game benchmarks. this was the highest that we could overclock the card. still, at 926MHz we are able to get a 144MHz overclock on the core clock and this is an increase of 18%.  when running 3DMark Vantage we saw the power meter peak at 500W in the first game test.

ASUS GeForce GTX 580 Graphics Card at 782MHz/1564MHz/1002MHz:

ASUS GeForce GTX 580 Graphics Card at 926MHz/1852MHz/1202MHz:

We saw 3DMark Vantage go up from P29932 to P33417, which is a 12% jump in performance! Let’s see what it does in real games.

The jump from the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 580 reference design’s 772MHz core clock to 782MHz on the ASUS ENGTX580 only gives a slight boost to performance. The performance gain from 10MHz on the core clock is measurable, but not significant.  Overclocking from 782MHz to 926MHz, on the other hand, helped boost performance by 18% in AvP at a resolution of 1920×1200.  We’ll take an 18% performance increase from overclocking any day! If we had some more voltage and the ability to push the memory clocks further in ASUS Smart Doctor we feel certain that the card had more in it!

One thing that we noticed is that when increasing the Vcore and overclocking the card the power consumption and the temperature on the video card drastically increased. Running the 3DMark Vantage Performance benchmark we noticed that the overclock drew 153W more power at the wall. this is an increase of 43% and we repeated the test numerous times as we just couldn’t believe how much more power it was consuming.  on stock settings the temperature of the video card peaked at 73C with auto fan settings, but when overclocked on auto the system would hit 85C before it would freeze up. Remember we used max fan speeds to reach our overclock, so it looks like this aggressive overclock can’t be reached with the fan on auto. so is an 18% performance increase worth and extra 43% power usage?  that one is up for you to decide.

Final thoughts and Conclusion

The ASUS GeForce GTX 580 differs from other GTX 580 reference designs in that it has a 10MHz overclock from the factory. this gives it a slight boost in performance, but nothing significant. this is the reason we didn’t compare the ASUS GeForce GTX 580 to the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 580 in all the tests as there was no significant difference in the performance numbers.  we showed this to you in the overclocking section in the game AvP where we saw less than a 1% difference. It’s nice that ASUS put a slight overclock on the card and it will surely entice some shoppers, but they need a bigger overclock to make a noticeable difference.  The best part about this overclock is that ASUS doesn’t charge a premium for it and that is a good thing.

The sole purpose of this article was to look at SLI performance on a pair of NVIDIA GeForce GTX 580 video cards. we have to admit it was fun to benchmark and test out this $1050 SLI setup as it isn’t every day you get to play games with this much horse power under the hood. As you could see from the performance benchmarks the GTX 580 SLI setup was pretty much untouchable and was more than impressive. Gaming doesn’t get much better than this and to have all the eye candy turned on and cranked up at 1920×1200 and still being able to reach 60FPS in applications like Heaven 2.1 was awe inspiring. AMD really needs to get their Radeon HD 6900 series cards out the door to compete on the top end as the GTX 580 is really a great performing video card. If you are running a 24″ or larger monitor then you should consider a GeForce GTX 580 SLI setup as there really is no other experience quite like it. a GTX580 SLI setup is also ideal for someone that wants to run NV Surround or stereoscopic 3D with NVIDIA 3D Vision as well. we should also mention that NVIDIA Forceware 263.09 WHQL drivers worked great with our SLI setup and we didn’t have any issues enabling SLI.

Overclocking performance on the ASUS GeForce GTX 580 greatly exceeded our expectations thanks to the ASUS Smart Doctor overclocking utility. we were able to overclock our card from 782MHz on the GF110 core by 18%, up to 926MHz.  we were able to hit this impressive number thanks to the ASUS Voltage Tweak. The only negative to this rather massive overclock was the increased power consumption and GPU temperatures. we saw a 43% power consumption increase in 3DMark Vantage, so if you overclock be sure to understand that you are throwing any energy efficiency out the window.  sure, overclocking isn’t about being energy efficient, but going from 358W to 511W peak load is a huge difference. One that you can literally feel in the room after gaming for an hour or two.

When we went to check on pricing we noticed that every single GeForce GTX 580 was out of stock on Newegg! we asked ASUS if there was a supply issue and they said that “the cards have been selling like hot cakes and that they should be back in shortly”. we also reached out to NVIDIA for a comment and they had the following comment.

“We’re shipping as many boards as we can right now. Looks like Cyber Monday must’ve got us. I’m sure Newegg’s stock will be replenished shortly.” – NVIDIA PR

Newegg lists the ASUS ENGTX580/2DI/1536MD5 GeForce GTX 580 ‘Fermi’ video card for $524.99 plus shipping.  this puts it right around the same price the other ten GeForce GTX 580 video cards that Newegg has listed for sale. The ASUS branded video card stands out from the crowd as it features a 3-year warranty and comes with that 10MHz factory overclock that we talked about in the introduction. Out of the 11 GeForce GTX 580 video cards for sale on Newegg only two brands of cards even offer an overclocked card right out of the box. The other company is EVGA with their SuperClocked or Black Ops Edition series cards. those cards feature a core clock of 797MHz, which is 15MHz higher than what ASUS offers, and a bundle with more adapters and a limited lifetime warranty for an extra cost of five dollars. As you can see the market for the GeForce GTX 580 video cards is extremely competitive and at the end of the day it all comes down to brand loyalty, warranty and cost.

Legit bottom Line: The ASUS ENGTX580 is a monster by itself, but when you run it in SLI the performance is mind blowing both mentally and for your wallet. At $1050 for an SLI setup you get the performance you pay for.


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