Nvidia unveils its fastest graphics card

Nvidia on Tuesday announced its next-generation graphics processing unit, the GeForce GTX 580, which the company said is its fastest-performing GPU to date.

The GTX 580 is the first product based on the new GF110 architecture. Depending on the application, it can be 20% to 35% faster than its predecessor, the GTX 480, said Justin Walker, GeForce product manager at Nvidia. The GTX 580 has 512 processing cores, while the GTX 480 had 480 cores.

The GPU is designed for enthusiasts such as gamers, Walker said. It will support DirectX 11, a set of tools for delivering realistic images and sound when playing games on Windows 7 PCs.

The company has re-engineered the chip at the transistor level to generate less heat and consume less power than its predecessor, Walker said. The GTX 480 attracted a lot of criticism for generating excess heat.

With the GTX 580, Nvidia has resolved the heating and noise issues that plagued the GTX 480, said Kelt Reeves, CEO of Falcon Northwest, which makes PCs for enthusiasts.

"[The GTX 480] was hot and loud, and putting two of them in a system cooked each other and everything else in the box," Reeves said.

The GTX 580 also provides a significant speed increase over the GTX 480, while reducing the noise level, Reeves said.

In benchmarks gathered by Falcon Northwest, two GTX 580s in a two-way SLI (scalable link interface) configuration outperformed three GTX 480s in a triple-SLI configuration. In SLI configurations, multiple graphics cards can be placed next to each other in a single system to boost graphics performance.

In trying to push performance, GPU makers are always concerned about excess heat dissipation and power consumption, said Dean McCarron, principal analyst at Mercury Research.

"It's normal for that segment of the market," McCarron said. GPU makers try to push performance in an effort to get an edge over the competition.

Nvidia competes with Advanced Micro Devices in the graphics market. However, the companies take different approaches to developing GPUs. Nvidia looks at how much performance can be delivered, while AMD favors lower power consumption over performance, McCarron said. The differing approaches have their own benefits and attract different buyers, McCarron said.

The GTX 580 will become available worldwide on Nov. 9. Graphics cards with the GTX 580 GPU will be available in retail starting at $499, according to an Nvidia spokesman.

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