Here it is… the fastest DX11 graphics processor
NVIDIA has finally announced its GeForce GTX 580, its newest high-end GPU that is built for DirectX 11 graphics performance dominance. And what DX11 really means, is “tessellation” (the ability to add polygons on the fly to add details to polygonal objects). This is the most visible new feature of Microsoft’s DirectX 11.
The GeForce 580 GTX is build on a refined version (internally called the performance-kicker) of the “Fermi” architecture that was used for the 480GTX. This means that the GTX 580 has higher absolute performance, but also better performance/Watt, and a better cooling system. All that translates to anywhere between 20% to 30% in speed across a battery of benchmarks (as measured by NVIDIA). Not bad at all, after a 7-months evolution. This improvement has been made possible thanks to optimizations on the architecture itself, and to the addition of more computing cores which are running at a higher frequency.
Why is Tessellation cool?
Look at the amount of triangles. Without on-board tesselation, it would be hard to do this – fast
And now, with full shading…
Tessellation is great in a couple of ways. First, it’s scalable, so developers can use it scarcely on low-performing graphics processors (GPU), and crank it way up when they can. Secondly it doesn’t just “smooth” polygons out, it can add real details like spikes and bumps. Here are a few examples that NVIDIA has been showing around. As you can guess, these are apps that best demonstrate tessellation, but some of them are also real-world games that will ship soon.
This is an NVIDIA internal demo that draws 2 Billion triangles/sec. Sega used 1 Million polygons/sec for Virtua Fighter 3
Tessellation starts creeping into games
When the first DX11 GPUs arrived on the market, there was no question that by the time real-world games used that feature significantly, a couple of generations of cards would have come. That’s about 18 months and games typically take at least that much, and often more, to be created. But we’re starting to see the first titles appear and although they often use tessellation for relatively obvious uses (terrain, polygon smoothing, bumps…) game developers will soon fully adapt their production pipelines to fully utilize tessellation. That’s why there’s a growing interest among high-end gamers, the group that the GeForce GTX 580 is built for.
If you don’t plan on running games that use tessellation, chances are that you can find a GPU with a better price/performance ratio than the GTX 580.
Liquid evaporation is more efficient for cooling
At some point, hardcore NVIDIA users had to put up with hot and noisy graphics cards, and believe me when that happens it’s not fun for NVIDIA either. Fortunately, the GTX 580 has a better cooling system that uses liquid trapped in the heat sink itself. The evaporation of the liquid cools the chip more efficiently than if it was just metal conducting the heat. NVIDIA also says that it has improved its software thermal management, so the fans run as slow as possible. All of that should reduce the noise problem by a big margin. For reference it is quieter than the GeForce GTX 285 (47 decibels versus 52).
The GeForce GTX 580 is the fastest DX11 GPU because it is so fast at tessellation. NVIDIA is betting big that developers are going to quickly ramp up games, and you can be sure that NVIDIA is helping them to do so. This “faith” in tessellation is quite logical: this is a feature that the graphics industry knows how to use very efficiently and we’re quasi-certain that it will be a must-have feature when the DX11 installed-base will be large enough. In the meantime, it’s hard to tell how rapidly games will actually adopt it, but already, we’re hearing about high-profile titles that will have the option (Call of Duty anyone?). For hardcore gamers with the means to upgrade, it will be hard to resist the eye-candy appeal when those games hit.