A few days ago I told you that I’ve managed to finally get my hands on GeForce GTX 580 – the new top model GPU from Nvidia, and I was quite happy by the fact that the full cover water cooling blocks from the older GTX 480 fit nicely on the GTX 580. This was enough to convince me to upgrade to 580s, so I used this opportunity to also do some testing and compare the performance of GTX 480 and GTX 580 in a single and dual configurations (SLI). Of course there are a lot of reviews out there that have already done that, but not quite the way I wanted to test and by that I mean to test in stereoscopic 3D mode in some of the more recent and popular and of course more demanding games. So I’ve chosen 5 different games and started testing, I was eager to try the GTX 580, that is why I didn’t go for a lot of games on one side and on the other, I was having some trouble finding games that do not max out at 60 frames per eye with SLI in stereo 3D mode.
Below you will find the results from the five games I tested with, including Metro 2033 which is still one of the heaviest games, especially if you want to play it with max details and in stereo 3D mode as you will see from the charts. There are four different test scenarios in the charts – single GTX 480, single GTX 580, dual GTX 480 in SLI and dual GTX 580 in SLI, with the idea that you can compare not only the single card performance, but also to see how it scales in dual GPU configuration. The results in frames per second listed in the charts are for each eye, with 60 fps being the maximum per eye, because of the Vsync required to be forced when in stereo 3D mode. So if you see 60 fps in the chart, that actually means 120 fps average framerate for both eyes and since you cannot go further, maxing out at 60 fps per eye average simply means that the system can pretty much supply even higher fps. All the tests were done in 1920×1080 resolution with maximum detail levels and some AA/AF enabled as the specific game supports and these settings are also mentioned in the charts graphs. You may notice that the difference between single card configurations and dual card configurations are quite different with the single cards showing much bigger difference at times. The reason for that is quite simple, because of the Vsync in stereo 3D mode the top framerate is capped, so the difference in performance becomes less apparent for games where the 60 fps per eye is very close to the average achieved. And that is pretty much clearly visible in the SLI results for the first 4 games, so you should use the Metro 2033 results for judging the performance in SLI and how well does dual GTX 480 scale as compared to dual GTX 580. Also do not forget the fact that 5 frames in the chart are actually 10 frames difference, because the chart lists only the framerate achieved per eye and the actual fps is doubled, because in stereo 3D mode both eyes see different frames.
I’m starting with Battefield: Bad Company 2, a game that is still a bit challenging for single card configurations in stereo 3D mode as you can see from the results, however with dual GPU configurations the average fps almost hits 60 fps per eye. And as I already mentioned this is not good for comparing the scaling of the dual GPU configurations, although you can compare the single vs dual results. The difference between GTX 480 and GTX 580 in terms of performance is about 18% and the difference between single GTX 480 and dual GTX 480s is almost hitting 50%.
Moving to Formula 1 2010, a quite demanding game for single GPU configurations in stereo 3D mode, but not a challenge for SLI setup even with GTX 480 as the game is hitting 60 fps per eye average in both SLI setups. And this pretty much means that with two GTX 480 or two GTX 580 in SLI the minimum framerate pretty much does not drop below 60 fps per eye, so comparing between these two in the F1 game is pretty much pointless as the difference cannot be measured in stereo 3D mode. In single GPU configurations the GTX 480 is just about 7% slower than the GTX 580.
The next game in line, Fallout: New Vegas does pretty much the same as F1 2010 in terms of results, just about 8% difference between the single GPU configurations in favor of the GTX 580 of course and almost 60 fps per eye average for both SLI configurations.
Mafia II is another quire demanding games that can be a tough nut to crack for a single GPU in stereo 3D mode, however when in SLI with dual GPUs it again almost reaches the 60 fps average per eye, which makes it hard to compare the difference between SLI setup with 480 and 580. Around 14% difference between GTX 480 and GTX 580 in favor of the later of course.
And as a final, the Metro 2033 results. As I’ve already mentioned the game can stress well enough even two GTX 580s in SLI setup, and it is even more demanding for single GPU configurations in stereo 3D mode. The average fps of a single GTX 480 can make the game not so comfortable to be played in stereo 3D mode at times, because of the framerate dropping to about 20 fps per eye at maximum detail levels of course and although the GTX 580 performs better, you better go for SLI setup for that game if you want to play it in stereo 3D mode with everything to the max. The single GTX 580 is about 18% faster than the GTX 480, but if you go from a single GTX 480 to dual GTX 480s in SLI you will be gaining not only more comfortable framerate at about 70% scaling. The situation from a single to dual GTX 580s is pretty much similar with about 59% improvement in the framerate when using two cards in SLI, and the GTX 480 SLI versus GTX 580 SLI provides about 10% difference in performance.
So depending on the game when playing in stereo 3D mode you can get between 7% and 18% or an average of about 13% faster performance from the five tested games between the GTX 480 and GTX 580, so there is actually a point in upgrading a single GTX 480 to GTX 580. The scalability that a single to dual GTX 480 or GTX 580 also shows is quite nice, so you can also consider going for a second GTX 480 card to get a SLI setup instead of replacing the single GTX 480 with a single GTX 580 with a more limited budget for upgrades. Of course if you don’t have a limited budget for upgrading, then going for two GeForce GTX 580s in SLI and slightly overclocking them should solve your problem even with Metro 2033 in stereo 3D mode and will make sure you are absolutely ready for the upcoming new Crysis 2 game. And now I’m going to overclock the dual GTX 580s to see how far I can go into upping the framerate in the Metro 2033 game over the above results that were achieved with all of the video cards running at their stock parameters and not being overclocked.