Introducing The GeForce GTX 580M Notebook GPU

June 28, 2011

By Andrew Burnes

NVIDIA offers a range of mobile GPUs covering all price and performance brackets, but until today the 500M-series lacked a powerhouse GPU that could compete with the previous generation’s flagship product, the GTX 480M. Available in stores now, in a range of notebooks from a number of manufacturers, the GeForce GTX 580M Mobile Graphics Processing Unit is the most powerful notebook GPU ever made.

Equipped with a Processor Clock of up to 1240MHz, a Memory Clock of up to 1500MHz, up to 384 CUDA Cores, and up to 2GB of 256-bit 96GB/s GDDR5 RAM, the GTX 580M happily handles all the latest games and NVIDIA’s range of game-enhancing technologies. Incorporating the efficiency improvements of the latest desktop line-up, the GTX 580M also offers more performance per watt than the previous generation of notebook GTX GPUs, resulting in higher frame rates without sacrificing battery longevity.

Read on to discover how the GTX 580M stacks up against the previous performance king and its fellow GTX 500M-series GPUs.

Performance

The GTX 580M's top-end specifications push it to the top of the performance charts, beating out the GTX 480M by a fair margin. The chart below shows games running under real-world conditions at 1920x1080, with detail levels maxed, on both the GTX 580M and the GTX 480M:

Alice: Madness Returns was benchmarked with Anti-Aliasing enabled and PhysX effects set to High; Bulletstorm and Call Of Duty: Black Ops with 4x AA enabled; Duke Nukem Forever with superior Fast Approximate Anti-Aliasing (FXAA) enabled; and Mafia 2 with AA and Anisotropic Filtering enabled, and PhysX set to High.

Compared to the other GTX 500M-series GPUs, including the newly-introduced GTX 570M, the GTX 580M comes out on top, unsurprisingly:

Battlefield: Bad Company 2 was benchmarked with DirectX 11 enabled, all options set to High and with AA and AF set to 1x; Call Of Duty: Black Ops with all options maxed, AA disabled and AF set to 1x; Far Cry 2 with the DirectX 10.1 Ultra High preset enabled, all other options maxed and with AA disabled; Mafia 2 with no AA or AF and with PhysX disabled; The Sims 3 with all options maxed; and StarCraft II, similarly, with all options maxed.

The extra performance headroom of the GTX 580M allows users to enable NVIDIA’s range of game-enhancing effects in compatible titles. For example, 3D Vision 1080p mobile gaming in any of the five-hundred and twenty-five supported games is entirely possible on notebooks equipped with a 3D Vision screen panel:

Though 3D Vision may not be available on all notebook models, DirectX 11 will be supported by each and every one, allowing gamers to leverage the power of the GTX 580M to enhance the latest titles, such as Crysis 2, which just yesterday was upgraded with DirectX 11 technology, as detailed in our comprehensive article.


Crysis 2 remains smooth and playable at 34.6 frames per second in NVIDIA’s demanding test scenario, providing a vastly superior visual experience than any console, all of which render the game at sub-720p resolutions.


Click for an animated example of Crysis 2’s DirectX 11 Ultra Upgrade enhancements.

The GTX 580M happily tackles titles enhanced with NVIDIA’s PhysX technology, too. The following chart shows Alice: Madness Returns 2D game performance when enabling the three PhysX quality presets (if you’d like more information pertaining to Alice’s use of PhysX technology please read our in-depth effects comparison piece):


The performance cost going from Low to High is considerable, but the added immersion is well worth it as the in-game comparison image demonstrates below.


This side-by-side PhysX comparison says it all. Note how the enemy’s projectile forces the goop to splash upon impact and how the goop is dispersed due to Alice’s movement. With PhysX disabled the scene is devoid of immersion-adding effects.

If you demand even more performance from a top-end notebook there is a solution – purchase a dual-card, SLI version. By combining two super-powerful GTX 580M GPUs, frame rates were boosted by an average of 85% in the following benchmarks:

Aliens vs. Predator was benchmarked with DirectX 11 enabled, detail levels set to Very High and AA and AF set to 1x; Battlefield: Bad Company 2 with detail levels set to High, and AA and AF set to 4x; Crysis 2 with detail levels set to Extreme, and AA and AF set to 1x; DIRT 3 with detail levels set to Ultra, AA to 4x and AF to 1x; HAWX 2 with DirectX 11 enabled, detail levels set to High, AA to 8x and AF to 1x; Shogun 2: Total War with DirectX 11 enabled, detail levels set to Very High, AA to 4x and AF to 8x; STALKER: Call of Pripyat with DirectX 11 enabled, detail levels set to Ultra. and AA and AF set to 1x.

Compared to the GTX 560M, the GTX 580M is on average 23.73% faster in our 2D performance tests using high-end settings, but little in the way of Anti-Aliasing or Anisotropic Filtering, and no super high-end features like PhysX. In comparison, the GTX 580M is on average 23.53% faster than the GTX 480M in our 2D performance tests using the highest possible detail settings, lots of Anti-Aliasing and Anisotropic Filtering, and with advanced features such as PhysX enabled and cranked all the way up to max. This represents a significant step up in performance that makes 1080p 3D Vision, DirectX 11 and PhysX gaming achievable without frame rates dipping below thirty, and as mentioned, the addition of a second GTX 580M GPU accelerates frame rates by an average of 85% in our tests, and by 97% in the Shogun 2: Total War test, resulting in super-smooth, ultra-detailed real-time strategy gaming at 68.4 frames per second with demanding DirectX 11 enhancements enabled.

Optimus

Battery technology has advanced greatly in recent years, with higher capacity cells jammed into smaller and smaller spaces, but at the same time CPU and GPU technology has also advanced, resulting in comparative battery life due to the greater power demands of the new components. To counteract the increased power draw users are forced to purchase extra-large batteries that protrude from the rear of their notebooks, or gigantic battery slabs that cover the entire underside of the device, making it heavier, bulkier, and even hotter to the touch.

With gaming notebooks, their GPUs run at full tilt, all the time, regardless of their current operational status, resulting in a massive power draw even when typing a document or browsing Facebook, so no matter the size of the battery it still runs dry within an hour or two. To counteract this annoyance, NVIDIA launched their new Optimus technology in February 2010. Constantly monitoring the system's requirements, Optimus enables and disables the built-in NVIDIA GPU as required, using the low-power Integrated Graphics Processor whenever possible. For example, if you're browsing Facebook the NVIDIA GPU will be disabled, giving you up to five hours of usage, but if you click onto a 720p Flash video hosted by YouTube, Optimus will enable the NVIDIA GPU to make use of Flash's GPU acceleration to ensure that video playback is silky smooth. Similarly, if you're bored of responding to emails and crave some Crysis 2 action, the GPU will kick into high-gear and give you excellent performance.

Manufacturers will be offering a range of GTX 580M-powered notebooks, some of which are equipped with 3D Vision, some with SLI, and some with Optimus, so to help you make an informed purchasing decision here are details about each of the currently-announced models:

Verde

Games such as Crysis 2 and HAWX 2 work spectacularly, but what of new titles released in the future? Well you needn't worry, NVIDIA has pledged to directly support its mobile GPUs, having heard the cries of distress from laptop users who went months without driver releases from manufacturers, if they received them at all, leaving new games slow, buggy, or completely unplayable.

Two years ago, NVIDIA launched Verde, a process that resulted in new driver packages being released day-and-date alongside those for desktop GPUs, ensuring that new titles work properly and play with the highest frame rates possible. The response from customers has been fantastic, and as with desktop GPU drivers, NVIDIA has improved performance in numerous games to a noticeable degree, as this chart shows:

Conclusion

The GeForce GTX 580M is the fastest mobile GPU ever made, impeccably handling whatever is thrown its way, be that 3D Vision, PhysX or DirectX 11. Perfectly suited to being a portable desktop replacement with only one GTX 580M GPU, the addition of a second in a SLI configuration future proofs the given notebook for a good generation to come thanks to its raw power that manhandles the likes of Battlefield: Bad Company 2 at 80.8 frames per second with every bell and whistle enabled, even when Anti-Aliasing and Anisotropic Filtering are cranked up to 4x.

23.53% faster than the GeForce GTX 480M, the GTX 580M includes the power efficiency improvements of NVIDIA’s latest and greatest desktop GPUs and makes use of Optimus on certain manufacturers' models, giving users up to five hours of battery life when working or web browsing, and then instantly switching into a game-crushing GPU-accelerated mode when Crysis 2 is fired up. Even without Optimus, the GTX 580M notebooks are truly portable mobile games machines that allow you to frequent LAN events with the minimum of fuss whilst your friends are lugging their heavy, expensive PCs to and fro, and their monitors, and their accessories. And if your chosen GTX 580M notebook features 3D Vision technology you can even watch 3D movies when you're all gamed out.

The GeForce GTX 580M notebooks are in stock now at your favorite e-tail and retail outlets.