ZOTAC GTX580 3GB AMP2! (SLI) Review

👤by Richard Weatherstone Comments 📅11-08-11
The ZOTAC GTX580 3GB AMP2! is an all-round excellent performer. I could easily end the conclusion right there because it is very hard to find fault with a card such as this. Before we get carried away though, let's look at each section of today’s sample in greater depth.

To begin with the packaging is good but alas not great. There are still some minor improvements I would like to see such as a full foam enclosure and not just a bracket holding the card in place. While the foam insert used by ZOTAC is adequate and certainly an improvement over the GTX560 AMP!'s, I feel that not having a complete foam base does not give the whole package as much physical shock protection as packaging used by other manufacturers. A separate compartment, perhaps a simple cardboard box would also be a welcome addition. I am being very picky here though as the package, for all intents and purposes is enough to ensure the card should arrive in tip-top condition. What minor faults there are or more than compensated for by ZOTAC included a free copy of Assassins Creed Brotherhood.

The card itself is a behemoth. Being a triple slot design it is hard to see anything other than a maximum of two cards used in a system at any one time. 3 cards could potentially fit on an E-ATX board but that would be a rarity. What the cooler lacks in demeanour it certainly makes up for in performance, both via acoustics and cooling. The noise is the lowest we heard from a cooling design when set to 100% and when coupled with one of the best results from cooling we have seen this is an amazing achievement. The ZALMAN/ZOTAC VF3000 cooler is clearly a very well designed piece of equipment. I can however still find a minor fault with this and that is that the cooler shroud is easily flexed which could result in the fan either catching the bracket or indeed stopping completely, not what you want when running the card under load. That said, out of the two cards we received, only one card needed a slight adjustment to ensure the cooler performed flawlessly.

The performance of the card was great throughout our suite of benchmarks as you would expect from a pre-overclocked flagship product. The additional 1.5GB of GDDR5 ensured we didn't run into VRAM limitations, even at 2560x1600 resolution with all the trimmings added. Indeed, we actually suffered CPU limitations at times during the SLI testing which when you consider we use a Core i7 920 at 4GHz is not easy to do, such is the extreme performance capabilities when two of these beasts play together. As a single card there is nothing out there that this card could not cope with. When you add a second card, the performance is simply sublime and topped our suite of benchmarks on almost every occasion. My one minor disappointment was that I failed to get more MHz from the core. While 911MHz is a very good achievement, this is nothing ground breaking and not quite up to the clockspeed achieved on other samples. That said we may have just been unlucky with the sample we received as with most cases, it's the luck of the draw and as such I find it hard to criticise the ZOTAC for that. However, with cooling so good as the design found on this card I couldn't help but get greedy with the core clockspeed as temperatures were never an issue.

The card does however present one major problem and it is one aspect that cannot so easily be dismissed: Price. At first glance £450 appears very expensive. The ZOTAC card is however very competitive when you compare it to other GTX580 3GB cards as most reference cooled versions weigh in at a similar price point. When you consider the ZOTAC version has a £40 cooler attached and a free quality game, the overall package does begin to compensate for the high price. Ultimately though, the higher performing HD6990 at just £50 more presents a serious headache to NVIDIA as you would either have to have spacing problems (length) or serious NVIDIA fan boy issues not to go for the AMD card at this price point because it offers better performance for not a lot more money. The AMD card is however, a LOT louder so it really would come down to whether you wanted ultimate performance at the sacrifice of acoustics (AMD HD6990) or great performance with the pleasure of silence (ZOTAC GTX580 3GB AMP2!). It's certainly a tough quandary to have but I fear that most would opt for performance.

To summarise, the ZOTAC GTX580 3GB AMP2! is an astonishing piece of hardware and would suit anyone who yearns for high performance without sacrificing silence. Couple two of these cards together and the performance really will blow you away, they are THAT good. Were it not for the few very minor issues and of course the high price, this card would have laid claim to our very top award, the Vortez Platinum. On this occasion though, it will have to 'settle' for Gold. The Gold award is a brilliant achievement in itself but like the overclocking, despite being great, I was left with a bitter taste of frustration as this card could be so much more had it clocked 50MHz more and cost £50 less!

In addition to the GOLD award, we have also granted the cards in SLI configuration the prestigious ELITE award. We could not award the single card Elite as it was outperformed by other GPU's, however with the two cards in SLI (regardless of the £900 price tag), they offer the best all round performance, cooling and acoustics we have seen thus far from a multi GPU setup at Vortez and rightly deserve our top performance award.

- Fantastic Performance
- Class Leading cooling
- Very quiet operation
- 3GB of GDDR5
- Included free game

- The Price
- Triple slot design may be an issue for some
- No protective backplate
- No 6Pin adapter

Thanks to ZOTAC for providing todays review sample.

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