The GTX 580 is very much a GTX 480 on steroids and while that doesn't make it a bad card, it's frustrating that NVIDIA chose to bring in a new series number for it when it probably wasn't really deserved. Apart from the performance boost the GTX 580 offers over the GTX 480, there's not really anything new coming to the table. Maybe if the new 500 series had the ability to run three monitors off the one card, implemented DisplayPort or added something more, then it could've been more justified, but just a performance boost doesn't really seem to warrant it.
If the GTX 580 we're looking at today was the GTX 480 in March, we have to wonder what would've changed. The heat's a lot bitter, the noise levels are more impressive and the performance at GTX 480 speeds but with the 512 Shaders is strong. There's no denying that it would've impacted AMD a little, but if the card launched in November '09 like NVIDIA had hoped and expected it to, I think it's safe to say that 2010 would've been a completely different year.
You can see that moving from 480 Shaders to 512 Shaders brings with it a really nice performance boost that can equate to 10% at the higher resolution sometimes. Throw in a mild overclock; which is the reference clocks that the GTX 580 carries, and you've got yourself some killer performance.
Get a little more wild with the OC like we did when we tested the GTX 580 Overclocked, and you see some massive performance gains at 900MHz over the competition.
NVIDIA has done a good job with the GTX 580 when it comes to overall performance since earlier in the year they dealt with the issues that the GTX 480 presented them with. They then released the GTX 465, GTX 460 and GTS 450 and in that time they managed to have ready the GTX 580 and in the following days, the GTX 570.
The 500 series might only be a slight refresh when compared to the 400 series, but at the end of it all if NVIDIA can offer us more performance at a similar or cheaper cost, who are we to complain?
Sure, it would've been nice to see the GTX 480 launch with the 512 Shaders, these cooling and noise numbers, but it didn't. We can't change the past and NVIDIA know that; instead they'll work on the future. Their aim is to grab more market share then AMD and with what we're seeing here in the late of 2010, 2011 is going to be a very interesting year from both sides.