MSI GeForce GTX 580 1536 MB Video Cards in SLI

We wonder what GTX 580 to the power of 2 creates - We figure it's a bucket load of FPS, but let's find out for sure.

Published Jan 14, 2011 4:20 AM CST   |   Updated Tue, Nov 3 2020 7:02 PM CST
Manufacturer: MSI
15 minute read time


MSI GeForce GTX 580 1536 MB Video Cards in SLI 02

AMD no doubt tried to take top spot for the fastest single GPU video card on the market, but unfortunately NVIDIA snuck the GTX 580 out quickly which offered just blistering performance and fixed all the issues that we had with the GTX 480.

I was always a bit bummed that I never got to test the GTX 480 in SLI. We only ever had one reference card come through our doors and after that we saw MSI, Galaxy and GIGABYTE release models that were all based on their own design, making it pretty much impossible to SLI them.

The main reason I wanted to test them, though, was because we knew it was going to be the fastest dual card setup we would've tested in our testbed. Crossfire wasn't scaling as strong as it is now with the HD 6000 series and the GTX 480 had a nice little jump on the HD 5870.

Today is a second chance for us to look at the top end NVIDIA offering in SLI. We've got an MSI and reference GTX 580 and together we should end up with a load of power. We heard issues of 100c cores with GTX 480s and we experienced that kind of temperature with the GTX 470. The heat's a lot more attractive on the GTX 580, though, and so is power draw and noise.

Since we've already looked at the MSI GTX 580 by itself, we'll just get straight into our testbed setup to see what's going on.

Test System Setup and 3DMark 11

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We would like to thank the following companies for supplying and supporting us with our test system hardware and equipment: Intel, ASRock, Kingston, Mittoni, Noctua and Corsair.

Today we'll be checking out the GTX 580 in SLI against the GTX 580 when it's by itself. Apart from that, the only other single card setup we've included is the GTX 570 GLH Edition from Gainward that we looked at a few weeks back.

Of course, we're not just going to compare the setup to those two cards. We've included all the new HD 6000 series in Crossfire to see how these multi GPU setups fair. These include the HD 6970 in CF, HD 6950 in CF, HD 6870 in CF and HD 6850 in CF.

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Before we start, though, we want to quickly fire up GPU-Z. We know that both cards follow the reference clocks, but we just want to double check that SLI is enabled.

As you can see across the bottom, both GPUs are enabled, which means it's time to get into the benchmarks and see what kind of performance we're able to squeeze out of the two fastest single GPU video cards on the market.

Let's get started!

3DMark 11

Version and / or Patch Used: 1.0
Developer Homepage:
Product Homepage:
Buy It Here

3DMark 11 is the latest version of the world's most popular benchmark. Designed to measure your PC's gaming performance 3DMark 11 makes extensive use of all the new features in DirectX 11 including tessellation, compute shaders and multi-threading. Trusted by gamers worldwide to give accurate and unbiased results, 3DMark 11 is the best way to consistently and reliably test DirectX 11 under game-like loads.

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Straight away we can see that the GTX 580 in SLI is indeed the fastest setup we've tested. It hasn't got huge gains over the HD 6970 CF setup, but the gains are clearly noticeable.

3DMark Vantage

Version and / or Patch Used: 1.0.1
Developer Homepage:
Product Homepage:
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3DMark Vantage is the new industry standard PC gaming performance benchmark from Futuremark, newly designed for Windows Vista and DirectX10. It includes two new graphics tests, two new CPU tests, several new feature tests, and support for the latest hardware.

3DMark Vantage is based on a completely new rendering engine, developed specifically to take full advantage of DirectX10, the new graphics API from Microsoft.

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Vantage performance is huge. With PhysX support enabled you can see how the numbers sky rocket compared to the competition.

Unigine Heaven Benchmark

Version and / or Patch Used: 2
Developer Homepage:
Product Homepage:

New benchmark grants the power to unleash the DirectX 11 potential in the gift wrapping of impressively towering graphics capabilities. It reveals the enchanting magic of floating islands with a tiny village hidden in the cloudy skies. With the interactive mode emerging experience of exploring the intricate world is ensured within reach. Through its advanced renderer, Unigine is one of the first to set precedence in showcasing the art assets with tessellation, bringing compelling visual finesse, utilizing the technology to the full extend and exhibiting the possibilities of enriching 3D gaming.

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Getting into some tessellation testing, we can see just how much AMD have improved in this area. The HD 6970 in CF, though, still sits behind the GTX 580 SLI setup.

Benchmarks - Resident Evil 5

Resident Evil 5

Version and / or Patch Used: Demo Benchmark
Developer Homepage:
Product Homepage:

Resident Evil 5 is a survival horror video game developed and published by Capcom. The game is the seventh installment in the Resident Evil survival horror series, and was released on September 18. Resident Evil 5 revolves around Chris Redfield and Sheva Alomar as they investigate a terrorist threat in Kijuju, a fictional town in Africa.

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Getting into some games and we begin to see the HD 6970 CF and GTX 580 SLI setups separate from each other. The separation is indeed one that is favoring the GTX 580s as well; it'll be interesting to see if these strong gains are seen in our later testing.

As for scaling, because we've got such big numbers it's quite poor at the lower resolution. Under a large amount of stress, though, we can see the gains are extremely strong at 2560 x 1600.

Benchmarks - Tom Clancy's H.A.W.X. 2

Tom Clancy's H.A.W.X.2

Version and / or Patch Used: Benchmark Demo
Timedemo or Level Used: Built-in Test
Developer Homepage:
Product Homepage:

Tom Clancy's H.A.W.X. 2 is an arcade-style flight action game developed by Ubisoft Romania and published by Ubisoft. The game is the sequel to Tom Clancy's H.A.W.X., released in 2009.

The game begins with Colonel David Crenshaw participating in a routine patrol mission in the Middle East. After halting an insurgent attack, a volley of missiles is fired at the Air Force base that Crenshaw was stationed at, with one of the missiles disabling Crenshaw's aircraft, resulting Crenshaw being in enemy captivity. A joint strike force composed of the U.S. Navy, U.S. Air Force, and a Ghost Recon squad executes an operation to rescue Crenshaw. In Scotland, Royal Navy Pilot Colin Munro encounters an unidentified passenger aircraft that explodes from an on-board bomb when undergoing training exercise. In Russia, an air force squadron led by Colonel Denisov and Captain Dmitri Sokov engages separatist aircraft but is ordered to retreat from the region after numerous Russian military installations have been attacked.

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H.A.W.X. 2 favors NVIDIA and you can see the single GPU setup manages to out pace the dual GPU HD 6970 setup. While the scaling like RE5 isn't the best at the lower resolution due to having such large numbers already, at the highest resolutions the scaling is a lot more attractive.

Benchmarks - Mafia II

Mafia II

Version and / or Patch Used: Latest Steam Update
Timedemo or Level Used: Built in Benchmark
Developer Homepage:
Product Homepage:
Buy It Here

Mafia II is a third-person action-adventure video game, the sequel to Mafia: The City of Lost Heaven. It is developed by 2K Czech, previously known as Illusion Softworks, and is published by 2K Games. The game is set from 1943 to 1951 in Empire Bay (the name is a reference to New York's state nickname "The Empire State"), a fictional city based on San Francisco and New York City, with influences from Chicago and Detroit. The game features a completely open-ended game map of 10 square miles. No restrictions are included from the start of the game. There are around 50 vehicles in the game, as well as licensed music from the era.

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The GTX 580 SLI setup really separates itself here against the HD 6970 CF one. NVIDIA have struggled at the higher resolutions recently, but you can see the HD 6970 CF setup gets an 85 FPS average at 2560 x 1600 while the GTX 580 SLI setup manages 114 FPS.

While both numbers are above our 60 FPS average we aim for, what the GTX 580 SLI setup does is start to give us options when it comes to AA and AF. We might be able to give a little bump to the HD 6970 CF setup, but the GTX 580 SLI one will be able to enjoy a larger one.

Benchmarks - Lost Planet 2

Lost Planet 2

Version and / or Patch Used: Benchmark Demo
Timedemo or Level Used: Built in Benchmark - Test A Scene 1
Developer Homepage:
Product Homepage:

Lost Planet 2 is a third-person shooter video game developed and published by Capcom. The game is the sequel to Lost Planet: Extreme Condition which is also made by Capcom, taking place ten years after the events of the first game, on the same fictional planet. The story takes place back on E.D.N. III 10 years after the events of the first game. The snow has melted to reveal jungles and more tropical areas that have taken the place of more frozen regions. The plot begins with Mercenaries fighting against Jungle Pirates. After destroying a mine, the Mercenaries continue on to evacuate the area, in which a Category-G Akrid appears and attacks them. After being rescued, they find out their evacuation point (Where the Category-G appeared) was a set-up and no pick up team awaited them. The last words imply possible DLC additions to the game, "There's nothing to be gained by wiping out snow pirates... unless you had some kind of grudge."

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As we start to get into some more intensive games, we really begin to see NVIDIA scaling which is tipping almost 100% at all resolutions. The numbers, though, just leave the AMD CF setups for dead.

LP2 is very tessellation heavy and you can see while AMD have no doubt improved it, it's not at the level the GTX 580 is at it seems.

Benchmarks - Aliens vs. Predator

Aliens vs. Predator

Version and / or Patch Used: Standalone Benchmark
Timedemo or Level Used: Built in Benchmark
Developer Homepage:
Product Homepage:

Aliens vs. Predator is a science fiction first-person shooter video game, developed by Rebellion Developments, the team behind the 1999 original PC game, and published by Sega for Microsoft Windows, the PlayStation 3 and the Xbox 360. The game is based on the Alien vs. Predator franchise, a combination of the characters and creatures of the Alien franchise and the Predator franchise. There are three campaigns in the game, one for each race/faction (the Predators, the Aliens and the Colonial Marines), that, while separate in terms of individual plot and gameplay, form one overarching storyline.

Following the storyline of the campaign modes comes the multiplayer aspect of the game. In this Multiplayer section of the game, players face off in various different gametypes in various different ways.

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Checking out Aliens vs. Predator, we again see that awesome scaling due to the intensity of the game. In this instance the gains aren't as strong when compared against the HD 6970 CF setup, but at the highest resolution the GTX 580 SLI setup comes in roughly 10% faster and at these kinds of frame rates that extra 10% will no doubt be appreciated.

Benchmarks - Street Fighter IV

Street Fighter IV

Version and / or Patch Used: Standalone Benchmark
Timedemo or Level Used: Built in Benchmark
Developer Homepage:
Product Homepage:

While Street Fighter IV features models and backgrounds rendered in 3D, the gameplay remains on a traditional 2D plane, with the camera having freedom to move in 3D at certain times during fights, for dramatic effect. Producer Yoshinori Ono has stated that he wanted to keep the game closer to Street Fighter II. A new system called "Focus Attacks" ("Saving Attack" for the Japanese version) has been introduced, as well as Ultra moves. The traditional six-button control scheme returns, with new features and special moves integrated into the input system, mixing classic gameplay with additional innovations.

All the characters and environments in Street Fighter IV are rendered as 3D models with polygons, similar to the Street Fighter EX sub-series Capcom produced with Arika. However, there are a couple of key differences. Art director and character designer Daigo Ikeno, who previously worked on Street Fighter III 3rd Strike, opted for non-photorealistic rendering to give them a hand-drawn look, with visual effects accented in calligraphic strokes, ink smudges and ink sprays during the fights.

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I can't see any setup causing a problem under Street Fighter IV. In excess of 400 FPS should be enough for most people.

Benchmarks - Far Cry 2

Far Cry 2

Version and / or Patch Used: 1.01
Timedemo or Level Used: Ranch Long
Developer Homepage:
Product Homepage:
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The Dunia Engine was built specifically for Far Cry 2 by the award-winning Ubisoft Montreal development team. It delivers the most realistic destructible environments, amazing special effects such as dynamic fire propagation and storm effects, real-time night-and-day cycle, dynamic music system, non-scripted enemy A.I. and so much more.

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Across the board we continue to see those very big gains that help offer some massive frames.

Benchmarks - Batman Arkham Asylum

Batman Arkham Asylum

Version and / or Patch Used: 1.1
Timedemo or Level Used: Built-in Test
Developer Homepage:
Product Homepage:

Batman: Arkham Asylum exposes players to a unique, dark and atmospheric adventure that takes them to the depths of Arkham Asylum - Gotham's psychiatric hospital for the criminally insane. Gamers will move in the shadows, instigate fear amongst their enemies and confront The Joker and Gotham City's most notorious villains who have taken over the asylum.

Using a wide range of Batman's gadgets and abilities, players will become the invisible predator and attempt to foil The Joker's demented scheme.
Batman: Arkham Asylum features an original story penned exclusively for the game by famous Batman author and five-time Emmy award winner Paul Dini, whose credits include Lost season one and Batman: The Animated Series.

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Batman AA numbers are strong for all the setups, but you can see that we're getting Street Fighter IV kind of numbers under this game with an average of almost 400 FPS at 1680 x 1050.

This is just a wonderfully coded game that looks great and runs great on so many setups.

Benchmarks - High Quality AA and AF

High Quality AA and AF

Our high quality tests let us separate the men from the boys and the ladies from the girls. If the cards weren't struggling before they will start to now.

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Cranking up the detail, the GTX 580 SLI setup manages to cement its dominance in both power and scaling as we see those almost 100% gains in a number of tests.

Benchmarks - PhysX Tests

PhysX Tests

Here we're able to find out when PhysX is turned on in games that support it what kind of frame rates we're able to get. We always set PhysX to the highest possible in game settings while also keeping detail at its highest.

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Up to 1920 x 1200 we can see Mafia II offers us that over 60 FPS average we want. Batman AA on the other hand gives us that 30 FPS minimum we want at all resolutions.

PhysX enabled and set to high on this kind of setup should yield more than enough frames for people. Some will probably choose to go down the AA / AF path, though, which makes the game look better and offers higher FPS still.

PhysX continues to be a bit of a mixed bag. It's not that we don't like it, it's just that we're not seeing the support for it still. At least NVIDIA are continuing to push the technology and hopefully it can gain a bit more momentum in 2011.

Temperature Test

Temperature Tests

The temperature of the core is pulled from MSI Afterburner with the max reading used after a completed run off 3DMark Vantage and the Performance preset.

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The cards no doubt run warm and the top slot card is our hottest card tested since we've re done our testbed. There aren't worrying numbers, though, and we're in the middle of an Australian summer at the moment and our testbed has no structured airflow.

Sound Test

Sound Tests

Pulling out the TES 1350A Sound Level Meter we find ourselves quickly yelling into the top of it to see how loud we can be.

After five minutes of that we get a bit more serious and place the device two CM away from the fan on the card to find the maximum noise level of the card when idle (2D mode) and in load (3D mode).

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Noise levels are surprisingly good; idle is a little loader than most, but it's again not a number we're worried about. Considering the power we've got on offer, these are very attractive noise levels.

Power Consumption Tests

Using our new PROVA Power Analyzer WM-01 or "Power Thingy" as it has become quickly known as to our readers, we are now able to find out what kind of power is being used by our test system and the associated graphics cards installed. Keep in mind; it tests the complete system (minus LCD monitor, which is plugged directly into AC wall socket).

There are a few important notes to remember though; while our maximum power is taken in 3DMark06 at the same exact point, we have seen in particular tests the power being drawn as much as 10% more. We test at the exact same stage every time; therefore tests should be very consistent and accurate.

The other thing to remember is that our test system is bare minimum - only a SSD hard drive is used with a single CD ROM and minimal cooling fans.

So while the system might draw 400 watts in our test system, placing it into your own PC with a number of other items, the draw is going to be higher.

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It comes as no surprise that the most powerful setup we test draws the most power, but it's nothing a good 850 Watt+ power supply won't handle. There's no need to spend hundreds on a 1200 Watt unit if you're not looking at moving past two cards.

Total Performance Rating (TPR)

Total Performance Rating

The TPR graph is a combination of all our benchmarks in which NVIDIA and AMD are on an even playing field.

The TPR number is a combination of:

3DMark 11, Heaven Benchmark V2, Resident Evil 5, Tom Clancy's H.A.W.X.2, Mafia 2 (PhysX Off), Lost Planet 2, Aliens vs. Predator, Street Fighter IV, Far Cry 2, Batman: Arkham Asylum (PhysX Off) and our four High Quality tests which include Mafia 2, Aliens vs. Predator, Street Fighter IV and Far Cry 2.

All of the benchmark results achieved are then combined into a single number. As this graph will grow over time and cards won't be re-tested, next to each model you'll find the driver version that was used when the card was benchmarked.

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It comes as no surprise that the GTX 580 SLI setup climbs to the top of our graphs as the fastest setup we've tested since we've done our new game line-up. There's a clear gain over the HD 6970 CF setup.

Total Value Rating (TVR)

Total Value Rating

The TVR graph is the TPR score divided by the price of the video card. The price of the video card is based on the list price of the model on In the event the card isn't listed, it will be based on the U.S. $ MSRP given to us by the manufacturer.

In the event we can't source a price from either, the product will not receive a TVR rating. As with our TPR graph, the amount of video cards on the list will grow over time and the price of the model won't change from what it was when first reviewed. For this reason the U.S. $ price that the card is based off will be included next to the name of the model.

In the event you want to find the TVR rating yourself based on the current price, all you have to do is simply divide the TPR number by the list price.

TVR numbers are rounded to the nearest whole number; 100.3 will be 100; 100.8 will be 101 and 100.5 will be rounded down to 100.

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What value?!?!?! The higher up the model chain you go, the less value the product tends to hold. Throw in a second one of those cards and it does absolutely nothing for value.

Final Thoughts

Like most high end video card setups, your brain is telling you that you shouldn't spend in excess of $1000 and buy this setup. It tells you that you could get performance that's good enough with cheaper setups. You're heart, though, just wants to dive all in and get all dirty with your new VGA setup.

Like most setups, there's very little overall value here when you talk about the FPS you get for the dollars you're spending. The bottom line, though, is that the GTX 580 in SLI is not just fast, but has no problems playing any game at max settings.

Averages in excess of 100 FPS at 2560 x 1600 under games like Lost Planet 2 and in excess of 80 FPS in Aliens vs. Predator just paint the picture of what you're getting here. The setup isn't about justifying the money you spend, it's about getting the most FPS you can get.

Of course, move to Surround Vision and Eyefinity and increase that resolution three fold and you're going to be able to bring these cards to their knees. More AA, more AF, more resolution, more monitors, the GTX 580 SLI setup is all about more, more, more!

In the end it's really all very simple. If you've got the money and you demand nothing but power then this is the kind of setup you should be looking at. If you wanted to go SLI GTX 480 but got scared off by the heat and power draw, this is the kind of setup you should be looking at.

When you combine the fastest single GPU video card on the market with a second one, you blow out the bank account and blow out the FPS. I can understand why people think that it's crazy to spend so much on a VGA setup like the one we're looking at today, but this kind of setup is just all about performance and making sure your games can look as good as they can and run as smooth as they can.

I very much feel what separates a good product or setup from a great product or setup for me personally is; would I use it? - There are plenty of good products out there that I wouldn't use myself; the GTX 580 is a prime example. I use three monitors; I would need two cards to run three monitors, so for me a single GTX 580 is a moot point. The GTX 580 in SLI, though, apart from the lack of DisplayPort is something I would use, and thoroughly enjoy on my three monitor setup. The chances are if you love games, love high FPS, love high detail and don't mind spending the money, this is a setup you want, if not already have.

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Shawn takes care of all of our video card reviews. From 2009, Shawn is also taking care of our memory reviews, and from May 2011, Shawn also takes care of our CPU, chipset and motherboard reviews. As of December 2011, Shawn is based out of Taipei, Taiwan.

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