If you need a graphics card to play current games at full HD, the Zotac GeForce GTX 570 is the way to go.
With the GeForce GTX 570, nVidia replaces the top dog of the previous generation, the GeForce GTX 480. This high-end graphics card is a treat to the eyes when playing games at Full-HD resolution on larger monitors. The nVidia GeForce GTX 570 is a second-gen Fermi architecture card, positioned just one step below the new top-end graphics card (GTX 580).
The GPU of the GeForce GTX 570 is codenamed the GF110, the same as the GTX 580. That then is a clear give away that the GTX570 is a cut-down variant of the GTX580. In fact, some might even say the GTX 570 (with its 480 shaders) is really what the GTX480 should have been. The GTX570 claims better temperatures and reduced power consumption. Improved efficiency allows it to perform almost as well as the GTX480 despite slightly lower specs.
It has 1280MB of GDDR5 video memory clocked at 950MHz and a GPU core clocked at 732MHz. There is a 320bit memory interface and 480 unified shaders that support DirectX 11, OpenGL 4.1, OpenCL, CUDA/PhysX and Nvidia 3D Vision. (The GTX480 had 1536MB of memory and a 384bit memory interface.)
For more first-hand information, the GPU-Z screenshot below shows the GTX 570 GPU's specs in detail.
Zotac GeForce GTX 570: Design
The graphics card cooler seen on the Zotac GeForce GTX 570 is the same as the nVidia reference design. The Zotac brand and logo are splashed on top of the black-coloured cooler, of course. This is a good thing as it is a known quantity to users (across brands) and imposes less production costs than a custom cooler on Zotac. As is expected for a high-end solution, nVidia has fitted this card with a dual-slot cooler.
The cooler is pretty much closed on all sides, except for some grills towards the rear and at the rear. This means very little heat is expected to escape into the PC cabinet - the cooler is geared to exhaust heat through the heat vent/grill at the rear (positioned alongside the display outputs). This is good for ambient temperature of your desktop.
Those with Full-ATX motherboards and cabinets of mid-tower size or larger are the ones who should look at this class of graphics card. Anything less and you'll have problems accommodating it in your PC, considering its length - which is standard for high-end cards. Power requirements are taken care of with its two 6-pin PCI-E power input slots. It has two SLI connectors, to be able to connect to two other nVidia graphics cards in the same PC, so it is triple-SLI compatible.
Display outputs at the rear consisted of two DVI ports and one mini-HDMI port (HDMI 1.4a support). This is a disappointment to be sure, more output ports including DisplayPort would have been worthy of a card targeted at the high-end. However, this is how nVidia kits its reference GTX 570 cards, so Zotac is not the one at fault here.
Zotac GeForce GTX 570: Package contents
The Zotac GeForce GTX570 graphics card's package contents included one DVI-to-VGA port adaptor, one mini-HDMI to HDMI adaptor, two 6-pin PCI-E power input connectors (each connected to two 4-pin molex connectors), and the instruction manual. The mandatory CD offered the nVidia ForceWare drivers, manual, an application bundle called Zotac Boost, and a game (Prince of Persia: The Forgotten Sands).
Zotac GeForce GTX 570: Performance
Our colleagues at PC World India tested the Zotac GeForce GTX 570 in their labs. To eliminate bottle-necks to the extent possible, the test-bed consisted of an Intel Core i7 965 processor, Intel DX58SO motherboard, Intel X25-M 80GB SSD, 12GB of Silicon Power DDR3 RAM in triple channel, Tagan BZ-1300W PSU and Windows 7 Ultimate SP1 64bit edition. We used the latest driver for the GeForce GTX 570 available at the time of testing - nVidia ForceWare 266.58. Note that PhysX was enabled wherever supported by the benchmark or game.
The graphs here show performance numbers selected from a wider set of tests conducted. To put the results in context and help you compare, we juxtapose the benchmark scores of the card being tested, against other graphics cards. This is useful to see its price/performance in context. The product in focus, Zotac GeForce GTX570 is marked out in a red box in the graphs, for quick usability.
Below are graphs of how the Zotac GeForce GTX 570 fared in synthetic benchmarks:
Benchmarks: 3D Mark 2006 (DirectX 9.0c) and 3D Mark Vantage (DirectX 10)
Benchmark: 3D Mark 11 at all presets (DirectX 11)
Benchmark: Unigine Heaven 2.1 (DirectX 11) at Full-HD resolution with 7 GPUs in the race
Below is a graph of gaming performance showing frame-rates, to reflect what you would see in real-world usage patterns:
Benchmark: Crysis and Far Cry 2
Benchmark: Metro 2033 (DirectX 11) at three different resolutions
At any chosen resolution (1920x1080 or Full-HD in the case above), averaging 30 fps (frames/second) or higher is a good sign that the game would be fluid on-screen, without choppy play. Notice how the GTX 570 consistently stays above this mark. Also notice how it gives such close competition to the GTX 480 (an overclocked one at that!) and even performs slightly better in some cases.
Put this in the context of the GTX 480 actually having more VRAM and memory width, and it becomes apparent that the GTX 570 has lower specs, yet achieves more. To beat the champion of the previous generation is no mean feat. Performance numbers close to the current-gen single-GPU champion (GTX 580) is an even better achievement.
Zotac GeForce GTX 570: Heat dissipation
The cooler on this card seems meant to be merely adequate. While nVidia did make it look easy on the eyes, it's simply unable to cool to the point where it can match temperatures seen with some of the other high-end cards. The claimed TDP on the GTX 570 is 219W, as against the 250W of the GTS450 - a fair drop in power consumption.
Temperature load tested using FurMark
However, it is apparent that the load and idle temperatures are among the highest of its class of cards. All card vendors including Zotac would offer custom-cooled variants to deal with this angle of an otherwise excellent GPU.