When one thinks of buying a graphics card, Sparkle is probably one of the last brand names that comes to their mind. Whether you’ve heard of them of not, Sparkle has been in the GPU business for quite some time now and Palit are known for their aggressive pricing compared to veteran brands like Asus, XFX, etc. Today we have a GTX 580 from them in our labs and unlike the Asus GTX 580 we tested a few weeks back, this is the vanilla version of the graphics card.
Features and Design
As compared to the other GTX 580s we’ve seen, Sparkle has used very conservative packaging. The box is small and compact which I guess makes better logistical sense, as also does the job of getting the message across. This is the VGO edition (even though the box doesn’t mention it) which comes with the reference cooler while the ‘Guru’ edition has a fancier third party cooler and higher clock speeds. The bundle is standard, you get a driver disk, power cables, a mini-HDMI to HDMI cable and a ‘free pen’ (go figure).
Very similar to the reference design
The card measures 10.5-inches in length which is just slightly shorter than the GTX 590, so you're still going to need a decent mid-tower chassis to house this. Everything runs at stock frequencies so we have the core running at 772MHz while the 1.5GB GDDR5 memory runs at 4008MHz (effective speed) on a 384-bit memory bus. Sparkle claims this to be the world's first independently produced GTX 580, I’m not really sure what to make of this as they don't elaborate further but hey, as long as it performs well, I really don't care.
Lots of room for ventilation
There are two dual-link DVI-I connectors at the back and a mini-HDMI connector, as well. To power the card you’ll need one 6-pin and one 8-pin connector so a good 600W PSU is mandatory. Notice the purple DVI ports, now there's something you don't see everyday.
Test Rig Specifications
Processor: Intel Core i7-2600K CPU @ 3.40 GHz
Motherboard: GIGABYTE P67A-UD3R
Memory: Corsair Dominator GT 6 GB DDR3 (3 x 2 GB)
Hard drive: WD Velociraptor 300 GB
GPU: Sparkle GTX 580
PSU: Cooler Master Silent Pro 1000W
Driver Version : 275.33
I was pleasantly surprised with the performance of the card. Compared to the factory over-clocked GTX 580 from Asus, the Sparkle GTX 580 actually managed slightly better scores in all the game benchmarks that we tried. We also ran Crysis 2 benchmark and this is the frame rate we recorded.
Crysis 2 (1920x1080, 2x AA, Extreme graphics mode) – 71.7fps
For a GTX 580 running at stock frequencies, the performance is very good and the fact that it manages to even beat an over-clocked GTX 580 is quite an accomplishment. Next, lets see if this gets heated up and if it’s noisy on load.
Temperature and Noise
A power hungry little beast
For gauging the temperature of the graphics card, we used FurMark 1.8.2 to stress the card. This gives a unified playing field allowing us to easily compare the results of subsequent graphics cards, as well. These are the readings we got:
Once again, the numbers are well in line thanks to the vapor chamber. The card is very silent even when stressed with FurMark and you can only hear a faint whirring sound from it.
With the MRP of the card set at Rs.41,750, the street price of the Sparkle GTX 580 is closer to Rs.31,000. This puts it head on with the Asus GTX 580 Direct CU II edition which is priced exactly the same. Between the two cards, I would have to pick the Sparkle GTX 580 and here's why. For starters, it occupies just two slots while the Asus takes up one more. Also your PC will have to supply additional power to the second fan on the Asus card where as the Sparkle GTX 580 is comfortably cooled with a single fan. In the end it all comes down to personal preference. The Asus GTX 580 Direct CU II has much better software support for monitoring and over-clocking the card, and it will probably be easily available as well being an Asus card. On the other hand, the Sparkle GTX 580 sticks with the vapor chamber cooler which is Nvidia recommended and also performs really well despite the slower clock speeds. You really can’t go wrong with either of them.