Amid all the excitement and counter-product launches surrounding the GTX 560 Ti 1GB, it’s worth remembering that Nvidia’s higher end GTX 570 1.3GB and GTX 580 1.5GB are also superb cards in their own right. While going further up the graphics range will always be a case of diminishing returns, the GTX 570 1.3GB offers an attractive halfway house between the mid-range GTX 560 Ti 1GB and the range-topping GTX 580 1.5GB.
Click to enlarge
However, Gainward’s take on the GTX 570 1.3GB - the Phantom - goes a bit further, both in terms of performance thanks to a factory-applied pre-overclock, and in terms of cooling with its outlandish triple slot, triple-fan custom cooler. We found the stock cooler on the original GTX 570 1.3GB to be well behaved, even under heavy load, but there’s always room for improvement and extra cooling can often mean extra overclocking headroom.
Looking at the Phantom’s factory overclock, though, just reminds us of the conservative attitudes of some board partners. The core clock speed has been increased by a paltry 18MHz over the stock card to 750MHz - a 2.5 per cent increase. The memory has also been overclocked by a small amount to 975MHz (3.9GHz effective) - an increase of 25MHz (100MHz effective), or 2.5 per cent. However, it’s worth remembering that the GTX 570 1.3GB isn't such an overclocker as its stable-mate, the GTX 560 Ti 1GB. In fact, when we overclocked a stock card we were only able to manage a stable overclock of 770MHz core and 1.1GHz (4.4GHz effective) memory.
Click to enlarge - the Phantom's custom cooler is a beast, packing six heatpipes
While the pre-overclock is underwhelming, Gainward has greatly expanded the card’s cooling. Sat on top of the GPU is a nickel plated copper heatplate, over which you'll find six separate 5mm nickel plated copper heatpipes. These heatpipes then splay out along the length of the card, before turning back in on themselves and running through the 40 laterally arranged fins of the cooler’s fin stack. It looks a little over-engineered, but as the stock GTX 570 1.3GB uses an expensive vapour chamber contact plate, partners need to use this many heatpipes to offer meaningful cooling improvements.
The Phantom’s large array of cooling fins isn’t cooled from fans blowing down through them, but by three 80mm fans fitted between the stack of fans and the PCB below. These fans, which hang down from the fins, then pull air through the fin stack and blow it down onto a full-cover painted aluminium contact plate that cools the card’s power circuitry and memory. In our experience, this isn’t the most efficient setup, as most fans work better blowing air than sucking, but it has the advantage of leaving the exterior of the card looking sleek and fan free.
Gainward has used its own custom PCB and power circuitry
The Phantom also benefits from significantly upgraded power circuitry, with the most notable difference coming from the use of GTX 580 1.5GB-matching 8-pin and 6-pin PCI-E power connectors on the top of the card. The GTX 570 1.3GB’s stock 5+1 phases of power have been upgraded to a whopping 8+1 phases too (six for the GPU and two for the memory), which should make for not only smoother power, but more juice on tap for overclocking. With all the extra power circuitry, it’s even stranger that the factory overclock is so conservative, so we’ll be looking to squeeze plenty more performance out of the Phantom ourselves.