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I have a three year old computer, and in September last year I purchased the Nvidia GTX 570.
I had thought that in a year or so, I'd hang the expense and build myself a new computer, however the addition of the 570 has delayed that expenditure indefinitely.
I had been previously using a Radeon 4850 HD; an excellent card, but also an old one. It had also given me some driver issues throughout its life.From day one, I have had no such problems with the 570.
To clarify, I'm not suggesting that Nvidia is better than ATI (the producers of the Radeon), simply that my experience in this generation, with this card, has been excellent.
Now, at this point I could list a bunch of benchmark scores for the 570, but that would be uncessary, and would merely repeat what you could find anywhere else on the internet. Let me tell you instead that, in my 3 year old, hand build, mid-to-high range p.c, I am able to play any game that I have so far come across, at any resolution, with any settings, without a touch of visible lag.
To clarify that further, I have an Intel Q6600 processor, DDR 2 ram (4gb), and this graphics card. I have run, Deus Ex, modified Skyrim, Assasins Creed, GTA IV, Anno 2070, Just Cause 2, a range of FPS's, and many others at their maximum specs, and they have all delivered respectable framerates of at least 30 fps on 42 inch 1080p monitor. I would estimate, as I don't recall ever seeing any visible lag, that framerates are usually in the 60 plus region.
Noise levels are low, as are temperature levels. I can't hear this graphics card over the fans on my P.C casing, which are fairly audible, but not intrusive (the case is an antec nine hundred), but more to the point, I couldn't hear it when I had the case open and fired it up for the first time. The temperature in my case dropped significantly (by nearly degrees) when I changed cards, and my computer now no longer superheats the room in which it's situated.
In terms of energy consumption, I don't have the exact figures, but as technology matures it tends to get more efficient. This card consumes less power than my older, and less powerful card, but the top end card at the moment - the 680 - consumes less power still, despite it's comparably higher graphical output. If you want to save energy, my suggestion would be to spend your money on a brand new, but less high end card, like the 660, when it is released, or a 560 now. These cards will have all of the efficiency measures of the more powerful cards, but will be dialled back significantly reducing heat, noise, and thus energy consumption, enabling you to save a little bit of your money, as well as a little bit of the planet. Obviously there will also be competitive products available from ATI.
Returning to the 570 GTX, the only warning I need to give you in relation to this card is that it's size might be an issue. Unlike some of it's more powerful brethren, it really only takes up the space of one of your PCI-E sockets, but it is quite long. I was able to jam mine into my case succesfully, but it did require the re-routing of some wires. It really covers the entire span of an average sized motherboard, so it is worth making sure you have, and can keep, this space free in all three dimensions.
I would strongly recommend this card, and, as it is replaced, I would strongly recommend the card that later occupies this price point - of around £180. There is no need to spend more money. This will give you years of joy, and can be replaced with its future descendent, for less than the cost of buying a single top end graphics card (for example the GTX 680) now. Games, and gamers monitors, simply aren't currently taxing GFX cards in the same way that they have in previous generations, although that's not to say they won't in the future, particularly with another batch of consoles on the way!