NVIDIA GTX 590 Reviewccokeman - March 24, 2011
When I first pulled the ASUS GTX 590 out of the box, I was surprised at the fact that it was obviously smaller by comparison to its main competition, the HD 6990. When compared to the boxy 6990, the GTX 590 just looked lost in my HAF 932. The card was slimmer and shorter, at just 11 inches. That's all really first impression stuff, but the main goal for someone who is willing to shell out seven bills for a video card is the performance that it generates. In that respect, I saw both ups and downs when compared to the HD 6990 and a sampling of dual-card graphics solutions. We all know what a pair of GTX 580s can do in an SLI configuration and this is the direct comparison on the NVIDIA side of the fence, as this card uses two fully functioning 512 core GPUs. Across the spectrum of tests, the GTX 590 fell a little short on some of the titles (3DMark 11, Just Cause 2), delivered similar performance (Metro 2033, BF:BC2), and beat the competition (meaning the HD 6990) in a few (Mafia II, Lost Planet 2, HAWX2, Unigine Heaven 2.5). The fact of the matter is, the GTX 590 has the clock speeds de-tuned so that the card can deliver all its thermal, acoustic and power consumption goals while still delivering excellent gaming performance characteristics, all for a price point no one thought possible at $699 — oddly enough, the same price point as its competitor's flagship GPU.
On the thermal performance, the GTX 590 delivered numbers lower than the HD 6990 in both the stock and overclocked load testing. In my testing, the two GPUs of the GTX 590 averaged 79 degrees Celsius when the fan speed is controlled automatically at stock speeds. When overclocked and the fan speed set manually to 95%, the cores averaged 67 degrees Celsius — pretty decent numbers for the architecture someone once tried to fry an egg on. That brings up the acoustics — NVIDIA has earned the right to say it has a quiet running card when you compare the cooling solution used on this card versus its competitor, the HD 6990. The fan noise is audible when you manually control the fan, but like the GTX 580, NVIDIA has delivered a solution that does not sound like a vacuum cleaner. At idle and driver-controlled, the fan is inaudible in a chassis with normal background noise. This is in stark contrast to AMD's blower-style fan that is so brutally loud when ramped up to 100%, the dogs leave the vicinity. The temperatures delivered are great, but one concern is that the airflow over the back vapor chamber heatsink is dumped right into the chassis so airflow is going to have to be optimized to keep from heating up other installed components. This is doubly a concern with the fact that the GTX 590 will be able to fit into a smaller chassis than the 6990 due to its smaller stature. The last point is the fact that the GTX 590 delivers better power consumption numbers than the HD 6990 under load. In those three categories, NVIDIA has hit its mark, with the game performance really depending on the game tested.
At this point, the GTX 590 delivers the goals it is meant to achieve in terms of thermal performance, acoustic performance, chassis fit, and power consumption. However, power consumption is one of those goals that really should not raise any eyebrows when you are spending at the top of the charts for a gaming rig — it's all about performance at that point. Another thing that NVIDIA and its partners have dealt with is the fact that you used to need two video cards to run an NVIDIA Surround or 3D Surround setup, mainly to ensure the experience was up to par. The GTX 590 eliminates this restriction due to the two GPUs on the one card. Playing through Metro 2033 using the NVIDIA 3D Surround ecosystem with PhysX enabled was nothing short of fulfilling, as it brought another dimension to the "experience." If running one of these is not enough for your gaming needs, Quad SLI is supported with two GTX 590s, although you will need to have a motherboard that supports Quad SLI. NVIDIA has built the card no one thought possible, making it perform well and hitting the marks for its design with a cooler, quieter operation, all while being less power hungry. It looks like a win for the lime green team.
- Cool running
- Better chassis fit
- NVIDIA Surround support with one card
- NVIDIA 3D Vision Surround support with one card
- Smart Doctor utility
- Overclocking with voltage tuning
- Airflow from rear dumps into the chassis
- Overclocking with no tuning