NVIDIA GTX 590 Reviewccokeman - March 24, 2011
The ASUS GTX 590 is a video card that includes a pair of 512 core GF 110 GPUs on a single PCB. This allows for another level of performance above the GTX 580 as these cores are the full featured GTX 580 cores. A step away from what NVIDIA did with the GTX 295 where it used two lesser featured cores (GTX 270) to meet the thermal and power constraints for the card. To that end, NVIDIA had their work cut out for them. The goal here it seems was to deliver a card with all the best parts, put it in a package that fits in a wider variety of chassis, make it run cooler and make it run quieter. The GTX 590 is 11 inches in length so it's roughly an inch shorter than the HD 6990 allowing for improved chassis selection if you want to run this top-of-the-line NVIDIA card. The fan assembly looks as if some design thought was put into it so that you have a card that looks good and still performs. From the front, the blower style fan design has been replaced by a fan in the center blowing down and through the cover of the GTX 590. The back side of the ASUS GTX 590 has a pair of passive heat sink plates to help remove heat from the memory on the back of the 12 layer PCB. The center of the rear face of the PCB is full of power circuit components. The heat sink shroud is designed to push air through the heat sinks and includes a depression in the center where the fan sits to improve airflow to the card when a pair of these cards are used.
One of the huge selling points of a card like the ASUS GTX 590 is the fact that with two GPU's on board, both SLI and Surround technologies can be utilized without purchasing a second video card. Add in a 3D Vision kit and 3D Surround is a reality. Connectivity on the GTX 590 is a series of three Dual Link DVI ports and a single DisplayPort connection. Setting up a surround monitor setup took all of two minutes once into the OS. The three Dual Link DVI ports gives you the ability to run three 30 inch panels in a surround setup. The back end of the card is open to allow airflow through the shroud and to exit into the chassis. Unfortunately much like the 6990, this results in increased internal component temperatures of the installed components if the airflow through your chassis is not sufficient to reduce this thermal load.
The ASUS GTX 590 supports SLI only with another GTX 590 due to the single bridge connection. To run Quad SLI with a pair of these cards you will need a motherboard that supports this ability. Many of the new ASUS P67s as well as a few other select high-end enthusiast boards from MSI and Gigabyte are supported. With a 365 watt TDP, a pair of eight pin power connections are required to supply current to the ASUS GTX 590. Included in the bundle is a dual six pin PCIe to eight pin PCIe power adapter if you need the additional power connectivity. If you plan on running a pair of these, NVIDIA has a list of power supplies ranging from 1100 to 1500 watts and includes the Antec HCP-1200, Silverstone ST-1500 and Corsair AX1200. Power usage in my test system came out to just under 600 watts. On the GTX 590, NVIDIA chose to light up the GeForce logo for that little extra bling factor.
Pulling this card apart is an involved process that can be done but not without having the the specialized thermal interface materials on hand. So, I chose not to do a complete tear down but will still show what's under the hood. The shroud comes off with the removal of four screws and access is granted to the vapor chamber heat sinks, 80mm fan and full board cooling plate. The aluminum cooling plate features pins and slots in the direct airflow stream that increase the surface area of the device to improve cooling performance to keep the VRM circuit and memory cool. The LED light strip for the GeForce logo is powered by a two pin connector on the right hand lower side of the 12 layer PCB. There are a pair of Vapor Chamber heat sinks under the hood that keep the GF 110 cores cool under load.
The GTX 590 is built using a pair of 40nm GF 110 cores just like you would find under the hood of a GTX 580. The PCB is a 12 layer build with 2oz copper layers for the power and ground layers. To power all the onboard hardware, NVIDIA chose to use a ten phase digital controller for the GPUs and a dual phase controller for the 3GB of GDDR5 memory. During testing I did not hear any of the squealing or hissing associated with chokes vibrating during the load/unload cycles or during high GPU loads. With a card as quiet as this one, that is a surprise. As mentioned, the hardware list includes eight GPC (Graphics Processing Clusters), 32 streaming Multiprocessors, 1024 Cuda cores (512 x 2), 128 Texture units, 96 ROPS and 3GB of GDDR5 memory running through six 64 bit controllers. The clock speeds on the GTX 590 from ASUS are 612Mhz (1224Mhz on the shaders) on the two cores and 855MHz (3420MHz) on the memory, The clock speeds seem low for the performance envelope this card is supposed to compete in but testing will tell the tale. Instead of using a PLX based bridging chip, NVIDIA is using their own NF200 to provide the data pathways for the information flow.