NVIDIA GTX 590 Review

ccokeman - 2009-06-06 13:50:53 in Video Cards
Category: Video Cards
Reviewed by: ccokeman   
Reviewed on: March 24, 2011
Price: $699

Introduction:

When the Fermi architecture was first introduced, NVIDIA took a lot of heat (no pun intended) over how this was going to be a hot running, power hog of a card. True to form, that's exactly what we were treated to when the GTX 480 was released almost a year ago to the day. As the year progressed, NVIDIA worked to tame the savage beast and delivered variants of the GF 100 GPU to fit just about every price and performance point. They had some real standouts in the value category in the GTX 460 and GTS 450. Even, while still holding sway over the top of the single-GPU hill with the GTX 480. The AMD HD 5970 still held the king of the hill video card honors though. AMD rolled up their sleeves and took a couple shots at the top with the Northern Islands lineup but NVIDIA countered with the GTX 500 series right before the AMD HD 6900 series launch. Giving, the NVIDIA faithful what they had been waiting for since Fermi was unveiled at the Inaugural NVIDIA GPU technology conference in November 2009. A fully functional 512 core beast of a card. The concerns were going to be the heat output and power consumption issues that plagued the GTX 480. In the span of eight months, NVIDIA fixed the heat with an improved Vapor chamber cooling solution while reducing the noise penalty associated with the need to remove heat from the core. Power consumption was attacked also with the result being significantly reduced operating voltages that contributed to the lower heat and thus noise to rid the card and chassis of that heat. So, in turn you had a win win combo that really put a damper on AMD's parade. Fast forward a few months and we have AMD's shot at retaining the single card crown with the fast, obnoxiously loud "Antilles" HD 6990. There is no doubt that this card is at the top of the food chain for AMD and delivers its promise as the current fastest card on the planet. Today though, we have NVIDIA's response to this brash performer with the introduction of the GTX 590. This is the card that many said could not be built due to the power hungry nature of the Fermi architecture and its associated heat. Well boys and girls it's real and the rumors are true. The GTX 590 comes with the full compliment of 512 Cuda cores on each of the two GF110 GPU cores for a total of 1024. Eight GPC (Graphics Computing Clusters), 32 streaming multiprocessors, 128 texture units and 96 ROP units. This beast comes with 3GB (1.5GB per GPU) of GDDR5 memory running through a pair of 384 bit buses. All this attached to a special 12 layer PCB. This amount of memory is shy of the 4GB on the HD 6990 but we'll see how the addition of a second GPU to the PCB affects the performance. We'll also see how well the GTX 590 scales as well as to the kind of performance it delivers. Will the thermals be a deal breaker? Can NVIDIA keep the acoustics under control? Let's find out.

 

Closer Look:

The GTX 590 we have to look at is actually from ASUS as they are one of the exclusive board partners chosen by NVIDIA for this launch. They in turn will have availability of the GTX 590 through the usual channels including popular etailers such as Newegg, NCIX and Tiger Direct. Additionally, they have some high-end system integrators getting behind ASUS for the GTX 590 launch including Maingear, Puget Systems, IBuyCyberPower, DigitalStorm and more. Enough of that. let's look at what ASUS has delivered for this launch. The packaging is pretty much the ASUS standard graphics card packaging and includes messaging about thier "Voltage Tweak" technology, Additional mentions include DirectX 11 support as with all of the 5 series, SLI and 3D Surround support and that the GTX 590 is equipped with 3GB of GDDR5 memory. The back panel has a brief summary of the specifications and talks about gaming performance, the 3D Vision ecosystem and the connectivity options. All pretty interesting information if you take the time to read it.

 

 

The inner packaging is again traditional ASUS and sets them apart from the crowd with the black coloring with the ASUS label embossed in gold. Inside, the method used to deliver the accessories has changed slightly using a foam block to fill the entire enclosure with the GTX 590 filling most of the space. The hardware accessories fill a small cutout in this foam block.

 

 

The accessory bundle is kind of slim but with the connectivity options the need for adapters is minimal. You get the Quick install guide, Driver and utility disk, dual six pin PCIe to eight pin PCIe power adapter, DVI to d-sub and DVI to HDMI adapters.

 

The ASUS GTX 590 is designed to be at the top of the NVIDIA single card food chain. As such, the expectations are high going into this review.

Closer Look:

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.

Specifications:

 
Graphics Card
GTX 590
Processing Units
Graphics Processing Clusters
8
Streaming Multiprocessors
32
CUDA Cores
1024  512x2
Texture Units
128
ROP Units
96
Clock Speeds
Graphics Clock (Fixed Function Units)
612 MHz
Processor Clock (CUDA Cores)
1224 MHz
Memory Clock (Clock rate / Data rate)
3420 MHz (855 MHz)
Memory
L2 Cache Size
768KB x 2
Total Video Memory
 3072MB GDDR5
Memory Interface
384-bit
Total Memory Bandwidth
327.7 GB/s
Fillrate
Texture Filtering Rate (Bilinear)
77.7 GigaTexels/sec
Physical & Thermal
Fabrication Process
40 nm
Transistor Count
3 Billion x 2
Connectors
3 x Dual-Link DVI-I
1 x Mini DisplayPort
Form Factor
Dual Slot
Power Connectors
2 x 8 pin
Recommended Power Supply
700 Watts
Thermal Design Power (TDP)1
365 Watts
Thermal Threshold
97 C

 

Features:

Testing:

Testing of the NVIDIA GTX 590 will consist of running it and comparison cards through the OverclockersClub.com suite of games and synthetic benchmarks. This will test the performance against many popular competitors. Comparisons will be made to cards of equal and greater capabilities to show where they fall on the performance ladder. The games used are some of today's newest and most popular titles to give you an idea of how the cards perform relative to each other.

The system specifications will remain the same throughout the testing. No adjustment will be made to the respective control panels during the testing other than applying the AA and AF settings manually in the control panel. I will test the cards at stock speeds, then overclocked in order to see the effects of any increases in clock speed. The cards are placed in order from highest to lowest performing in the graphs to show where the cards fall by comparison. In addition to the stock testing I will include performance testing in both Surround (NVIDIA) and Eyefinity (AMD) with the appropriate cards. For this review a few new games have replaced some of the aging titles

 

 

Comparison Video Cards:

 

Overclocking:

Overclocking is a way to increase the performance of the video card in lieu of making a new purchase. The headroom on the GTX 590 is at this point limited to about a 10 to 15% margin over the as-delivered clock speeds, even though the card supports voltage tuning. The overriding theme of this card is cooler and quieter than the competition. I did not have an overclocking utility to push the clock speeds above the 10 to 15% margins until late last night. At this point, the overclocked testing had been completed but ASUS came through with their latest version of their Smart Doctor utility to help us out. With the stock voltages, the maximum speed I was able to pull from this pair of GF 110 GPUs was 673MHz, right on that 10% margin. The memory was equally stingy at 1868MHz (or 934MHz). At these speeds, there was a definite performance increase that was noticed so overclocking is worth the effort and time to find the maximum clock speeds. The fact that the card is built with a 12 layer PCB using dual 2oz copper layers for the signaling and ground layers as well as a ten phase power circuit means the ability to stably deliver current to the GPUs is there. Cooling then becomes the ultimate determining factor in how high you can go on the clock speeds. The results shown in the graphs on the following pages are run at the maximum speeds I could reach without voltage tuning. However, with ASUS Smart Doctor software and voltage guidance limits in hand I set out to see just where I could go with the stock cooling. Disclaimer here...NVIDIA recommends a liquid or better cooling solution if you plan on using Voltage Tuning. That being said if you cook it...well you were warned.

 

 

Maximum Clock Speeds:

In the past, I had used MSI's Kombuster utility to check for stability coupled with the ability to run through the entire test suite. I have found that some game tests would still fail with this utility, so I have moved to testing with several games at maximum settings through several resolutions to verify the clock speeds that are listed below. Why the change? I have found some cards will play fine at a 4xAA setting, but fail when using 8xAA due to the increased graphics load. If it fails, then the clock speeds and tests are rerun until they pass.

   

 

  1. Aliens vs. Predator
  2. Metro 2033
  3. Crysis Warhead
  4. HAWX 2
  5. Just Cause 2
  6. Unigine Heaven Benchmark 2.5
  7. Mafia II
  8. Battlefield: Bad Company 2
  9. Lost Planet 2
  10. 3DMark 11
  1. Temperature
  2. Power Consumption

Aliens vs. Predator, developed by Rebellion Developments, is a science fiction first-person shooter and is a remake of its 1999 game. The game is based off the two popular sci fi franchises. In this game, you have the option of playing through the single player campaigns as one of three species, the Alien, the Predator, and the Human Colonial Marine. The Game uses Rebellion's Asura game engine that supports Dynamic Lighting, Shader Model 3.0, Soft Particle systems, and Physics. To test this game I will be using the Aliens vs. Predator benchmark tool with the settings listed below. All DirectX 11 features are enabled.

 

Settings

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

   

   

   

   

Higher = Better

 

The GTX 590 is significantly faster than the single HD 6970 and GTX 580 but a bit slower than the multi GPU combos in this test.


 

Testing:

Part first-person shooter, part survival horror, Metro 2033 is based on the novel of the same name, written by Russian author Dmitry Glukhovsky. You play as Artyom in a post-apocalyptic Moscow, where you'll spend most of your time traversing the metro system, with occasional trips to the surface. Despite the dark atmosphere and bleak future for mankind, the visuals are anything but bleak. Powered by the 4A Engine, with support for DirectX 11, NVIDIA PhysX and NVIDIA 3D Vision, the tunnels are extremely varied — in your travels, you'll come across human outposts, bandit settlements, and even half-eaten corpses. Ensuring you feel all the tension, there is no map and no health meter. Get lost without enough gas mask filters and adrenaline shots and you may soon wind up as one of those half-eaten corpses — chewed up by some horrifying manner of irradiated beast that hides in the shadows just waiting for some hapless soul to wander by.

 

Settings:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

   

   

   

   

Higher = Better

 

In Metro 2033, the GTX 590 is equal to or better than the HD 6990 in the first three resolutions. For the Eyefinity/Surround testing the low clock speeds hamper its performance but even so, the GTX 590 delivers over 40 FPS at this resolution with Advanced DOF turned off.

Testing:

Crysis Warhead is a standalone expansion pack situated in time with the story line of the original Crysis. As Sergeant "Psycho" Sykes, you have a secret mission to accomplish on the far side of the island. Along the way there are EMP blasts and aliens to contend with, as you hunt down the KPA chief. This game uses an enhanced version of the CryEngine 2.

Settings

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

   

   

   

   

Higher = Better

 

In Crysis Warhead the HD 6990 outperforms the GTX 590.

Testing:

H.A.W.X. 2 is an Arcade style flight game and is the sequel to H.A.W.X.. The Game is published by Ubisoft and was released in late 2010.

Settings

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

   

   

   

   

Higher = Better

 

The GTX 590 delivers performance closer to the GTX 570 and 580 SLI setups in this game.

Testing:

Published by Capcom, Lost Planet 2 is the sequel to Lost Planet: Extreme Condition and uses the MT Framework 2.0 engine. The story line takes place on the fictional planet E.D.N. III some 10 years after the events of the first game. This time, the snow cover is gone and has been replaced by a tropical landscape. With this new rendition of the game comes the ability to run it using either DirectX 9 or 11. Along with this ability comes the chance to use that new DX 11 hardware to effect. DX11 features in this game include tessellation, displacement mapping on water, bosses and player characters, soft body compute shaders on “Boss” characters, and wave simulation by way of DirectCompute. This gives you smoke that is lifelike and reacts to inputs, water that looks and reacts how you would expect it to in a "real life" situation, and "Boss" characters rendered with more depth and detail. If the latest graphics quality settings are not enough, NVIDIA has included support behind this game for both 3D Vision and 3D Vision Surround, which gives you 3D effects over multiple screens. There is no better way to see how a game will perform than to test it out. Capcom has made this easy with a downloadable benchmark that we will be using to test out a cross section of today's currently available performance video cards.

 

Settings

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

   

   

   

   

Higher = Better

 

The ASUS GTX 590 performs just under the level of the two SLI setups across the resolutions.

Testing:

Unigine Heaven Benchmark 2.5 is a DirectX 11 GPU benchmark based on the Unigine engine.  This was the first DX 11 benchmark out to allow testing of  DX 11 features. What sets the Heaven Benchmark apart is the addition of hardware tessellation, available in three modes — Moderate, Normal and Extreme. Although tessellation requires a video card with DirectX 11 support and Windows Vista/7, the Heaven Benchmark also supports DirectX 9, DirectX 10, DirectX 11 and OpenGL 4.0. Visually, it features beautiful floating islands that contain a tiny village and extremely detailed architecture.

 

Settings

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

   

   

   

   

Higher = Better

 

In the Heaven Benchmark the HD 6990 is outperformed by the GTX 590 across all eight tests.

Testing:

Just Cause 2 is a third-person shooter that takes place on the fictional island of Panau in Southeast Asia. In this sequel to 2006's Just Cause, you return as Agent Rico Rodriguez to overthrow an evil dictator and confront your former boss. When you don't feel like following the main story line, you're free to roam the island, pulling off crazy stunts and causing massive destruction in your wake, all beautifully rendered by the Avalanche Engine 2.0. In the end, that's what the game basically boils down to — crazy stunts and blowing things up. In fact, blowing things up and wreaking havoc is actually necessary to unlock new missions and items.

 

Settings

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

   

   

   

   

Higher = Better

 

The performance of the GTX 590 falls below that of the HD 6990 in most of the resolutions played in Just Cause 2.

Testing:

Mafia II is a third-person shooter that puts you into the shoes of a poor, Sicilian immigrant, Vito Scarletta. Vito has just returned home from serving overseas in the liberation of fascist Italy — to avoid serving his jail sentence — to find his family in debt. The debt must be repaid by the end of the week, and, his childhood friend, Joe Barbaro, conveniently happens to have questionable connections that he assures Vito will help clear the debt by that time. As such, Vito is sucked into a world of quick cash. Released in North America for PC in August of 2010 the game was developed by 2K Czech published by 2K and uses the Illusion 1.3 game engine.

 

Settings

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

   

   

   

   

Higher = Better

 

Testing:

Battlefield: Bad Company 2 is a first-person shooter developed by EA Digital Illusions CE (DICE) and published by Electronic Arts for Windows, PS3 and XBox. This game is part of the Battlefield franchise and uses the Frostbite 1.5 Engine, allowing for destructible environments. You can play the single player campaign or multiplayer with five different game modes. Released in March 2010, it has so far sold in excess of six million copies.

Settings

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

   

   

   

   

Higher = Better

 

The GTX 590 is faster than the HD 6990 in a few resolutions including when the cards are running a 5760 x 1080 surround setup.

Testing:

3DMark 11 is the next installment for Futuremark in the 3DMark series with Vantage as its predecessor. The name implies that this benchmark is for Microsoft DirectX 11 and with an unintended coincidence, the name matches the upcoming date in number (which was the naming scheme to some prior versions of 3DMark nonetheless). 3DMark 11 is designed solely for DirectX 11 so Windows Vista or 7 are required along with a DirectX 11 graphics card in order to run this test. The Basic Edition has unlimited free tests on performance mode whereas Vantage only allowed for a single test run. The advanced edition costs $19.95 and unlocks nearly all of the features of the benchmark and the professional edition runs $995.00 and is mainly suited for corporate use. The new benchmark contains six tests, four of which are aimed only at graphical testing, one to test for physics handling and one to combine graphics and physics testing together. The open source Bullet Physics library is used for physics simulations and although not as mainstream as Havok or PhysX, it still seems to be a popular choice.

With the new benchmark comes two new demos that can be watched, both based on the tests but unlike the tests, these contain basic audio. The first demo is titled "Deep Sea" and have a few vessels exploring what looks to be a sunken U-Boat. The second demo is titled "High Temple" and is similar to South American tribal ruins with statues and the occasional vehicle around. The demos are simple in that they have no story, they are really just a demonstration of what the testing will be like. The vehicles have the logos of the sponsors MSI and Antec on their sides with the sponsorships helping to make the basic edition free. The four graphics tests are slight variants of the demos. I will use the three benchmark test preset levels to test the performance of each card. The presets are used as they are comparable to what can be run with the free version so that results can be compared across more than just a custom set of test parameters.

 

Settings

 

 

 

 

 

   

   

   

Higher = Better

 

The HD 6990 is clearly the stronger performer when compared to the GTX 590. The SLI'd GTX 580s are still a potent combination.

Testing:

Temperature testing will be accomplished by loading the video card to 100% using MSI Kombuster, which is paired with MSI's Afterburner overclocking utility for temperature monitoring. I will be using the stability test set to a resolution of 1920 x 1200 using 8xAA. I will use a 15 minute time frame to run the test, ensuring that the maximum thermal threshold is reached. The fan speed will be left in the control of the driver package and video card's BIOS for the stock load test, with the fan moved to 100% to see the best possible cooling scenario for the overclocked load test. The idle test will be a 20 minute cool down with the fan speeds left on automatic in the stock speed testing and bumped up to 100% when running the overclocked idle and load testing. For load testing, the GTX 500 series, I will use Crysis Warhead running at 2560 x 1600 using the Gamer setting with 8xAA looping the Avalanche benchmark scenario, as I have found this to put a load close to that of Kombuster on a video card. This is needed as a way around the current limiting ability of the GTX 500 series when it detects programs that put an unrealistic load on the GPU, which Kombuster does.

Settings

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  

  

Lower = Better

 

The temperatures delivered by the GTX 590 are in turn better than those delivered by the HD 6990. The GTX 590 does this with a much lower noise commitment than what is required by the HD 6990 to deliver its best temperatures.

Testing:

Power Consumption of the system will be measured in both idle states and loaded states and will take into account the peak voltage of the system with each video card installed. I will use MSI Kombuster to load the GPU for a 15 minute test and use the peak load of the system as my result for the maximum load. The idle results will be measured after 15 minutes of inactivity on the system. For load testing the GTX 500 series, I will once again use Crysis Warhead run at 2560 x 1600 using the Gamer setting with 8xAA looping the Avalanche benchmark scenario.

Settings

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

   

   

Lower = Better

 

In three out of four measures the GTX590 delivered lower power consumption numbers than the HD 6990 achieving one of the goals for this card. Compared to the GTX 580 SLI consumption, the GTX 590 is significantly lower under load.

Conclusion:

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.

 

Pros:

 

Cons: