Graphics Cards Guide

NVIDIA GeForce GTX 590 (Reference Card) review

NVIDIA GeForce GTX 590 - the 1024 Core Riposte

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Overall rating 7.5/10
Performance:
8.5
Features:
8.5
Value:
7
THE GOOD
Blazing performance, though not as fast as its rival
3D Vision Surround on a single card
Effective cooler, pretty quiet
THE BAD
Cooler vents hot air back to casing
Troublesome to SLI


Massive Retaliation

Massive Retaliation

Less than a month ago, AMD released its flagship dual-GPU Radeon HD 6990 card. Powered by two Cypress XT (Radeon HD 6970) chips running on slightly lower clock speeds, the Radeon HD 6990 was the fastest and most powerful single graphics card we have ever tested. If you haven’t checked out our review of AMD’s latest graphics behemoth, click here.

Not satisfied to be outdone in the speed stakes, it’s time now for NVIDIA to strike back. NVIDIA had started the year with a bang with the GeForce GTX 560 Ti, a card that combined great performance and price. This was followed by the GeForce GTX 550 Ti, a card that refreshes its mainstream offerings. Now, after much anticipation, it's time for the big one, the dual-GPU GeForce GTX 590.

The GeForce GTX 590 is designed to be the answer for those who found the 512 cores of the GeForce GTX 580 to be, how should we put it, insufficient. With two GF110 chips on a single PCB, the new GeForce GTX 590 boasts 1024 CUDA cores and a generous 3GB GDDR5 frame buffer. That aside, it also has double the number of texture mapping units and raster operating units - 128 and 96 respectively.

Unfortunately, like the Radeon HD 6990, the GeForce GTX 590 doesn’t run at the full clock speeds of the GeForce GTX 580. Instead, its core is clocked at a significantly lower 607MHz, while shaders and memory are running at 1215MHz and 3414MHz DDR respectively. To put things in perspective, a single GeForce GTX 580 has clock speeds of 722MHz, 1544MHz and 4008MHz DDR, so what we are looking at is a 15 to 20% reduction in clock speeds.

If you are wondering why, the decision to go with the lower clock speeds has to do with the fact that apart from reclaiming the title of fastest single graphics card in the world, NVIDIA also wanted this new GeForce GTX 590 to run quieter than any other dual-GPU card that has ever been made. Lower clock speeds equal less heat, making it easier to cool the card. Obviously NVIDIA was not keen to reproduce the noisy Radeon HD 6990.

And to this end, NVIDIA implemented a couple of interesting features. Firstly, for maximum signal integrity, a 12-layer PCB board is used. To disperse heat evenly across the PCB, two ounces of copper were used for the board’s power and ground layer. On top of that, the GeForce GTX 590 also gets a 10-phase advanced digital power controller with over-voltage capabilities to deliver consistent power to the two GF110 GPUs.

Finally, the GeForce GTX 590 will also be the first Fermi card capable of driving three display simultaneously, which also means that it supports 3D Vision Surround all by itself. Of course this is something to do with more GPUs being able to power more monitors since they normally can only drive two digital displays each.

So far it looks good. The GeForce GTX 590 appears to be an exciting card on paper, but before we find out just how fast it really is, let’s take a look at how it measures up against other competitive SKUs. 

NVIDIA GeForce GTX 590 series and competitive SKUs compared
Model NVIDIA GeForce GTX 590 NVIDIA GeForce GTX 580 NVIDIA GeForce GTX 570 AMD Radeon HD 6990 AMD Radeon HD 6970 AMD Radeon HD 6950 ATI Radeon HD 5970
Core Code GF110 GF110 GF110 Antilles Cayman XT Cayman PRO Hemlock
Transistor Count 6000 million 3000 million 3000 million 5280 million  2640 million 2640 million 4300 million
Manufacturing Process 40nm 40nm 40nm 40nm 40nm 40nm 40nm
Core Clock 607MHz 772MHz 732MHz 830 / 880MHz 880MHz 800MHz 725MHz
Stream Processors 1024 Stream Processors 512 Stream Processors 480 Stream Processors 3072 Stream Processing units 1536 Stream processing units 1408 Stream Processing units 3200 Stream processing units
Stream Processor Clock 1215MHz 1544MHz 1464MHz 830 / 880MHz 880MHz 800MHz 725MHz
Texture Mapping Units (TMU) or Texture Filtering (TF) units 128 64 60 192 96 88 160
Raster Operator units (ROP) 96 48 40 64 32 32 64
Memory Clock 3414MHz GDDR5 4008MHz GDDR5 3800MHz GDDR5 5000MHz GDDR5 5500MHz GDDR5 5000MHz GDDR5 4000MHz GDDR5
DDR Memory Bus 384-bit x 2 384-bit 320-bit 512-bit 256-bit 256-bit 256-bit
Memory Bandwidth 327.7GB/s 192.4GB/s 152GB/s 320GB/s  176.0GB/s 160.0GB/s 256GB/s
PCI Express Interface PCIe ver 2.0 x16 PCIe ver 2.0 x16 PCIe ver 2.0 x16 PCIe ver 2.0 x16 PCIe ver 2.0 x16 PCIe ver 2.0 x16 PCIe ver 2.0 x16
Molex Power Connectors 2 x 8-pin 1 x 6-pin, 1 x 8-pin 2 x 6-pin 2 x 8-pin 1 x 6-pin, 1 x 8-pin 2 x 6-pin 1 x 6-pin, 1 x 8-pin
Multi GPU Technology SLI SLI SLI CrossFireX CrossFireX CrossFireX CrossFireX
DVI Output Support 3 x Dual-Link 2 x Dual-Link 2 x Dual-Link 1 x Dual-link 1 x Dual-Link, 1 x Single-Link 1 x Dual-Link, 1 x Single-Link 2 x Dual-Link
HDMI 1 (mini-HDMI) 1 (mini-HDMI) 1 (mini-HDMI) 0 1 1 1
DisplayPort None None None 4 (mini DisplayPort 1.2) 2 (DisplayPort 1.2) 2 (DisplayPort 1.2) 1
HDCP Output Support Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Street Price Launch Price: US$699 ~US$529 ~US$359 ~US$700 ~US$369  ~US$279 ~US$500