Event Coverage

HWM+HardwareZone.com Tech Awards 2012: Editor's Choice - Part 2

By Team HardwareZone - 2 Mar 2012

Best Enthusiast Graphics Chip

Best Enthusiast Graphics Chip

Life begins at the top especially for a GPU chip. Both AMD and NVIDIA usually introduce their top-of-the-line GPUs for their graphics card line-up while the mid and lower-tier derivants follow-up shortly. However, for the graphics connoisseurs who love to game at the very best quality settings across multiple screens to immerse themselves the way the developers intended the game to be cherished, event the top single GPU solutions won't do. To cater to these elite gamers, dual-GPU solutions sit at the very top of the graphics card line-up and are usually offered at a later stage when more resources can be channeled into engineering these beasts. For 2011, the AMD Radeon HD 6990 and NVIDIA’s GeForce GTX 590 represent this group.


  • AMD Radeon HD 6990
  • NVIDIA GeForce GTX 590

And the Winner Is...

The NVIDIA GeForce GTX 590 is our choice of the ultimate graphics SKU for the enthusiast.

Over the course of last year, we've tested these behemoths a number of times for various comparison purposes. The AMD Radeon HD 6990 has traditionally been stronger in terms of performance numbers for DirectX 10 gaming benchmarks while NVIDIA's GeForce GTX 590 performs better on our DirectX 11-based gaming benchmarks. With more support for DirectX 11 in newer game releases, it makes more sense to invest in a graphics card that is able to handle the hardware and software requirements of these games. Generally, the margin of difference isn't very massive, but in one of our gaming benchmarks, Batman: Arkham City, NVIDIA GeForce GTX 590 outclassed AMD Radeon HD 6990 by wide margins, even pulling ahead by 100% at the resolution of 2560 x 1600! This is no doubt NVIDIA working closely with the game developer to ensure games work better on their products. Mind you that this isn't about benchmarks favoring certain cards, but it's the other way around - GPU developers making the effort to work closely with game developers to unleash the potential of the graphics chip.

However, the performance of both graphics cards don't leapfrog the SLI setup of GeForce GTX 580 or the CrossFire setup of the Radeon HS 6970. Plus, these setups are actually more affordable than either the GeForce GTX 590 or the Radeon HD 6990. This is why we don't rank the value of these cards highly and it brought down the overall ratings by a good degree.

What about other areas apart from performance? All is not lost from the AMD Radeon camp. If you recall, there's an OC switch for easy overclocking of the AMD Radeon HD 6990 GPU; however, doing so will avoid the card’s warranty. The meager gain eked out by doing so is not worth the relinquishment of the hardware warranty. Further to that, AMD Radeon HD 6990 has native support for five simultaneous displays and up to six displays supported with DisplayPort 1.2 Multi-Stream Transport. To accommodate for multi-monitor setups, AMD has insisted all partners bundle the boards with a variety of DVI and HDMI adapters to make full use of the DisplayPorts connections. These plus points are unfortunately put off by the high operating temperatures and very noisy operation during gaming.

Over on the green camp, we found the GeForce GTX 590 to have relatively better temperature readings from our tests and it was certainly more tolerable to game with this card as it didn't create as much din as the Radeon HD 6990. With dual GPUs powering underneath, this is one of the very few cards from NVIDIA that does support more than dual displays natively and can support either three displays for surround 3D gaming or up to four screens for working on your desktop. It doesn't rival the multi-monitor support of the AMD card, but it caters adequately for most enthusiasts. Plus, who can forget it's NVIDIA 3D Vision ecosystem? Yes, AMD supports 3D gaming too via AMD HD3D, but it doesn't provide the all-important 3D middleware as it's leaving the marketplace to innovate compatible solutions. So setting up a 3D gaming rig with AMD isn't a walk in the park, while for NVIDIA, you just need to purchase their 3D Vision kit and you're set to go (assuming you've a 3D capable monitor).

All things said and done, the evident winner is NVIDIA GeForce GTX 590 due to its performance advantage on DX11 titles, the 3D ecosystem support and other functional matters pointed out above. Although, it is slightly more expensive than AMD Radeon HD 6990, the price disparity is negated by its advantages. To roundup this summary, we present a select few benchmark graphs of the two titans:

Scoring Breakdown
Criteria/Model AMD Radeon HD 6990 NVIDIA GeForce GTX 590
Performance 8.0 8.5
Features 8.0 8.5
Value 7.0 7.0
Overall 7.5 8.0
(Adjusted up from 7.5 in original review due to more emphasis on DX11 performance)
Price S$998 S$1,059

For more details on how we selected our winners, check out the full reviews and articles listed at the References section at the end.

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