Nvidia GeForce GTX 590 Review: Dual-GPU Wars

By on March 24, 2011, 7:59 AM
With AMD's Radeon HD 6990 stealing the performance crown only two short weeks ago, we knew it wouldn't be long before Nvidia answered the challenge. The company's GeForce GTX 590 was a poorly guarded secret, with specifications leaking as far back as last fall. Today marks the flagship's official launch and needless to say, we're excited to see how it stacks up to AMD's dual-GPU offering.

The GeForce GTX 590 packs two GF110 graphics processors -- the same chip that powers the GTX 580, currently the fastest single-GPU graphics card available. Although the GTX 590's processors have the same core configuration as the GTX 580's, Nvidia had to reduce the graphics and memory clock frequencies to keep the card's thermal envelope within reasonable levels.


Realizing that, we can already assume the GTX 590 isn't going to be as fast as two GTX 580s in SLI. However, two GTX 580s would cost at least $1,000, and since the GTX 590 needs to be relatively competitive with the Radeon HD 6990 in terms of pricing, we bet Nvidia doesn't want the GTX 590 to be as quick as SLIed GTX 580s anyway. Okay, that's enough speculation. Let's get this party started!

Read the complete review.




User Comments: 55

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pcnthuziast said:

Let the fanboy wars begin. lol

Vrmithrax Vrmithrax, TechSpot Paladin, said:

Somehow, I was expecting team green to bring a real showstopper with the GTX590 (like they usually do), considering the extra time they took bringing it into the fray. Judging by how close many of the races were, and the give/take in performance crown for the varied testing games, it really is just a toss-up. As hard as both AMD and nVidia have been trying, there's just no hands-down winner in this current generation of GPUs. Guess I'm just not used to there being no clear-cut "victor" in these graphics battles.

St1ckM4n St1ckM4n said:

Didn't have 2x GTX 580's to SLI?

indiangamer said:

when the fight comes between hd 6990 and gtx 590 i will prefer to buy hd 6990 as it perform almost same and also gtx is only faster in games in which both cards are giving 40+ fps for ex in far cry 2 you can not find any difference between an average of 101 and 69 fps so gtx 590 is a waste here and hd 6990 is faster in dx11 games for ex gtx 590 drop below 30 frames at 2560x1600 metro 2033 which is not good because radeon didnt drop below 30 fps at same condition. again a great review from techspot but you should give a page of triple monitor setup camparisn since both of the dual gpu beast are overkill for any single monitor setup. and i am not buying them since i am waiting for 28nm hd 7000 (southern island) which will be better performer and more power efficient. TECHSPOT PLEASE GIVE REVIEW FOR CRYSIS 2.................................

Squuiid said:

st1ckm4n said:

Didn't have 2x GTX 580's to SLI?

+1. What a poor review! GTX580 SLI is SUCH an obvious pick when reviewing the 590.

Very disappointed

Mizzou Mizzou said:

Good review, looked initially like the GTX 590 had a decisive edge but in the end the two look pretty even ... as dbz predicted some time back. Thanks for taking the time to review so many games ... fair to say that some sites may not take such an even handed approach.

Vrmithrax Vrmithrax, TechSpot Paladin, said:

Squuiid said:

st1ckm4n said:

Didn't have 2x GTX 580's to SLI?

+1. What a poor review! GTX580 SLI is SUCH an obvious pick when reviewing the 590.

Very disappointed

Going to assume you both totally missed this part of the review:

Realizing that, we can already assume the GTX 590 isn't going to be as fast as two GTX 580s in SLI. However, two GTX 580s would cost at least $1,000, and since the GTX 590 needs to be relatively competitive with the Radeon HD 6990 in terms of pricing, we bet Nvidia doesn't want the GTX 590 to be as quick as SLIed GTX 580s anyway.

The real valid comparison for this review is between the GTX590 and the HD6990. Putting together every ridiculously priced pairing of GPUs to throw into the mix would just muddy up the data.

madboyv1, TechSpot Paladin, said:

power guzzling aside, I am estatic that this card is 11 inches. It means I could actually fit it in the Lian Li PC-Q08 without complaints from the case if I were crazy enough to do so. XD

@indiangamer: The results are superficial as "your mileage may vary." Benchmarks results provided by tech sites are to offer you a general idea of how hardware will work, but other things need to be taken into consideration such as differences in hardware and software suites. Incidentally, I also usually discount the more extreme resolutions such as 2650x1600 in terms of sheer performance, simply not enough people have a screen resolution; they'd be more likely to have a pair or perhaps three smaller screens at 1680x1050 or 1920x1080/1200. Which is a point you do make (sorta); It'd be nice to see how these ultra-enthusiast cards handle games in AMD eyefinity/NVIDIA Surround.

Making those discounts, there really is no winner in this case of pure performance to me. The 590 and 6990 simply are trading blows back and forth, prior to any major consumer driver updates. At the same price point it makes it harder to decide between the two from a practicality stand point (though neither card can be considered practical in the first place lol).

A considerable advantage though comes from power usage and heat generation, compared to the next step or so down in crossfire/SLI. In terms of operating efficiency both dual GPU cards are better than a pair of 570/580/6950/6970, while taking less physical space (which in itself is a blessing in some cases)

Worth the $700 price tag? That's ultimately up to the user but I don't need that kind of performance (never have), though bragging rights are always nice.

zillion said:

I would think the power consumption and the lower heat would make it a better choice then the 6990, just my opinion.

Vrmithrax Vrmithrax, TechSpot Paladin, said:

zillion said:

I would think the power consumption and the lower heat would make it a better choice then the 6990, just my opinion.

While the GTX590 does stay marginally cooler, it consumes marginally more power than the HD6990. Guess it all depends on whether you weight continuous power draw or cooling to be the more critical item in your build.

Zecias said:

6990 does better in dx11 and has less power consumption so i think it wins by a very slight margin.

everyone has different priorities though.

SilverCider said:

6990 if you can cope with the noise, 590 if you can cope with the power consumption. Solved.

spydercanopus spydercanopus said:

I too, was wondering where the 580 SLI cards fit in there.

Lurker101 said:

I just want to know if there's a watercooled edition yet

lawfer, TechSpot Paladin, said:

zecias said:

6990 does better in dx11 and has less power consumption so i think it wins by a very slight margin.

everyone has different priorities though.

I've heard the contrary. I've heard the 6990, or radeons for that matter, do worse in comparison to Nvidia cards at DX11. Mainly DirectCompute and tessellation. I don't know if this has been fixed in any of the recent catalyst updates though, so don't take my word for it.

Lurker101 said:

Hang on. The link 404s in your post but works in my post. Exact same link. What?

Mizzou Mizzou said:

That's weird, here's the url -

[link]

TeamworkGuy2 said:

Cool... Thank you TS for the review

$700, yikes, I do not think it will be selling very well, especially considering the SLI/CrossFire alternatives available.

Personally I have a GTS 450, low power consumption, great for mid settings at mid resolutions. But wow, some of the frame rates for this card are amazing.

Staff
Jesse Jesse said:

Mizzou said:

That's weird, here's the url -

[link]

Why not just link to EVGA's product page?

Lurker101 said:

404

You seriously couldn't just search for EVGA GTX 590 and find it?

Lurker101 said:

Welcome to the wonderful world of Couldn't be @rsed

Staff
Jesse Jesse said:

Seems like a lot less work than waiting around for someone else to give you the answer and then get an answer that isn't right, and then get a correction for the answer that still doesn't answer your question.

Cota Cota said:

Way to expensive for me i have a R HD 5770 and it stills do the job well, however DAO2 lagged on some scenes but it still was highly playable, so for me is a not while is that expensive :P.

AND the Raedon 6950 has more performance than the 6990 and for the greedy bastards like me heres a tip:

[link]

and how the 6950 beats GTX 580 (since you can buy 2 6950's and crossfire them and spend less than a GTX 580, maybe the GTX 590 too?)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IlX4o2ZXIKs

Staff
Jesse Jesse said:

Cota said:

Way to expensive for me i have a R HD 5770 and it stills do the job well, however DAO2 lagged on some scenes but it still was highly playable, so for me is a not while is that expensive :P.

AND the Raedon 6950 has more performance than the 6990 and for the greedy bastards like me heres a tip:

[link]

and how the 6950 beats GTX 580 (since you can buy 2 6950's and crossfire them and spend less than a GTX 580, maybe the GTX 590 too?)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IlX4o2ZXIKs

Different solutions are better for different people. a 5770 would never work for me at 2560x1600, but at 1680x1050 i'm sure its great. Likewise, 2 6950's might perform about a 580, but you can put 3 or 4 580's in tandem to kill everything. So... they all serve a purpose.

Cota Cota said:

prismatics said:

Different solutions are better for different people. a 5770 would never work for me at 2560x1600, but at 1680x1050 i'm sure its great. Likewise, 2 6950's might perform about a 580, but you can put 3 or 4 580's in tandem to kill everything. So... they all serve a purpose.

Agree 3 580 would give you a big time-lapse on staying on the latest charts, hell maybe 2 590's maybe will, but for a 1,500 Dlls o.0, besides since today every one is blaming every one for stoping the game development im sure even 2 6950's would stay viable for a long time and will give a nice upgrade if 3 Crossfired.

Btw i do game in 1680x1050 stop reading my mind lol D:

captaincranky captaincranky, TechSpot Addict, said:

Seems like a lot less work than waiting around for someone else to give you the answer and then get an answer that isn't right, and then get a correction for the answer that still doesn't answer your question.
Since it's so easy,and you expect it to be done right, then why not do it yourself?

Staff
Rick Rick, TechSpot Staff, said:

Squuiid said:

+1. What a poor review! GTX580 SLI is SUCH an obvious pick when reviewing the 590.

Very disappointed

With that logic, two 590s is actually the "obvious" choice...

dividebyzero dividebyzero, trainee n00b, said:

Rick said:

Squuiid said:

+1. What a poor review! GTX580 SLI is SUCH an obvious pick when reviewing the 590.

Very disappointed

With that logic, two 590s is actually the "obvious" choice...

Somebody seems to be missing either sarcasm tags or a research budget.

Nvidia at the present time haven't released a quad-SLI 590 driver.

My $0.02

Like the 6990, the 590 makes little sense other than as PR stunt and some fuel to keep the fanboy flames raging.

It's one saving grace IMO is that Nvidia left a lot of performance on the table with this card (a 0.912v core voltage seems to more than bear this out), so buying one 590 and one waterblock (or a card already kitted out) should net the same approximate performance as a couple of 580's that would each require a waterblock. The thermal/noise characteristics of either card don't lend themselves well to air cooling...much less so if overclocking is on the agenda ( a given I would think when looking at the target market).

Other than that small ray of sunshine, both the 590 and 6990 are more than likely going to be consigned to the oddities section of graphics history.

Guest said:

Was the 6990 in the test running at 830MHz or 880MHz?

Guest said:

"It's also interesting to note that a vast majority of the GTX 590's losses were in DX11 titles: S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Call of Pripyat (-15%), Metro 2033 (-20%), Battlefield Bad Company 2 (-9%), and Aliens vs. Predator (-10%)."

St1ckM4n St1ckM4n said:

Vrmithrax said:

Squuiid said:

st1ckm4n said:

Didn't have 2x GTX 580's to SLI?

+1. What a poor review! GTX580 SLI is SUCH an obvious pick when reviewing the 590.

Very disappointed

Going to assume you both totally missed this part of the review:

Realizing that, we can already assume the GTX 590 isn't going to be as fast as two GTX 580s in SLI. However, two GTX 580s would cost at least $1,000, and since the GTX 590 needs to be relatively competitive with the Radeon HD 6990 in terms of pricing, we bet Nvidia doesn't want the GTX 590 to be as quick as SLIed GTX 580s anyway.

The real valid comparison for this review is between the GTX590 and the HD6990. Putting together every ridiculously priced pairing of GPUs to throw into the mix would just muddy up the data.

I was just interested in the performance difference, and comparing it to 2x 6970 vs 6990. To me, that would be interesting.

Staff
Steve Steve said:

@ st1ckm4n - We would have loved to include a pair of GTX 580's, problem being we simply do not have two. Buying a second it just no feasible at $499 for us and as a few astute members have pointed out it's not exactly a relevant comparison anyway. A pair of GTX 570's would have made more sense, sadly we only have the one card again. It's hard enough acquiring one of every card, let alone two.

@ Squuiid - First I did a very poor job with the Crucial RealSSD C300 256GB review "for a techspot writer" and now another poor review ? I am sorry about that and honestly I do try, very hard.

@ indiangamer - Hey mate glad you liked the review. On the second page we did give away that very soon we will be testing triple 30" LCD's on the Radeon HD 6990 and GeForce GTX 590 for you guys Also Crysis is just a DX9 game at the moment, I have the final copy and while it does look impressive for a DX9 game the results are no different from those found when testing the leaked beta, did you miss our controversial article on that? Everyone loved it.

@ Mizzou - Thanks for the feedback, glad you liked the review. When it comes to graphics card predictions you can take what dbz says to the bank ?

@ Vrmithrax - Thanks for reading the entire review mate, that's a breath of fresh air

@ madboyv1 - With these high-end cards the only resolutions you should discount are those less than 2560x1600.

Anyway thanks for all the feedback so far guys it has been great.

Lurker101 said:

It would be quite interesting to see these tests run again, after Nvidia's next driver update which will no doubt be geared to tuning the 590s performance.

dualkelly said:

While this card seems to be catered to push high end gaming most people seem to forget that nvidia much larger market segment is in super/science computing as well as high end graphic and number crunching. This card is a quarter of the price of quadros and about 4 times the performance.

Staff
Julio Franco Julio Franco, TechSpot Editor, said:

It would be quite interesting to see these tests run again, after Nvidia's next driver update which will no doubt be geared to tuning the 590s performance.

They might continue to improve the driver, but every time we review a new graphics card we use the latest drivers as provided by the manufacturer which are optimized for the cards being launched.

Guest said:

Techspot's test system is clearly showing CPU bottlenecking making their review of a 590 vs 6990 invalid. Check this out for just cause 2 and compare: http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/geforce-gtx-590-dual-gf1
0-radeon-hd-6990,2898-11.html

Staff
Steve Steve said:

It would be quite interesting to see these tests run again, after Nvidia's next driver update which will no doubt be geared to tuning the 590s performance.

There is essentially nothing new about the GTX 590 when compared to other SLI GTX 500 series cards so I think expecting more performance is wishful thinking at this point. But as Julio said we will always test with the latest drivers when we can.

Techspot's test system is clearly showing CPU bottlenecking making their review of a 590 vs 6990 invalid. Check this out for just cause 2 and compare: [link]

So you are saying an LGA1366 processor at 3.70GHz is clearly creating a bottleneck, that is interesting. I have never seen this before and I know quite a great deal about this subject. Also you might want to research the impact that 8xAA has on performance

dividebyzero dividebyzero, trainee n00b, said:

While this card seems to be catered to push high end gaming most people seem to forget that nvidia much larger market segment is in super/science computing as well as high end graphic and number crunching. This card is a quarter of the price of quadros and about 4 times the performance.

A few points to consider.

Quadro isn't Nvidia's segment for "super/science computing"- that would be Tesla (M/S series and C series).

Quadro's FP64 (double precision) to single precision ratio is 1/2. GeForce is capped (or constrained) at 1/8.

Even if you were to somehow modify a GTX 580 to Quadro 6000 specification by BIOS mod- a task that has become increasingly difficult with every passing generation of cards, you still need to remember that a GTX 580 had 1.5Gb of GDDR5 RAM sitting on the pcb. Its workstation counterpart -the Quadro 6000- has 6Gb. That, the 24/7 support and the binning/test parameters for the GPU's differentiate the two configurations- and is evident in the sizeable gulf between the rendering and visualization capabilities of the respective cards.

Relic Relic, TechSpot Chancellor, said:

Looks like both teams in a way can say they are winners this time around. Unless of course you're the one that sets the new dual-gpu on fire :p [Link].

Steve said:

It's also interesting to note that a vast majority of the GTX 590's losses were in DX11 titles: S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Call of Pripyat (-15%), Metro 2033 (-20%), Battlefield Bad Company 2 (-9%), and Aliens vs. Predator (-10%).

That's a bit surprising and something I did not expect.

Vrmithrax said:

As hard as both AMD and nVidia have been trying, there's just no hands-down winner in this current generation of GPUs. Guess I'm just not used to there being no clear-cut "victor" in these graphics battles.

I would say the real winner here is us, most of the time at least if companies aren't partaking in shenanigans . It's nice to have plenty of options, definitely better then being shoehorned one way or the other.

Lurker101 said:

There is essentially nothing new about the GTX 590 when compared to other SLI GTX 500 series cards so I think expecting more performance is wishful thinking at this point

Not exactly. If you'll think back to the birth of the 295, which the 590 is basically just the next gen of, it had a few initial teething problems. Not only did it need a driver or two to help iron out performance, it also had the obligatory SLI hiccups that needed stamping down so you could actually use it.

And while we're on the subject of the GTX 295, does anyone think Asus will be looking at the 590 as a candidate for the Mars III?

dividebyzero dividebyzero, trainee n00b, said:

Not exactly. If you'll think back to the birth of the 295, which the 590 is basically just the next gen of, it had a few initial teething problems. Not only did it need a driver or two to help iron out performance, it also had the obligatory SLI hiccups that needed stamping down so you could actually use it.

The problem with that is simply that every driver release then potentially becomes a full review candidate, since release games will also suffer if either AMD of Nvidia release it under their gaming banner. I'm sure AMD will push for reviews (either directly or through forum fanboys) when/if they get Civ 5 performance up to scratch. Likewise DAO and Shogun 2 would come in for the same attention from the green camp

And while we're on the subject of the GTX 295, does anyone think Asus will be looking at the 590 as a candidate for the Mars III?

Doubtful IMO. Asus got burned on the Mars (too late into the market) and Ares wasn't (and isn't) a big seller regardless of the fact that only 1000 went to market...and who is going to plunk down $1k on 5870 Crossfire ? -and that's without considering that the same amount of cash (or less) buys GTX580SLI or the three-way crossfireX 6000 series of choice.

Having said that I think the biggest obstacle to the full 580SLI Mars if Asus itself. A DirectCopperII version of the GTX590 would be, for all intents and purposes, the exact same card - especially if they add a third PCIe connector... Personally I'd wait it out for either a GTX580 w/ 3Gb ( if I were desperate for a card...an nvidia card) or keep the folding in my wallet and hope TSMC's 28nm process is on (or close to) time.

madboyv1, TechSpot Paladin, said:

Steve said:

@ madboyv1 - With these high-end cards the only resolutions you should discount are those less than 2560x1600.

I normally agree with this statement in from a sheer performance standpoint. However, with the obvious framerate pointing where people are commenting/jeering about differences of 5 fps between cards or average/max (not just this site, others included), especially in the low 30s and low 40s where it counts the most, it's obvious that from a practical performance standpoint your resolution probably should not be that high for that game, especially for the ones who live by "60fps min or the highway." So whether you discount a resolution really depends on how you're looking at it.

Regardless of the resolution however, these dual GPU solutions are crazy powerful, and to think only 5 years ago we had the 8800 series and the HD2900, the beginning of Unified Shaders. =o

fpsgamerJR62 said:

@dividebyzero - I'm also looking forward to a custom GTX 580 with 3 GB DDR5 similar to the 2GB GTX 285 cards which appeared late in that product's life cycle. I personally think the 590's 1.5 GB memory buffer does get exhausted at very high resolutions and image settings resulting in performance drop-offs in the benchmarks. The 6990's 2 GB buffer should give it an advantage in this situation. Maybe it's just me but I don't care much for Nvidia's oddball memory configurations. 3 GB sounds better to me than 1,536 MB.

Archean Archean, TechSpot Paladin, said:

@Lurker

Toms recently did a review about [link] (using HD 5870), however, the review is about ATI Catalyst drivers; but I think it is a good idea anyway which probably can give you a reasonable guestimate about what to expect from nVidia as well.

@DBZ

Congrats Kiwis just beat Proteas, and they deserved to win after such a fantastic performance ........... but for Proteas, I guess they always somehow find a new way to choke

dividebyzero dividebyzero, trainee n00b, said:

@fpsgamerJR62

Technically the 3Gb of RAM would be 3076Mb. Other than seeming a little strange considering Nvidia use a "non-256Mb" industry standard memory bus, the "oddball" framebuffer doesn't have any detrimental effects over a 1024Mb or 2048Mb one.

My reasoning for the GTX580 3Gb comes doen to the fact that, AIB "specials"/non-reference aside, the GTX590 is the last significant card to be released until late this year (or early next) when the GTX6xx and HD7xxx series are due to launch. Something needs to fill the "new release" gap...and a GTX580 3Gb would do just that, since the only area that the present 580 doesn't dominate (in framerate) is a few titles where frame buffer limitations play a significant factor - F1 2010 in particular and multi-screen gaming in general where high levels of AA and texture are utilized.

@Archean

From the moment of that bizarre Amla dismissal, anything was possible. The South African's seem to have either a mental block or the gods turn their back on them at World Cup time.

Hopefully the team can put up a good show against England/Sri Lanka.

Archean Archean, TechSpot Paladin, said:

It was a strange one indeed, but the irony is without any shadow of doubt I would say the best (and most balanced) team of the tournament has been knocked out (probably haunted by the deamons from the past?).

Anyway, one thing which I missed to add in my last comment, I think it would be interesting to see (a comparison about) how nVidia's graphic driver performance progresses with each driver relase

dividebyzero dividebyzero, trainee n00b, said:

The main problem with comparing driver releases- especially over an extended period of time is that even if the system configuration does not change, the software/OS suite invariably will, as will the benchmark/game version. Once a patch or bug fix is added, it pretty much throws out any previous comprisons, and re-testing the patched/bugfixed game or synthetic can present a whole new raft of problems.

Most comparisons I've seen usually involve 2 or 3 driver revisions at most, unless a whole slew of beta's are released in a short space of time.

AMD's Catalyst driver for some reason known only to Shane Baxter and a select few is performance reviewed on every release...you can see that a 2 fps increase is generally cause for joyous celebration.

Staff
Steve Steve said:

AMD's Catalyst driver for some reason known only to Shane Baxter and a select few is performance reviewed on every release...you can see that a 2 fps increase is generally cause for joyous celebration.

I would be surprised if there was even that most of the time.

dividebyzero dividebyzero, trainee n00b, said:

Yes, I think Shane probably has a macro all set up for "No noticeable difference"

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