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.
Before slamming the GTX 590 with our battery of tests, we'd like to quickly recap our Radeon HD 6990 findings. Code-named Antilles, the AMD card is essentially a pair of Radeon HD 6970's fused together, albeit with lower GPU and memory clocks. Overall, it's roughly 6% slower than two 6970s in CrossFire. That deficit is compounded by the 6990's pricey $699 MSRP, higher thermals and louder operation.
In other words, despite being the fastest graphics card available (at the time anyway), the Radeon HD 6990's drawbacks made it impractical for the vast majority of users. Unfortunately, that is nearly always the case with dual-GPU cards, so it'll be interesting to see if Nvidia has kept the GTX 590's power consumption and noise levels in check while delivering the expected level of performance at a fair price.
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. Again, we saw the same compromise on the Radeon HD 6990.
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!