Without a doubt, the GeForce GTX 590 is an incredibly fast solution -- but is it the right one for you?
We get it. You love NVIDIA. Your bedspread is NVIDIA green, you wear your 3D Vision glasses for sunnies and you swear that CUDA is the way forward. You want to go SLI, but running two cards is so overdone. So GeForce 400. We’re, over that hump and the new biggest NVIDIA beast is out in the wild. The GeForce GTX 590. Two high-end chips, 3GB of memory, some PCIe action and one 11in PCB.
At brass tacks, the GTX 590 is two GTX 580 GPUs slapped together in SLI mode on one PCB with a massive whack of GDDR5 memory. But it's not that straightfoward, so we'll break it down piece by piece.
Firstly, the GPUs are the GF110 model chips. Their feeds come in at 512 unified shaders with 64 texture units and 48 ROPS each. That’s the same as the chips on the GTX 580.
They’re not run at the same speeds as the GTX 580 versions, most likely to keep the temperatures at the sane levels. The GTX 580 version of the GF110 chips runs a core clock at 607MHz, compared to the GTX 580 version at 772MHz. Likewise, the shader clock is at 1,215MHz vs 1,544MHz and the memory clock at 854MHz vs 1,000MHz.
The two GPUs are tied together using one of the ever-present NF200 chips. You'll recognise it from motherboards where it's used to extend the amount of workable PCIe lanes to enable SLI where the chipset doesn't have enough.
The NF200 is a bridge chip which allows the increase of the bandwidth on existing PCIe lanes so cards can run closer to their full potential. The NF200 chips are there to provide two GPU's worth of bandwidth over one connection. An enabler and traffic manager, in other words.
The two GPUs are placed at either end of the card and fitted with their own vapour-chamber cooling system. A single high-speed fan in the centre of the cooler provides the airflow. It's a neat solution and removes just enough heat without sounding like a jet engine. There are two 8-pin power connectors to draw a massive maximum of 365W at its TDP. NVIDIA recommends a 700W power supply to keep everything running smoothly. Outputs for this model include three dual-DVI connectors and a mini-DisplayPort.
Our sample was kindly provided by GIGABYTE, who is offering the GTX 590 with its M8000X gaming mouse.
On the bench, the GIGABYTE GeForce GTX 590 was, without doubt, incredibly fast. We tested it in our new 'extreme' test bench; Core i7 990X, 2,133MHz RAM, GIGABYTE G1-Killer Sniper motherboard and Intel 510 SSD; so direct result comparisons, even against its Radeon 6990 opposite can’t be made, but needless to say the results were on par with, or better than any single card solution available. For example, our 3D Mark Vantage score was 33,851, while S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Call of Pripyat Benchark clocked it at 160fps in Ultra settings. It scored 82.9 in Unigine Heaven 2.5, 210fps in H.A.W.K. benchmark and 49fps in H.A.W.K. 2.
But ultimately, we can't in all good conscience recommend the GeForce GTX 590. Though it's very quick, it's unwieldy, hot, overpriced and for the most part slower than two GTX 580s in SLI. We’ve also seen two GTX 580s for around $999. (I know what I’d buy...) Available from GIGABYTE, retailing for $1,199.APC rating: 7/10