Today's Hard|Forum Post
Today's Hard|Forum Post

ASUS GeForce GTX 590 Video Card Review

Today NVIDIA is launching the GeForce GTX 590 with dual-GPUs on a single video card. We are going to take this beast and compare it to not only Radeon HD 6990 but also GeForce GTX 580 SLI and GeForce GTX 570 SLI. This video card is pleasant to the ears, but does it have the muscle to make it a competitive buy?

Introduction

Many people have been waiting to see what NVIDIA has in store for the high-end single-PCB (Printed Circuit Board) form factor video card sporting two-GPUs. That wait is over. Today the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 590 is making its debut. The GeForce GTX 590 is a single-PCB video card with two GPUs on board hardwired to provide SLI performance. We have all been very curious about how NVIDIA would deliver this considering the GeForce GTX 580 GPUs run so hot and consume so much power. Would it be possible to even put two of these GTX 580 GPUs on a single PCB and not have a system melt down? The answer is "Yes." NVIDIA found a way to do it. According to NVIDIA 2 years of engineering went into the design of this video card to give you "the fastest single video card performance on the planet." Can it actually deliver?

The GeForce GTX 590 will have an MSRP of $699, putting it directly in line to target the almost month old AMD Radeon HD 6990. Frankly, this is impressive pricing, and nothing less would have sufficed.

NVIDIA GeForce GTX 590

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One huge design goal for the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 590 was to keep the acoustics in check. This means no loud squealing fans, no loud rush of air, and overall a generally invisible video card inside your system. There are over 2,200 components on this video card making this NVIDIA's most complex dual-GPU video card yet. The GTX 590 uses an expensive and high-quality 12 layer 2oz copper PCB. There is a 10-phase power supply on board along with the PCIe x16 bridge chip. Both GPUs are moved out to the sides with the power circuitry in the center just like the Radeon HD 6990.

Both GPU cores have high-quality machined vapor chambers atop, just like the 6990. The fan cover is actually removable so that you can clean the fan blades as needed, just like we have seen from Galaxy cards in the last year. Both ends of the video card exhaust heat as the fan is centered, so hot air will be coming out both ends with vigor, just like the 6990. There is even an LED atop the shroud that lights up while in use and glows red if you don't have all the power connectors plugged in, akin to some ASUS cards with load level indicators we have seen in the last year or so. Visually, this is a strikingly good looking piece of hardware.

GeForce GTX 590 Specifications

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The GeForce GTX 590 does use two GeForce GTX 580 GPUs. Both GPUs have the exact same CUDA cores (512), same transistors, same ROPs and Texture Units, same everything. While that makes us all happy, there is a big difference between this video card with these GPUs and two true GeForce GTX 580 video cards, and that is the clock speeds.

According to NVIDIA it has clocked down the GPUs and memory by quite a lot in order to keep the acoustics low. The level at which acoustics were acceptable seems to be with both GPUs at 607MHz with shaders at 1215MHz and memory at 3.4GHz. That is 165MHz core clock and 329MHz shader clock slower than the GeForce GTX 580 GPU which runs at 772MHz/1544MHz! That, as you will find out, is a massive amount that is detrimental to performance.

On top of that, the memory is down-clocked 600MHz from a GeForce GTX 580 video card which runs at 4GHz. Not only are the clock speeds that much slower compared to the GTX 580, but they are also slower than the GTX 570! In fact the core is 125MHz slower and the shaders are 249MHz than the GTX 570! The memory is 400Mhz slower than the GTX 570!

What we end up with are gimped GTX 580 GPUs that run slower in frequency compared to GTX 570! Thankfully they have all 512 CUDA cores, but that is still only 32 extra CUDA cores per GPU. Maybe that will make up some of the performance, but we will see about that.

The memory consists of the same 1.5GB of GDDR5 per GPU you will find on the GTX 580. The AMD Radeon HD 6990 remember has 2GB per GPU available. The memory bus still runs at 384-bit memory bus thank goodness. Since this video card has two GPUs on board, you are able to run 3x DVI ports at the same time to achieve a 3x1 multi-display gaming matrix, aka "NV Surround." We are able to run triple-display NV Surround from one single video card. Of course, SLI will be enabled when you do this. This video card has 3 DVI ports, which is a blessing.


ASUS GeForce GTX 590

Today we have a full retail ASUS GeForce GTX 590 video card to evaluate, the MSRP will be $699 and this card does support VoltageTweak.

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Don't let the "Dual GPUs with huge 3GB GDDR5 memory" ads fool you, we all know that means only 1.5GB of available memory per GPU. With VoltageTweak support ASUS is claiming some very high overclocking abilities. We didn't have time to test it in this evaluation, but we will be doing a follow-up looking closely at performance with the card overclocked to its full potential the same as we recently did with the Radeon HD 6990. Our real-world testing regimen simply requires too many cycles for us to fit it into the narrow time frames that these companies allow us.

ASUS slightly overclocks this video card, but it is not considered an "OC" video card. The core is only increases by 5MHz and the shaders by 10MHz. The memory runs at 3.42GHz instead of 3.4GHz. These clock speed increases are meaningless and add nothing to performance.

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The ASUS GeForce GTX 590 is a full 1" shorter than the AMD Radeon HD 6990. Length measures in at 11" whereas the HD 6990 is 12". In fact, the whole video card is less bulky than the Radeon HD 6990. On the back of the video card are these heat plates over the backs of each GPU. The plates do come in contact with the memory modules and back of the GPU. There are three DVI ports on this video card so you can hook up 3x DVI displays at once and activate NV Surround. Two 8-pin power connectors are required. There is one SLI connector atop the video card to allow Quad-SLI which will be supported in a future driver.

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As we mentioned, both ends are open and exhaust hot air. We mentioned that the cover is removable. There are four screws you must unscrew and a clip to pop, and off comes the cover, that easy! Be careful though, the LED lights on the cover are connected by a short cable. Don't yank it off, make sure to disconnect it after removing the cover if you need to. Once the cover is off you have access to the heatsinks and the fan to thoroughly clean them. The design is quite eloquent.

Built by / Supply

Worth noting is that all of the GTX 590 cards brought to market will be built by NVIDIA, so you will not be seeing any "special sauce" in these cards. ASUS and EVGA will be exclusively handling sales of the GTX 590 in North America.

We have inquired as to how many units will be for sale in North America. Officially NVIDIA will only tell us, "Thousands will be available at launch worldwide." We have heard unsubstantiated rumors that there will be very few of these GTX 590 cards available. So depending on demand, the GeForce GTX 590 may or may not be a "collector's item" soon.