The GeForce GTX 590 continues Nvidia's tradition of releasing a dual-GPU graphics card for the top-most segment of the consumer market for high-end gaming. Where the application and game supports multiple graphics cards, such a card always does well. However, Nvidia has a chequered history where not every dual-GPU was hailed as a good thing by the market. Between the GeForce 7900 GX2, 9800 GX2 and GTX 295, more than one product attracted criticism for profligacy in power consumption.
For immersive gaming on dual- and triple monitor setups, choosing a top-end dual-GPU card is an easy choice.
But if you want to game with all graphic effects enabled, at the full resolution of 2560x1600 offered by a 30-inch LCD monitor, or play on dual- and triple monitor setups for an immersive gaming experience, choosing a top-end dual-GPU card is an easy choice. Here we have tested a reference Nvidia card, and these findings will hold true unless a brand uses a different cooler or overclocks the card.
The GeForce GTX 590 holds two second-gen Fermi architecture GF110 GPUs in one body, SLI'd internally. The GPUs are under-clocked compared to the clock speeds seen on the GTX 580 and GTX 570, perhaps to hold down temperature and power consumption.
Since this is a dual-GPU card, we shall be mentioning the specs for one GPU, which will be applicable to both GPUs onboard. This is because not all specs can be thought of as multiplying by two, when using a dual-GPU graphics card. Each GPU has 1536 MB of GDDR5 video memory clocked at 854 MHz and a GPU core clocked at 608 MHz. Each GPU has a 384-bit memory interface and 512 unified shaders that support DirectX 11, OpenGL 4.1, OpenCL, CUDA/PhysX and Nvidia 3D Vision.
For more first-hand information, a GPU-Z screenshot above shows GPU specs in detail.
While the GTX 590 graphics card overall has two such GPUs of the specs shown above, it cannot be thought of as having twice the GPU specs. Except for the shaders that can wholeheartedly be endorsed as being equal to 1024 shaders in all, the dual 384-bit memory interface and dual 1536MB of VRAM cannot truly be said to have doubled. The total of 6 billion transistors in one graphics card is certainly awe-inspiring though.
Note that the number of shaders point towards this card being made of two GTX 580 GPUs, which would mean both core and memory clock speeds have been severely under-clocked - a dream for enthusiasts who want to see just how much extra performance could possibly be unlocked by ratcheting the speeds up.
Being a reference card, the dual-slot graphics card cooler is of the Nvidia reference design. In retail, you'd find individual brands splashing their name and logo across the fan and body covering. The cooler is pretty much closed on all sides, except for some grills at the rear and an opening at the other end. This means very little heat is expected to escape into the PC cabinet - the cooler is geared to exhaust heat through the heat vent/grill at the rear (positioned alongside the display outputs). This is good for ambient temperature of your desktop PC.
Those with Full-ATX motherboards and cabinets of full-tower ATX size or larger, are the ones who should look at this class of graphics card. This is only natural considering this product's positioning - besides, the GeForce GTX 590 inclusive of cooler is slightly shorter and less bulky than the AMD Radeon 6990. Power requirements are taken care of with its two 8-pin PCI-E power input slots positioned on the side.
Since two GPUs are already paired via internal SLI (Scalable Link Interface), it has only one SLI connector externally, to be able to connect to one other Nvidia graphics card in the same PC. If the one other card you use happens to be another dual-GPU graphics card, you would effectively be using Quad-SLI.
Display outputs at the rear consisted of three DVI ports and one mini-DP (DisplayPort), allowing for up to four monitors to be hooked up to it.
Being a reference card from Nvidia's factory, we expected it not to include a CD/manual/adapter/extras of any sort in the box. However, retail packages of the GTX 590 that you find in the market, would include a premium bundle of extras befitting a product of its stature.
The cooler on this card seems meant to be "sufficient" at full load, but the temperature at idle is extremely good for such a high-end performance segment. The cooler did not get significantly noisy even at full load. The claimed TDP on the GTX 590 at default clock speeds is 365W, not bad for power consumption by a top-end dual-GPU enthusiast graphics card.
Temperature load tested using FurMark.
To eliminate bottle-necks to the extent possible, the test-bed consisted of an Intel Core i7 965 processor, Intel DX58SO motherboard, Intel X25-M 80GB SSD, 12GB of Silicon Power DDR3 RAM in triple channel, Tagan BZ-1300W PSU and Windows 7 Ultimate SP1 64-bit edition. We used the latest driver for the GeForce GTX 590 available at the time of testing. Note that PhysX was enabled wherever supported by the benchmark or game.
The graphs here show performance numbers selected from a wider set of tests conducted. To put the results in context and help you compare, we juxtapose the benchmark scores of the card being tested, against other graphics cards. This is useful to see its price/performance in context.
Below are graphs of how the Zotac GeForce GTX 590 fared in synthetic benchmarks:
Benchmarks: 3D Mark 2006 (DirectX 9.0c) and 3D Mark Vantage (DirectX 10).
Benchmark: 3D Mark 11 at all presets (DirectX 11).
Benchmark: Unigine Heaven 2.1 (DirectX 11) at Full-HD resolution.
Below is a graph of gaming performance showing frame-rates, to reflect what you would see in real-world usage patterns:
Benchmark: Crysis and Far Cry 2.
Benchmark: Metro 2033 (DirectX 11) at three different resolutions.
Besides the synthetic and gaming benchmarks above, there is a bit more that goes in favour of Nvidia simply because AMD is not (yet) allowed access to CUDA/PhysX/3Dvision. The hardware acceleration this Nvidia card provides to CUDA enabled applications (such as video encoders and CAD apps) and PhysX enabled games is a significant factor.
It is clear that the GTX590 pulls far ahead of single-GPU cards, and the dual-GPU Radeon 5970 as well. Stay tuned for our review of the AMD Radeon 6990 to see whether AMD's dual-GPU card challenges Nvidia's best. For now, the price is worth the performance boost. The convenience of having two GPUs in one body, not to mention the relative power savings, make this card worth it for gamers who can afford it.
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