|NVIDIA GeForce GTX 590 Gemini Video Card|
|Reviews - Featured Reviews: Video Cards|
|Written by Olin Coles|
|Thursday, 24 March 2011|
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GeForce GTX 590 Conclusion
IMPORTANT: Although the rating and final score mentioned in this conclusion are made to be as objective as possible, please be advised that every author perceives these factors differently at various points in time. While we each do our best to ensure that all aspects of the product are considered, there are often times unforeseen market conditions and manufacturer changes which occur after publication that could render our rating obsolete. Please do not base any purchase solely on our conclusion, as it represents our product rating specifically for the product tested which may differ from future versions. Benchmark Reviews begins our conclusion with a short summary for each of the areas that we rate.
NVIDIA designed the GeForce GTX 590 to be the best graphics card available on the market, and they contend that it's a better total solution than the Radeon AMD Radeon HD 6990. I will discuss graphics performance in a moment, but first let's look at the other factors that come into play. NVIDIA's Gemini graphics card consumes a few more watts of power at idle than the Radeon HD 6990, but under load the GTX 590 consumes 46W more than its competitor. Yet, as a direct result of superior cooling efficiency, less heat byproduct is produced by the GTX 590 video card when matched against the Radeon HD 6990. Fan noise from the cooling unit offers the largest contrast we've found between these two products: the GeForce GTX 590 operated quietly under full load, while the Radeon HD 6990 was significantly louder. Let's not forget that the GTX 590 is a full inch shorter, and can fit in more computer cases. Comparing these two products on overall size, heat output, and operational noise, the evidence all points back in favor of NVIDIA's GeForce GTX 590 being the better product.
The closest competition GeForce GTX 590 has is the AMD Radeon HD 6990 in terms of single-card graphics performance, or two GeForce GTX 570's paired together into a SLI set. We've included a pair of AMD Radeon HD 6870's joined in a CrossFireX set, just to illustrate other options. Although NVIDIA has previously informed us the GTX 590 performs to 1.5x the level of two GTX 580's in SLI, we've added them to the results of our tests as well. Now on to the graphics performance results... which take some attention to fully appreciate.
After running benchmarks on each video card through fourteen different tests, the results occasionally placed one product better than the other, and then vice versa. Beginning with DirectX 9 graphics performance in Mafia II with all of the setting turned up high and played with SSAO enabled and PhysX turned off, the GeForce GTX 590 produced an impressive lead over the Radeon HD 6990 but couldn't quite match GeForce GTX 570 SLI performance levels. Call of Duty: Black Ops was tweaked to use the absolute highest quality settings possible, and yet still had extremely fluid video performance during action-packed multiplayer maps for both products.
In the more modern DirectX 10 game tests, Crysis Warhead kept the GTX 590 even with the Radeon HD 6990 and a few frames ahead of the GTX 570 SLI set. 3dMark Vantage used high-end DirectX 10 settings to place all three contenders approximately equal in the Jane Nash test, but both GeForce products would excel past the Radeon HD 6990 in New Calico tests. Battlefield: Bad Company 2 used 8x anti-aliasing and 16x anisotropic filtering to produce far superior framerates on the GTX 590 compared to the Radeon HD 6990, but slightly trailed the pair GTX 570's in SLI.
In the DirectX 11 tests, Futuremark's 3DMark11 benchmark suite strained our high-end graphics cards with only mid-level settings displayed at 720p, yet the HD6990 generally matched up well to the GeForce GTX 590 as well as both GTX 570's in SLI. Aliens vs Predator pushed the Radeon HD 6990 to produce considerably higher average framerates than the GTX 590, while also surpassing the GeForce GTX 570 SLI set. Lost Planet 2 played well at 2x AA, allowing the GeForce GTX 590 to pass the 570 SLI set and leap beyond Radeon HD 6990 performance capabilities. Metro 2033 is a demanding game even when played with high-end graphics, but the Radeon HD 6990 edged past both the GTX 590 and GTX 570 SLI set. Unigine Heaven positioned the Radeon HD 6990 well ahead of the GeForce GTX 590, and only slightly ahead of the GTX 570 SLI pair.
My tally of these results have the GTX 590 ahead in five tests, equal in five, and trailing in five. Based on how the GeForce GTX 590 and Radeon HD 6990 swap paint in most tests or go tit-for-tat in others, graphics performance is roughly equal between these two cards in my book. Compared against the GTX 570 SLI set, the benchmark scores give the SLI set a lead in seven tests, even in two, and trailing in three. If it's a battle between GeForce GTX 590 and Radeon HD 6990 with all things (performance, heat, and noise), most would agree that the GTX 590 is the better choice. For those looking to match graphics frame rate performance at the expense of all the previously mentioned items, plus installation space, then a SLI set of GeForce GTX 570's will also work well.
Each GPU on the GeForce GTX 590 offers two graphics adapters, which are doubled to four with the NF200-P-SLI-A3 chip. Three dual-link DVI ports and a mini-DisplayPort 1.1s output really open up visual functionality, allowing the GTX 590 to power four concurrent displays at once. DL-DVI #1 and DL-DVI #2 are routed from the first GF110 GPU, while DL-DVI #3 and the mini-DP are routed from the second GPU. It's great to see NVIDIA finally include a DisplayPort option, which enables display expansion as the technology catches up with consumers. Gamers will likely take advantage of triple-display surround, or even 3D Vision Surround for those of us who want the most out of our NVIDIA 3D-Vision kit.
GeForce GTX 590 uses 40nm NVIDIA GF110 GPUs identical to those in the flagship GTX 580 model, and with the added thermal management system they've worked perfectly in Gemini's dual-GPU package. The constant move towards building with a smaller die process is rather insignificant in the grand scheme of things, as was proved when the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 280 successfully launched at 65nm instead of the expected 55nm process. Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC) is already building 32nm processors for other clientele, but just not to the level needed to create GPUs.
Appearance is a much more subjective matter, especially since this particular rating doesn't have any quantitative benchmark scores to fall back on. NVIDIA's GeForce GTX series has used a fairly recognizable design for the past year, and with the exception of angular corners the GTX 590 looks very similar to the recently launched GTX 580 and 570 models. Gemini's relatively compact size helps this dual-GPU video card to do what the Radeon HD 6990 could not: fit two processors into a card the size of products designed with only one GPU. Some add-in card partners may offer their own unique designs by incorporating an improved cooling solution, but most will simply dress up the original design with colorful fan shroud graphics.
Value is a fast moving target, and please believe me when I say that it changes by the minute in this industry. The premium-priced GeForce GTX 590 "Gemini" graphics card demonstrates NVIDIA's ability to innovate the graphics segment while leading their market. As of launch day 23 March 2011, the GeForce GTX 590 has been assigned a $699 MSRP. In terms of value, the GeForce GTX 590 costs roughly the same as AMD's Radeon HD 6990. To compare one cards' value to another based solely on video frame rates, then identical pricing fools you into thinking these cards offer approximately the same value. Just remember that only one of these video cards can offer multi-display 3D gaming, standard form-factor installation, and PhysX technology.
When I reviewed the AMD Radeon HD 6990 for the launch event two weeks ago, I genuinely liked the card's ability to produce unmatched performance using the sheer strength of two top-end GPUs. NVIDIA answered back with a product just as powerful, but refined so many of Gemini's smaller details that the scales now tip in their favor. Depending on your collection of games and settings, graphics performance is fairly even between the GeForce GTX 590 and Radeon HD 6990. But unfortunately for the Radeon HD 6990, modern graphics cards are capable of a lot more than simply producing frame rates. Consumers are looking at supplemental features, such as stereoscopic 3D functionality, graphical enhancements, affordable multi-display possibilities, broad software support, and stable drivers. NVIDIA 3D Vision, APEX PhysX, The Way It's Meant to be Played developer support, surround support with inexpensive DVI monitors, and Forceware drivers all deliver these things. AMD's solutions are either no widely supported (DisplayPort), unpopular (AMD HD3D), or lack affordable integration (Eyefinity).
GeForce GTX 590 is the ultimate enthusiast graphics card intended for affluent top-end gamers. It may match the competition's solution in terms of frame rate performance, but then again it also operates at lower temperatures, and does so very quietly. For elite-level gamers and hardware enthusiasts the GeForce GTX 590 represents the best you can buy, and delivers on its price point. Of course, putting together a GeForce GTX 570 SLI set is still an option, but it will consume more power and dissipate additional heat. If you're looking to match performance on the cheap, value-seeking gamers could purchase one GeForce GTX 570 now while saving to upgrade with a second unit later. You'll take up more room inside the computer case and a multi-card setup could require a new power supply unit, but it's possible so long as you're willing to make concessions. If you can afford the asking price, the GeForce GTX 590 'Gemini' graphics card delivers the best total package that money can buy.
Do you agree with my assessment of the GeForce GTX 590 video card? Leave comments below, or ask questions in our Forum.
+ Best total package for DX11 video games
- Extremely expensive enthusiast product