Final Thoughts

If my final thoughts start sounding like a broken record, it’s because once again a set of NVIDIA & AMD product launches have resulted in a pair of similarly performing products.

The crux of the matter is that NVIDIA and AMD have significantly different architectures, and once again this has resulted in cards that are quite equal on average but are all over the place in individual games and applications. If we just look at the mean performance lead/loss for all games at 2560, the GTX 590 is within 1% of the 6990; however, within those games there’s a great deal of variance. The GTX 590 does extremely well in Civilization V as we’d expect, along with DIRT 2, Mass Effect 2, and HAWX. Meanwhile in Crysis, BattleForge, and especially STALKER the GTX 590 comes up very short. Thus choosing the most appropriate card is heavily reliant what games are going to be played on it, and as a result there is no one card that can be crowned king.

Of the games NVIDIA does well in, only Civ5 is a game we’d classify as highly demanding; the rest are games where the GTX 590 is winning, but it’s also getting 100+ frames per second. Meanwhile on the games AMD does well at the average framerate is much lower, and all of the games are what we’d consider demanding. Past performance does not perfectly predict future performance, but there’s a good chance the 6990 is going to have a similar lead on future, similarly intensive games (at least as long as extreme tessellation isn’t a factor). So if you had to choose a card based on planning for future use as opposed to current games, the 6990 is probably the better choice from a performance perspective. Otherwise if you’re choosing based off of games you’d play today, you need to look at the individual games.

With that said, the wildcard right now is noise. Dual-GPU cards are loud, but the GTX 590 ends up being the quieter of the two by quite a bit; the poor showing of the 6990 ends up making the GTX 590 look a lot more reasonable than it necessarily is. The situation is a lot like the launch of the GTX 480, where we saw the GTX 480 take the performance crown, but at the cost of noise. The 6990’s performance advantage in shader-intensive games goes hand-in-hand with a much louder fan; whether this is a suitable tradeoff is going to be up to you to decide.

Ultimately we’re still looking at niche products here, so we shouldn’t lose sight of that fact. A pair of single-GPU cards in SLI/CF is still going to be faster and a bit quieter if not a bit more power hungry, all for the same price or less. The GTX 590 corrects the 6990’s biggest disadvantage versus a pair of single-GPU cards, but it ends up being no faster on average than a pair of $280 6950s, and slower than a pair of $350 GTX 570s. At the end of the day the only thing really threatened here is the GTX 580 SLI; while it’s bar none the fastest dual-GPU setup there is, at $1000 for a pair of the cards a quad-GPU setup is only another $400. For everything else, as was the case with the Radeon HD 6990, it’s a matter of deciding whether you want two video cards on one PCB or two PCBs.

Quickly, let's also touch upon factory overclocked/premium cards, since we had the chance to look at one today with the EVGA GeForce GTX 590 Classified. EVGA’s factory overclock isn’t anything special, and indeed if it were much less it wouldn’t even be worth the time to benchmark. Still, EVGA is charging 4% more for about as much of a performance increase, and then is coupling that with a lifetime warranty; ignore the pack-in items and you have your usual EVGA value-added fare, and all told it’s a reasonable deal, particularly when most other GTX 590s don’t come with that kind of warranty. Meanwhile EVGA’s overclocking utility suite is nice to see as always, though with the changes to OCP (and the inability to see when it kicks in) I’m not convinced GTX 590 is a great choice for end-user overclocking right now.

Update: April 2nd, 2011: Starting with the 267.91 drivers and release 270 drivers, NVIDIA has disabled overvolting on the GTX 590 entirely. This is likely a consequence of several highly-publicized incidents where GTX 590 cards died as a result of overvolting. Although it's unusual to see a card designed to not be overclockable, clearly this is where NVIDIA intends to be.

Finally, there’s still the multi-monitor situation to look at. We’ve only touched on a single monitor at 2560; with Eyefinity and NVIDIA/3D Vision Surround things can certainly change, particularly with the 6990’s extra 512MB of RAM per GPU to better handle higher resolutions. But that is a story for another day, so for that you will have to stay tuned…

Power, Temperature, & Noise
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  • buhusky - Friday, March 25, 2011 - link

    anybody else remember back in the era when pentiums just kept getting bigger & hotter every year? i wonder when they'll start making gpus smaller, cooler, quieter like they finally ended up doing with CPUs Reply
  • krumme - Saturday, March 26, 2011 - link

    Yeaa, then this card is on of the first Pentium3 1Ghz Reply
  • ryan1e - Saturday, March 26, 2011 - link

    no offense anandtech, but this card is aimed squarely at the bleeding edge consumers much like the amd 6990 is. to that extent, any video card can only add performance to a system with respect to how much the system can deliver on the cpu side. as for the base system itself, it's a basic rig, nothing spectacular now. the gtx 590 and the amd 6990 restively would both perform better, and your results would prove more the limitations and capabilities of those cards if they were being run on the platforms they were targeted for. an example of what i mean: tom's hardware used a test platform based on an intel i7-990x OC to 4ghz paired to an asus rampage III formula mb vs. anandtech's older i7-920 clocked at 3.33 ghz paired to an asus rampage II extreme mb. the review from toms hardware nvidia's gtx 590 and amd's 6990 both performed far better than on anand's rig, but still similar overall. personally, i think i'll stick with my sli gtx 580 oc water cooled setup for performanceand get an upgrade for my cpu, neither the 6990 or 590 in any configuration is worth the expense for the miniscule gain in performance on the graphics side. Reply
  • mino - Saturday, March 26, 2011 - link

    One word: comparability. Reply
  • mino - Saturday, March 26, 2011 - link

    Another important review from AT, another biased review from AT. GRRR.
    - AT chooses NOT TO overclock HD6990 BUT presents un-overclocked results as HD6990 OC
    Yeah, it could embarrass our masters if AMD's built-to-overclock card was presented deemed overclockable

    - "The GTX 590 simply embarrasses the 6990 here; it’s not even a contest."
    Yeah, 4dB is no contest, embarrassment, of course. It is AMD's card after all. (it is louder, no question there)

    PR mercenaries at their best. Lets brace ourselves for another round of PR warfare when BD and Llano launch ...
    Reply
  • nitrousoxide - Wednesday, March 30, 2011 - link

    Don't you know that noise level goes by factor of 10 with 10dB increase? Do the math, and you will find 6990 2 times louder than 590. Indeed it's no contest. You can check out Linus Tech Tips' video review you Youtube. 6990 is definitely much, much louder than 590.

    The article itself isn't biased. 6990 and 590 have similar win-some-lose-some situation just like most cards at similar price range (570 vs. 6970, 560 vs. 6950, 460 vs. 6850 etc.) Darn it's impossible to have a real card king these days when both NV and AMD are paying developers for optimization.
    Reply
  • OblivionLord - Sunday, March 27, 2011 - link

    Anyone know what case was used in this test because if different cases were used then that could affect the temp chart. Reply
  • ryedizzel - Wednesday, March 30, 2011 - link

    another excellent and incredibly thorough article. this is why i come back to Anandtech time and time again for the "real" story. thank you and please keep up the good work! :) Reply
  • trogthefirst - Thursday, March 31, 2011 - link

    Actually if i wanted near the top gaming performance i would just fork out for 2 x HD 6950s, crossfire and possibly unlock them as a bonus :P Tadaa! Reply
  • rav55 - Thursday, March 31, 2011 - link

    What good is it if you can't buy it? Nvidia cherry picked the gpu's to work on this card and they could only release a little over 1000 units. It is now sold out in the US and available in limited amounts in Europe.

    Basically the GTX 590 is vapourware!!! What a joke!
    Reply

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