When AMD's Radeon HD 6990 stole the performance crown just two weeks ago, we knew it wouldn't be long before Nvidia answered the challenge. The company's GeForce GTX 590 was a poorly kept secret, the specs of which were revealed last fall. Today marks the official launch of the flagship and we are of course excited to see how it fares with the dual GPU range from AMD.
Before we hit the GTX 590 with our test battery, we would like to briefly summarize our results from the Radeon HD 6990. The AMD card with the code name Antilles essentially consists of two merged Radeon HD 6970, but with lower GPU and memory clocks. Overall, it's about 6% slower than two 6970s in CrossFire. This deficit is compounded by the 6990's expensive MSRP, higher thermals, and louder operation.
In other words, while the Radeon HD 6990 is the fastest graphics card available (at this point, anyway), the cons made it impractical for the vast majority of users. Unfortunately, this is almost always the case with dual GPU cards. Therefore, it will be interesting to see whether Nvidia has kept the GTX 590's power consumption and noise level under control while delivering the expected level of performance at a fair price.
The GeForce GTX 590 contains two GF110 graphics processors – the same chip as the GTX 580, the fastest graphics card currently available with a GPU. Although the processors of the GTX 590 have the same core configuration as the GTX 580, Nvidia had to reduce the graphics and memory clock frequencies in order to keep the thermal envelope of the card at a reasonable level. We saw the same compromise with the Radeon HD 6990.
When we realize that, we can already assume that the GTX 590 won't be as fast in the SLI as two GTX 580s. Two GTX 580s would cost at least $ 1,000, however, and the GTX 590 is relative in terms of pricing has to be competitive with the Radeon HD 6990, Nvidia doesn't want the GTX 590 to be as fast as the SLI-GTX 580 anyway. Okay, that's speculation enough. Let's get this party started!