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NVIDIA GeForce GTX 590 3GB Review

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SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
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Temperature & Acoustical Testing / Power Consumption

Temperature Analysis


For all temperature testing, the cards were placed on an open test bench with a single 120mm 1200RPM fan placed ~8” away from the heatsink. The ambient temperature was kept at a constant 22°C (+/- 0.5°C). If the ambient temperatures rose above 23°C at any time throughout the test, all benchmarking was stopped. For this test we use the 3DMark Batch Size test at it highest triangle count with 4xAA and 16xAF enabled and looped it for one hour to determine the peak load temperature as measured by GPU-Z.

For Idle tests, we let the system idle at the Windows 7 desktop for 15 minutes and recorded the peak temperature.



Luckily for NVIDIA, some of the more sensational theories about out of control GPU temperatures on a dual Fermi card have finally been put to rest. Through the use of a high-end cooling design equipped with a pair of vapor chamber coolers, the GTX 590’s temperatures are kept well in check. Considering the effect high temperatures have on the power consumption of transistors, keeping the cores under the 80°C mark is one of the main reasons why NVIDIA lists this card as having a TDP of “only” 365W.

The only real concern we have is the direction of the GTX 590’s exhaust being in the direct opposite of a normal case’s airflow pattern. As such, we’re going to recommend that in-chassis air movement be a priority when using one or more of these cards.


Acoustical Testing


Yes, we have finally added decibel testing to our repertoire and this section will expand in future reviews. What you see below are the baseline idle dB(A) results attained for a relatively quiet open-case system (specs are in the Methodology section) sans GPU along with the attained results for each individual card in idle and load scenarios. The meter we use has been calibrated and is placed at seated ear-level exactly 12” away from the GPU’s fan. For the load scenarios, a loop of Unigine Heave 2.5 is used in order to generate a constant load on the GPU(s) over the course of 20 minutes. For Idle results, the average was taken over the course of 5 minutes.

The Average results you see are based on a log taken once every 30 seconds throughout the Load and Idle tests.



Due to the short timeframe we had with the decibel meter the number of cards we were able to test was limited at best. Nonetheless, we can see that NVIDIA’s approach of a compact yet potent cooling design with a centrally mounted 80mm fan is definitely paying dividends. The GTX 590 is downright silent for a dual GPU card and even gives the normally quiet GTX 580 a good run for its acoustical money. Even the HD 6970 – AMD’s flagship single GPU card – is louder.

One of the major critiques we had with the HD 6990 was the high pitched squeal it exhibited when stressed in certain applications. Once that noise was paired up with the cooling fan’s drone, AMD’s Antilles became thoroughly unpleasant to use and really made its presence felt. The GTX 590 on the other hand just feels more refined since its fan doesn’t spin past the 1700 RPM mark and VRM whine is next to nonexistent.


System Power Consumption


For this test we hooked up our power supply to a UPM power meter that will log the power consumption of the whole system twice every second. In order to stress the GPU as much as possible we once again use the Batch Render test in 3DMark06 and let it run for 30 minutes to determine the peak power consumption while letting the card sit at a stable Windows desktop for 30 minutes to determine the peak idle power consumption. We have also included several other tests as well.

Please note that after extensive testing, we have found that simply plugging in a power meter to a wall outlet or UPS will NOT give you accurate power consumption numbers due to slight changes in the input voltage. Thus we use a Tripp-Lite 1800W line conditioner between the 120V outlet and the power meter.


Talking about power consumption in the realm of dual GPU cards is almost pointless since anyone buying a GTX 590 or HD 6990 likely doesn’t give a damn about their monthly power bill. With that being said, we were pleasantly surprised with the numbers achieved by this card considering all the doom and gloom many critics were predicting.

Underclocking and lowering the voltage on the cores and memory contributed in a big way to higher efficiency, especially when the power consumption of a GTX 570 SLI or GTX 580 SLI solution is taken into account.

Our sample displayed lower power consumption than the HD 6990 as well but due to sample to sample variance, this may not be the case with all GTX 590 cards. Nonetheless, this is still an accomplishment worthy of note.

We have been told by NVIDIA that the GTX 590 has been designed in such a way that it doesn’t draw any more than 75W from the PCI-E slot. Any additional power that’s needed is pumped through the two 8-pin connectors. In practice, this means auxiliary power connectors on the motherboard aren’t needed but we’d still recommend you buy a board which allows for additional PCI-E slot power if you plan on running two of these cards.
 
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SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
Staff member
Joined
Feb 26, 2007
Messages
13,264
Location
Montreal
Overclocking Results

Overclocking Results


Increasing the clock speeds of AMD’s HD 6990 wasn’t exactly a fun affair with its default voltages in place and the GTX 590 follows in these footsteps to a certain extent. Core overclocking did go a bit better than expected but still stopped short of the 700Mhz mark.

Meanwhile, the memory speeds were tightly curtailed by the default voltage as well. It was nigh on impossible to elevate speeds past the final results listed below without having the GDDR5’s error correction come into play and basically cap performance.

We understand MSI’s AfterBurner software supports voltage increases for the GTX 590 but we’d hesitate to recommend going this direction since it could void the warranty on an extremely expensive piece of hardware.

Final Results:

Core Clock: 689Mhz
Processor Clock: 1378Mhz
Memory Clock: 3744Mhz (QDR)




 

SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
Staff member
Joined
Feb 26, 2007
Messages
13,264
Location
Montreal
Conclusion

Conclusion


So there you have it; NVIDIA has finally released their almost mythical dual Fermi card, and contrary to all the worries than have been floating around it exceeded our expectations in most respects. In many ways the GTX 590 has truly set a new high water mark not by soundly beating the competition in a framerate war but by redefining the market’s preconceptions of dual GPU solutions.

The GTX 590’s real accomplishment is the feeling of refinement that it exudes. Unlike the HD 6990, its VRMs don’t squeal like a scared piglet and fan noise is kept to an absolute minimum. The fact that its svelte 11” length will fit into a wide variety of cases should also make it in vastly more appealing than the behemoth AMD is currently saddled with.


Click on images to enlarge​

Refinement is always welcome but the bread and butter of any $700 graphics card is performance. In this respect, the GTX 590 puts up some great numbers but ultimately falls short of dethroning AMD’s HD6990 in convincing fashion. The two dual GPU cards trade blows from one game and resolution to the next which means the HD 6990 no longer boasts the title of “fastest graphics card in the world” but neither does the GTX 590. The end result between these two cards on the performance front is just too close to call.

When pitted against the available high end SLI solutions, the GTX 590 tends to flip flop between impressive and underwhelming since both its memory and core speeds have been pared down. The higher amount of texture memory does allow it to easily muscle past the GTX 570 SLI solution in bandwidth limited situations (particularly in the minimum framerate department) but the two individual cards were still able to come out on top in most games. It should be mentioned that a single card which can run three monitors and still perform up to expectations with 3D Vision enabled is definitely a welcome addition to NVIDIA’s lineup.


Within our review of the HD 6990 we mentioned that a strong driver stack is a must for any dual GPU product. Without quick SLI support for new games, the GTX 590 will be dead in the water. A good example of this was the GTX 590’s performance in Just Cause 2 where framerates took an unexpectedly plunge at higher resolutions with AA enabled. This in effect had a profound impact upon the 2560 x 1600 / 8x AA results we have above. Hopefully a situation like this is the exception rather than an omen of things to come.

The GTX 590 is a card that’s full of surprises. It may not decisively beat the HD 6990 but it’s quite obvious that NVIDIA has raised the bar for dual core graphics cards by lessening the perceived shortcomings. Their solution is quiet, runs cool, doesn’t consume as much power as many were predicting and is immensely powerful while boasting one of the most complete feature sets currently available. A price which puts it on level footing with Antilles is just icing on the cake. The GTX 590’s inability to blow the HD 6990 out of the water on the performance front may disappoint some but when looked at as a complete package, we couldn’t have asked for more.


 
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