Powerful enough to threaten the HD 6990?
The huge fan on the GTX 590, apart from keeping the 2 GPUs relatively cool, also has the added advantage of being very quiet. So quiet, in fact, that under stress it was just as loud, if not lesser, than the GTX 580! Zotac’s GTX 590 seems to be based on the reference Nvidia designs, so I doubt they have put on a custom heatsink and fan.
On idle the GTX 590 hovered around 40°C, while under full load it went up to 82°C. I managed to overclock the Zotac GTX 590 up to 684Mhz on Core clock, up from 607Mhz stock, while memory speeds remained the same. At these speeds, the GTX 590 reported temperatures of 85°C.
That’s a good amount of scaling with a 77MHz overclock. Now given that the GTX 590 has the ability for voltage tweaking, I got really brave and decided to over-voltage the card as well as the speeds and see how far I can go. Using MSI Afterburner I increased the voltage by 75mV and bumping up the Core speeds to 753Mhz which resulted in an incredible score of 9816 on 3DMark 11 (p). Hoping to hit the 10k mark, I decided to bump the voltage to 125mV with Core speeds of 804Mhz. As 3DMark 11 was coming to a close, the whole system shutdown and I could see smoke coming out of the power cable connectors.
As the smell of burnt plastic and metal faded, I contacted Nvidia to try and see what happened. The GTX 590 should have been able to either handle the voltage increase, or simply failed to a BSOD or crashed the system. I certainly didn’t expect it to die on me. Turns out the drivers provided by Zotac were 267.52 and the latest drivers from Nvidia, 267.71, have some fail-safe measures to protect the GTX 590 against over-voltage. So remember folks, a simple driver update can be the deciding factor between the life and death of a graphics card when you’re pushing it to the limits. Always update your drivers.
Anyways, that tragic incident aside, the GTX 590 did one hell of a job. Now let’s look at the final deciding factor. The price of the GTX 590 is set somewhere around the $720 mark, just over two GTX 570s. The AMD HD 6990 is $700 which is also just over two HD 6970s. And while performance between these two cards is a tossup, the GTX 590 certainly has the leg up on the HD 6990 when it comes to size and most importantly noise.
The GTX 590 may not be as good as two GTX 570s in SLI, while costing slightly more. However, it is undeniably quiet, and, at the end of the day, is a single card solution which will satisfy the needs of anybody wanting to play the latest games at ultra-high resolutions or on a dual/triple monitor setup.