Nvidia GeForce GTX 590 review

Chris Finnamore
24 Mar 2011
Our Rating 
Price when reviewed 
inc VAT

Hugely powerful yet remarkably cool and quiet, but it can't match AMD's Radeon HD 6990 in multi-monitor setups



Nvidia GeForce GTX 590

AMD's current flagship graphics card, the Radeon HD 6990, consists of two slightly underclocked 6870 graphics chips on one card. Nvidia's answer is the GeForce GTX 590, which similarly has a pair of underclocked processors in it – two GTX 580 chips running at 607 rather than 772MHz.

Nvidia's latest cards are based around clusters of shader processors that Nvidia calls streaming multiprocessors. The GTX 590 has 16 of these per core for a grand total of 32, along with 3,072MB of memory running at 1.7GHz. There's no surprise that the card made short work of our benchmarks. Crysis at 1,920x1,080 with Very High detail and 4x anti-aliasing was dispatched with 64.1fps – almost 20fps better than the HD 6990.

Things were tighter in Stalker and 3DMark 11. When running our Stalker DirectX 11 Sun Shafts benchmark at 1,920x1,080 with 4x AA and High detail, the GTX 590 managed 79.4fps compared to 77.1 for the HD 6990. 3DMark 11 was also close. We run it at custom settings, with the Performance preset, 1,920x1,080 resolution, 4x anti-aliasing and 8x anisotropic filtering. Here the GTX 590 managed 3,419 compared to the 6990's 3,375, so again very little in it.

One thing we did notice when running the tests was how quiet the 590 stayed, compared to the jet engine roar of the Radeon HD 6990. It also generated far less heat after a thrashing, but you'll still need adequate cooling in your case (as well as a 700W power supply with two 8-pin PCI Express connectors).

Nvidia GeForce GTX 590 power

With a huge TDP of 365W, it's not surprising to see these twin 8-pin power connectors

While current games don't really trouble this card even at high resolutions, you may need the extra power for an Nvidia Surround setup. This is similar to AMD's Eyefinity, where you run three monitors in order to have a wider, wrap-around display. Nvidia claims you can connect a monitor to each of the DVI ports, but this wouldn’t work for us or for our colleagues on PC Pro; after several crashes and strange behaviour we plugged in two monitors over DVI and a third into the mini DisplayPort connector with an active mini DisplayPort to DVI adaptor, which worked perfectly.

Nvidia GeForce GTX 590 ports

Despite the three DVI ports, we still had to use the mini DisplayPort when gaming on three monitors

Once we had Nvidia Surround set up our three displays totalled a huge 5,760 x 1,080. This troubled Crysis. At High detail with 4xAA it ran smoothly in certain parts but stuttered in others - possibly when the card was swapping high-resolution textures over the PCI Express bus. This led to an average of 30.2fps, but certain sections were so jerky as to be unplayable; the Radeon HD 6990's 4GB of RAM helps it edge ahead here, as AMD's card managed a smooth 38.7fps. The HD 6990 was also faster in the Stalker sun shafts test, managing 36.1fps compared to the GTX 590's 27fps.

At this price, the GTX 590's only real rival is the Radeon HD 6990. The GTX 590 is significantly faster in Crysis at maximum detail, but has similar performance in the DirectX 11 3DMark 11 and Stalker tests, which are arguably more indicative of future games. It's also a nicer card to live with, being much quieter than AMD's card, and as it's 25cm shorter than the HD 6990 you're more likely to be able to get it into your case.

However, the only real reason to have a card this powerful is to run multi-monitor setups, and here the HD 6990 has a clear advantage over the GTX 590 in both Crysis and Stalker. If you can put up with the noise, the HD 6990 retains its crown as the most powerful graphics card there is for multi-monitor gaming.

Basic Specifications

InterfacePCI Express x16
Slots taken up2
Graphics ProcessorNvidia GeForce 580
Memory3072MB GDDR5
Memory interface384-bit
GPU clock speed607MHz
Memory speed1.71GHz
Card length280mm


Architecture32 streaming multiprocessors
Anti aliasing32x
Anisotropic filtering16x


DVI outputs3
VGA outputs0
S-video outputno
S-Video inputno
Composite outputsno
Composite inputsno
Component outputsno
HDMI outputs0
Power leads required2x 8-pin PCI Express


Software includednone

Benchmark Results

3DMark Vantage 1680N/A
Call of Duty 4 1680 4xAA88.1fps
Call of Duty 4 1440 4xAAN/A
Crysis 1680 High 4xAA84.9fps
Crysis 1440 High 4xAAN/A

Buying Information

Warrantyone year RTB

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