Editor’s Note: This product has been removed from viewing as part of this site because it has been replaced by a new generation of graphics card. You can still read our original review below, but TopTenREVIEWS is no longer updating this product’s information.
It has taken a while, but with the 500 series cards, Nvidia has finally given us graphics cards that are close to what we have been expecting from them for a while now. The Nvidia GeForce GTX 590 is the flagship of that series, and it has shown that it can give AMD a run for its money. As always, the two companies trade blows with their leading products. One is superior in some aspects and the other claims the rest. Once again, Nvidia cannot claim the "most powerful graphics card" title, but it still has several strong points that may tip the balance in its favor for some of you. This is our TopTenREVIEWS Silver Award winner.
It has been a while since Nvidia gave us a dual GPU graphics card, but that is no longer the case. The Nvidia GeForce GTX 590 comes with two of its refined, fully enabled GF110 cores. Both cores have a reduced clock speed of 607MHz, but with overclocking and the right cooling, you could take this graphics card as far as the GF110 core will allow. At stock settings, the computing performance only sits at about 2486GFLOPS or gigaFLOPS (10 to the 9th floating point operations per second). As always with Nvidia, that number is very low and is nearly always more than doubled by similar AMD cards. However, that does not necessarily negate the usefulness of this card. Many other factors make a graphics card great.
For instance, the Nvidia GeForce GTX 590 has more than 3 billion transistors, which act as amplifiers for the power. Transistors are used in all electronics to minimize the amount of power consumed and to maximize output. The result in this case is fast graphics processing without the requirement of a 1500-watt power supply. Instead, Nvidia has set the minimum at 700 watts. Now, since most people buying one of these cards will be running other power-hungry components, we will suggest a 1000-watt power supply instead. One other note on power, the TDP (thermal design power) is 365 watts. Although that is less than the AMD competition, it is greater than the recommended standard of 300 watts as the maximum. Before you install this card, be absolutely sure you have a computer that can handle it.
When it comes to memory for each GPU, the Nvidia GeForce GTX 590 is about 50 percent successful. Each unit has 1.5GB of GDDR5 memory. The memory clock speeds come stock at 1.7GHz, which is as disappointing as the core clock speeds. However, the other two aspects of memory that we evaluated is quite exceptional.
The bus width for each is 384 bits, and the bandwidth is 328. Nvidia has these two aspects well in hand; it just needs to beef up the amount of memory and the clock speeds. Is that a problem? Normally, we would say that the average user is unlikely to hit the clock speed or memory amount bottlenecks. However, this graphics card is not for the average user, so potentially, yes, it is a problem.
The 400 series cards were the first from Nvidia to use the company's new Fermi technology, but a little time and attention has streamlined it into architecture for the 500 series that can do impressive parallel computing. The Nvidia GeForce GTX 590 of is, of course, making use of the PhysX, PureVideo HD and 3D Vision technology. PhysX deals specifically with the environmental PhysX for animation. PureVideo HD is for processing video. 3D Vision, oddly enough, is for viewing 3D content. Crazy, we know. That 3D tech is not to be confused with 3D Vision Surround that Nvidia also uses, but is instead for utilizing multiple monitors.
The three major APIs (application programming interfaces) that the Nvidia GeForce GTX 590 supports are DirectX, OpenGL and OpenCL. DirectX is the big one, especially since the release of version 11. DirectX 11 mainly focuses on improving computing ability by offloading the CPU on your computer and allowing GPUs to handle more. The other major point is tessellation, which the company wants to more heavily integrate for animation that is more realistic. These goals are the same as Nvidia's, so naturally it has been working hand in hand with DirectX 11. Nvidia still has some work to do, but the path is laid out.
The Nvidia GeForce GTX 590 comes with four connectors for plugging in your monitor(s). Three of those connectors are DVI, and the other is a mini-DisplayPort. With a Quad SLI configuration, you will have to use the first two DVI connectors, since the other two outputs are not supported in that configuration. If your monitor(s) only have HDMI or VGA connectors, have no fear because even if your GTX 590 does not come with adapters, they are inexpensive, and you can always pick up a couple if needs be.
Feel free to grab two Nvidia GeForce GTX 590 graphics cards and put them in a Quad SLI configuration. Just know that you will need at least a 1200-watt power supply. The other problem is that this graphics card has a very similar heat dispersion setup to that of the AMD dual-core competition, which kicks 50 percent of the heat into your box rather than out the back. The setup entails a core on either end of the card, with vapor-chambered heatsinks on top that filter the heat onto the aluminum fins. The fan is located in between the two rather than on one end, and therefore pushes the heat from one out the back and the heat from the other into your box. As long as you have good enough airflow through your computer tower, this will not be a problem, but make sure that you do before buying this card.
In short, the Nvidia GeForce GTX 590 sacrifices speed for lower decibels from the fan while under a processing load. Although less noise is always good, the whole point of the highest-end graphics cards is to be ridiculously fast. Thankfully, there is plenty of room for overclocking, for those who know what they are doing.
This graphics card is quiet compared to the main AMD competition.
The GTX 590 is limited by memory and low clock speeds.
Although it's still extremely fast, this Nvidia card is not fast enough to unseat AMD.