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nVidia GTX590 preview – is it the fastest card in the world?

Thursday 24th march 2011 is the day that nVidia well and truly put its hat back in the ring, as a contender for the ultimate accolade “World Heavyweight Champion of Graphics”. While Zardon prepares the full KitGuru Labs torture test, using all of the latest and greatest tweaks and drivers, we minions are going to have a look at the out of box experience that wealthy new buyers will be going through over the coming days.

The battle for high end graphics supremacy is never ending. If nVidia and ATI/AMD marketing people could roll the clock back 10 years, then they might consider using a little less colourful language to describe graphics cards which, by today’s standards, might struggle to power a mobile phone.

When the Mad Onions of Futuremark pulled back the covers on 3DMark 2001, gamers across the world sat in awe. Everyone suddenly understood that this was the ‘shape of things to come’ and that PC gaming, in the future, was going to be pretty spectacular.

The marketing people gushed forth (and we all rushed out to buy) cards that offered:-

  • Cinematic effects beyond imagination
  • Advanced shader capabilities
  • Stunning and complex special effects
  • Increased horsepower that delivers faster and smoother gameplay
  • State-of-the-art 3D motion pictures with studio-precision color
  • Ultra-realistic visuals at lightning-fast speeds

Wowzer. With all that on offer, who would ever need an upgrade?

But upgrade we did. Each generation of card was sure to bring us ultra-cinematic-sub-pixel-precision-anti-aliasing-until-smooth-as-a-baby’s-arse-then-tessellated-for-additional-realism-before-the-focus-is-pulled-shadows-fogged-and-the-polygon-count-approaches-infinity realism.

But the next generation always manages to offer more. In many cases, very much more. And so the world of graphics marketing has, largely, run out of un-used superlatives to describe giving you ‘more’. So when will ‘more’ next be available ?

Well, according to nVidia, ‘more’ is now with us, in the shape of the GTX590.

Here’s the initial impression of the card, as it arrived in the KitGuru Lab and began its initial, pre-Zardon, testing. Plenty of pictures.

The GTX590 is a lot more subtle than many recent high-end graphics cards.
The Asus box stresses the Voltage Tweak technology available. 3GB memory. Is that enough?
The 'box within a box' is gorgeous. Like buying a piece of high-tech jewellery
Simple bundle, focusing on what's needed to get up and running. Very popular these days.
The card itself seems smaller and lighter than you'd imagine for the 'top of the nVidia stack'
Single fan organising the air that cools both GPUs
Close up on the glowing lights that come on when voltage (tweaked or otherwise) is applied. Nice.
Quick GPUz interrogation to see what's under the bonnet
Idle scores on temp etc won't tell you much, but here they are anyway
Initial toe-in-the-benchmark waters for the GTX590 - Heaven first
On a 4.8GHz Core i7 2600k, using out of the box drivers, you get this kind of 3DMark score

OK, so that’s our little taster for you. Severe torture in the Lab has begun, but what are KitGuru’s first impressions?

Based on the size, weight, fan selection and initial scores – nVidia’s GTX590 represents a quantum leap forward from the initial GTX480 cards.

While the GTX480 spent a lot of time around the 100 degrees celsius mark and carried warnings that it should not be touched after use, the GTX590 is a completely different animal. As soon as the initial testing finished, we powered down and tentatively touched the back plates. They were barely warm. You could pull the card out immediately without needing protection. Stunning.

Anyone buying this card for £550 or more will be looking for one thing only. Ownership of the fastest graphics card ever made. Using the driver supplied in the box, this card will not beat AMD’s Radeon HD 6990 in the majority of tests. But it is fast. Very fast. And we like the improvements to nVidia’s design that have happened over the past 12 months since the launch of the GTX480.

Initial thoughts are that it will be damn close between the two fastest cards ever made, but the nVidia units seems to have more under the bonnet that it has yet to tap into.

On that basis, KitGuru requested an updated driver before running a full set of final-score benchmarks in the KitGuru Lab. That has now been provided, so we will be able to see just how well this card can do when a post-shipment performance driver.

KitGuru says: For now, it’s too close to call. With the driver in the box, the GTX590 cannot claim a clear majority in the benchmark elections. Final judgement on who will be the next Guvner will be put on ice until we’ve had a bare-knuckle, no-hold-barred recount.

Comments below or in the KitGuru forum.

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