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How serious are the nVidia GTX 590 problems?

It has been impossible to ignore over the last week the problems surrounding Nvidia’s new dual GPU card, the GTX590. After the high profile video capture of a sample failing on video there have been threads on many of the leading forums from people who have had their brand new £600 investment fail.

KitGuru heard recently that partners were rushing to get their bioses updated, we had assumed at the time that Nvidia had stepped in to release a new bios which would help ensure that thermal limitations were set firmly in place.

After we published our story, Nvidia took the time to reply to Fudzilla and have said “NVIDIA’s reference GTX 590 VBIOS on the production boards has not changed, and we have not provided a new VBIOS to AICs or end users for GTX 590. The original GTX 590 VBIOS that NVIDIA shipped is good for customers to use and we stand fully behind the reliability of the hardware with that VBIOS.

We did hear of one AIC partner who issued a custom VBIOS update specific to their board and we are checking in with them on the details of this.”

KitGuru has actually heard of more than one partner who are making changes to their BIOS configuration, but we need to ask the tough question. Is there actually really anything wrong with the GTX590, or are nVidia being unfairly treated?

Nvidia originally issued this statement : “A few press reports on GTX 590 boards dying were caused by unsafe overvoltaging (as high as 1.2V vs. default voltage of 0.91 to 0.96V), & using older drivers that have less overcurrent protection. Rest assured that GTX 590 operates reliably at default voltages, and our 267.84 launch drivers provide additional levels of protection. See our knowledge base for more info (http://nvidia.custhelp.com/cgi-bin/nvidia.cfg/php/enduser/std_adp.php?p_faqid=2947)”

We thought that was the end of the problem. The updated driver would cure the issue and we could all move on. As the graphics hardware gets more powerful, the heat rises and greater cooling power is needed. This is logical.

When AMD released their HD6990 they issued a statement that they weren’t supporting the higher bios setting. KitGuru published reports on this, and we were the first to get the official statement. This caused a fair amount of flak for them, and when XFX stepped up to say that they would support their end users, we all felt it was a very good move.

This brings us back to the GTX 590. While Nvidia updated the drivers to stop the cards failing, other users were reporting that their GTX590 had died even when running at reference clocks with default voltage. Some have blamed poor VRM design on the failures, but could it be that the card is having to deal with too much heat? Are the bios changes that some partners are making to help with enhanced thermal limiting?

Testing the temperatures of a video card is a difficult task, many publications use simple driver readings, and others can use diodes which can be attached to various positions of the PCB and cooler. They are never totally accurate. It is worth bearing in mind that often software related thermal readings can also be wrong.

One KitGuru reader brought it to our attention that Hardware.fr use a thermograph to accurately measure video card temperatures. Their GTX590 testing showed a reading of almost 112c under load.

image taken from Hardware.fr

I don’t think anyone could argue that this is scientific and without repute. The more important question to answer now will be the reliability over the long term. I know when ATI released their dual GPU 4870 X2 a few years ago that the temperatures were often reading over 100c, and while they would never admit it they suffered from their fair share of problems.

If you are buying a GTX 590 today and spending a small fortune, how will this investment hold up in 9 months time, especially if the 112c readings from Hardware.fr are going to be maintained for months while gaming? Obviously getting a straight answer from any PR representative is going to prove difficult, and it is rare in history that any company will admit problems with their hardware. Is the GTX 590 perfectly fine now that the drivers have been updated? Or are there more serious problems with the design and long term reliability?

Kitguru says: Time will tell.

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