If you're a regular reader, and if not why not, you'll have been awaiting today's review.
After dipping our metaphorical toe in the triple-screen water with the HIS HD6990, today we're back with a nVidia offering in the form of the Zotac GTX590.
Of course we could just review a single card, but as Zotac kindly offered to lend us two so we could run in SLI we'll be testing in both forms today.
Popping along to the Zotac website we find the specifications for the GTX590. Unlike the AMD solution the nVidia multi-screen setup is based off of 3x DVI connections rather than mini display ports.
Otherwise it's a standard reference design card.
|Cooler Type||Fan (Dual Slot)|
|Core Clock||607 MHz|
|Core Processors||1024 (2 x 512) Stream Processors|
|Dimensions||4.376in x 11in - 111.15mm x 279.4mm|
|Dual-Link DVI Supported||Yes|
|GPU||GeForce GTX 590|
|HDMI||1 x Mini-HDMI 1.4|
|Interface||PCI Express 2.0 x 16 (Compatible with 1.1)|
|Max Resolution||2560 x 1600|
|Memory Clock||3414 MHz|
|Memory Size||3072MB (2 x 1536MB)|
|Memory Interface||768-bit (2 x 384-bit)|
|Recommended Power Supply Wattage||700-Watt|
|Package Contents||1 x DVI-to-HDMI cable|
1 x DVI-to-VGA adapter
2 x Dual 6-pin PCIe to 8-pin PCIe power adapter
1 x Assassin's Creed®: Brotherhood game bundle
1 x Driver Disk
1 x ZOTAC Boost software bundle
1 x User manual
|Warranty||2-Year Standard Warranty; Limited Lifetime Extended Warranty|
Time to have a look at the card and bundle.
The GTX590 comes in a very nicely designed package. Zotac have always used yellow as their company branding and it always makes a lovely change from the generic reds and blues we see on a daily basis. The box is so sturdy and full of high-density foam that there is no chance the card will be damaged in transit.
And here she is. Or rather here they are. Very similar in layout to the HD6990 besides the use of an actual fan in the centre rather than the strange (and ineffective) water-wheel fan the Radeon has.
Of course with two cards we have to show you a shot of them set up on our Dimastech bench table. Familiar to any avid Youtube watchers in the audience.
Today's test setup is identical to last weeks one for the HIS HD6990, except the obvious switch from AMD to nVidia hardware and drivers.
One thing that we're interested in on a personal level is the improvement from the latest ForceWare drivers. There has been a few minor revisions and one major update since we first reviewed the GTX590 and we can't wait to see if they've unleashed the beast.
Zotac GTX590 SLI using ForceWare 275.33 WHQL Drivers
Gigabyte Assassin X58 Motherboard
Intel Core i7 980X @ 4.4 GHz
6GB Mushkin Redline DDR3 RAM
Corsair AX1200 PSU
3x Iiyama Prolite E2473HDS
Windows 7 x64
We'll have three results in our graphs today. Firstly a single Zotac GTX590 @ 1080P on maximum settings. Then a single card in 5760x1080 using the same settings we used last week (pop and see that review if you're behind), then finally a three screen 5760x1080 setup on two Zotac GTX590s in SLI.
For our triple-monitor testing Iiyama kindly supplied us with three Prolite E2473HDS monitors.
They certainly have outstanding picture quality. The 2ms response time and wide viewing angles are perfect for three-screen gaming, and the 1920x1080 resolution is great for ensuring a lack of borders as 16:9 is so common.
Call Of Duty Black Ops
Black Ops is, as we've noted before, not the most strenuous game on the planet and so it proves here. The GTX590 setup just edges the HD6990 but to be honest they all handle everything without issue.
Whoa. Some absolutely incredible frame-rates being churned out by the Zotac monster. 150% better in the single-screen configuration.
Things settle down a lot once we move onto our triple Iiyama monitors, but the GTX590 still has a 6 frame lead. SLI gives us about 85% scaling, which is damn good considering we have four GPUs on the go.
We know that Crytek didn't do a great job with the optimisation of Crysis Warhead and so it proves here. Despite taking advantage of PhysX we only see a 10 FPS gain on the single card/screen combo, 8 FPS on the triple screen setup.
Most galling of all is that your extra £500s worth of GTX590 is only worth a measly 13 frames. Sometimes it's not about the hardware, but the shoddy coding.
A very strange set of results greets us in Dirt 2. The single screen GTX590 doubles the frame rate of the HD6990. Doubles it. Yet when we plug in the other two screens the HD6990 takes a mind-blowing 20 FPS lead.
Even odder the SLI setup has over 100% extra performance when compared to the single card. All very weird.
The excellent Mafia 2 returns things to normal with the Zotac GTX590 being better than the HD6990 in both single and triple screen setups. Indeed across the three Iiyamas it goes from being a bit jerky on the HD6990 to butter smooth on the GTX590. Good stuff. The SLI setup sees about a 50% improvement.
Once again demonstrating the rather random nature of multiple GPUs and monitors, Metro 2033 replicates the Dirt 2 results. Firstly the single Zotac GTX590 is nearly 50 FPS better across a single screen. However with the multiple displays the HD6990 positively trounces it, being 50% faster. Even the GTX590 in SLI only manages a 8 frame improvement. Metro, for all it's PhysX usage, definitely loves the Radeon more.
Medal Of Honor
EAs Medal of Honor series takes a leaf from the Black Ops book by being a console port that leaves our cards twiddling their thumbs regardless of what you're pushing through them. The only real improvement comes in the minimum frame-rate with the GeForce cards not having the momentary stutter that we see from the Radeons.
S.T.A.L.K.E.R Call Of Pripyat
Finally into the radioactive wastes, and everything there is roughly back to normal with the GTX590 proving to have the edge on the HD6990 in both single and triple screen setups. Our SLI setup gives us nearly 100% improvement. The benefits of a well coded gaming engine ably demonstrated courtesy of the X-Ray Engine.
So if you plan on multiple-screen gaming, are you better off with the twin-GPU HD6990 or the nVidia equivalent Zotac GTX590?
In some degrees it depends upon which game you want to play as some perform better than others in certain circumstances. However looking at the results in an overall manner we'd definitely suggest plumping for the Zotac GTX590.
In the single card scenarios, either with a single screen or the triple-headed monster, the Zotac comes out on top more often than not, and by quite a margin too.
The new 275 drivers from nVidia deserve special mention as the difference between the results we obtained using the 275.33s and those we saw when we first tested the GTX590 on the 267 ForceWare drivers is just incredible. For example our initial Metro 2033 tests saw 66 FPS, today on the 275s we got 117. Now that's the extreme end of the scale but even so we saw improvements everywhere. It seems nVidia have finally unlocked the insane amounts of power available from the GF110 GPUs.
Speaking of power we all know that power equals heat and removal of heat equals noise. Our largest complaint by far about the HD6990s is how hilariously hot and noisy they are. To put it in perspective our SLI Zotac GTX590 setup was quieter under load than the HD6990 was. Comprehensively quieter. That's two cards being quieter than one. Now considering that decibel is an exponential scale rather than a linear one it really emphasises how much easier the GTX590 is to live with on a daily basis. The HD6990 makes us want to put the tower in another room, the GTX590 we'd happily have it right next to us.
Of course pricing has to be taken into account. On average the Zotac is about £50 more than its AMD equivalent. However not only does that £50 buy you almost unquantifiable levels of performance but much more 'liveability' too. It's quieter, and the use of Mini-HDMI rather than DisplayPort means a reduction in cables and adaptors needed to get the cards running out the box. It's just all around a nicer product to use daily.
This earth-trembling power and usability means that as a single card the Zotac GTX590 is worthy of our OC3D Gold Award. Even at the thick end of 500 notes it's an absolute sledgehammer. The SLI setup naturally is way too expensive to overlook the price, but the potency of the cards in tandem cannot be overlooked and so it gets our OC3D Performance Award. If you've got the spare cash, it's the easy choice to go to.
Single Zotac GTX590
Zotac GTX590 SLI
Thanks to Zotac for supplying the GTX590s for review. Discuss in our forums.