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Power, Noise, And Air Temperatures

Nvidia GeForce GTX 590 3 GB Review: Firing Back With 1024 CUDA Cores
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I don’t think this one will surprise anyone. At idle, the GeForce GTX 590 draws more power than any other graphics card in our comparison, taking that un-honor away from the GeForce GTX 480.

It’s probably fair to say that enthusiasts spending $700 on graphics aren’t really concerned by the 32 W spread between Nvidia’s new flagship and the lowest-power option in this chart, though. Let’s see if the situation gets any direr under load.

Nvidia’s GF110 is a more power-hungry GPU than AMD’s Cayman. However, Nvidia still faces very real limits with two graphics processors on a PCB. Those constraints force the company to drop the clocks on GeForce GTX 590 in a significant way. The result is a power consumption chart that looks very much like AMD’s overclocked, voided-warranty Radeon HD 6990 at 880 MHz.

The obvious discrepancy there is that AMD rates that particular configuration for 450 W, while Nvidia says the GeForce GTX 590 is a 365 W board. Average out those lines, and you’ll see the following system power use:


Average Power Consumption (Metro 2033, Three Runs)
Nvidia GeForce GTX 590
437.18 W
Nvidia GeForce GTX 580
337.47 W
Nvidia GeForce GTX 480
338.34 W
AMD Radeon HD 6990 (880 MHz)
432.17 W
AMD Radeon HD 6990 (830 MHz)
396.21 W
AMD Radeon HD 5970
323.43 W
AMD Radeon HD 6970
287.26 W


The GeForce GTX 590 is actually more power-hungry than the overclocked Radeon HD 6990. It also makes the GeForce GTX 480 look like an econobox, which of course it’s not.

From a power bill-perspective, that’s scary stuff. But again, you probably don’t care, right? It’s a difference of 5 W up against the Radeon card. More worrying is what that power means in terms of heat dissipation, and consequently, noise. AMD doesn’t cope with the heat it generates well at all. Does Nvidia do any better?

Dear goodness, yes. The GeForce GTX 590 is like, 1 dB louder than the GeForce GTX 580. How can this be? "Surely Nvidia must be doing something insidious to slow the 590 down under extreme duress to keep from overwhelming the smaller card’s cooler," the fan boys will wail. But no—I logged clocks and temps (fan speeds wouldn’t register) in GPU-Z, and found that the GeForce GTX 590 ran at 607 MHz, never exceeding 87 degrees or so. This is, absolutely, where Nvidia stands head and shoulders above what AMD achieved with its Radeon HD 6990.

AMD Radeon HD 6990 4 GB Noise Test

Now, I’ve already presented much of this data in my Radeon HD 6990 review, and judging by the comments, there are those out there who simply don’t want to believe that the 6990 is so loud as to be disruptive. So, here you go; hear for yourself. Both videos were taken with the Sennheiser wireless mic at 00 dB sensitivity, 28” back from the I/O bracket of each card. Listen to one, and then the other (particularly at the end of each video—that’s where AMD’s card heats up and gets the loudest).

Nvidia GeForce GTX 590 3 GB Noise Test

The standard answer contesting my noise complaints in the 6990 story was “any enthusiast willing to spend $700 on a 6990 should expect to pay for water cooling, too.” I reached out to the folks at Danger Den to find out when water blocks might be available for either of these cards. The Nvidia block will be available when the 590 launches, and the AMD block should emerge the following week. Prices are expected to land around $120 for both. If that’s the route you want to go, fine. But you’re getting awful close to a pair of GTX 580s at that point—and two 580s are going to be significantly faster than either dual-GPU flagship.

Air Temp, Measured At Outlet (Extech TM200)

GeForce GTX 590 3 GB
Radeon HD 6990 4 GB
Exhaust Air
138.5 degrees F
138.8 degrees F
Recirculated Air
160.5 degrees F
148.9 degrees F


Because Nvidia enables three dual-link DVI ports on the front of its card, there’s limited room to push air from the front I/O bracket. AMD’s design is more elegant in this regard. I set forth to measure the air temps at both ends of each board using an Extech TM200 Dual K Thermometer.

Indeed, the temps at the front and back of AMD’s Radeon HD 6990 are more balanced, separated by a 10 degree difference. Nvidia’s GeForce GTX 590 also pumps out air heated to about 138 degrees Fahrenheit from the front, but air coming out the back is about 12 degrees warmer. I wish it were possible for me to measure air volume, in order to explore just how much air is getting recirculated with just one of these cards installed.

Justification for the mid-mounted fan is likely going to be the same for both AMD and Nvidia. Nvidia defends its choice, claiming it could have gone with a blower-style design that would have created an unacceptable acoustic experience. What we end up with at the end of the day isn’t ideal (especially for folks considering quad-GPU solutions and trying to pick a free-flowing-enough chassis), but it’s apparently the best way to keep noise at bay.

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Top Comments
  • 15 Hide
    Scoregie , March 24, 2011 12:40 PM
    MMMM... HD 6990.... OR GTX 590... HMMM I'll go with a HD 5770 CF setup because im cheap.
  • 13 Hide
    nforce4max , March 24, 2011 12:18 PM
    Nvidia like ATI should have gone full copper for their coolers instead of using aluminum for the fins. :/ 
Other Comments
  • 13 Hide
    nforce4max , March 24, 2011 12:18 PM
    Nvidia like ATI should have gone full copper for their coolers instead of using aluminum for the fins. :/ 
  • 5 Hide
    The_King , March 24, 2011 12:20 PM
    The clock speeds are a bit of a disappointment as well the high power draw and the performance is not that better than a 6990. Bleh !
  • 5 Hide
    stryk55 , March 24, 2011 12:21 PM
    Very comprehensive article! Nice job!
  • 6 Hide
    LegendaryFrog , March 24, 2011 12:23 PM
    I'm impressed, good to see Nvida has started to care about the "livable experience" of their high end products.
  • 2 Hide
    plznote , March 24, 2011 12:24 PM
    Great card. But low clocks.
    GREAT for overclocking!
  • 1 Hide
    darkchazz , March 24, 2011 12:27 PM
    Wow @ low noise
  • 7 Hide
    rolli59 , March 24, 2011 12:27 PM
    Draw! Win some loose some. What is the fastest card? Some will say GTX590 others HD6990 and they are both right.
  • 15 Hide
    Scoregie , March 24, 2011 12:40 PM
    MMMM... HD 6990.... OR GTX 590... HMMM I'll go with a HD 5770 CF setup because im cheap.
  • 3 Hide
    Sabiancym , March 24, 2011 12:42 PM
    You can't say Nvidia wins based on the sound level of the cards. That's just flat out favoritism.

    I'll be buying a 6990 and water cooling it. Nothing will beat it.
  • 6 Hide
    Darkerson , March 24, 2011 12:44 PM
    rolli59Draw! Win some loose some. What is the fastest card? Some will say GTX590 others HD6990 and they are both right.

    Thats more or less how I feel. They both trade blows depending on the game.
  • 5 Hide
    shark195 , March 24, 2011 12:47 PM
    I think both cards are faster in their own niches, for example in acoustics 590 wins, but in power which is the main issue to tackle as days go by, your bill will certainly go high, but you don't pay anything for the noise, so in that case AMD STILL has the fastest single graphic card on the planet.
    AMD is still the winner, whichever you look at it though
  • 0 Hide
    trandoanhung1991 , March 24, 2011 12:53 PM
    SabiancymYou can't say Nvidia wins based on the sound level of the cards. That's just flat out favoritism. I'll be buying a 6990 and water cooling it. Nothing will beat it.

    I think 2 GTX 580 will beat it. And costs about the same too, if you look hard enough.

    shark195I think both cards are faster in their own niches, for example in acoustics 590 wins, but in power which is the main issue to tackle as days go by, your bill will certainly go high, but you don't pay anything for the noise, so in that case AMD STILL has the fastest single graphic card on the planet. AMD is still the winner, whichever you look at it though


    The 590 uses less than 10W more compared to 6990 in AUSUM. Compare that to 430W, and it's small change, really.
  • 1 Hide
    ledpellet , March 24, 2011 12:56 PM
    Well, at the moment 590s are not available to buy, so it does not exist beyond benchmarks and reviews...It is not a competition till we see real world pricing. Let the battle begin! btw 5870 price is hard to beat right now.
  • -1 Hide
    vaughn2k , March 24, 2011 12:57 PM
    "Nevertheless, in a comparison between GeForce GTX 590 versus Radeon HD 6990, Nvidia wins."
    "Not hearing it is a requisite"

    Done a survey? How many says it's a requisite?

    Also at performance preset, the GTX590 leads, wondering why there's no benchmark for extreme preset?
  • 4 Hide
    Yuka , March 24, 2011 12:57 PM
    This is no nVidia victory, I'm sure of it, but it's such a small margin it sucks. That 1.5GB per GPU hurts the card where you'll be using it most: high res. It's like a tech KO by AMD, not a flat out punch-KO though.

    Cheers!
  • 5 Hide
    hardcore_gamer , March 24, 2011 12:58 PM
    The card blew up during testing at tech power up.Power limiting system does not work reliably :o  :pfff: 
  • -1 Hide
    nukemaster , March 24, 2011 12:58 PM
    i wonder how long until AMD board partners use a fan instead of blower(blowers win on air flow, but they can be louder), i have seen several such coolers on other amd and nvidia cards.

    Either way, the lower noise is impressive.
  • 4 Hide
    pelov , March 24, 2011 1:00 PM
    Does anyone else think that the 1680 benchmarks shouldn't be used in cards like this?

    Paying >$600 for a GPU almost certainly means you have multiple monitor setups and/or high res monitor(s). Otherwise why not buy a better monitor and a lower costing card to use its full potential?
  • 6 Hide
    Rosanjin , March 24, 2011 1:05 PM
    Thank you for posting the audio samples of both dual GPU cards. Getting to hear each one really made the difference telling. I'll be sticking with single gpu card arrangements, thank you very much. ^ ^ b
  • 0 Hide
    Anonymous , March 24, 2011 1:05 PM
    Very good article, one of the better ones to come from Toms in a long time, thanks was a great read.

    In terms of Nvidia releasing a chart topper, I think they created a equal here, tables a rebalanced at the top, Its been a long time since that was the case!

    With regards to saying Nvidia wins down to noise output, that is just your opinion! I believe the 480 was a damn fast card noise irrelevant, now refined in the 580!

    Personally, at 1920x1080 I still see no need in replacing my 5850 just yet, I spent my money on a 50"3d TV instead, and still 5850 runs on that great which is by far a better size to play on then 3x1920x1080 imo.
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