The GTX 590 vs. the HD 6990 – only One is “the World’s Fastest video card”


This has been quite an enjoyable five-day hand’s on experience for us in comparing our brand-new, under-NDA,  GTX 590 versus our HD 6990 and other video card configurations and we look forward to evaluating further new products from AMD and Nvidia. We always wish that we had more time then we were allowed to benchmark the GTX 590 so as to give you our first impressions. Fortunately, we have been gaming for months with our other test cards, so that we can provide you with a reliable comparison.

We feel priviliged to bring you our very first benchmarks and performance testing of Nvidia’s amazing value GTX 590. We like it quite a lot and it has exceeded this editor’s own expectations. In the meantime, feel free to comment below, ask questions or have a detailed discussion in our ABT forum. If you have any requests on what you would like for us to focus on for further testing or for any other information, please join our ABT forum or leave a comment.

Nvidia GTX 590

Pros and Cons:


  • Nvidia’s GTX 590 is much faster than the GTX 580 and it wins more benches than it loses to the HD 6990.  Nvidia has brought good performance into a $700 package.
  • There is further room for overclocking and good scalibility.
  • New Fermi GF110 architecture brings support for GPU computing and a level of performance way beyond the last generation.
  • DX11 and great support for tessellation, PhysX and CUDA, 3D gaming, and 2D/3D Surround on a single video card bring realism to gaming
  • Nvidia’s highly efficient cooler is great for achieving and keeping your OC by keeping your GPU cool. It is one awesome cooler that tames GTX 590′s thermals very quietly, even at full load.
  • Quad-SLI is possible with two of these cards; ultimate performance for 3D Vision.


  • Price.
  • Tri-SLI – GTX 590 plus GTX 580 – is unsupported.

That’s it. For about the same price as a reference HD 6990, you get all the features that Nvidia video cards have to offer in a very solidly-built, cool and quiet-running GTX 590! If you require quiet running, Nvidia’s superb quiet cooling is a real winner and it is the single greatest difference that sets it apart from it’s competitor.  Nvidia has succeeded in encasing the performance of two underclocked GTX 580s into a single $700 package; it’s the same price as the HD 6990, and its quieter running as a bonus for your ears.

EDITORsCHOICE The GTX 590 vs. the HD 6990   only One is the Worlds Fastest video card

The Competition:

The ATI Radeon HD 6990 offers its own set of unique features although it cannot unequivocally claim “world’s fastest card” as before. Launched just two weeks ago, the ATI Radeon HD 6990 continues to offer excellent performance at the same price point as the GTX 590 which also gives you an immersive gaming experience with AMD Eyefinity Technology; driving up to five displays simultaneously and AMD HD3D technology for stereoscopic 3D gaming and Blu-ray 3D playback.  The HD 6990 scales superbly especially when you get to resolutions of 2560×1600 and above.  With AMD you also have the possibility of pairing up two HD 6990s for Quad-Fire or for even more flexibility, you can pair a HD 6990 plus HD 6970 for Tri-Fire-X3.

The Future

We do not know what the future will bring, but this amazing card brings a great value to the Fermi family of upgraded GTX “tanks” in Nvidia’s lineup. Look for it at an etailer immediately.  Pricing for the reference GTX 590 is $699 and will go up from there depending on what the individual partners offer.

This editor believes that Nvidia brings a very remarkable full-featured DX11 GPU lineup to the market that will find good acceptance among customers and their fans alike. Fermi architecture is impressive and flexible and it does translate to performance in gaming. We have also seen Nvidia’s drivers improve and their multi-GPU SLI scaling for newer games is very impressive. If you currently game on an older card, you will do yourself a big favor by upgrading. The move to a GTX 590 will give you better visuals on the DX11 pathway and you are no doubt thinking of GTX 590 Quad SLI further down the road (if money is no object) if you want to get even higher performance as you may want to use Suround’s three-panel display or even 3D Vision or 3D Vision Surround for really intense gaming.

If the many exclusive features of the new GTX 590 appeal to you and you are gaming at 1920×1080 or above, you cannot go wrong with a GTX 590. In this editor’s experience, it is also a great choice if you are considering overclocking further as scaling is superb and the reference cooling is up to the task. The competition is hot as the competing Radeons offer their own set of features including a cheaper way to experience 3-panel multi-display with Eyefinity.

Although there can only be “one fastest” video card, it is going to depend on which games you test, their resolutions and what level of detail and filtering you use for each game.  And driver updates will sometime change performance from month to month.  Both cards are super-fast and rather equal in overall performance – but different.  If you prefer a noticeably quieter card, the GTX 590 may well be for you.

Stay tuned, there is a lot coming from us at ABT.  We are going to follow up this review with much more multi-GPU testing.  Watch for our EVGA GTX 560 Ti review this weekend!  We also expect to cover a new card launching very shortly!

Mark Poppin

ABT Senior Editor

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Founder and Senior Editor of ABT.

25 Responses

  1. Ocre says:

    This review was so absolutely great. Miles above the Anand’s 10 games. I really really think you go above and beyond. One of the few places you can get a full review anymore. Such a great collection of data! Most sites do a handful of games and there is no way anyone could get a true picture. Most sites have diminished their launch articles to a point of incompleteness. Where one has to go somewhere else to get a full picture.

    Apoppin, i know its a lot of work for you, but i commend you for your dedication to all the data. Yours again is the most useful especially on a card that is so close in performance to the competitors. I cannot thank you enough for a fantastic article!

  2. insurgent says:

    Very nice in-depth review, bookmarking the site now! Thank you for your hard work!

  3. chris says:

    I love ABT reviews. They always seem to be pretty fair when it comes to in-depth testing. Keep up the good work guys. Really. I mean that. I plan to work for one of the many review sites when i finish my CE degree, and ABT is high on the list.

  4. El_Member says:

    I’m impressed that Nvidia beat ATI in cooling with their dual GPU. It’s usually the opposite.

    It is nice to see the cost for both cards is about the same which gives more choices for the consumers to pick from.

    Nice Job!

  5. El_Member says:

    Also a small note:

    When I click “View All” it doesn’t work, could you guys get it fixed?

  6. apoppin says:

    Our web master is aware of this issue and is working on it.

    Thank-you all for your comments!

  7. Jarrod says:

    The HD 6990 is honored under warranty by most vendors with the OC switch. So I’m quite puzzled why you OC’d the 590 and kept the 6990 the same.

  8. apoppin says:

    If you want to see the HD 6990 tested with the BIOS position No. 2, please check out our HD 6990 launch article:
    The same settings were used and now you have both settings completely covered.

    You will also note in the Performance Summary of this GTX 580 launch article that we pitted our overclocked HD 6990 (960/1390MHz) against our overclocked GTX 580 (690/1825Mhz)

    I believe we covered all of the bases.

  9. Jarrod says:

    You pointed out that bios switch 2 was tested in another review. But that does not answer why it was not tested in this review side by side with the 590(I hope that was not your answer as to why). Just saying it’s a bit weird you throw in a bunch of old games one being from 2005, but not test something most 6990 owners would be using.

  10. apoppin says:

    BIOS position No. 2 was tested in the review immediately preceding this one and anyone can easily check the performance difference:

    The launch article about the GTX 590 tested the stock GTX 590 against the stock HD 6990. Then we tested the overclocked GTX 590 and the overclocked HD 6990 – both overclocked as far as they would go – the 6990 being overvolted in the BIOS No. 2 position and the GTX 590 at stock voltage.

    Including a third set of Radeon slightly-overclocked numbers would have cluttered the charts and taken precious extra time that was spent in benching. Especially because these figures are easily found in the previous article that were tested at the same settings and with the same drivers.

    We don’t “throw in” a bunch of old games at random. We have been following many of these games for nearly three years – when some were only a couple of years old and many top cards struggled with them – and our regular readers appreciate it. We also include a good mix of new games and are always adding more. Next added will be Bulletstorm and Shogun 2 and of course Crysis 2 when it fully debugged and running on the DX11 pathway.

  11. Arjun says:

    magnificent review

  12. Sage says:

    This wasn’t a terrible review but it was definitely biased towards nVidia.

    In the Metro 2033 section you actually claim that the GTX 590 “Beats” the Radeon 6990 with 39.48 FPS vs. 39.2 FPS. You even used an exclaimation point!

    Comparisons within 3-6 FPS are inconclusive, let alone 0.3 FPS! Calling that any kind of defenative win is just absurd and proves you’re milking every possible edge the 590 might have.

    Don’t get me wrong; I’m using an nVidia card right now (Good ol’ GTX 460 SC) but I appreciate that both companies make stellar cards and it’s only fair to try and be unbiased as a reviewer since GPU consumers tend to be so polarized.

    Ultimately nVidia tends to have a slight performance edge and AMD tends to have a price edge. The only things that really make each company’s cards unique are special features like CUDA and Eyefinity.

  13. Magnus says:

    I dont think the 590 or equivelent is such a big step from the card I have (the 480) for me really to be that excited.
    The step from 8800gtx to gtx480 was a really huge step tho (3x the improvement) like this is more like .5x the improvement, so I dont really give a shit.

    Sorry for mentioning all those nvidia cards, but its what I purchase, I work with CUDA for my gpgpu programming, so maybe even im a little biased, but opencl is what you use for amd cards, and its just as good.

  14. Wind says:

    Way too many comparisons of other GPUs, it’s 590 vs 6990, remember? I was all confused with the color schemes on the graphs.

  15. maniac says:

    I know quite a little about gfxcards so I didnt find answers why nVidia is better in some games and AMD in other games? Directx vs opengl? I play only Waw, BO, ET and Brink so I still dont know do I buy next 580, 590, 6970 or 6990. I have now 570 SLI but somehow my computer doesnt work well when SLI is on so single card is the solution. But which one?

  16. apoppin says:

    I would highly recommend that you ask you question in our forum. You will get good information there and far more detail than from comments here.

    SLI should work well if you have a SLI MB. And there are many reasons why Nvidia is better in some games and AMD in others.

  17. Ryan says:

    Would it be possible to get a copy/screenshots of the current bios setting using during the tests?

  18. Inamorta says:

    Wicked not biased review. Not.

  19. najeeb says:

    what kind of a joke is this? , we are compareing over all proformance , why the HELL is phyx disabled ? , it is fair because its an official feature of nvidia , if amd does not have it , its not nvidias fault , we want an answer , it looked like u guys wanted nvidia to look slow or someting ?

  20. apoppin says:

    There is no other way to compare performance directly.

    How many PhysX games are we comparing? Two out of nearly thirty games. Just ignore those results and look at the rest of the review. We test about 3 times more games than any other tech site.

  21. Dreamwalker says:

    @najeeb what kind of joke are you on about? physx makes Nvidia cards slower in performance if turned on, if physx was on it’d be unfair to Nvidia right? In your case you should say “It actually seems like they’re trying to make Nvidia cards look faster than the AMD counterparts by disabling certain features.”

  22. iminuru says:

    Wow that was extremely bias. comparison was perfect.

  23. Deckard Cain says:

    I just watched an youtube video comparing both cards and Radeon uses a lot less power from psu and gave a better or equal fps result than Nvidia. Others reviews compare both cards to be equivalent. I think this review is very outsiders and biased.

  24. Soon Titlow says:

    Definitely appreciate you discussing this article. Great!!

  25. diablo3 says:

    I certainly enjoyed the way you explore your experience and knowledge of the subject! Keep up on it. Thanks for sharing the info!

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