Power Consumption, Temperatures and Sound Levels
The GTX 590 and the Radeon HD 6990 are both pushing the limits of the PCI SIG spec for power consumption so let’s see who is going the furthest. 

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Despite specifications that would say otherwise, the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 590 is using about 40 watts more than the stock HD 6990 card.  That is more than a small margin and means that either AMD was being conservative with its numbers or NVIDIA is being slightly less truthful.  I should note that when we enable the “overclocking” switch on the HD 6990, it actually does pull more power under a full load than the GTX 590.


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Both of the GTX 580 and GTX 570 SLI configurations use quite a bit more power than the GTX 590 and hence or benchmark performance deltas are somewhat more reasonable and understood.

It should be noted of course that obviously the reason the GTX 590 has GPUs clocked at 607 MHz, much slower than the GTX 580 or even 570 single GPU cards, is purely because of power consumption.  Could NVIDIA have gotten these GPUs to run at 700 MHz or more on a single card setup?  Probably, but the added cost of higher quality components in addition to the WAY out of spec power consumption would be a hard issue to tackle both internally and with system vendors.  As it stands now, the GTX 590 is using the most power of any single card we have ever tested and unfortunately isn’t keeping up with the HD 6990 at top resolutions in the process.


Power over Time Results

With an update to one of our power meters we found it easy to map the power consumption of these systems over time and I thought it would be interesting to present it to our readers to see what value it provides.  I ran through our typical benchmarking scenarios of Metro 2033, Bad Company 2 and Unigine v2.1 and repeated them several times.  What you see if the total system power draw, not the GPU alone. 

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In Metro 2033, the blue line that represents the GTX 590 is clearly using more power than the stock speed Radeon HD 6990 throughout the test.  When the AMD card is placed in the “overclocked” setting via the switch on top, it does in fact use more power than the NVIDIA card towards the end of individual loops of the test.  Also interesting, notice how quickly the AMD cards drop from a high power consumption down to idle while the NVIDIA card seems to take slower “steps” to that same level.

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Bad Company 2 sees the same results though the NVIDIA card is using MUCH more power than the AMD Radeon HD 6990 at stock settings.  The sharp drops that you see mid-testing are during level reloads.

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Finally, the Unigine Heaven results show us that the NVIDIA GTX 590 is using more than even the overclocked HD 6990 throughout the testing and that there is a portion of the benchmark where power consumption drops pretty low – likely a segment that is HIGH in tessellation computation. 


GPU Temperatures

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The temperatures on the GTX 590 are actually very good when compared to the HD 6990 and the dual-GPU setups of the GTX 580 / 570 and HD 6950. 


Sound Levels

Using an Extech 407738 sound level meter we measured the sound of the entire system from about 24 inches away, focused mostly on the sound card area.  This was done on an open environment.  Each card was allowed to idle for about 20 minutes before taking idle readings while the system was loops in Metro 2033 for about 20 minutes before taking the load sound readings. 

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You clearly see that NVIDIA’s GeForce GTX 590 card is the leader in terms of sound levels when going up against the Radeon HD 6990.  At its default settings the AMD card hit a full 8 decibels higher than the GTX 590 under the same testing load.  When we the HD 6990 to its overclocked setting the noise was even worse, reaching as high as 64.8 dBs!  Idle results on both cards were pretty comparable so not matter which option you choose you’ll have a decent Windows experience.

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