A note on rumors about GTX 590 issues

Yesterday afternoon was interesting because I spent much of it revisiting the GeForce GTX 590, looking for problems. As you may have heard, some reviewers using early drivers had rather serious, quasi-explosive failures with overclocked GTX 590 cards. Like these guys at Sweclockers:

Whoops.

The trouble there, it seems, is that the card’s built-in power-protection scheme didn’t, you know, protect. We tested the GTX 590 with somewhat newer drivers, apparently updated to fix that problem, and didn’t run into any sparks, flames, or even smoke. In fact, the power protection mechanism kicked in and saved our card from what was probably certain destruction, given what we did to it. From our review:

One has to be careful here, though, because the GF110 chips will definitely reach much higher clock speeds when given enough voltage—we reached 772MHz at 1025 mV, similar to the GTX 580—but you’ll also definitely bump up against the GTX 590’s power limiting circuitry if you push too hard. The result, as we learned, is that performance drops with the supposedly overclocked config.

That performance result is the preferred outcome, of course, when the alternative is fiery death. The videos going around online about GTX 590 failures have even led Nvidia to issue a note about GTX 590 overclocking protection in the release drivers.

This development, in turn, has led red-tinged conspiracy theorists—of which there are curiously many these days—to speculate, insinuate, and even outright assert that the final, release drivers for the GTX 590 limit clock speeds, either at stock or when overclocked.

The trouble with those claims is that, well, we found a decent amount of performance headroom in our GTX 590, even though it saved our bacon when we overvolted it like mad. Again from our review:

We eventually decided on a more mildly overclocked config in which the GPU core was raised to 690MHz, the GPU core voltage was increased from 938 mV to 963 mV, and the memory clock was tweaked up to 900MHz (or 3.6 GT/s). This setup was easily achieved with MSI’s Afterburner software, proved quite stable, and, as you’ll see in the following pages, performed consistently better than stock. The only thing left to do then was give these settings a name, since they lacked one. Folks, say hello to Wasson’s Intrepid Clock Konfig, Extreme Dually—or WICKED. We’ve put WICKED and AUSUM head to head to see which is better.

WICKED worked, even though it raised the GTX 590’s power draw enough to make us a little uncomfortable. There is some headroom in this card, for those with a good PSU and a measure of intestinal fortitude.

The next iteration of this same rumor came to us late yesterday, with the suggestion that perhaps those web release drivers with overclock protection are limiting clock speeds in games to 550MHz, below the 607MHz base clock for the GTX 590, along with the expected drop in performance. Our response was to install the 269.91 drivers and try them for ourselves. After re-running a portion of our test suite, including AvP, Civ V, and F1 2010, we found zero performance differences between the drivers we used in the review and the public 269.91 package. Also, GPU-Z reported a 607MHz clock speed when we had it log clock frequencies while some of our tests were running. Boring, no? But the GTX 590 still works as expected.

The rumor mill wasn’t finished, though. Another assertion of problems reached us yesterday afternoon via different channels, based in part on these sweet thermal camera readings, which clearly show temperatures as high as 112° C at the center of the GTX 590. This info, we were told, proves the GPU’s on-die thermal sensors are being programmed to under-report temperatures. The solution? We should try an infrared thermometer aimed at the back of the card, instead.

So we did.

Probably didn’t need to, though. If you look carefully at those camera readings, you’ll see that the highest temperatures reached in their measurements are for the power regulation circuitry at the center of the card, not the two GPUs on the sides. Our own readings with an IR thermometer showed that the metal plates behind the GPUs were cooler than our prior temperature sensor readings had been. In other words, the sensors were probably not reporting artificially low results. Yes, the power circuitry gets hotter—up to 106° C, in our measurements—but we have no sense that such temperatures constitute a problem. Hot VRMs aren’t exactly uncommon.

All of which leads us back to exactly where we started, with no evidence of basic problems in the GTX 590’s operation beyond, you know, the initial exploding drivers. Heh. We do have some evidence of additional, sloppily made insinuations of problems, which I suppose shouldn’t be too surprising.

Trouble is, a lot of these forum rumors tend to be given tremendous credence by a lot of folks. Heck, every once in a blue moon, one of those rumors blows up into something big because there’s a real problem underlying it. That could yet be the case with the GTX 590—or the Radeon HD 6990 or, well, I guess Sandy Bridge already went there. Such rumors are also an intriguing source of information because so many of ’em seem to be planted by a major, engineering-focused organization—you know, a competing firm.

Over the years, we’ve found that we could spend a huge proportion of our editors’ time tracking down rumored problems of this sort with depressingly few interesting results. It’s generally just not a good use of our time, especially because picking out the rumor that might actually have legs is terribly difficult to do at first glance. We did burn a few cycles making a run at some of the latest rumors about the GTX 590, though, and we were at least able to verify the product’s proper operation. We’ve done such things in the past, a number of times, without even writing about it.

We’re not sure who benefits more from a post like this one: the company that produced the product, because we’re refuting negative rumors, or the competition, who gets to see a competing product’s basic engineering questioned in the media. We kind of learn toward the latter, which is why we don’t expect rumors of this nature to stop seeping from the darker corners of the ‘net any time soon. We continue to puzzle over how best to serve you, the reader, in this context.

Comments closed
    • Spotpuff
    • 12 years ago

    How is it not realistic? Is there a comparable analog for CPUs where the CPU will throttle itself down because it can’t handle the processing load and thermal output?

    I’m still not getting it. Is Furmark doing something insidious that makes it not a “real” program or something? It’s rendering a fuzzy doughnut, so like, if a “real” game ever did that the card would explode?

    • Spotpuff
    • 12 years ago

    I totally agree. Automatic overclocking is great if you don’t have to touch anything (where power usage isn’t a concern).

    I just find it unbelievable that the graphics cards makers don’t make cards that can run 100% without overheating so they throttle back loads in some applications.

    • clone
    • 12 years ago

    have read the article along with reading about other GTX 590’s exploding around the web at stock voltage as well as during very mild overclocks using Nvidia approved Applications with updated drivers I’d say it is indeed news despite your claim to the contrary.

    Nvidia announcing that they are coming out with a new BIOS this soon to stop the cards from exploding is the admission that there is a problem with the cards,

    reviewers and end users don’t want to ruin nor do they deliberately ruin their cards or we’d be hearing about it with the HD 6990, the HD 6970, the HD 6950, the GTX 570 and GTX 580’s with failures en masse… but we are not hearing that, what we do hear from launch day forward is that GTX 590’s failures are becoming almost common despite so few actually on the market.

    [url<]http://www.xtremesystems.org/forums/showpost.php?p=4798645&postcount=295[/url<] [url<]http://forums.guru3d.com/showpost.php?p=3937679&postcount=374[/url<] [url<]http://forums.overclockers.co.uk/showpost.php?p=18781867&postcount=140[/url<] [url<]http://hardforum.com/showpost.php?p=1037046423&postcount=170[/url<] [url<]http://www.kitguru.net/components/graphic-cards/jules/updated-gtx590-bios-rushed-out-to-repair-reputation/[/url<]

    • NoOther
    • 12 years ago

    Perhaps you should have actually read the article rather than making a blanket statement like that. Nvidia made no such claim. In fact what they said was that people were using outdated drivers and overvolting their cards past acceptable levels. Meaning the reviewers were purposefully destroying the cards. So in light of that, and knowing enthusiasts are bound to follow similar patterns as reviewers at times, they decided just to hard code a solution to prevent that.

    So in other words there is nothing to see here, thanks for stopping by with more rumors.

    • Krogoth
    • 12 years ago

    590s have “issues” because the damm things are pushing ATX and PCIe form factors to their technical limits. IMO, the stock cooler is too small/quiet to conformably handle two GF110 chips, super-fast GDD5 chips and the power circuitry to go with it.

    There’s a reason why 6990 is XBOX-huge and loud as the infamous “Dustbuster” (TM) when fully loaded.

    The market segment that these cards go after are apathetic to noise levels. They want t3h epenis, t3h MEGAMURTZ and t3h FPS. No matter the cost.

    • clone
    • 12 years ago

    moved.

    • slash3
    • 12 years ago

    It’s definitely not a rumor, the flickering makes my eyes want to explode. The “solution” is to disable crossfire, either through profile management (ie, rename the game EXE so that it automatically disables crossfire) or by disabling Catalyst AI. This obviously slows your framerate way down, but at least it’s playable.

    My setup is dual HD5870s using the latest 11.3 (8.831.2.0) Catalyst drivers.

    • YeuEmMaiMai
    • 12 years ago

    So now that Nvidia has come out and admitted fault, can you take the BS article down now?

    [url<]http://www.kitguru.net/components/graphic-cards/jules/updated-gtx590-bios-rushed-out-to-repair-reputation/[/url<] Thanks

    • YeuEmMaiMai
    • 12 years ago

    just before the card craps on it’s self you can see the fan come to a complete stop and then poof and the fan starts again……

    • clone
    • 12 years ago

    of the reasons why I’m not going to consider buying a GTX 590 the 1 that still sits atop all of the rest no matter how you explain it away is an honest fear of failure during or shortly after the warranty expires and being stuck dealing with either an RMA process or a dead card.

    I understand Nvidia put voltage regulation into their product but really don’t care when I consider 1: the card overvolted failed in a day, 2 clearly the card consumes too much power & 3 at stock voltage their is very little headroom left.

    it’s FUD only kinda imho, seriously is it a power surge away from failure even with a battery backup surge protector?…. is the tolerance that tight?

    I’m even bothered that I can’t just go out and get a quality name brand 750watt power supply but that I’ll have to stop and examine the ripple numbers under load and idle.

    add a lack of ram, the much higher power draw, the mixed performance and I’m done with it, just a bad uncertain product I’m just shy of calling a lemon.

    • OneArmedScissor
    • 12 years ago

    “Electronics” is really generalizing. I don’t know that anyone has ever actually proved that applies to computers, and computers are made up of way too many different things, which keep changing.

    I have only ever seen two things “kill” a computer over time:

    1) Mechanical wear. Fans and hard drives stop spinning up because they’re worn out.

    2) Dead capacitors. They’re rated for a certain number of hours of use, which you are really eating into if you leave your computer on all the time.

    Phones go in and out of sleep mode constantly, far more than a computer would. I don’t know that I’ve even heard of someone’s phone dying from an electrical issue. People always break them first. My cell phone is 6 years old and the one I had before that was several years old, and I only replaced it because I cracked the screen. Even though I’m sure most people only keep them for 2-3 years, that’s still many more power cycles than a PC is going to go through, and they manage for much longer than that.

    • Suspenders
    • 12 years ago

    Apparently, this isn’t the first time certain Nvidia drivers can KO your video card:

    [url<]http://www.dailytech.com/Hot+Starcraft+II+is+Frying+Graphics+Cards+Blizzard+Issues+Temporary+Fix/article19224.htm[/url<] So much for the myth of "better" drivers.

    • Arominus
    • 12 years ago

    You can blow up a gtx570 in a similar way, overclock it too hard (over 950mhz w/ the gpu voltage @max) and the VRM’s give up the ghost.

    • entropy13
    • 12 years ago

    [url<]http://promotions.newegg.com/AMD/063011/index.html?cm_sp=cat_Video-Cards-Video-Devices-_-AMD/063011-_-http%3a%2f%2fpromotions.newegg.com%2fAMD%2f063011%2f160x350.jpg[/url<]

    • XDravond
    • 12 years ago

    Well they did fry 2 cards in the review during ehmm slight overclocking I’m sure they realized by the first card it might get interesting if nothing else….
    All in the name of science I don’t really know why they didn’t use the latest drivers from the beginning…

    although i would preferred if they’d just given me one the cards instead of frying them…

    /XD and yes I’m Swedish and hang on that site…

    • Chrispy_
    • 12 years ago

    I read somewhere that the biggest killer of electronics is thermal damage caused by the contraction and expansion of parts during power cycles.

    Hot, cold, spin up, spin down – all this causes wear that a machine left on 24/7 never experiences.

    Sure, it’s wasteful in terms of electricity, but I have electric heating in my flat anyway – if the PC’s don’t convert the electricity into heat, my boiler picks up the tab instead.

    • Chrispy_
    • 12 years ago

    Furmark isn’t quite the same as as real CUDA or OpenCL workload though.

    Furmark is the equivalent of shifting a stationary vehicle into neutral and red-lining it whilst stationary to see if it breaks down before it runs out of gas.

    • bittermann
    • 12 years ago

    The cards blowing up weren’t started by AMD fanbois, but review sites…jeeez I wish you finger pointers would just grow up.

    • Arclight
    • 12 years ago

    Ah TR, our own personal myth busters.

    • Firestarter
    • 12 years ago

    He thinks 1.2v is ‘far from extreme’, while it’s about 27% more voltage than default which translates to about 60% more power. 60% more power through a card that is already power limited is not something that I’d expect this card to handle.

    • Meadows
    • 12 years ago

    No, we cover fire damage if the fire is capable of spreading and sustaining itself. Extended service may cover aesthetical damage by smoke or soot, even if there was no openly spreading fire.

    But a factory computer part having a measly spark and malfunctioning? Surely you jest. The manufacturer’s responsibility, and no doubt a few of those cards fried indeed. The fixed driver couldn’t come quick enough.

    • Aphasia
    • 12 years ago

    They do a lot of video. Many of their text reviews are also accompanied with a shorter video review where they talk about the highlight, etc.

    And they aren’t really alone in having cards die, although 1.2v are quite abit more.
    [url<]http://www.techpowerup.com/reviews/ASUS/GeForce_GTX_590/26.html[/url<] Look at the bottom end.

    • Pax-UX
    • 12 years ago

    Not true, with things like CUDA and OpenCL GPUs are now being used for non-graphic based processing. So for people that plan to do this type for work load those numbers are useful.

    • Pax-UX
    • 12 years ago

    I can say from experience the Crossfire flickering is an issue for me on a 4870×2. Problem is caused by the AMD drivers trying to optimise something. To fix the issue you need to disable the Catalyst A.I yeah that’s turning off Crossfire, but if wan to play the game. Some people rename the EXE to Bioshock2.exe which changes how the Crossfire profile works, since I bought it through Steam I can’t do this. Needs a driver fix from AMD.

    • HisDivineShadow
    • 12 years ago

    I think anyone considering a $700 beast card that consists of two high power GPU’s on one board that tries to keep up with the insane power requirements that this entails is probably not going to be ignorant of what the implications of these rumors vs the truth are. That said, I think that’s the kind of consumer that probably knows enough to avoid the problem above. After all, if they’ve done what was necessary to overclock it, then I suspect they probably saw all the warnings about screwing it up along the way.

    I still think this kind of card (590, 6990) is just not worth the money invested, especially when they cost more than two of the high end single gpu equivalent. I think the 590’ll be a limited run card just like its predecessor and that cherry picking GPU’s and praying is probably not a great way to build reliable cards that’ll last long enough to be worth the price. And putting two such dual GPU cards in the same computer is a great way to provide heat to the poor.

    • swampfox
    • 12 years ago

    Isn’t the hardware getting damaged because they overclocked it, i.e. they put it past its design specifications and it ended up heating up beyond what it should? I, for one, am thankful that generally they build things into the drivers to stop users from breaking the product by fiddling around with it.

    • albundy
    • 12 years ago

    ouch, someone was asleep at the QC table. Its understandable that both companies rush to be the first, but at what cost? Does fire insurance cover video card fires?

    • PenGun
    • 12 years ago

    Unattended! Mine runs from when I build it till I replace it. Turn it off for hardware fooling around and it runs all the time otherwise. My big ol CRT gaming HDTV gets turned on and off but the rest just runs all the time.

    It’s a server habit but the last 5 have been run like this and I have very few problems.

    Of course it usually run Slackware so it is no problem from a software point of view.

    • ew
    • 12 years ago

    How did hardware that can be damaged like this due to a driver bug make it out the door?

    • l33t-g4m3r
    • 12 years ago

    Alright, let’s do some basic reasoning here. Furmark. Obviously the GPU throttles itself and lowers performance under these circumstances. Now you are saying that Nvidia has created a new throttling algorithm that magically doesn’t lower performance? Ha! I don’t believe it. It may be a very efficient algorithm, but there is only so much it can do without affecting performance. More than likely another website will do benchmarks and show numbers verifying this, which would make overclocking useless in some scenarios. Regardless, fixing the exploding card issue is a good thing, even if it was a reaction patch after somebody completely destroyed their $700+ card and possibly won’t be getting a replacement.

    • Phydoux
    • 12 years ago

    I was thinking the exact same thing. It looks like a setup to me.

    • kc77
    • 12 years ago

    That’s a good question. I would love to know who they got it from.

    • YeuEmMaiMai
    • 12 years ago

    how did this driver make it out the door?

    • xii
    • 12 years ago

    I find it rather unsettling to watch a video like this, knowing that I leave my computer running unattended sometimes. I’m not talking about specific brands or faults here; I feel that just maybe some components are being pushed a bit beyond safe limits, if some sort of protection failing can set my house on fire.

    • moshpit
    • 12 years ago

    Because winning anything is still a new feeling to them and they don’t want to give that up? Nvidia fan boys arn’t much better though. I’ve seen raving on both sides of the fence, hence my sitting atop that fence to laugh at both 😀

    • beck2448
    • 12 years ago

    AMD fanbois frothing at the mouth everytime Nvidia makes a new release. Why are they so scared?

    • Goty
    • 12 years ago

    “It seems like the red team would rather throw mud (FUD) on the GTX 590 that compete one-on-one on actual benchmarks.”

    They win those, too. (At least slightly more than half the time) 😉

    • dpaus
    • 12 years ago

    A GTX 590 [i<]and[/i<] a fire extinguisher? Or a Radeon 6990 and earplugs?? Decisions, decisions.....

    • willmore
    • 12 years ago

    Radeon 6990 giveaway?

    • sweatshopking
    • 12 years ago

    fish boy, you are crazy.

    • derFunkenstein
    • 12 years ago

    True, and I didn’t mean to imply they needed to test them all, but as you said this one was clearly gaining steam.

    • UberGerbil
    • 12 years ago

    I was wondering that too. It’s possible, I guess; some sites do a hell of a lot of video, most of which is profoundly boring.

    At first I speculated they’d already fried one board (or knew someone who had) and were doing it again with another to record and verify the problem, but the voices in the background certainly sound surprised (to the extent that guttural Scandinavian mutterings can).

    • eitje
    • 12 years ago

    How did those folks just happen to be recording the video card when it blew? Do they record everything while testing?

    • flip-mode
    • 12 years ago

    [quote=”Scott Wasson”<]We continue to puzzle over how best to serve you, the reader, in this context.[/quote<]GeForce GTX 590 giveaway?

    • HighTech4US2
    • 12 years ago

    Thanks for setting the record straight and backing up that record with actual verified facts.

    I for one do appreciate it when reputable sites like this one take on what appears to be obvious AMD sponsored fanboi propaganda. It seems like the red team would rather throw mud (FUD) on the GTX 590 than compete one-on-one on actual benchmarks.

    Fanboi propaganda is at its finest on the GPU forum on char-lies site. Go there and see all the raging red roosters wetting themselves over these rumors.

    • UberGerbil
    • 12 years ago

    But the point, as Scott mentions in the penultimate para, is that they hear of rumors all the time, If they put them all to the test, they would get very little else done. So I think they have to sit back and let them fester a bit, and only test the ones that blow up into full-scale controversies with some kind of evidentiary flesh atop the rumor’s bare bones (as was the case here, with some fairly eyebrow-raising video). TR isn’t “Mythbusters,” out to refute or confirm every wild-eyed internet friend-of-a-friend computer story (though… I’d watch that show if it was). So I think the strategy described here is the right one. We just have to keep it in mind the next time something like this comes up with less supporting evidence (and dark mutterings in the forums about TR’s inaction demonstrating an obvious sell-out to the other side)

    • crazybus
    • 12 years ago

    Intel does basically the same thing with Turbo Boost, just in reverse. Where there is TDP headroom available, the chip will increase its clockspeed. I applaud attempts to increase overall performance while working within real world TDP restraints.

    • can-a-tuna
    • 12 years ago

    These are not rumors, they are pure fact. Admit it fanboi.

    • potatochobit
    • 12 years ago

    trying to get in good with the man, are you? /nudge

    • PsychicMuffin
    • 12 years ago

    EXCELLENT article.

    • OneArmedScissor
    • 12 years ago

    Because it’s not realistic and it can make cards with inadequate cooling overheat and/or crash, whereas any actual application will not.

    Individual CPU chips and entire video cards, which could be built countless ways, are completely different animals.

    • tbone8ty
    • 12 years ago

    cool. good to know you guys were on top of checking them out. rumors definitely snow ball in forums sometimes, just the nature of the internetz I guess.

    speaking of further testing of the GTX 590 or 6990…

    are guys gonna do a Crysis 2 benchmark with the latest Ferrari’s?

    Ive heard rumors of SLI and Crossfire flickering, maybe u should burn some more cycles 🙂 hehe jkjk

    • derFunkenstein
    • 12 years ago

    Well, I think this is the best way to serve the readers. When you hear of rumors and then put them to the test and share your results, you’re helping the reader regardless of the outcome. If your 590 had fried, you’d still be helping the reader.

    • bthylafh
    • 12 years ago

    See also:

    [url<]http://arstechnica.com/web/news/2011/03/should-we-blame-the-internet-for-conspiracy-theories.ars[/url<]

    • Spotpuff
    • 12 years ago

    I’m interested in a more thorough answer on why AMD and Nvidia are both throttling Furmark. If Intel/AMD throttled Linx or Prime 95 because it did too many calculations there would be an uproar but I haven’t read much about the issue w/ Furmark and graphics cards.

    • Ryu Connor
    • 12 years ago

    I’ve never felt the site spends too little time or too much time chasing such situations.

    In a few situations the site has managed to uncover real issues as well. Prominent ones off the top of my head includes the Deskstar failures and the nForce1/2 PCI writes chipset issue.

    You have the right balance I’d say.

    • continuum
    • 12 years ago

    Good to know paranoid morons still abound in this world…

    • Rakhmaninov3
    • 12 years ago

    I think most consumers and readers like getting valid, true reports like this. I’d be pissed if I bought a different card because of problems that didn’t actually exist.

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