Most folks seem to enjoy these value scatter plots, so let me drop one on you.
We've taken the results from the highest resolution or most intensive setting of each game tested, averaged them, and combined them with the lowest prevailing price at Newegg for each of these configurations. Doing so gives us a nice distribution of price-performance mixes, with the best tending toward the upper left and the worst toward the bottom right.
Keep in mind that we've only tested seven games, and that these standings could change quickly if we altered the mix. Still, based on our tests, the Radeon HD 6990 has an appreciable performance lead over the GTX 590 at the same price. Yes, that lead largely evaporates with our WICKED overclocked config, but going WICKED involves some pretty extreme power draw, even compared to AMD's (admittedly more conservative) AUSUM option.
The GTX 590 is still breathtakingly fast—much quicker than a single GeForce GTX 580 and nearly as quick as a pair of GeForce GTX 570s or Radeon HD 6950s—but its true distinction, in our view, is its wondrously soft-spoken cooling solution. The GTX 590's cooler is vastly quieter than the boisterous blower on the Radeon HD 6990. Combine that acoustic reality with the GTX 590's shorter 11" board length and understated appearance, and a sense of its personality begins to take shape. This card is more buttoned-down than the 6990. There's no AUSUM switch, no bright red accents showing through the case window, and no obvious aural proclamation that Lots of Work is Being Done Here.
Frankly, I like that personality. If I were spending $700 on a dual-GPU graphics card for my ideal PC, I'd probably choose the GTX 590, even if it did mean sacrificing the absolute best performance.
But choosing the GTX 590 does mean making that sacrifice, and I'm not sure how that plays in the world of uber-extreme PC hardware components, where speed and specs have always been paramount. Prospective buyers of these rather exclusive video cards have an intriguing choice to make. In my view, the image quality and feature sets between the two GPU brands are roughly equal right now. The prices are the same, and the Radeon HD 6990 has more of nearly everything: frames per second, onboard memory, video outputs, as well as noise and board length. The 6990 has the most. Could it be that it's still not the best?