The most important thing for the Zotac GeForce GTX 590 to be able to do is beat the competition. That means that this latest Nvidia card has to beat the AMD Radeon HD 6990 across the board.
The fact Nvidia waited until AMD had released its own dual-GPU card before making any serious noise about its own card meant that we were expecting something special in performance terms.
Surely Jen-Hsun's minions were just waiting to see how fast the HD 6990 would go before making sure their own card was capable of taking it to the cleaners.
Well, which of the graphics card manufacturers has the single fastest graphics card available right now then? Unfortunately there is no definitive answer; it all depends on which benchmarks you use and how much weight you put behind their particular test.
You see, despite fairly different architecture being used in both these monstrous cards, they're actually very, very close in terms of performance.
Across the breadth of our benchmarking suite of tests the AMD Radeon HD 6990 and Zotac's Nvidia GeForce GTX 590 trade blows. In some tests the AMD card will take pole position and in others the Nvidia dual-GPU beast has the edge.
It's not even like it's a split between DirectX 11 and DirectX 10 games, or between heavy use of tessellation either.
Take the real system-killers, Heaven 2.5 and Metro 2033. Both those tests really push DX11 cards to the ragged edge, with heavy use of tessellation to create some really impressive amounts of geometry in scenes.
In the Heaven benchmark the GeForce GTX 590 has the edge by about 4fps, though when you switch that around to looking at the Metro 2033 test the Radeon HD 6990 takes the lead at both high and medium resolution settings.
This theme carries on with the Nvidia GTX 590 coming out top in Lost Planet 2 and the AMD HD 6990 taking the lead again in Aliens vs. Predator.
So there's nothing to separate the top two graphics cards on the market today then? Things change when you start adding in CrossFire and SLI setups of the single–GPU cards.
If you take two GeForce GTX 580s in SLI, effectively the same GPUs but at their standard, higher clockspeeds, then they cream both the AMD HD 6990 and the GTX 590. Being able to hit practically 40fps at the very highest settings in Heaven at 2560x1600 is nothing short of incredible.
But then you're also talking £760-odd for a pair of these sterling cards.
More reasonable is AMD's next top offering, a twin-set of Radeon HD 6970s. A CrossFire'd pairing of these two cards will set you back about the same amount as a Radeon HD 6990 – about £550 – and again pretty consistently outperforms the two dual-GPU cards.
It's not by the same fantastical margins as the twin GTX 580 pairing, but it's also much cheaper.
Which doesn't bode well for Zotac's Nvidia GeForce GTX 590.