When rumors began to surface of an RX 590, it was easy to discount them at first — after all, we’ve heard rumors before of an RX 490, and AMD hadn’t signaled any intent to refresh Polaris this year. As time went on and it became clear that AMD had something cooking, we saw reports that the RX 590 would finally pull ahead of the GTX 1060, finally winning a fight over an opponent AMD has been tangling with for more than two years.
The final result, according to multiple reviews, is a strong showing for Polaris and the overall lead for AMD. We’ve rounded up reviews from Techgage, Anandtech, and Tech Report to get a sense of where the GPU lands. The RX 590 is a straight die-shrink of the same Polaris GPU deployed for the RX 580, with the die shrink used to provide more dark silicon between functional on-die components. Heat dissipation is a major issue in modern semiconductor design, and GPUs like the RX 590 generate quite a bit of it. Clocks on these new cards are up substantially compared with previous models; the RX 590 has a base clock of 1469MHz and a boost clock of 1545MHz, compared with 1257 / 1340 for the RX 580.
The price, unfortunately, has come up to match. Official SEP (Suggested Etail Price) for the RX 590 is $ 280, compared with $ 229 for the RX 580. In practice, there are RX 580 cards selling for just $ 200 (and it’s a damn attractive GPU at that price, for the record), which makes the large gap tougher to swallow. Memory bandwidth on the cards is unchanged from the RX 580 — 8GB of GDDR5, 256-bit memory path, and 225W of rated board power compared with a 185W rating on the RX 590. Those of you thinking “Hrm, I wonder if AMD’s performance per watt is better with this GPU?” are going to be disappointed.
Then again, it’s not clear how much desktop gamers actually care about power consumption in and of itself. While there have always been people who emphasized maximum efficiency, most desktop gamers seem to care about power consumption because it’s often a rough proxy for heat and noise. GPUs that run quietly and at acceptable temperatures are often fairly well-received, regardless of a worse overall performance/watt, provided they deliver on that front as well. And by this standard, AMD has succeeded. Unlike the RX 570 and 580, which traded shots with the GTX 1060, the RX 590 is clearly, unambiguously the overall leader at its price point, whether you examine frame timing or raw frames per second. That’s the conclusion of Anandtech, Techgage, and Tech Report, summarized neatly in this graph from TR.
The RX 590’s overall performance drops it squarely into the gap between the GTX 1060 and the GTX 1070. It’s not effective competition for the latter but well ahead of the former. The problem, everyone notes, is price. Rob Williams at TechGage writes “Two games and RX 580 for $ 199 sounds more tempting to me right now than three games and RX 590 for $ 279. But that’s just me. This $ 199 pricing is dubbed a sale over at Newegg, so it’s not going to last. Maybe there was no good time to put that card on sale, but really – for $ 199, the RX 580 is a steal. Especially with two free games.” Anandtech is a bit more positive, writing that it “applies pressure to the GTX 1060 6GB and older GTX 900 series cards, while avoiding direct pressure on existing RX 580 inventory by virtue of pricing. And right now, without anything to compete with the GTX 1080 Ti/RTX 2070 range or above, AMD is likely more than happy to take any advantage where they can.”
Tech Report has the most positive take overall, stating “Perhaps more critically, the RX 590 is the first midrange card we’ve reviewed that clears the 60fps mark for 99th-percentile fps-per dollar. For 1920×1080 gaming at high or ultra settings, the RX 590 proves both swift and smooth. Can’t ask for much more than that.” Everyone generally wishes that the GPU was coming in a bit cheaper, though. At $ 250, the RX 590 would be the GPU you’d be nuts not to pick. At $ 280, the field becomes more crowded and there’s a chance that people opt to jump into more expensive price tiers, where AMD’s Vega 56 doesn’t have as strong a position against the GTX 1070 as the RX 590 has against the GTX 1060.