Despite being built with notebooks in mind, Nvidia’s new Kepler architecture has done wonders for desktop graphics cards. With its meagre energy needs and high performance, gamers have been blessed with a powerful product that doesn’t sound like a Black Hawk lifting off. The first card based on this new architecture was the GTX 680 and our review (see APC June, page 56) showed it to be the fastest single-GPU video card on the planet. Notice how we made the distinction of it being a single-GPU product? That’s because Nvidia has just released the bruiser of the Kepler bunch, the dual-GPU GeForce GTX 690, packing twice the goodness of the GTX 680 onto a single PCB.
Unlike earlier dual-GPU solutions from Nvidia, both GPUs on the GTX 690 are identical to the GPU found on the GTX 680. While the boost frequency has been dropped by around 3%, all of the CUDA cores are present and accounted for. This gives the GTX 690 almost identical performance to two GTX 680 cards running in SLI mode and as you can expect, it’s record-breaking.
Nvidia’s past dual-GPU video cards have had the undesirable distinction of being incredibly noisy, with the single cooler having to remove the heat of two GPUs running at 95°C. But Kepler is a very different GPU to those of the past, running much cooler than ever expected. As a result, the GTX 690 is whisper quiet, even when under load. This feat is even more impressive considering the cooler uses just a single fan to tame both GPUs, and is only possible thanks to the card’s 300W TDP. Two eight-pin power connectors feed the card, but you won’t need a stupidly powerful PSU to run it; we had no issues using an affordable 750W Cooler Master PSU. The card is 11in in length, which is quite reasonable, and only eats up two slots. An SLI connector is included for impossibly wealthy gamers wanting to run a quad-GPU gaming PC.
A whopping 4GB of onboard memory is included in the form of GDDR5, more than enough even for those gaming at 2,560 x 1,600 resolution. Our reference card shipped with three DVI out ports and one mini-DisplayPort, with not an HDMI port in sight. This seems a strange oversight, but DVI-to-HDMI adapters are only around $10 each.
As expected, performance was absolutely staggering, wiping the floor with every graphics card that has ever graced the APC Labs. This is truly the fastest video card ever made and there’s no room to debate the issue. The performance lead over the GTX 680 ranged from 28% faster in DiRT 3 up to 57% faster in 3DMark 11. Due to time constraints we were only able to test at 1,920 x 1,080-pixel resolution, but Nvidia’s benchmarks show the performance lead will increase even further at 2,560 x 1,600 to around double the speed of a single GTX 680.
There’s only two problems with this über card: pricing and availability. Despite Nvidia’s claims that Kepler yields are high, GTX 680s are rarer than hen’s teeth. The GTX 690 is even harder to find, rarer than a unicorn’s incisors. We’ve heard rumours that some suppliers are only getting 1,000 units worldwide for the launch. This probably explains the second problem: price. Despite the RRP of US$999, current street pricing in Australia for the GTX 690 is hovering around the $1,500 mark, making it much more expensive than a pair of GTX 680s. With two GTX 670s available for around 60% of the price and offering 85% of the performance, the GTX 690 is only for those with money and monitor resolution to burn.
Special features :
2 x GK104 GPUs
Max GPU boost speed 1,019MHz
Nvidia 3D Vision Surround supports four monitors
Pros : Incredibly powerful, whisper quiet, can be used in SLI
Cons : No HDMI, stupidly expensive
Verdict : 8/10. Highly Recommended!