The GTX 690 Arrives – Exotic Industrial Design takes the Performance Crown!
Nvidia has finally released its first “designer card”, the $999 GeForce GTX 690 based on its brand new 28nm Kepler DX11.1 architecture today. This new dual-GPU flagship card is a continuation of Nvidia’s strategy for an exotic card that is aimed at the highest end of PC gamers to capture their hearts.
The GTX 690 is the culmination of five years of Nvidia’s efforts with their new DX11.1 Kepler architecture, their dual-GPU flagship video card and the replacement for the GTX 590 which launched at the beginning of 2011. This time, Nvidia is aiming for GTX 680 SLI performance on a single card which is very different than with the $750 GTX 590 which is considerably slower than GTX 580 SLI.
To properly bring you this review, we are comparing the performance of the GTX 680 and the HD 7970 to see how much faster this new dual-GPU GTX 690 is.
So you will see us pit the reference GTX 690 both stock and overclocked against our PowerColor reference design HD 7970 (above right) and against the stock GTX 680 (above left) using 18 modern games and 3 synthetic benchmarks mostly using 1920×1200 and 2560×1600 resolutions. We are also comparing the performance of our last generation reference dual-GPU video cards, HD 6990 and the GTX 590 (below) as they were – up until today – the fastest video cards of AMD’s and Nvidia’s last 40nm generation.
We shall also compare Nvidia’s 3-panel Surround and 3D Vision Suround working now off of a single GTX 690 at 5760×1080 resolution. Lastly, we also bench 3D Vision 2 and PhysX, ‘on’ versus ‘off’ at the very popular 1920×1080 resolution.
What’s New with Kepler’s GTX 690?
Nvidia’s marketing buzzwords for the GTX 680 launch were, “Faster. Smoother. Richer.” The GTX 690 is also designed for extreme efficiency and high performance.
The GTX 690′s Kepler architecture is now SMX-based with 2 x 1536 CUDA cores. It promises better geometry and texture processing than Fermi thanks to its improved instruction throughput and redesign. In addition, Nvidia brings “GPU Boost”, a dynamic way to boost clocks speeds and maximize performance for each game.
New kinds of anti-aliasing – FXAA and TXAA – are now said to compete with MSAA in terms of IQ while not sacrificing performance. And there is a new “Adaptive VSync” that is supposed to reduce tearing and stuttering associated with regular VSync. Great hardware needs great software to support it and Nvidia is also a software company.
For the first time, it is now possible to play games spanning 3 displays in Surround or in 3D Surround off of a single GeForce GPU, the GTX 680. And this time , the GTX 690 brings three dual-link DVI connectors (and a DisplayPort for a 4th accessor display) so that no adapters are needed for any DVI-enabled displays. PhysX has also been improved.
How does the GTX 690 compare with its rival, AMD’s cards
This evaluation attempts to analyze and compare GTX 690, GTX 590 and GTX 680 performance. We also include HD 7970 performance as well as AMD’s fastest card, their dual-GPU HD 6990 and we will announce a performance winner. We will also look at the details to see what this new Nvidia Kepler dual GPU brings to the table for a thousand dollars. We also believe that we have a good handle on how AMD is going to respond to Nvidia’s GTX 690 launch and we will share our analysis and insights with you.
The five competing cards
The GTX 680, GTX 590, the GTX 690, the HD 7970, and the HD 6990 are the top cards from Nvidia and AMD of this and of the last generation and we will see where they sit in relation to each other. The HD 6990 and the GTX 590 are dual-GPU cards and were considered the fastest production video cards until today. And it is important to see how much performance increase the GTX 690 has brought over the GTX 590.
Since we do not want any chance of our CPU “bottlenecking” our graphics, we are testing all of our Graphics cards by using our brand new Intel Core i7-3770K at 4.60GHz, 4 GB Kingston DDR3 and a Gigabyte Z77 motherboard. This new motherboard features an 8x + 8x PCIe 3.0 specification for CrossFire/SLI, but we are testing the GTX 680 using 16x PCIe 3.0 bandwidth for a single slot. This new Core i7-3770K at 4.6GHz is sufficient to differentiate high end video cards at high resolution and high detail settings.
And we found something very surprising – our CPU needed a +200MHz boost to 4.8GHz to differentiate some games at the lower 1920×1200 resolution when we overclocked our GTX 690! However, before we do performance testing, let’s take a look at the GTX 690 and quickly recap its new Kepler DX11.1 architecture and features.