The GTX 690 Arrives – Exotic Industrial Design takes the Performance Crown!
A look at the GTX 690
Nvidia has redesigned their GEFORCE logo and the GTX 690 is itself described as “Exotic Industrial Design”. It is the first “designer” card from either Nvidia or AMD and its “looks” are part of the design for efficiency and cooling.
The frame of the GTX 690 cover is made of cast aluminum, and it is protected with trivalent chromium plating. Trivalent chromium gives the GTX 690 its look and is is very durable. The fan housing of the GeForce GTX 690 is made from injection molded magnesium alloywhich is used for its light weight, heat dissipation, and acoustic dampening properties.
A 10-phase power supply with a 10-layer 2oz copper PCB provides high-efficiency power delivery with less resistance, lower power and less heat generation. Lower power and less heat also enhances the board’s longevity, while the added PCB layers provide maximum signal integrity.
To create the intricate geometries required for the fan housing, Nvidia used a form of injection molding called thixomolding, in which liquid magnesium alloy is injected into a mold. Each Kepler GPU has its own distinct cooling unit. Clear polycarbonate windows allow you to see each of these coolers that play such a critical role in cooling the GPUs.
Finally, the GeForce GTX logo on the edge of the board is LED backlit. The lettering is laser-etched, ensuring precise design.
You can see the connectors on the backplate.
We can see that there are three dual link DVI ports and a DisplayPort. To run 3 panel Surround off of a single GTX 680, we used the two DVI connectors and a passive DisplayPort to DVI adapter. We were not able to test 3D Vision Surround on the GTX 680 as we would need the more expensive active DisplayPort to dual-link active DVI adapter but were able to test the GTX 690 without the need for any adapters.
Each GPU has its own dedicated cooling unit; each self-contained cooler consists of a copper vapor chamber and a dual-slot heatsink while an aluminum baseplate provides additional cooling for the PCB and board components.
Nvidia uses a center-mounted axial fan that has optimized the fin pitch and angle at which air from the fan hits the fin stack as the smoother the airflow, the lower the noise output. The section of the baseplate directly underneath the fan is carved with low-profile channels to encourage smooth airflow, and all components under the fan are low-profile to minimize turbulence and create an efficient airflow.
The gamer using a GTX 690 gets treated to a less-perceptible noise. When you listen to the fan alone – even at 80 percent, it’s clean and smooth – and this is especially contrasted with the HD 6990, a very noisy card, and to a lesser extent even with the GTX 590. At 95% fan speed, it is noticeable but muted compared with most other high end cards running at full blast. At regular fan profiles we never reached 60% even under maximum load in gaming; we simply did not hear the GTX 690′s fan over our very quiet Noctua fans and PSU unit. Amazing!
Here you can see the GTX 690 with its cover removed.
And here is the bare PCB.
And now the other side.
It really adds up to a very unique and pleasing design.
SLI, Tri- and Quad-SLI
The GTX 680 is set up for Quad-SLI by using two GTX 590s.
Unfortunately, Nvidia has not yet chosen to enable Tri-SLI by allowing a GTX 690 to work paired with a GTX 680. It would be relatively easy for their driver team to enable and it definitely would have advantages over using three GTX 680s in TriSLI as an “ordinary” high-quality motherboard can be used. Very few motherboards come equipped to supply 3 PCIe slots with enough bandwidth compared to the very popular Ivy Bridge Z77MB which can supply two PCIe 3.0 slots with 8x+8x bandwidth which is probably sufficient for a GTX 690 and a GTX 680.
The specifications look extraordinary with solid improvements over the Fermi-based GTX 590. Let’s check out performance after we look at our test configuration on the next page.