Nvidia GeForce GTX 690 review
A very silly graphics card for a niche market, but there's no arguing with its astonishing performance
Review Date: 3 May 2012
Price when reviewed: £829
Reviewed By: Chris Finnamore
After the phenomenal GeForce GTX 680, Nvidia has pulled its usual trick of squeezing two GPUs onto one card to make the ludicrous GTX 690. The new card carries over the advantages of the GTX 680's 28nm "Kepler" architecture, including relatively modest power requirements and dynamic GPU overclocking, where the GPUs overclock in 13MHz increments when there's enough thermal headroom.
It's a fantastic-looking card, thanks to an aluminium body with chromium plating. The single fan in the middle is quiet at idle and bearable under load; it's certainly not as quiet as the GTX 680, but this is no dual-GPU jet engine. The card contains two GeForce GTX 680 GPUs, each of which has access to 2GB of GDDR5 memory.
As is usual with dual-GPU cards, in order to keep the card within its thermal limits the processors are underclocked - but in the case of the GTX 690, not by much. Each of the single GTX 680 GPUs on the card runs at 915MHz, compared to 1.01GHz in the single-GPU GTX 680 card. Nvidia claims that the card's graphics processors can use GPU Boost to get within two per cent of the speeds achieved by the single-GPU 680. The GTX 690 needs two 8-pin PCI Express power connectors, but Nvidia recommends only a fairly modest 650W power supply - a far cry from the 1,000W monsters dual-GPU cards needed a few years ago.
The GTX 690 has a sensible selection of ports on the rear; you get three dual-link DVI ports and a mini DisplayPort. As this massively powerful card is mainly aimed at gamers with high-resolution 2,560 x 1,600 screens, which require dual-link DVI, or those who want to use three monitors in Surround mode, having three of the most common monitor connection makes sense.
The card's performance in our games tests was, predictably, devastating. No high-end graphics card struggles with Dirt 3, and the GTX 690's 142fps at 1,920 x 1,080 with 4x anti-aliasing and Ultra detail blows away the 114fps from the GTX 680. In three-monitor Surround mode, at 5,760 x 1,080, we saw 82.2fps and the frame rate never dropped below 66.3fps. Dirt 3 has relatively modest requirements, so you don’t really need a card this powerful to run it; the single-GPU GTX 680 managed 49.6fps in the three-monitor test and the frame rate never dipped below a smooth 41.6fps at 5,760 x 1,080.
Our Crysis 2 benchmark is much more demanding. We run the test using the DirectX 11 Ultra Upgrade and the High Resolution Texture pack, at 1,920 x 1,080 and Ultra detail. In this test the GTX 690 managed 49.6fps, which isn’t much quicker than the 46.1fps we saw from the GTX 680 - we think our test PC's Core i7-2600K processor may be the limiting factor at these speeds.
The card came into its own when playing Crysis 2 on three monitors. While every card we’ve seen, including the GTX 680 and AMD's Radeon HD 7950 and HD 7970, have struggled to get over 20fps in this 5,760 x 1,080 benchmark, the GTX 690 ran it at a smooth 39.4fps average.
£830 is a frankly ridiculous amount of money to spend on a graphics card, and even the most hardcore of PC gaming enthusiasts would be fine spending £420 on the GTX 680. However, if you must play the most demanding games available on three monitors, this is the only way to do it.
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