It's here, and as you'd expect it's the new top-dog in the video card world. Sporting two GK104 (GTX 680) GPUs, it's no surprise that the GTX 690 has the gusto to blow away the GTX 590 and HD6990.
If you aren't usually one to get excited about dual-GPU designs due to heat and power draw issues, you may in fact be pleasantly surprised by the GTX 690. Due to the strict binning process put in place by NVIDIA, and the fact that the GTX 680 is already an incredibly efficient GPU, we see power draw and temperature readings far below the GTX 590 and HD6990 of previous generations.
This new binning process uses only the most power efficient GTX 680 cores for the card. This helps keep voltages low, and by extension heat and power draw.
There is also a down side to this process, however. Due to the already low yield of GTX 680 cores at TSMC, the numbers of ‘GTX 690 ready’ SKUs are quite low to say the least. This of course drives cost up (as demand is greater than supply), and therefore reduces the appeal of this video card to many potential gamers and enthusiast customers.
On the performance scales, as you can imagine, this card doesn't struggle to keep up with any of the latest titles, even when running super-HD resolutions of 2560 x 1600 and above. If you overclock the card, you won't really notice any gains in 1920 x 1080, though when running Surround Vision, the card really does come in to its own realm.
Sporting an 1100MHz clock, we managed to tackle every benchmark in our repertoire. Under this overclock however, we did get considerable heat and power draw (as you'd expect), so we would only suggest overclocking if you really need to, and to be honest, the only people that need to are running Surround Vision resolutions of 7680 x 1600 - processing some 12.3 Million pixels in every frame. Every other scenario should see the GTX 690 humming along at 50+ FPS on ultra settings.
As for reference clocks, we see a slightly lower 915MHz core clock, compared to the 1006MHz found on the reference GTX 680 core. This helps further reduce power requirements of the core, and again helps with temperatures and noise by extension. Normally we'd like to see a higher clock used on a high performance card like this, but in this case we'd prefer the lower temperatures, as the card is already plenty fast.
If you do plan on shoving one of these into your system, you should probably check a few little specifics. Like if it will fit. Measuring in at 28.5cm, it's not really short, so may impede on the HDD bay of some cases, especially older ones.
Now comes the part of the review where we talk about its negatives... only there aren't any! All we can say about this dual-GPU monster is that it's slightly hotter and noisier than your average HD7970, but when you consider it's roughly 100% faster, you quickly realise just how good a job NVIDIA’s engineering team has done. The rear PCB is immaculate, and, dare we say, an engineering marvel.
If we had to split hairs, we'd talk about the price being far too high, and how NVIDIA is blatantly ripping us all off. But we don't really think they are. Sure, in Australia we're paying a far higher price than the USA, but that's a region issue, and nothing to do with NVIDIA. For $US999 it's a decent enough purchase, and if you have the cash to spare we wouldn't stop you.