Nvidia started building hype for the GTX 690 a few weeks ago, first posting some abstract shots of the video card, shrouded by shadow on their Facebook feed. Later to release a couple of high-res shots, and following it all up today with two high-res desktop backgrounds.
The marketing wheels are well and truly in motion, and as of right now, the GTX 690 is being shipped to retailers around the world. For us here in Australia that doesn't mean much, as we will likely see a slightly delayed launch. This isn't for the same reasons as always however, the reason I say this is stock allocation and more importantly yeild issues.
Before we get started on yeild issues, we need to first understand how this card is built, and how it is possible for Nvidia to equip a single PCB with two flagship GPUs. Don't forget, their is a 300W maximum power draw a video card can draw if it wasn't to be officially classed as a PCI-E device, and with the GTX 680 coming in at 195W (give or take), one would think the GTX 690 would consume closer to 380W.
The way Nvidia avoid this problem is first and foremost GPU binning. This process invloves finding all of their "best" GPUs and putting them to once side, while their weaker performing GPUs that require a higher voltage to run reference clocks will be passed over into the GTX 680 pile. GPUS that meet neither criteria will be laser cut, and used in lower models.
The reason Nvidia sort their processors this way is it ensures the GPUs inside the GTX 690 can run higher clocks on a lower voltage. It means they can get the most out of every chip, while consuming less power and generating less heat. Something vitally important to the success of a dual-GPU card.
So why is this a problem for Australian stocks? Well the GTX 680 is a fantastic little GPU, but rumours have been floating around that TSMC (the GPU fabricator) have struggled with yields. the number 40% has been thrown around, though no one can say for certain how many "good" GPUs are coming out for how many bad. Which means GTX 680 stocks are low (as you may have noticed), and therefore GTX 690 stocks will be even worse, as they are built using top-teir GK104 GPUs.
Ok, so let's assume stock levels are fine though, and we can all go out and buy one tomorrow (4th May) when they officially go on sale. How much will they cost? Well, Nvidia don't have a channel price for use yet (another sign of a slow launch in AU). If we were to go off the past 6 generations of dual-GPU cards howwever, we would guess at 85% more than a GTX 680, so around $1295 as a launch price in Australia, with prices slowly setting as we see more stock in the months after. The USA is rumoured to see prices of $999 on launch, though that is still yet to be confirmed.
I hear you all muttering somthing about me avoiding the performance of this card, instead rambling on about release prices and why power draw is important. Well it's really quite simple, and it can be fairly generalised. While running stock clocks (915MHz - 1015MHz Boost) the card performs at around 93% of a GTX 680 SLI setup. Not bad at all.
The reason for this, is single cards have a 1006MHz core clock, and 1056MHz boost - not a whole lot faster. It should be mentioned though, that you will want PCI-E 3 for this card. While we didn't have time to test it fully (we've only had the card for a few hours before writing this), we did notice around a 5% drop in performance while running PCI-E 2, which will likely increase (decrease?) further with some overclocking.
As for the card build quality, it's pretty top-notch. The rear PCB is simply awesome, it really is an engineering marvel. The cooler is of very solid contruction, works well, and runs around one million times quiter (may not be a litteral number) than the HD 6990 and GTX 590 - a big bonus for many users.
The card is fed power by two 8-pin PCIe power cables, so if you are running a 500W PSU it's probably a good idea to upgrade before running out to get this card. A good 850W PSU should come with the required plugs however, and should provide more than enough juice to power this 300W monster.
Temperatures aren't fantastic when compared to a single card, though when compared to an SLI setup with no breathing room, it's simply outstanding. around 80C on each core is what one could expect when playing your average games. With the card never really going above 85C when benchmarking. Compare that to previous dual-GPU generations, and you will notice a dramatic decrease in your case ambient temperature.
Overall the GTX 690 is a great card so far. We're simply loving it. For more information, and a full review, stay tuned!