In an unusual move, NVIDIA took the opportunity earlier this week to announce a new 600 series video card before they would be shipping it. Based on a pair of Kepler GK104 GPUs, the GeForce GTX 690 would be NVIDIA’s new flagship dual-GPU video card. And by all metrics it would be a doozy.

Packing a pair of high clocked, fully enabled GK104 GPUs, NVIDIA was targeting GTX 680 SLI performance in a single card, the kind of dual-GPU card we haven’t seen in quite some time. GTX 690 would be a no compromise card – quieter and less power hungry than GTX 680 SLI, as fast as GTX 680 in single-GPU performance, and as fast as GTX 680 SLI in multi-GPU performance. And at $999 it would be the most expensive GeForce card yet.

After the announcement and based on the specs it was clear that GTX 690 had the potential, but could NVIDIA really pull this off? They could, and they did. Now let’s see how they did it.

  GTX 690 GTX 680 GTX 590 GTX 580
Stream Processors 2 x 1536 1536 2 x 512 512
Texture Units 2 x 128 128 2 x 64 64
ROPs 2 x 32 32 2 x 48 48
Core Clock 915MHz 1006MHz 607MHz 772MHz
Shader Clock N/A N/A 1214MHz 1544MHz
Boost Clock 1019MHz 1058MHz N/A N/A
Memory Clock 6.008GHz GDDR5 6.008GHz GDDR5 3.414GHz GDDR5 4.008GHz GDDR5
Memory Bus Width 2 x 256-bit 256-bit 2 x 384-bit 384-bit
VRAM 2 x 2GB 2GB 2 x 1.5GB 1.5GB
FP64 1/24 FP32 1/24 FP32 1/8 FP32 1/8 FP32
TDP 300W 195W 375W 244W
Transistor Count 2 x 3.5B 3.5B 2 x 3B 3B
Manufacturing Process TSMC 28nm TSMC 28nm TSMC 40nm TSMC 40nm
Launch Price $999 $499 $699 $499

As we mentioned earlier this week during the unveiling of the GTX 690, NVIDIA is outright targeting GTX 680 SLI performance here with the GTX 690, unlike what they did with the GTX 590 which was notably slower. As GK104 is a much smaller and less power hungry GPU than GF110 from the get-go, NVIDIA doesn’t have to do nearly as much binning in order to get suitable chips to keep their power consumption in check. The consequence of course is that much like GTX 680, GTX 690 will be a smaller step up than what NVIDIA has done in previous years  (e.g. GTX 295 to GTX 590), as GK104’s smaller size means it isn’t the same kind of massive monster that GF110 was.

In any case, for GTX 690 we’re looking at a base clock of 915MHz, a boost clock of 1019MHz, and a memory clock of 6.006GHz. Compared to the GTX 680 this is 91% of the base clock, 96% of the boost clock, and the same memory bandwidth; this is the closest a dual-GPU NVIDIA card has ever been to its single-GPU counterpart, particularly when it comes to memory bandwidth. Furthermore GTX 690 uses fully enabled GPUs – every last CUDA core and every last ROP is active – so the difference between GTX 690 and GTX 680 is outright the clockspeed difference and nothing more.

Of course this does mean that NVIDIA had to make a clockspeed tradeoff here to get GTX 690 off the ground, but their ace in the hole is going to be GPU Boost, which significantly eats into the clockspeed difference. As we’ll see when we get to our look at performance, in spite of NVIDIA’s conservative base clock the performance difference is frequently closer to the smaller boost clock difference.

As another consequence of using the more petite GK104, NVIDIA’s power consumption has also come down for this product range. Whereas GTX 590 was a 365W TDP product and definitely used most of that power, GTX 690 in its stock configuration takes a step back to 300W. And even that is a worst case scenario, as NVIDIA’s power target for GPU boost of 263W means that power consumption under a number of games (basically anything that has boost headroom) is well below 300W. For the adventurous however the card is overbuilt to the same 365W specification as the GTX 590, which opens up some interesting overclocking opportunities that we’ll get into in a bit.

For these reasons the GTX 690 should (and does) reach performance nearly at parity with the GTX 680 SLI. For that reason NVIDIA has no reason to be shy about pricing and has shot for the moon. The GTX 680 is $499, a pair of GTX 680s in SLI would be $999, and since the GTX 690 is supposed to be a pair of GTX 680s, it too is $999. This makes the GTX 690 the single most expensive consumer video card in the modern era, surpassing even 2008’s GeForce 8800 Ultra. It’s incredibly expensive and that price is going to raise some considerable ire, but as we’ll see when we get to our look at performance NVIDIA has reasonable justification for it – at least if you consider $499 for the GTX 680 reasonable.

Because of its $999 price tag, the GTX 690 has little competition. Besides the GTX 680 in SLI, its only other practical competition is AMD’s Radeon HD 7970 in Crossfire, which at MSRP would be $40 cheaper at $959. We’ve already seen that GTX 680 has clear lead on the 7970, but thanks to differences in Crossfire/SLI scaling that logic will have a wrench thrown in it. But more on that later.

Finally, there’s the elephant in the room: availability. As it stands NVIDIA cannot keep the GTX 680 in stock in North America, and while the GTX 690 may be a very low volume part due to its price, it requires 2 binned GPUs, which are going to be even harder to get. NVIDIA has not disclosed the specific number of cards that will be available for the launch, but after factoring the fact that OEMs will be sharing in this stockpile it’s clear that the retail allocations are certainly going to be small. The best bet for potential buyers is to keep a very close eye on Newegg and other e-tailers, as like the GTX 680 it’s unlikely these cards will stay in stock for long.

The one bit of good news is that while cards will be rare, you won’t need to hunt across many vendors. As with the GTX 590 launch NVIDIA is only using a small number of partners to distribute cards here. For North America this will be EVGA and Asus, and that’s it. So at least unlike the GTX 680 you will only need to watch over two products instead of a dozen. On a broader basis, long term I have no reason to doubt that NVIDIA can produce these cards in sufficient volume when they have plenty of GPUs, but until TSMC’s capacity improves NVIDIA has no chance of meeting the demand for GK104 GPUs or any of the products based off of it.

Spring 2012 GPU Pricing Comparison
AMD Price NVIDIA
  $999 GeForce GTX 690
  $499 GeForce GTX 680
Radeon HD 7970 $479  
Radeon HD 7950 $399 GeForce GTX 580
Radeon HD 7870 $349  
  $299 GeForce GTX 570
Radeon HD 7850 $249  
  $199 GeForce GTX 560 Ti
  $169 GeForce GTX 560
Radeon HD 7770 $139  

 

Meet The GeForce GTX 690
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  • james.jwb - Thursday, May 03, 2012 - link

    You are correct, I don't own one... I own three in triple screen. Dell U2412m's.

    I really am at a loss as to what you are on about. It is well known that 16:10 is preferred amongst enthusiasts and professionals for a few reasons. If you want 16:9, fine, go for it, but don't act like it's weird that AT are benching with 16:10 just because you went with cheap ass 16:9 screens.
    Reply
  • CeriseCogburn - Friday, May 04, 2012 - link

    Yes of course you are at a loss, you don't understand a word so why reply ?
    You're all at a loss.
    ROFL
    Reply
  • yelnatsch517 - Friday, May 04, 2012 - link

    Are you being sarcastic or an idiot?
    From my experience 1900x1200 24" monitors are the MAJORITY. My work has roughly 50 24" monitors all in that resolution. My HP ZR24W is 1900x1200 as well. The only 24" monitor that I have even seen is the TN panel that came with an HP computer.

    If you are talking about computer monitors, 1900x1200 is the dominant resolution. If you are talking about TVs, then obviously 1080p is the norm.
    Reply
  • CeriseCogburn - Saturday, May 05, 2012 - link

    There are 242 - count them, well over 200, nearly 250 1920X1080 monitors at the egg.
    _
    In your great experience, there are 16 that fit your 1920X1200 dreampipe FUD scenario at the egg, with most of them, well over half, over $400 each, while the 242 common monitors you all buy as you pinch every penny and whine about $10 difference in videocard prices are well under $200 each a lot of the time.
    So now suddenly, you all spend way over $300 to plus $400 for 11% more pixels... ROFL HAHAHHAHHA instead of $150 or $200...
    I guess that's why this place is so biased, the little bloggers are just as whacked when it comes to being honest.
    Reply
  • InsaneScientist - Saturday, May 05, 2012 - link

    Good grief... resorting to personal attacks isn't exactly a good way to get people to listen to you.

    I'm not going to argue that 1080p isn't more common (from what I've read, no one is), because it is more common, you are quite correct there, however I must point out that your logic to arrive at that conclusion is faulty:
    You're contending that 1080p is more common (it is) because there are more models available on Newegg, but just knowing how many models are available doesn't tell us how many units those move.
    If, for example, each of those 22 models of 1920x1200 monitors moves 10 times as much stock as each of the 1920x1080, nearly as many of the 1920x1200 will have been sold as the 1920x1080 ones.
    Now, I don't think that's likely, and I do agree with you that 1080p is more common nowadays (see next point), but your argument is invalid, even though you have come to the correct conclusion.
    Consider this: there are currently two models of iPhone available, compared to dozens of Android phones. By the same logic as you're using, I could say that the iPhone is incredibly rare - I'd get laughed out of town if I tried to make that argument.

    The second point is that 1920x1200 hasn't been nearly as rare in the past as it is today. When I bought my previous monitor and my laptop (both 1920x1200), 1080p monitors were almost unheard of. Since monitors tend to last a while, it's not at all unreasonable for a disproportionate amount of people to be using them compared to their current sales.

    Thirdly, there is a point of diminishing returns. Notice the complete lack of any benchmarks at or below 1680x1050? These cards are so fast that comparisons at those resolutions are pointless - they're all fast enough for anything you could do to them at that screen res - even Crysis. 1920x1080 almost falls into that category, heck, even 1920x1200 almost falls into that category. Benchmarks are only about who wins if there is some advantage to winning. Below 2560x1600, which card you're using is almost completely irrelevant, so why does it even matter whether they used 1920x1080 or 1920x1200?
    Reply
  • CeriseCogburn - Tuesday, May 08, 2012 - link

    Blah blah blah blah and I'm still 100% correct and you are not at all. Reply
  • Decembermouse - Tuesday, May 08, 2012 - link

    You're quite a character. Reply
  • anirudhs - Thursday, May 03, 2012 - link

    I use 2 at work - HP ZR24W. Reply
  • piroroadkill - Sunday, May 06, 2012 - link

    Hm, odd.
    Not only do I have 1920x1200 monitor on my desktop, I have TWO laptops with 1920x1200 screens. Using one right now.
    Yes, they're rarer than 1080p screens, but this is a site for enthusiasts, therefore, it is more likely.
    Reply
  • Ryan Smith - Thursday, May 03, 2012 - link

    The truth is a bit more simple than that. 5760x1200 is because our choice in monitors for multi-monitor testing was based on my personal monitor, which is another PA246Q. NVIDIA's limited display flexibility (same res + same sync) meant that it was easiest to just pair the PA246Q with some more PA246Qs, Consequently it's easier to just test these monitors at their native resolution when we're using NVIDIA cards. Reply

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