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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  • Makaveli - Thursday, May 03, 2012 - link

    Some of us don't buy 16:9 monitors or TN panels!

    I want results at 1920x1200 and other 16:10 resolution you can shut up with your amd bias which you have no proof of other than your flawed logic.

    Reply
  • CeriseCogburn - Thursday, May 03, 2012 - link

    Then you don't buy much. 1920x1200 is a very rare monitor. Reply
  • Parhel - Thursday, May 03, 2012 - link

    1920x1200 was very common for several years. Until a few years ago, they were much more common than 1920x1080. I even have an old laptop that's 1920x1200. Looking at what's available to buy new, today, doesn't tell the whole story. Because people don't replace their monitors every day.

    Anandtech has always recommended spending up and getting a quality monitor. You see it in nearly every review. So, I think the readers here are more likely than the average guy on the street to own less common screens. I've had the same 2560x1600 monitor through 3 computers now, and I spent more on it than I've ever spent on any computer.
    Reply
  • CeriseCogburn - Saturday, May 05, 2012 - link

    Yes, you're all super premium monitor buyers, and moments ago you were hollering the videocards are way too expensive and you cannot possibly afford them unless you are an idiot with too much money.
    I love this place, the people are so wonderfully honest.
    Reply
  • Makaveli - Thursday, May 03, 2012 - link

    1920x1200 is only rare now. i've gone thru enough monitor to know what I like and cheap 16:9 TN panels are not if its that good enough for you then enjoy.

    As for your other comment about v-sync and 4xAA Guess what some of us don't care to have 8x AA and 16XAF running all the time.

    I would rather play at 1200p at high settings with AA and AF off if it means playable fps and a enjoyable experience. This isn't [H] i'm not gonna spend $1000 on a Gpu so I can meet your approved settings for playing games dude. Get a clue!
    Reply
  • CeriseCogburn - Saturday, May 05, 2012 - link

    But you'll spend well over $400 for 11% more monitor pixels because "you'd rather".. "all of a sudden".
    LOL
    Way to go, thanks for helping me.
    Reply
  • anirudhs - Thursday, May 03, 2012 - link

    No...I couldn't afford one but I very much wanted to buy one. It is much prettier than 16:9 for workstation purposes. New ones are being released all the time. You just have to pay more, but its worth it. Reply
  • CeriseCogburn - Saturday, May 05, 2012 - link

    Oh, so someone who almost wants to be honest.
    So isn't it absolutely true a $500 videocard is much easier to buy when your monitor doesn't cost half that much let alone twice that much or $2,000 plus ?
    You don't need to answer. We all know the truth.
    Everyone in this thread would take a single videocard 680 or 7970 and a 1080P panel for under $200 before they'd buy a $450 1200P monitor and forfeit the 680 or 7970 for a $200 videocard instead.
    It's absolutely clear, no matter the protestations.
    In fact if they did otherwise, they would be so dumb, they would fit right in. Oh look at that, why maybe they are that foolish.
    Reply
  • InsaneScientist - Saturday, May 05, 2012 - link

    Oh? A little over a year ago, I had some money for an upgrade and I wanted to upgrade either my monitor or my video card.
    Now, I have (and play) Crysis, which can only now, just barely, be handled by a single card, so obviously I could have used the GPU upgrade (still can, for that matter). I also had a decent (though not great) 22" 1920x1200 monitor.

    However, despite that, I chose to buy a new monitor, and bought a used 3008WFP (30" 2560x1600). I have not regretted that decision one bit, and that was a lot more money than your $200-300 upsell for 1920x1200
    Now, admittedly, there were other factors that were a consideration, but even without those, I would have made the same decision. Putting money into a good monitor which I'll use ALL the time I'm on the computer vs. putting money into a good video card that I'll use some of the time is a no-brainer for me.
    If all of my electronics were taken and I were starting from scratch, I'd get another 2560x1600 monitor before I even bought a video card. I'd suffer through the integrated IGP as long as I needed.

    Now, that's my choice, and everyone's needs are different, so I wouldn't demand that you make the same decision I did, but, by the same token, you shouldn't be expecting everyone to be following the same needs that you have. ;)
    Reply
  • CeriseCogburn - Sunday, May 06, 2012 - link

    You've jumped from 1920 to 2560 so who cares, not even close.
    In your case you got no video card. ROFL - further proving my point, and disproving everyone elses who screamed if you get this card you have another two grand for monitors as well - which everyone here knows isn't true.

    I never demanded anyone follow any needs, let alone mine which are unknown to you despite your imaginary lifestyle readings, and obverse to the sudden flooding of monitor fanboys and the accompanying lies.
    Reply

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