NVIDIA GeForce GTX 690 Review: Ultra Expensive, Ultra Rare, Ultra Fastby Ryan Smith on May 3, 2012 9:00 AM EST
With the GTX 590 NVIDIA found themselves with a bit of a PR problem. Hardcore overclockers had managed to send their GTX 590s to a flaming death, which made the GTX 590 look bad and required that NVIDIA lock down all voltage control so that no one else could repeat the feat. The GTX 590 was a solid card at stock, but NVIDIA never designed it for overvolting, and indeed I’m not sure you could even say it was designed for overclocking since it was already running at a 365W TDP.
Since that incident NVIDIA has taken a much harder stance on overvolting, which we first saw with the GTX 680. The reference GTX 680 could not be overvolted, with voltage options limited to whatever voltage the top GPU boost bin used (typically 1.175v). This principle will be continuing with the GTX 690; there will not be any overvolting options.
However this is not to say that the GTX 690 isn’t built for overclocking. The GTX 680 still has some overclocking potential thanks to some purposeful use of design headroom, and the GTX 690 is going to be the same story. In fact it’s much the same story as with AMD’s Radeon HD 5970 and 6990, both of which shipped in configurations that kept power consumption at standard levels while also offering modes that unlocked overclocking potential in exchange for greater power consumption (e.g. AWSUM). As we’ve previously mentioned the GTX 690 is designed to be able to handle up to 375W even though it ships in a 300W configuration, and that 75W is our overclocking headroom.
NVIDIA will be exposing the GTX 690’s overclocking options through a combination of power targets and clock offsets, just as with the GTX 680. This in turn means that the GTX 690 effectively has two overclocking modes:
- Power target overclocking. By just raising the power target (max +35%) you can increase how often the GTX 690 can boost and how frequently it can hit its max boost bin. By adjusting the power target performance will only increase in games/applications that are being held back by NVIDIA’s power limiter, but in return this is easy mode overclocking as all of the GPU boost bins are already qualified for stability. In other words, this is the GTX 690’s higher performance, higher power 375W mode.
- Power target + offset overclocking. By using clock offsets it’s possible to further raise the performance of the GTX 690, and to do so across all games and applications. The lack of overvolting support means that there isn’t a ton of headroom for the offset, but as it stands NVIDIA’s clocks are conservative for power purposes and Kepler is clearly capable of more than 915MHz/1019MHz. This of course will require testing for stability, and it should be noted that because NVIDIA’s GPU boost bins already go so high over the base clock that it won’t take much to be boosting into 1.2GHz+.
NVIDIA’s goal with the GTX 690 was not just to reach GTX 680 SLI performance, but also match the GTX 680’s overclocking capabilities. We’ll get to our full results in our overclocking performance section, but for the time being we’ll leave it at this: we hit 1040MHz base, 1183MHz boost, and 7GHz memory on our GTX 690; even without overvolting it’s a capable overclocker.