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NVIDIA GeForce GTX 690 Review - Dual GK104 Kepler Greatness

Author: Ryan Shrout
Manufacturer: NVIDIA

GTX 690 Board Design

If there is one thing NVIDIA is good at, it's building excitement for its products.  It all started with a crowbar followed up by a wooden crate arriving at our door...

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While impressive delivery, the real magic was inside as the GeForce GTX 690 4GB card was encased within.  

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You can tell right away from the pictures, and even more so when picking one up yourself, the GTX 690 is just built differently.  The card has a heavy "look" but is actually lighter than the GTX 590 and HD 6990 in your hand.  A combination of aluminum, plastic and magnesium are all at play here.

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On the back you'll see the layout of the 10-layer PCB showing the location of the two GK104 GPUs and all 4GB of GDDR5 memory.  The design of the board is incredibly intricate and NVIDIA had to do a lot of work to keep the board length to the 11-in it sits at currently. 

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The GTX 690 is powered by a pair of 8-pin PCIe power connections and has a TDP of 300 watts - only 105 watts higher than the single GPU GTX 680 card.

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A single SLI connector exists so you know we are going to be getting our Quad SLI testing time on in the very near future...

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We mentioned the connection configuration on the previous page but here it is in action - three dual-link DVI and a single mini-DP.

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The silver-ish frame of the GTX 690 cooler is made of case aluminum and is covered with a "trivalent chromium plating" according to NVIDIA.  According to Wikipedia, Chromium was used by the Chinese Qin Dynasty to coat weapons due to its high corrosion resistance, so let's all thank NVIDIA for the chance to improve our knowledge as well.

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On the top of the card is a laser etched GeForce GTX logo that actually lights up when powered on.  AICs will be able to program this LED for any number of functions down the road.

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The center mounted fan is housed in a injection molded magnesium alloy frame that is both light weight and exhibits solid heat dissipation.  Oh, and it's also used in the F-22 Raptor. 

There are two polycarbonate windows covering the heatsinks though there really isn't a purpose to them.  Hopefully NVIDIA's partners don't just leave them to show us all the dust that collects there?   Maybe an LED would help.

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In the frame, NVIDIA did mold a logo that looks sharp and was also the source of the original "It's Coming" tease on their Facebook page

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Under this complex and impressive housing lies a pair of independent heatsinks and vapor chamber combinations.  The fan was designed to decrease nosie and increase airflow by matching a design with the fan baseplate. 

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Finally, fully revealed, the GTX 690 shows the pair of GK104 chips, the PLX bridge chip that is fully PCI Express 3.0 compatible (no more nForce chips!!) all the complex power regulation circuitry to keep it running smoothly.  

June 20, 2013 | 08:14 AM - Posted by August (not verified)

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May 4, 2012 | 12:17 PM - Posted by AParsh335i (not verified)

Wow. I'm surprised no one mentioned this yet - Newegg is already sold out of GTX 690 and they marked it up $200! I've posted a few times in response to people complaining about $999.99 price tag on this GTX 690 and that I think it's a great price considering that GTX 680s are currently selling for $550-650 retail. Of course, now newegg goes at $1199.99 with the 690. Thus is supply & demand.

May 5, 2012 | 12:40 PM - Posted by Ryan Shrout

Yeah, the price hikes are a pain in the ass and kind of hit NVIDIA in the face, but there is really nothing they can do about it without getting into some other legal issues.

May 5, 2012 | 01:36 AM - Posted by nabokovfan87

Why on earth is there a 6990 results, but not single 7970 results? Why is there 7970 CF results, but not a single 7970?

Very strange Ryan.

May 5, 2012 | 12:49 PM - Posted by Ryan Shrout

For our single card comparison graphs, there are only four spots. The GTX 680 is the faster of the two current generation single-GPU solutions, so it seemed more relevant to include IT rather than the HD 7970. If you are still curious about how the HD 7970 compares to the GTX 680, I recommend checking out this article: http://www.pcper.com/reviews/Graphics-Cards/NVIDIA-GeForce-GTX-680-2GB-G...

Or even this: http://www.pcper.com/reviews/Graphics-Cards/Galaxy-GeForce-GTX-680-2GB-G...

May 6, 2012 | 07:49 PM - Posted by jewie27 (not verified)

Finally, thanks Ryan for posting 3D Vision performance.

May 6, 2012 | 07:53 PM - Posted by jewie27 (not verified)

The only problem is, how does it show the 3D FPS over 60 fps? 3D Vision has a FPS cap of 60.

May 6, 2012 | 11:25 PM - Posted by Thedarklord

Great review PCPer!

One thing id like to see though, with NVIDIA's Adaptive V-Sync, and/or other Kepler/driver tricks, does the GTX 690 exibit micro-stutter?

BTW I am SO happy that NVIDIA is really taking on the V-Sync problems, (Yay Kepler!), cause thats one of the most annoying artifacts, that and micro-stutter for SLI setups. ^.^

May 7, 2012 | 05:46 AM - Posted by ThorAxe

Whether I get two GTX 680s or a GTX 690 will solely depend on the price. If the price is the same I will most likely go for the 690 as it is beautiful and quiet.

May 12, 2012 | 08:41 AM - Posted by Pete (not verified)

Dont forget about your mobo. I've read you need to be running pic-e 3.0 x16 to get full benefit of the 690.

Thanks for the awesome benchmarks PCPer! Been looking for these everywhere. I just bought x3 Asus 27in 3d monitors. I have one 680 and another waiting on order......

Thinking about upgrading to 670 tri-sli, but that would mean mobo upgrade:(

May 28, 2012 | 10:04 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Well, the fact that it is overpriced is still a fact. But, if you can handle money and you can save properly you would be able to actually afford the card. Don't spend money on crap, and learn to save !

June 23, 2012 | 09:53 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

if you use one card and have a 3 monitor 3d display would it have a very low fps?

July 14, 2012 | 08:59 AM - Posted by Knowsmorethanyou (not verified)

Look, nobody at all. NOBODY needs to buy the top of the line cards. You know why? i've got a 6790 AMD Radeon. and i will have that card for 4 years. After those 4 years. Yes, it might down in performance a little bit. But it's the exact reason Cross-fire was invented. then you just get ANOTHER 6790 which in 4 years will be half of what you purchased it for.

I know by personal studies that ALL cards top of the line over 900 frigging dollars is 150% pointless to buy. there are NO games out there TODAY in the 21st century that NEED that type of card. therefore YES, it (MIGHT) outperform cards IF there were games that required that card. BUT seeing as the only highly intense game at the moment that requires Rendering at a maximum for it's physics and a glowing picture for best performance and gameplay experience.... Is battlefield 3.

Now many can whine and moan. Offf, it's crysis 2. It's not. I played crysis on high setting with my 6 year old 5450Radeon. and i still have it to this day. Don't tell me its the most stressful game. It hasn't been proven. Since battlefield3 came out it has gone under countless awards and rewards. Many awards have been given due to their Intense realistic gameplay. Destruction 2.0 as many like to call it.. Or, it's "Physics 2.0" truthfully named. I'll tell you now, try playing on the office maps in Close quarters and shoot a .50cal down the cubicles and tell me those physics doesn't require rendering up the ass.

Spending 900 dollars on a graphics card that will be useless in 10 years and useful in 50 when battlefield 4000 comes out or whatever might. is Absolutely stupid. Until gamers get the knowledge in their head correctly. They'll never learn, and big companies will continue to make cheap products for big bucks that people can brag about and become smug.

Sorry to all the people buying 6990's and 690GTX cards. But my AMDRadeon6790 can outperform any of those cards

Remember... It matter what MODEL, it matter what YEAR, and it matter if you give a shit to clean it. Take care of something and you won't need to buy new crap for your computer every 3 years because "it got screwed up with dust residue" or the motor died out. Or the circuit board fried. Or i didn't wear an anti-static to fix my computer. or my computer keeps shutting down from overheating. No. your computer shuts down because you don't have enough power distribution cycling through your computer. Multiple rails is bad people.... Do the calculations of how many Watts your computer needs. as well as amps. you'll find it's not too hard. and you really don't need to buy super power house power supplies 1000watts.

August 17, 2012 | 04:20 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

i get black screen with this card on deus exhr and it forces me to reboot PC! same with saints 3.

August 11, 2013 | 09:54 PM - Posted by cybervang (not verified)

I bought a GEFORCE GTX 650 and it was the worse video card I've ever owned. It crashed left and right with frame errors and NOT DETECTED boots. My last was a RADEON with 0 issues and I always had to resort back to it when my GTX wanted to take a break.

My next purchase will be another Radeon UPgrade. I'm done with Nvidia.

Fast but BUGGY.

March 16, 2014 | 01:21 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

another thing is games, not all the games out there will let you play with 2 graphics cards, the 690 is one graphic card with 2 gpu's thus faking out the games and allowing you to play them, which is the main reason i bought one with 3 monitors set to 1920 x 1080

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