While we were impressed with the capabilities of nVidia’s GTX 680, nVidia’s current best single-GPU graphics card in the new 2012 range, we did feel it didn’t quite push the boundaries as much as it might. We wondered, for example, what it might have achieved with a wider memory interface. Read more graphics card reviews.
We’re still waiting for the answer to that line of thought. In the meantime, here’s a dual-GPU version of that same GTX 680. But before you reach for your credit card, be warned – this card comes with a plastic-bending £900 price tag. That’s more than double the cost of the GTX 680, making this a luxury buy even for those with more chasmic bank accounts.
So what do you get for such an investment? Well, two 680s for a start. Typically for a dual-GPU card, the GTX 690 offers more of everything.
Previous dual-GPU solutions required users to be content with considerably lower clock speeds and capabilities all round. The GTX 690 isn’t quite the same as having two decent GTX 680s, as you get a base clock speed of 915MHz across the two, rather than the 1006MHz of, for instance,the Zotac GeForce GTX 680 that we reviewed – even the GTX 670 offers 915MHz.
In all other respects, though, there’s little if any reduction in performance. In essence, you’re getting 1.9 GTX 680s rather than, for example, 1.5 GTX 680s.
That close to doubling of much of the hardware makes for some astonishing figures. While the GTX 680 offered a memory bandwidth of 192.3GBps, the 690’s two 256-bit memory interfaces boost this figure to 384.5GBps.
You get two lots of 128 Texture Units, so while the GTX 680 got a texture fill rate of 128.8GTps, the 690 (even with its reduced core clock speed) notches up a stunning figure of 234.2GTps.
You also get double the ROP units and double the number of stream processors. And the GTX 690, predictably, comes with a sizeable dollop of memory – 4GB of GDDR5 in all.
And yet, given this huge increase in firepower, the GTX 690 remains relatively modest to look at. It’s a very attractive piece of hardware too; while the 680 looks like a big slab of plastic, the 690 gleams with metallic charm, its two chips subsumed within a brutal yet elegant framework that looks more like a piece of Olympic architecture than a coupling of heavyweight GPUs.
Gainward GeForce GTX 690 4GB: Performance
In size it barely takes up more room than the 680. Power requirements, inevitably, are going to be significant. However, while the older-generation GTX 590 specified a TDP of 375 watt, the 690’s figure is just 300.
Given that the 680 by itself lists 195 watt on official figures, and the 690 is almost twice as powerful overall, that figure of 300 watt is remarkable. Typically, the GTX 680 was getting real-world consumption figures in the low 180s. The 690, in contrast, was averaging around 261 watt, considerably lower than its figure.
The noise levels don’t jump up as much as we’d expected either, with the GTX 690 typically just over 2db louder than the 680. The card does require that you have two spare 8-pin connectors on your PSU, so check this before you buy.
Unsurprisingly, the GTX 690 butchered the competition in testing. We never quite got double the performance, but an increase in excess of 70% over the 680 was common.
In BattleForge, it notched up 113.2 and 82.3fps at resolutions of 1920 x 1200 and 2560 x 1600 respectively. The 680, in contrast, produced just 68 and 47.7fps over the same tests.
In Crysis 2, the 680’s figures of 75.8 and 53.1fps far outstripped the 680’s figures of 45.6 and 31.2fps.
In Stalker, the difference was again immense, with 137.3 and 101.6fps playing against 86.4 and 62.1fps respectively. In every test, the 680 was beaten very easily.