NVIDIA did an extremely good job with the reference GTX 690, and albeit EVGA has nothing different to offer on the hardware side of things, it really doesn't make the card any less impressive.
Admittedly, the price tag is so steep with an MSRP at 999 USD. Prices are coming down a bit at this point, but with the limited volume available, these puppies will sell anyway. In EUR we spotted the card for 925 EUR.
When product become so expensive people will need alternatives, hence we included the GTX 670 2-way SLI results. Overall that 750 EUR solution performs marginally slower then the GTX 690 yet is cheaper. The downside is of course you'll have two cards, two times the noise level and two times the complexity whereas the GTX 690 is one product all by itself with a very sleek design and cooling solution.
The sheer amount of performance you gain from the EVGA GeForce GTX 690 is just massive while it remains to be acceptable power consumption and heat levels. The previously released GeForce GTX 590 was a card that was a little fragile in terms of its VRM design, I still am using one though as it is/was a sound card. The GeForce GTX 690 however is an improvement over that GeForce GTX 590 on many levels.
First off, the full implementation and usage of the Kepler GK104 GPUs really brings in a truckload of performance. The 28nm fabrication node GPU wise certainly serves NVIDIA well as the GTX 680 has already shown, we're quite certain that the actual wafer yields could be a hint better though as availability of the now little brother GTX 680 is scarce.
The outcome of the two GK104 GPUs however brings a whopping 3072 shader cores to this product -- that's over 7 billion (!) transistors of raw unadulterated performance thrown at you. And while the core baseclock is slightly lower than the GTX 680 the boost clock makes up for a lot. See, if the power envelope allows it the two GPUs can turbo towards 1019 MHz, and really that's not far off from the GTX 680 at all -- if anything, our benchmark results have shown just that. In fact if it sticks nicely within the power envelope the GPUs might even reach 1100 MHz from what we have seen.
Currently we do have to mention that there is a problem with GeForce GTX 600, with VSYNC enabled people have been noticing weird stutter behavior. NVIDIA promised to get this resolved asap with a new driver update. However it is speculated that the stuttering might be directly related towards the towards the new boost mode (flexible clock frequency of the GPU going up and down). So it'll be very interesting to see how that is going to be solved. Not everybody is experiencing this issue though, should it happen to you then a temporary solve is to disable vsync until NVIDA comes up with a final solution.
Right, back to the product review. Crysis 2 with the High Res Textures pack at 4x AA is pumping out a serious framerate of 66 FPS (on average) at a whopping monitor resolution of 2560x1600 -- astonishing. Anno 2070 at that same resolution is above 100 FPS and Battlefield 3 at 4x AA @ 2560x1600 pushes roughly 70 FPS. If I quickly recalculate that in my head then all these games would run 40~50+ FPS at 5760x1080 if you game on three monitors. Meaning that one card is sufficient. So yeah, these are some serious game performance numbers and as such the raw performance will make a lot of end-users happy -- especially the ones that game at uber high-resolutions, multiple-monitors or 3D Stereo admirers.
Important to know is that raw performance does not necessarily equal massive power consumption. While playing games, on average the power consumption of the card hovers at give or take 260 Watts (if you game seriously with hefty settings). That's roughly similar to a single last generation GeForce GTX 580. So we are not disputing that 260W is low power consumption, the performance per watt simply went up massively. In relation to that we also have to mention heat. Here again we are not seeing anything disconcerting. Expect the hottest GPU to remain under 80 degrees C while you are gaming heavily. Our generic advice of course applies, make sure you have plenty of ventilation inside your PC, airflow is very important. Cold air needs to be able to get into the system, and hot air exhausted outwards. The hotter the cards get, the harder the product's ventilation has to work, the cooling of the GeForce GTX 690 in relation to noise levels is pretty much also a non-concern (if you leave the card clocked at defaults). Now you will be able to hear the product when you game heavily, but it remains at acceptable noise levels. In fact it is quite surprising to observe as for a card of this caliber you expect things to be much worse.
While touching on the topic of cooling, it's a proper cooler that keeps the card not only cool enough and at acceptable noise levels, it just looks intensely cool from a design perspective as well. The cast aluminum, the injection molded magnesium alloy, the see through plexi-glass and then LED activated logo. You can definitely see that extra money was spent on it alright, we like that very much. We did notice that a good chunk of the heat is ventilated into the PC at the backside of the card, that is a bit of a bummer, though with two GPUs, four display connectors and a dual-slot design... what can one do really. Get that well ventilated chassis alright?
Please do keep in mind that a card needs an appropriate PC. Processor wise we'd recommend something like the Core i5 2500 for starters, the Ivy Bridge 3570/3770 would be great and come with PCIe Gen 3.0 compatibility. For benchmarking but best suited would be Sandy Bridge-E -- a X79 platform with a six-core Core i7 3960X or something close.
Driver compatibility -- in terms of multi-GPU support we did not have problems whatsoever. All tested titles worked perfectly fine and overall scaling was pretty impressive as well. NVIDIA has been very strong on multi-GPU support and once big titles launch, they often release a new driver alongside with it. It would not hurt NVIDIA to release drivers on a far more regular basis though as that is a big complain from the user base lately.
Well, let me round it up -- all variables are right -- performance -- quality -- heat levels -- power consumption -- noise levels. The one disconcerting factor really is the very steep price level for the GeForce GTX 690. But this is the uber-enthusiast segment versus a limited volume product. The cards would sell even if NVIDIA priced them at 2000 USD -- much like extreme sport-cars people will spend the extra dough for it. Graphics cards like shown today are for the cream of the crop gamers and hardware gurus out there -- the enthusiasts. Remember, you'll need a fairly powerful PC, a monitor resolution that starts at 1920x1200, preferably 2560x1600 or heck even three monitors. Also remember that one GeForce GTX 690 supports Surround Vision with up-to three monitors as well. If you can afford it all, you'll have a smile on your face like the Joker in Batman. So I'll end this review with nervous Joker like laughter, and head back to gaming.
The EVGA GeForce GTX 690 might be 100% reference, but they do top it off with a nice bundle. Also worth noting is EVGA's new global warranty policy, it recently changed. Under the new warranty policy, all products will have a minimum of 3 years warranty, and registration is now optional and fully transferable. However for original owners that do register within 30 days of purchase there are some perks. Here's a bulleted overview:
3 Year Warranty Minimum - All EVGA products will carry a minimum warranty of 3 years.
Warranty is now Transferable EVGA Global Warranty will cover the product, not the user. The warranty term starts on the date of purchase if user has invoice, or manufacture date if not.
Warranty Upgrades Warranty upgrades are now available for the original owner upon registration. A 5 or 10 year warranty upgrade is available at a price.
EVGA Step-Up Enhanced The EVGA Step-Up program is available for any EVGA graphics or motherboard product with Warranty Upgrade.
Global Warranty Policy An EVGA product is covered under warranty, no matter where you live. If you purchase a product in another country, you will be served by your local warranty center.
Free Standard Cross-Shipping RMA Basic cross shipping service is now free.
With that said, we're closing this article. The GeForce GTX 690 is a beast, extremely fast albeit also extremely expensive. But if you have this kind of cash to spend and want to go for it, well .. everybody would understand why.
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