Conclusions and Final Thoughts

On Thursday May the 3rd at 10am PDT / 1pm EDT, stop by the PC Perspective Live page for an NVIDIA and PC Perspective hosted event surrounding the GeForce GTX 690 graphics card. Ryan Shrout and Tom Petersen will be on hand to talk about the technology, the performance characteristics as well as answer questions from the community from the chat room, twitter, etc. Be sure to catch it all at


In some ways the performance of the GeForce GTX 690 card from NVIDIA is exactly where we expected it to be.  After we learned that the Gemini card would indeed be a pair of 1536-core GK104 chips and that the clock speed would be *near* the same level as the GTX 680 single GPU card, we knew where we could find performance estimates – our own GTX 680 SLI results.  And in our testing, that turned out to be pretty accurate – the GTX 690 is sometimes right on par with a pair of reference GTX 680s and somtimes falls behind by 2-6%.  With a "typical" boost clock difference around 4% (1019 MHz vs 1058 MHz) that delta is expected. 

When you compare the GTX 690 to all the other single card graphics solutions (excluded odd men out like the MARS II so far) you’ll see that NVIDIA’s new flagship really has no competition.  The previous top of the line parts were the GTX 590, NVIDIA’s previous flagship from the Fermi generation using two GF110 parts, and the Radeon HD 6990, AMD’s flagship based on dual Cayman GPUs, neither of which can even come close to the performance the GTX 690 offers.  In fact, the single GPU GTX 680 is actually a comparable match with those two cards today.

What about the chance of full speed HD 7990 using clocks similar to those found on the HD 7970?  Some of our performance results actually tell us that AMD could be successful – Metro 2033 and Deus Ex: Human Revolution actually run faster at top resolutions on our pair of HD 7970s in CrossFire.  The problem for AMD will be getting that configuration to exist on a single card with power consumption results more than a 100 watts higher on the 7970s than on the GTX 690.  AMD would either have to downclock the parts or prepare for a power-hungry solution – neither of which would be as exciting to see.

Power and Efficiency

The GTX 690 is based on the same design as the GTX 680 and the company has done a great job keeping this dual-GPU card cool and efficient.  The GTX 690 uses less power than 680s in SLI and is able to hover around the 450 watt mark.  We can’t be as impressed with the GTX 690 as we were the GTX 680 just based on raw power consumption marks, but if you measure the performance per watt of this new card against the results we saw for the GTX 590 and the HD 6990, you will see that NVIDIA is holding a HUGE advantage.  

New Features

From our GTX 680 review: There are a host of new features included on Kepler, starting with the addition of being able to support more than two displays. Yes, the AMD cards can still support 6 outputs if you can find one of those magic DP hubs but I think that the four ports that NVIDIA has included are probably enough for most users. I really still wish that NVIDIA wasn’t 2+ years behind on this — but we have it now so NVIDIA fans can stop being pestered by the AMD camp.

GPU Boost is the other big contributor to the success of Kepler as it enables the GPU to perform optimally for EACH game and allows the GPU clock to scale accordingly. In my testing the feature works — and works rather well — and yet still is flexible enough to allow gamers to overclock their new graphics cards with some easy to manipulate software. Yes, there are going to be some slight variances in performance for the same card in different environments as well as variances from card to card. However, until I am proven wrong I don’t believe that it will be a dramatic difference that will plague consumers.

I am a big fan of both the new Adaptive VSync and Frame Rate Target options as well, because they give users the ability and added flexibility that we haven’t seen before. The eternal debate of vsync on versus vsync off hasn’t been put completely to rest, but with the capability to smoothly scale under 60 FPS now an option on the GTX 680 I can see enabling that more and more in my own gaming. Frame rate targeting allows gamers that are on older or less strenuous games to slow down the GPU and decrease power consumption rather than wasting both to unneeded frames.

Pricing and Availability

When I asked NVIDIA what the price of the GTX 690 was initially, they asked me "what do you think a card with twice the performance of the GTX 680 would cost?" and I had my answer.  For the low, low price of only $999 MSRP, you too can own a piece of gaming paradise.  Let’s see the comparison prices again…

For about the same cost, you can get either a GTX 690 or a pair of GTX 680s to run in SLI.  There are some benefits to the GTX 690 though: you only use a single PCIe slot and only use two slots on your case, you have the capability to Quad SLI using only two cards, the noise levels are lower on the GTX 690, the power consumption is slightly better as well, you have fancy LED lights on top of your card so you can show everyone how awesome you are.

The downsides are pretty obvious though: you spend all $1000 up front rather than getting the "upgrade path" of spending $500 now and $500 later, you only have four display outputs rather than eight should you need to do some heavy multi-tasking, you are so awesome you have no time for friends.

The truth is, if you are a gamer that would buy the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 690 4GB graphics card, then you already knew that.  Gamers willing to spend this kind of cash on the ultimate hardware aren’t sprouting out of the ground and I don’t think NVIDIA is going to convince many people on a $300 budget that this $999 is worth the upgrade.  

Final Thoughts

The new NVIDIA GeForce GTX 690 4GB dual-GPU Kepler graphics cards is easily the fastest and highest performing gaming solution on the market.  As we often state here, if you have the money to spend, this is the place to do it – a $1000 GPU is going to net you a better improvement in gaming experience than a $1000 CPU, that’s for sure.  By combining a pair of GK104 parts on a single PCB, and constructing an incredibly sexy cooler to go along with it, NVIDIA has crowned a new king.

« PreviousNext »