When Nvidia launched the GeForce GTX 680 back in May 2012, it handily cleaned the AMD HD 7970’s clock, but that wasn’t enough for Nvidia (or us, to be honest). So Nvidia did what any rational power-hungry company would do, and married two GK104 GPUs to a single PCB, connected them with a 48-lane PLX PCIe 3.0 bridge chip and dubbed it the GeForce GTX 690. It currently reigns as the only current-gen dual-GPU card available since AMD’s dual HD 7970 card never officially materialized. Though we’ve reviewed the GTX 690 before, and also chose it for our lust-inspiring Dream Machine 2012, we had previously sampled the Asus board, so this month we’re checking out the other GeForce GTX 690, from EVGA. The two cards are clocked the same—slightly lower than a stock-clocked GTX 680 on each GPU—but the EVGA card is $50 less expensive.
One look and you know this is an expensive card.
Like the other GTX 690 cards we’ve seen, the EVGA card looks precisely how a $1,000 video card should look, because if you’re dropping a grand on a GPU you don’t want a chintzy plastic shroud or an aluminum heatsink. Oh no—you want some cheese on that burger. The GTX 690 is practically dripping, starting with the illuminated GeForce GTX logo on the side of the card that glows lime green when the card has power; it’s enough to make us want to bust out the Dremel took and install a case window. The second tricked-out bit is the cooling mechanism itself, which is crafted from chromium-plated cast aluminum and feels as solid as a section of rebar.
The business end of the GTX 690 features two full-blown GK104 GPUs with nothing changed from their configuration in the GTX 680 (aside from the previously mentioned underclocking). This 11-inch card is hoarding a total of 3,072 CUDA cores, 64 ROPs, 256 texture units, and 4GB of RAM. Given its specs, it’s not surprising to see how well it performs, but in comparison to the Asus card and two GTX 680s in SLI, it gets interesting. The EVGA card was mostly faster than the Asus card, but we chalk some of that up to improved drivers since our last review. The Shogun 2 differential is from a game patch, however, as that game suddenly jumped 15fps in our tests a few weeks ago regardless of driver. As you can see, though, the EVGA is not quite as fast as a true SLI setup, but it will produce less heat and only requires two 8-pin PSU connectors instead of four 6-pin connectors, so you don’t need to upgrade your PSU to run the GTX 690. We’ve even run it on a 650W PSU with zero problems. All in all, it’s pretty damn impressive.
If you need one more reason to consider a GTX 690, bank account willing, it’s the fastest single card in existence by a longshot. And if your bank account is in the Cayman Islands, you can always run two in SLI just like Dream Machine 2012.
Note: This review was taken from the January 2012 issue of the magazine.
EVGA GTX 690
Smokin’- fast; looks badass; almost as fast as two cards in SLI.
Expensive; exhausted air is non-directional.
EVGA GTX 690
Asus GTX 690
Nvidia GTX 680 SLI
AMD Radeon HD 7970 CrossFireX
EVGA GTX 680
3DMark 2011 Perf
3DMark 2011 Extreme
3DMark Vantage Perf
Unigine Heaven 2.5 (fps)
Shogun 2 (fps)
Far Cry 2 / Long (fps)
Dirt 3 (fps)
Metro 2033 (fps)
STALKER: CoP DX11(fps)
Just Cause 2 (fps)
Best scores are bolded. Our test bed is a 3.33GHz Core i7-3960X Extreme Edition in an Asus P9X79 motherboard with 16GB of DDR3/1600 and a Corsair AX1200 PSU. The OS is 64-bit Windows 7 Ultimate. All games are run at 2560x1600 with 4x AA and all settings maxed out, except for the 3DMark tests, and Shogun 2, which is run at 1080pHigh settings.