Putting two GPUs onto a single card started off as being a bit of a strange idea. After all, the performance of these cards such as the HD3870X2 or GTX295 could never get close to that of two single cards.
However as is always the case with technology, the R&D guys eventually worked out how to get very close indeed. The last generation, the HD6990 or GTX590, were both incredible performers, capable of chewing up nearly every game on the market and spitting out some incredible frame-rates.
Since the release of the GTX680 and the huge benchmark scores that it produced, we were eagerly anticipating getting our hands on the dual-GPU version of the latest nVidia core, and today we finally get a chance to discover if this gets even closer to bridging the gap between a single card with two GPUs, or two cards in SLI.
So pull up a chair, strap yourself in tightly, and let's see what the GTX690 and SLI'd GTX690's have to offer.
As you can see, the EVGA GTX690 has got some huge numbers attached to it. 3072 cores means we have two full-fat GTX680 cores on board, and the clock speeds haven't been heavily reduced either. This should lead to some very tasty scores indeed.
SO we get to take a look at the GTX690 in the flesh and its easy to see nVidia have followed the basic design ideas from the GTX590 with the central fan location and the GPU cores either side. The back of the GPU is very plain though, no memory chips, no core braces, nothing very interesting back here at all.
On the side there is a large GEFORCE GTX logo that lights up, we loved the version on the 590 but always said it needed to be bigger. We think Nvidia have got it spot on this time round and it looks amazing lit up at night. Other things to point out would be the single SLI connector and the two 8pin power connections.
On to the bit we like best, the windows either side of the fan are a master stroke, this cooler looks completely awesome. The rest of the shoud actually looks like its bolted together, we never coud decide if it really was mostly metal or just very clever plastic but we dont care it looks awesome. We would go as far as to say this is the prettiest GPU we have ever had the pleasure of photographing here at OC3D!
Just a quick couple of shots to show the twin twins all curled up together provocatively!
The main thrust of our review today is to test the GTX690, but we wouldn't be Overclock3D if we didn't push the boundaries a little, so today we'll also be benchmarking two EVGA GTX690s in SLI, to see how Quad-SLI performs with these cards.
EVGA GTX690 (x2)
Intel Core i7-3960X @ 4.6GHz
ASUS Rampage IV Extreme
Noctua NF-F12 Fans
Windows 7 Ultimate x64
Considering how much silicon is hiding beneath that sleek cooler, the load temperatures are very good indeed, just shy of a plain GTX680.
3D Mark Vantage
As always when we're dealing with a graphics card of such enormous potential performance, the lower resolutions and detail levels leave the card twiddling its thumbs awaiting more data from the CPU. Once we move from the Performance preset into the Extreme one the card really starts to work, although the HD7970 Crossfire and GTX680 SLI setups run things close. Of course two cards really do push the boundaries of what is possible, getting close to 50000 X Marks.
3D Mark 11
The results remain roughly the same in the newer version of 3D Mark, although the HD7970CF bests the GTX690 in both P and X tests, with the GTX680 SLI better in Performance and worse in Extreme. The SLI setup is as mighty as you'd expect it to be.
Alien vs Predator scales extremely well as you can see from how well the GTX690 SLI setup performs in comparison to the single card. Speaking of the single card it's right up there, but not quite as good as either of the two premium dual-card setups from AMD and nVidia.
Batman Arkham City
The joys (!) of console conversions. It doesn't matter how much GPU power you throw at Batman Arkham City, it still refuses to make full use of them. In fact the extra CPU cycles taken up by the SLI setup causes us to lose performance in the minimum frame-rate.
Crysis 2 is capped at 100FPS, so just like Batman our EVGA GTX690 spends a lot of time just twiddling its thumbs. Although it's nice to see that with Crysis 2 completely max'd out we never drop below 70FPS.
Codemasters Dirt 3 provides nothing if not variable results. However if we just look at the difference between the EVGA GTX690 and our GTX680SLI setup we can still see that the two single cards edge the performance, but the GTX690 has more than enough horsepower to keep things buttery smooth.
Far Cry 2
In what is becoming a running theme throughout this review, the GTX690 gives us an excellent result but is still edged out at the very top end by the GTX680SLI or HD7970CF setups. Our SLI GTX690 arrangement gives a bit of extra performance, but nothing like we'd expect.
If you've made it this far then it wont surprise you in the least to see how the GTX690 performs in Mafia 2. Once again it's two separate cards for the most performance, but the GTX690 isn't exactly found wanting.
Normally when writing our reviews we always sigh when we reach Metro 2033. It's so poorly designed that it's incapable of taking full advantage of a single GPU. However with two GPUs under the hood of the GTX690 and four with our SLI setup it's clear how well the title scales up. You gain about a 95% frame rate increase for each extra GPU in your system.
The Unigine Heaven benchmark has always been one that scales very well indeed, as you'd expect from a pure benchmark. As is becoming the norm the GTX690 performs very well, but not quite up to the level of two GTX680s in SLI.
Turning the image quality settings up to eleven the gap between a multi-GPU arrangement and the rest really shines. Perhaps the biggest surprise is that, in Unigine at least, the GTX580 SLI setup keeps up with the very latest nVidia offerings. To watch the GTX690 SLI setup run this benchmark is truly a feast for the eyes.
We had a bit of a sweepstake in the OC3D offices regarding the GTX690. Experience testing all the previous twin-GPU cards had taught us that you're better off for pure performance having two single GPU cards in SLI than you are having a multi-GPU graphics card. It's just too difficult to squeeze the same performance out from a single PCB. But such were the gains that nVidia produced from the GTX680 we were cautiously optimistic that the GTX690 would buck the trend.
It hasn't, but it's as close as we've seen so far.
The first thing that strikes you about the EVGA GTX690 is the looks. We've seen many coolers but we have to say that this is one of the prettiest cards we've set our eyes upon. Everything is so nicely balanced with the central fan and symmetrical fins either side that you can see through the clear panels. It has even been made to look like the whole cooler shroud is made from metal and bolted together with allen bolts! It's a real treat. The cooler also works very well. When you consider that there are two full-power GK104 GPUs beating at the heart of it, it's only a couple of degrees hotter than the reference GTX680.
The performance is very good. What else did you expect from a £800 card? Throughout our testing it was extremely close to the GTX680 SLI and HD7970 Crossfire setups we've previously tested. Generally speaking it doesn't quite match up to having two single cards, either in raw performance terms or looks. Who doesn't like seeing two GPUs beating in the heart of their system. However, it is close enough in performance that the two side benefits you obtain from only having a single card, less power draw and less noise, might just tip the balance in the favour of the GTX690.
The GTX690SLI arrangement is everything you'd expect. It either works so well that you're left with your jaw hanging at the extraordinary frame-rates and 3D Mark scores possible, or it barely makes a difference over even a single-card. But we're not here to pass judgement upon that. If you've got £1600 to drop on a couple of GPUs it's very unlikely you care about the performance in gaming more than you care about world record 3D Mark scores and the size of your forum signature.
So all in all the EVGA GTX690 is everything you would expect it to be. Brutally large price, equally huge performance, and therefore a winner of our Overclock3D Performance award.
Thanks to EVGA for supplying the GTX690 for review. Discuss your thoughts in the OC3D Forums.