The release of the GeForce GTX 690 by Nvidia has marked an interesting thing happening as this was really one of the best dual-GPU video card released so far – high-performing, working with no problems and keeping everything cool and pretty silent. The GTX 690 is almost as fast as two GTX 680s, runs quite silent and cool considering it is a dual-GPU product and offers really monster performance, making it a great solution for gaming in stereoscopic 3D mode. You can see more detailed specifications of the GTX 690 if you are interested in them, and here I’m going to be going over some quick performance benchmarks that I was able to do with a GTX 690 that I’ve managed to get for a few days from Nvidia.
It is one thing reading about how good the GeForce GTX 690 is, but it is completely different thing to actually have the card and play with it to confirm how good it is indeed. I’ve got the GTX 690 sample unit in a Nvidia branded case with a very nice hardware inside ready for testing, below are the specs of that PC:
– Intel Core i7-3770K 3.5GHz Ivy Bridge Processor
– Gigabyte Z77X-D3H Motherboard
– 120GB Intel 520 Series 2.5″ Solid State Drive
– 4GB G.Skill Ripjaws DDR3 2133 MHz
– Cooler Master Stracker 830 Nvidia Edition
– 1000W SeaSonic Platinum Power Supply
– Samsung Blu-ray Optical Drive
– Nvidia GTX 690 board and Asus GTX 680
To tell you the truth I was really surprised how cool and silent the card remains even under a decent load, of course pushing both GPUs to the limit will make the cooling fan rotate faster and the card will become noisier, but still it is surprisingly silent for a dual-GPU solution. Based on my experience with GTX 590 and older dual-GPU video cards from Nvidia I expected that a water cooling solution for the GeForce GTX 690 would be a good idea, but it seems that this time Nvidia has done a really good job not only with the card itself, but with the stock cooling as well. Of course if you already have a good water cooling system it makes perfect sense to add a full cover water cooling block to the GTX 690 as well should you decide to upgrade to it (I’m seriously considering such an alternative should I decie to replace my two GTX 580s running in SLI).
The GeForce GTX 690, much like the single GPU vesrions based on the new Kepler architecture also supports simultaneous control of 4 independent displays in total and of course can work with a 3D Vision Surround setup along with a 4th accessory display. Now, while I would not recommend going for a single GTX 670 or GTX 680 for a 3D Vision Surround setup, going for a single GTX 690 video card is actually a good solution. In terms of performance a single GTX 690 video card should offer just slightly slower performance compared to two GTX 680’s in SLI, this however does not necessarily mean that a GTX 690 will be as twice as fast in terms of performance compared to a single GTX 680 due to the way that SLI works. So when looking at the results from the benchmarks below don’t be surprised when you see that the performance you get from a single GTX 680 is not half the one achieved by GTX 690 in stereoscopic 3D mode.
Now, my idea with this test was to put the GeForce GTX 690 under some heavy load with some of the more recent and at the same time most demanding games in terms of performance. Furthermore I’ve really pushed the games to the maximum detail levels including of course the use of AA filtering, so don’t be surprised by the results achieved by the GTX 680 in stereo 3D mode in some situations where the framerate drops around 30 fps. You can say that going for such settings in some of the games is a bit overkill, especially when going to play them in stereoscopic 3D mode as well, but hey, when you go and buy the GeForce GTX 690 something that you’d expect is to be able to really push everything to the max in the games you play even in stereoscopic 3D mode and still get playable framerates.
All of the games used for the test were ran in 1920×1080 resolution with the maximum detail level possible from the game options with the exception of some extreme things. For example Crysis 2 running at Hardcore, though it is definitely not the most demanding game even in stereo 3D mode due to the way that the rendering has been implemented natively in the game’s engine. With Batman for example all the DX11 extras were enabled and everything was se to max level, the FXAA was set to High as well as the PhysiX also set to High and this is probably the reason that the framerates are not that high. Battlefield 3 running at Ultra with 4x MSAA, Max Payne 3 running at Very High with FXAA set to Very High as well, Skyrim running at Ultra settings with 8xAA, and the Witcher 2 also running at max settings with AA and the only thing disabled was the UberSampling that really kills the performance even on really high spec systems. From the results in the table you can see that the GTX 680 has some trouble offering really high fps on all other games besides Crysis 2 with the settings pushed really high, but the GTX 690 has no trouble with only Batman Arkham City struggling a bit. Have in mind though that the number of fps you see listed in stereo 3D mode is the number of frames you get per eye, so the GPU actually renders twice that number of frames in order for the user to actually see the 3D effect.
Besides measuring the performance in the form of FPS I also did measure the GPU load for both graphics processors in the GeForce GTX 690 in order to see how well does the SLI technology scale as well as if the games I used to test can really fully utilize the monster performance that the GTX 690 offers. I did measure the GPU load for both graphics cores (the value is in percent) for both 2D and stereoscopic 3D mode due to the fact that when in S3D mode you get the VSync forced to on and you are essentially limited to 60 fps (per eye), while in 2D mode you can disable the VSync and easily go over 120 fps. Now, thanks to some of the new features introduced in the Kepler-based graphics chips actually using VSync may not be a bad idea, especially on 120Hz 3D-capable displays (regardless if they are used in 2D or stereo 3D mode). I’m talking about the GPU Boost functionality that allows you to push the card a bit in order to squeeze some additional performance when you need it, but also to save on power and keep the card cooler and silent when you achieve the desired framerate without having the card loaded to the maximum it can handle. So if you want to hear the cooling fan of the GTX 690 running at maximum you may run Max Payne 3 in 2D mode with VSync off, but as I’ve said already even then the noise coming from the card is totally acceptable.
As a conclusion I can say that the GeForce GTX 690 was really a pleasant surprise for me for the short time I’ve had to play with the card – it works really well and offers great performance. But even the GTX 690 can be pushed to its limits if you play with the settings of some really demanding games, of course when talking about playing them in stereoscopic 3D mode and that goes for a single Full HD 3D Vision-ready monitor. That does not mean a 3D Vision Surround setup with GTX 690 is not a good choice, you’ll just have to stay at a more reasonable settings and not try pushing things that may improve the visual image quality just a tiny bit, but you’ll hardly be able to notice it while playing the game normally anyway. I would of course need to do some GTX 690 testing with a 3D Vision Surround setup at a later time as I haven’t tested a multi-monitor 3D setup for a while now. Anyway, the GeForce GTX 690 is now here, so we just need some new good stereoscopic 3D-ready game titles to come out to play on it…