As we mentioned back on Monday, NVIDIA was going to be making some kind of GeForce announcement this evening at the NVIDA Gaming Festival 2012 in Shanghai, China. NVIDIA’s CEO Jen-Hsun Huang has just finished his speech, announcing NVIDIA’s next ultra-premium video card, the GeForce GTX 690.

Launching later this week, the GeForce GTX 690 will be NVIDIA’s new dual-GPU flagship video card, complementing their existing single-GPU GeForce GTX 680. Equipped with a pair of fully enabled GK104 GPUs, NVIDIA is shooting for GTX 680 SLI performance on a single card, and with GTX 690 they just might get there. We won’t be publishing our review until Thursday, but in the meantime let’s take a look at what we know so far about the GTX 690.

  GTX 690 GTX 680 GTX 590 GTX 580
Stream Processors 2 x 1536 1536 2 x 512 512
Texture Units 2 x 128 128 2 x 64 64
ROPs 2 x 32 32 2 x 48 48
Core Clock 915MHz 1006MHz 607MHz 772MHz
Shader Clock N/A N/A 1214MHz 1544MHz
Boost Clock 1019MHz 1058MHz N/A N/A
Memory Clock 6.008GHz GDDR5 6.008GHz GDDR5 3.414GHz GDDR5 4.008GHz GDDR5
Memory Bus Width 2 x 256-bit 256-bit 2 x 384-bit 384-bit
VRAM 2 x 2GB 2GB 2 x 1.5GB 1.5GB
FP64 1/24 FP32 1/24 FP32 1/8 FP32 1/8 FP32
TDP 300W 195W 375W 244W
Transistor Count 2 x 3.5B 3.5B 2 x 3B 3B
Manufacturing Process TSMC 28nm TSMC 28nm TSMC 40nm TSMC 40nm
Launch Price $999 $499 $699 $499

First and foremost, the GTX 690 won’t be launching until this Thursday (May 3rd), and while we won’t be able to publish our review until then NVIDIA has provided a bounty of information on the GTX 690 ahead of the formal launch. Specs wise – and something they’re trying to make clear from the start – unlike what they did with the GTX 590 NVIDIA is targeting close to full GTX 680 SLI performance here. As GK104 is a much smaller and less power hungry GPU from the get-go, NVIDIA doesn’t have to do nearly as much binning in order to get suitable chips to keep their power consumption in check. With GTX 690 NVIDIA will be able to reach their target TDP of 300W with all functional units enabled and with clockspeeds above 900MHz, which means performance should indeed be much closer to the GTX 680 in SLI than the GTX 590 was to its SLI counterparts.

Altogether, for the GTX 690 we’re looking at a pair of fully enabled GK104 GPUs (1536 CUDA cores) clocked at 915MHz, paired with 4GB of 6GHz GDDR5 (2GB per GPU) all on a single card. The GPU boost target will be 1019MHz, though until we have a chance to review the card it’s hard to say what the average clockspeeds will be in most games. Taken altogether, this means the GTX 690 should be able to reach at least 91% of the GTX 680 SLI’s performance and probably closer to 95% depending on where GPU boost tops out.

As for power consumption, NVIDIA is designing the GTX 690 around a 300W TDP, with a typical board power (and default power target) of 263W. Compared to the 375W TDP GTX 590 this will allow the card to be used in more power/cooling limited computers, something NVIDIA lost going from the GTX 295 to the GTX 590. The tradeoff of course being that clockspeeds had to be lowered compared to GTX 680 to pull this off, which is why even with a more liberal GPU boost both the base and boost clocks are slightly below the GTX 680. As always NVIDIA is going to be doing some binning here to snag the best GK104 GPUs for the GTX 690, which is the other factor in bringing down power consumption versus the 2x195W GTX 680 SLI.

With that said, similar to what AMD did with their dual-GPU Radeon HD 5970 and 6990 NVIDIA is in practice targeting two power/performance levels with the GTX 690: a standard performance level and a higher performance level for overclockers. On the hardware side of things the card itself is equipped with 2 8-pin PCIe power sockets, enabling the card to safely draw up to 375W, 75W over its standard 300W TDP. Delivering that power will be 10 power phases (5 per GPU), so the GTX 690 will have power delivery capabilities nearly identical to the GTX 680.

Meanwhile on the software side the GTX 690 will have an adjustable power target and clock offsets just like the GTX 680. NVIDIA is giving the GTX 690 a max power target of +35%, which given the card’s default power target of 263W means it can be set to draw up to 355W. Until we have a chance to review the card it’s not clear just how many bins higher than the boost clock GPU boost can go, but even if the GTX 690 was unable to quite catch the GTX 680 SLI at standard settings the combination of a higher power target and a core clock offset should be more than enough to make sure it can be overclocked to GTX 680 specs. On paper at least some further overclocking should even be possible, as standard power target for GTX 680 is 170W; so 2x170W for GTX 680 SLI means that all else held equal, there’s still at least 15W of additional headroom to play with.

Speaking of specifications and performance, for those of you are curious about PCIe bridging NVIDIA has finally moved away from NF200 in favor of a 3rd party bridge chip. With the GTX 590 and earlier dual-GPU cards NVIDIA used their NF200 bridge, which was a PCIe 2.0 capable bridge chip designed by NVIDIA’s chipset group. However as NVIDIA no longer has a chipset group they also no longer have a group to design such chips, and with NF200 now outdated in the face of PCIe 3.0, NVIDIA has turned to PLX to provide a PCI 3.0 bridge chip.

As for the card’s construction, while we don’t have the complete specifications on hand we know that the basic design of the GTX 690 is very similar to the GTX 590. This means it will have a single axial fan sitting at the center of the card, with a GPU and its RAM at either side. Heat from one GPU goes out the rear of the card, while the heat from the other GPU goes out the front. Heat transfer will once again be provided by a pair of nickel tipped aluminum heatsinks attached to vapor chambers, which also marks the first time we’ve seen a vapor chamber used with a 600 series card.

NVIDIA tells us that they’ve done some further work here to minimize noise by tweaking their fan ducting to reduce obstructions – primarily by eliminating variations in baseplate height that had previously been necessary to accommodate the GPUs – and are claiming that the GTX 690 should be notably quieter than the GTX 680 SLI. The GTX 590 was already a small bit quieter than the GTX 580 SLI, so given the quieter nature of the GTX 680 SLI this is something we’ll be paying particular attention to.

Elsewhere, compared to the GTX 590 the biggest change most buyers will likely notice is that NVIDIA has replaced the shrouding material. NVIDIA has replaced the GTX 590’s plastic shroud with a metal shroud, specifically a mixture of cast aluminum parts and injection molded magnesium parts. Ostensibly the use of metals as opposed to plastic further reduces noise, but along with the polycarbonate windows over the heatsinks I suspect this was largely done to further reinforce its ultra-premium nature and to make the card look more lavish.

Meanwhile when it comes to display connectivity NVIDIA is using the same 3x DL-DVI and 1x miniDP port configuration that we saw on the GTX 590. This allows NVIDIA to drive 3 3D Vision monitors over DL-DVI – the first DisplayPort enabled 3D Vision monitors just started shipping – with the tradeoff being reduced external ventilation.

Finally, we have the matter of pricing and availability. In typical NVIDIA fashion, NVIDIA has given us the pricing at the last moment. The MSRP on the GTX 690 will be $999, exactly double the price of the GTX 680. Given what we know of the specs of the GTX 690 this doesn’t come as any great surprise, as NVIDIA has little incentive to price it significantly below a pair of GTX 680 cards ($1000) since performance will be within 10%, particularly since AMD’s own dual GPU card has yet to launch. This makes the GTX 690 the most expensive GeForce ever, eclipsing even 2007’s $830 GeForce 8800 Ultra.

Spring 2012 GPU Pricing Comparison
  $999 GeForce GTX 690
  $499 GeForce GTX 680
Radeon HD 7970 $479  
Radeon HD 7950 $399 GeForce GTX 580
Radeon HD 7870 $349  
  $299 GeForce GTX 570
Radeon HD 7850 $249  
  $199 GeForce GTX 560 Ti
  $169 GeForce GTX 560
Radeon HD 7770 $139  

Availability will also be a significant issue. As it stands NVIDIA cannot keep the GTX 680 in stock in North America, and while the GTX 690 may be a very low volume part it requires 2 binned GPUs, which are going to be even harder to get. We’ll know more on Thursday, but as it stands this will probably be the lowest volume ultra-performance card launch in years. While I have no doubt that NVIDIA can produce these cards in sufficient volume when they have plenty of GPUs, until TSMC’s capacity improves NVIDIA has no chance of meeting the demand for GK104 GPUs, and that bodes very poorly for GTX 690. Consequently while this technically won’t be a paper launch it’s certainly going to feel like one; coupled with the low supply  only a couple major retailers will have cards on May 3rd, with wider availability not occurring until May 7th.

Wrapping things up, while we have the specs for the GTX 690 this is only beginning to scratch the surface. Specs won't tell you about real world performance; for that you'll have to check back on May 3rd for our complete review.

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  • Iketh - Sunday, April 29, 2012 - link

    you'll use 50% more power going that route too...
  • Iketh - Sunday, April 29, 2012 - link

    err 33%....
  • CeriseCogburn - Sunday, April 29, 2012 - link

    GTX680 is very, very power efficient, so it will beat amd's monstrous compute power hogs anyway, in either case, one dual 690 or two 680's, it's still less power than the power hungry housefire flaming 7970 with excessive overvoltage and a crankable power tune if you want to even get close to matching the 680.
    Save power ? Buy the Nvidia GTX680s.
  • RaistlinZ - Sunday, April 29, 2012 - link

    Yeah, $1,000 is pretty steep. But until the 7990 comes out they can keep the price high and I'm sure it'll still sell. Besides, Nvidia seems to have shortage of chips even with the 680 at $500. Pricing the 690 below $1,000 will just makes their supply issues even worse.
  • garadante - Sunday, April 29, 2012 - link

    Yeah but even though many NVIDIA trolling haters will ignore it, and forget about the fact as soon as possible, in my opinion NVIDIA really surprised us all with their $500 680 pricing. Even if supply appears to be utter crap in certain areas (like the states) , how many of us, had we been told a month before 680 launch, that it would sell for $500 and at least in my area, not be horribly overpriced by retailers, would've believed it? Most of us would've probably just laughed, but they went ahead and did it, and even if it hasn't seemed to be a huge topic, I'm sure it's left an impression within us. If they keep up the surprises with pricing, it can only help their image, and as these cards won't sell a hundred thousand units, perhaps that PR would be better in the long run than the margins they'd lose selling it for lower.

    But it won't surprise me if it does sell for $1000, and it'll just be a wake-up call, that the computer hardware industry doesn't really want progress; that they are trying not to shake the game up and increase the pace of development. I see so many tech companies flub something that could've been huge, but they don't seem to care. I see AMD as having flubbed by releasing a very minor improvement for their flagship next-gen card, NVIDIA doing no better and rebranding their mid-range card as their new high-end card because they can, and are just capitalizing off the margins while they can. Even with the hardware industry stagnating (come on, this incremental performance increase generation over generation is just TOO consistent... there are technologies that could give us ten fold the performance, nobody wants to risk it however) the software industry is doing even worse, with gaming feeling like a dead end for me. Ah, the days when I eagerly anticipated AAA title launches, and now I couldn't care less!

    However, I did remember something during that last paragraph: the 680 WAS intended to be a mid-range chip. It was likely going to be sold for $300-400 originally, and NVIDIA was fully aware of that fact and the margins it would've brought, so going off that mid-range mentality, perhaps, again, sub $900 or even $800 isn't all too far-fetched. I just hope they're currently producing GK110s or GK112s and stockpiling them, binning the good chips, and will hit a home-run when they decide to refresh this series hopefully like they did when they launched to 500 series.
  • garadante - Sunday, April 29, 2012 - link

    Oh jesus christ. I didn't see the update to the page, as I read it write after the keynote ended. Apparently it is $1000 official pricing... Way to flub a winning strategy NVIDIA. Oh well, no surprise, that's what every tech giant seems to be doing. Doesn't really matter I suppose, I've never been a fan of dual GPU cards since they always seem to cause more problems than they're worth, and present the issue of microstuttering, which behemoth single chip cards don't face. So now I await the GK110/112 behemoth and the mid-range 600 parts, or, if those are lacking, the 700 series refresh. Hopefully the mid-range cards support 4 monitors just like the 680 does! :3
  • CeriseCogburn - Tuesday, May 1, 2012 - link

    No, not at all. Charlie D of Semi-Acurrate said $299, P E R O I D. Not 300 hundred or four hundred, and just as the 7970 was hitting the 590 and 6990 were $700 and $729+ respectively.
    So what you brain washed fools believe, is a card near equal to a $700 dual flagship in performance was coming in at the liars Charlie D's reported $299 rumor.
    Now of course, all you just as well soured industry insiders, all ten thousand of you on the drooler gamer blogs like this one, can make up your court fool speculation and never once pay attention to the exact prices the releases themselves came in against, even thought there are only two companies and barely a half dozen cards with at least a year and half across the board pricing stable as a rock immediately prior.
    It's like instant amnesia and moaning anti- bean counting tightwad syndrome is a virus that no amount of facts can exterminate.
    The Nvidia flagship was just rumored to be a coming 7 billion t. , the largest chip ever to be made in all of human history, but you, the oh so wise know it all claims 10X the performance is sitting before the scientists and engineers if only someone had the guts "to risk it".
    That sort of spew is equivalent to Charlie D at semi-accurate, go tell him, I'm certain he publish for you, the secret insider know it all, so we can listen to a million moaning crybabies for the next ten years.
    I doubt a third of you could successfully use a soldering iron let alone route 7 billion on off switches no matter the funding or training, but you sure know tin foil and all whom is holding the entire world back, as you've got lots of plans for east Asian high tech production, and certainly would have Global Foundries whipped into 10X the speed output if only given the chance...with your basement nanobot tech...
  • jwcalla - Sunday, April 29, 2012 - link

    All that hype for something that no more than 500 people are going to buy.

    PC games aren't even pushing it these days, unless one has some kind of ridiculous non-existent display resolution.

    Better to buy a 1080p projector with that money and game on a 100" screen. JMO of course.
  • garadante - Sunday, April 29, 2012 - link

    Well, from what little I've seen, it looks like there's going to be a -relative- mad rush by the industry to 2160p resolution in the near future. 1080p has been around quite awhile, and has been mainstream for a handful of years. the 4k panels I've heard are launching mainstream in 2013 likely will be priced quite high and won't fully supersede 1080p for awhile, just as 1080p took a significant amount of time to supersede SDTV, and still isn't the absolute standard, but I won't be surprised if even initial prices are relatively affordable, in the few grand range, as it seems the days of $8000+ TVs are gone for good?

    But even if the information I've seen is horribly wrong and everything I said turns out to be completely false, -hopefully- the launch of mainstream 4k panels, even if they're priced exorbitantly, drives the price of 1080p panels even lower. If quality 24" 1080p monitors ever push $100 I'd really have no reason not to buy 3 or 4 and go for multi-monitor setups. It seems extravagant, but from a purely productivity viewpoint, once you go multi-monitor, it's hard to go back, and having even more screens just allows for more possibilities of tangibly productive multitasking. And 5760x1080 gaming would definitely benefit from these higher end graphics cards, though i still haven't been able to try it or 3D gaming myself so I don't know whether or not that's a viable selling point for me, but it would be fun!
  • garadante - Sunday, April 29, 2012 - link

    Well, this pricing is purely speculation right now. What was the 590 at launch? $650-$700? Granted this is anticipated to have closer to 2x 680 SLI performance, but it wouldn't surprise me if this came in close to $800 or less. Unless they pull an AMD move and price in sky high while the market has no competition, but then they did pleasantly surprise us with 680 pricing, and if you'll remember, the speculation for the 680 was $600+, and NVIDIA turned around with a $500 price point -at- launch, which surprised me. Newegg in the states had cards up for very close to $500 on launch day, it was just stock that has been and currently is the Achilles heel of the 680, at least from what I've seen in the states.

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