Nvidia’s $1,000 graphics card is beginning to trickle into India and ZOTAC are amongst the first to get this card into the retail channel. The ZOTAC GTX 690 is based on Nvidia’s flagship design, which combines two GTX 680 GPUs onto a single PCB. Similar to the GTX 590, the GTX 690 is Nvidia’s latest dual-GPU graphics card that builds upon the latest Kepler architecture. This is easily the most expensive graphics card we’ve seen in a really long time, but is it really worth the money? Let’s find out.
Design and Build
Rather than just slapping a sticker onto Nvidia’s reference design, ZOTAC haven’t done anything to the card and left it as is, and that’s a very good thing. This is by far the best looking and built reference card we’ve come across by Nvidia or even AMD for that matter. The materials used and attention to detail is simply amazing and it’s a crying shame that you’ll never get to see it all its glory once it’s inside your chassis. This is a massive card, so make sure you have a good mid-tower or full-tower chassis to accommodate it.
Extremely well built
The rear connectors include three DVI ports and a display port. Since the card is closed off from all sides, hot air is channeled through the rear itself, directly outside the case. There’s even support for SLI, should you be mad enough to get two of them. The “Geforce GTX” logo on the sides is the only thing you’ll get to see in a windowed case and the best part is that it lights up! The two GPU cores are connected to each other via a PLX bridge and cooled with vapor chambers. This has allowed Nvidia to use just a single fan in the center, which is enough to cool the card. Since it relies on vapor chamber and not air cooling, the fan doesn’t have to spin very fast either, which means it’s quiet. Nvidia recommend a 650W power supply as a bare minimum, so make sure you have the necessary components before going for it.
Make sure you have enough juice to power this pup
The bundle includes two 8-pin to Molex power adapters, DVI-to-VGA adapter, driver disk and Assassins Creed 3-game pack.
The specifications are more or less the same as we saw on the GTX 680, except that everything is doubled. Think of the GTX 690 as two GTX 680s in your system, so the shader count is now 3072, amount of memory is 4GB and we have two 256-bit memory bus lanes. Nvidia have had to scale down the core speed from 1GHz to 915MHz, while the memory speed has remained the same.
Loaded with features
Along with this, we also have the new features that come with the Kepler architecture like GPU Boost, Adaptive V-Sync and some new Anti-Aliasing (AA) models. GPU Boost is similar to Turbo Boost, in the sense; the card will dynamically increase the clock speeds and voltages in a game, if and only if, it does not go beyond the set TDP. For instance, if there is an intense battle scene in the game, which demands more shader power, the built-in algorithms will automatically check the current power draw, temperature, voltage, etc of the card and accordingly increase only those parameters that can be pushed. This keeps changing as you play the game and is built into Kepler itself, so it kicks in by default. Adaptive V-Sync can now be found in the Nvidia Control Panel and what it does is, dynamically toggle the V-Sync state depending on the frame rate. For instance, if you’re getting more than 60fps, then V-Sync will be on to avoid screen tearing and if it dips below 60fps, then it switches it off to avoid stuttering. The two new AA modes (FXAA and TXAA) are said to offer similar quality levels as MSAA, but without the huge performance hit.
The ZOTAC GTX 690 is easily the fastest graphics card we’ve ever tested in our labs. Nothing really comes close it in terms of performance. The cards true potential, however lies in resolutions above 1920 x 1080, so I would suggest you only consider this card if you have a multi-monitor setup or a 27-incher and above. The GTX 690 runs whisper quiet even after continuous benchmarking and the temperatures were at very acceptable levels at all times. The card idles at around 60 degrees Celsius, while under stress, it doesn’t go beyond 78 degrees Celsius. This is incredibly good for a dual-GPU card.
3DMark is a computer benchmarking tool created and developed by Futuremark Corporation to determine the performance of a computer's 3D graphic rendering and CPU workload processing capabilities. The latest version makes extensive use of all the new features in DirectX 11, including tessellation, compute shaders and multi-threading. We used the ‘Performance’ preset for this benchmark.
Battlefield 3 is a first-person shooter video game developed by EA Digital Illusions CE and is based on the new Frostbite 2 game engine. The game only supports DX10 and DX11, which enables enhanced in-game destruction with Destruction 3.0, creating more refined physics than its predecessor and quasi-realtime radiosity using Geometrics' Enlighten technology. The game is a visual treat and a nightmare for graphics cards, which makes it perfect for our test. We used the ‘Ultra High’ preset, Post AA – High, Blur – Full, Field of View – 90, Level – ‘Fear no Evil’.
Crysis 2 is a first-person shooter video game developed by Crytek and is based on the new CryEngine 3. Just like the first iteration of the game, Crysis 2 continues to be one of the best looking shooters to date. The settings used for this benchmark were ‘Ultra High’ preset in Adrenalin, DX11 and High-resolution texture patch.
Dirt 3 is a rallying video game and the third in the Dirt series of the Colin McRae Rally series, developed and published by Codemasters. The game is extremely scalable and features DX11 tessellation effects. We used the built-in benchmark tool, along with ‘Ultra’ quality preset.
Metro 2033 is a first-person shooter video game, which continues to bring even the toughest graphics cards down to their knees. The game has a lot of DX11 eye-candy, which really puts a strain on any GPU. All DX11 features were enabled for the benchmark and we used the “Tower” level for our test.
Batman: Arkham City
A sequel to Arkham Asylum, Arkham City features a more open world gameplay as well as DX11 elements. For this test, we disabled Nvidias’s PhysX, since it would be unfair to AMD’s cards. Everything else was maxed out.
Verdict and Price in India
Here comes the scary bit. In India, the GTX 690 from ZOTAC will cost you Rs. 67,777 plus taxes, which is a lot of money to plop down for just one component. Clearly, this is just for the hard-core enthusiast with a big bank balance, as it’s not something the average joe will even consider. Nvidia have created this card as an engineering exercise and I have to say that they’ve done an excellent job with it. The craftsmanship and attention to detail is nothing short of amazing and this is not just compared to reference cards, but graphics cards in general. While it delivers superb performance, it’s not something everyone needs, especially if you’re gaming on a Full HD monitor. For this, a GTX 680 or even a GTX 670 will suffice nicely. ZOTAC is getting these cards in limited quantities in India, so if you want to stay on the cutting edge or technology then you better act fast.
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