Nvidia's GeForce GTX 690 4GB boasts two Kepler 28nm graphics cores, but comes at a serious cost.
Nvidia has taken the wraps off its latest top-end graphic card design, the dual-GPU GeForce GTX 690 4GB, due for release in 'limited quantities' from the 3rd of May with a full retail release on the 7th.
Announced by Nvidia co-founder and chief executive officer Jen-Hsun Huang at the Nvidia Game Festival in Shanghai, the board is based on two 28nm Kepler GPUs - the same cores as found on the GeForce GTX 680 2GB. Nvidia claims the GeForce GTX 690 4GB is the world's fastest graphics card, functionally equivalent to two GeForce GTX 680s running in dual-SLI mode.
Nvidia's own performance stats - currently the only stats available on the as-yet unreleased boards - show a rough doubling of performance in some games, including Crysis 2 and Metro 2033, while other titles like Batman: Arkham City and Civilization IV show a smaller - but still impressive performance boosts.
The reference design boasts 3,072 CUDA cores, a base clock of 915MHz - boosted to 1019MHz in selected scenarios - 4GB of GDDR5 on a 512-bit bus, dual eight-pin power connectors and a thermal design profile (TDP) of 300W. Three dual-link DVI ports and a single Mini-DisplayPort 1.2 offer outputs, while the boards connect to the host system via PCI Express 3.0.
Nvidia's design includes a new cooling system using dual vapour chamber heat-sinks - one over each GPU - and a central axial fan with optimised fin pitch and angle to reduce noise. 'Inside each vapour chamber is a small amount of purified water,
' explains Nvidia's James Wang. 'As the GPU heats up, the water evaporates, carrying away heat in the process. Once the vapour reaches the top of the fin stack, it cools, condenses, and the process repeats itself. It's similar to a miniature form of water cooling but, because the liquid is entirely self contained, there's no need for tubing and no chance of leaks.
If that wasn't enough, the reference design boasts a thixomolded magnesium alloy fan housing for improved heat dissipation and vibration dampening and a ten-phase heavy-duty power supply connected to a ten-layer two-ounce copper PCB.
'The GTX 690 is truly a work of art - gorgeous on the outside with amazing performance on the inside,
' claimed Brian Kelleher, senior vice president of GPU engineering at Nvidia, of the board. 'Gamers will love playing on multiple screens at high resolutions with all the eye candy turned on. And they'll relish showing their friends how beautiful the cards look inside their systems.
With an exterior appearance designed to evoke a Formula 1 engine, complete with a brushed metal finish and polycarbonate windows onto the cooling fins, there's no denying that the GeForce GTX 690 4GB is an attractive card. Sadly, its high-end appearance hints at something else high-end: the price.
While UK pricing has yet to be confirmed, Nvidia has stated that its initial batch of boards will be priced by its hardware partners at around $990 (around £608 excluding tax.) If that wasn't eye-watering enough, Nvidia is hoping to convince customers to splash out on a pair of boards for four-GPU SLI gaming - boasting that such a setup is able to break 120 frames per second in the notoriously demanding Unigine Heaven benchmark.
Huang also announced a new software tool dubbed GeForce Experience, designed to query system components to provide highly customised game settings for maximum image quality without sacrificing performance. Designed for what Nvidia claims is the 80 per cent of gamers who leave games' settings at their defaults, the tool is designed to make PC gaming as easy as console gaming while ensuring that gamers get the very best out of their hardware.