Nvidia Unveils New GTX 690 Kepler-Based GPUs

Nvidia used its annual Game Festival event in Shanghai this week to unveil the newest member of its GeForce graphics card line-up, the GTX 690. Optimized for the high-end PC and gaming enthusiast market, the new dual GPU card is based on Nvidia’s 28-nm Kepler architecture and is said by the chip maker to be its fastest gaming card yet.

"I’m incredibly proud of GTX 690. We designed this graphics card from the ground up to deliver the highest performance of any graphics card in history," said Nvidia CEO Jen-Hsun Huang during his keynote address at the Game Festival. "With this particular graphics cards, we paid special attention to every single detail so that we could deliver the thermal, the highest acoustics, and the highest electrical performance with this design."

Nvidia said the performance delivered with the new GTX 690 is comparable to what users would get when running two prior-generation GTX 680s using its SLI bridging technology. The GPUs on the GTX 690 card, for instance, tout a boost clock speed of 1019MHz, just 2.8 percent below the 1058MHz clocked with two GTX 680s.

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The two technologies share several other specs; they both have 3072 CUDA cores, a base clock speed of 915MHz, and 4 GB of memory. But, Nvidia pointed out one discernible difference between the new GTX 690 and a pair of GTX 680s: power efficiency.

With a thermal display power (TDP) of 300 watts, Nvidia said the GTX 690 runs cooler and more quietly than two GTX 680s running in SLI mode. Built-in, vapor chamber heat sinks help cool the GPUs by containing tiny supplies of water. When the GPUs start to heat up, the water evaporates, "carrying" the heat away with it, Nvidia said. The vapors eventually reach the top of the stack, cool down, and condense to repeat the process as needed.

A center-mounted axial fan is also included to ensure air flow and to keep both temperatures and noise levels down.

"In the center, air is pumped through an axial fan," Huang explained during the keynote. "Each one of the blades is carefully and scientifically designed in order to deliver the maximum amount of airflow while whisper quiet. It runs at about 3,000 RPM and you can barely hear it. Three thousand RPMs is effectively like your car engine cranking away."

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Like the rest of the GeForce family, the new GTX 690 also touts a number of gaming-specific features. Its Kepler architecture, which was originally launched last month with the introduction of the GTX 680, equips the new card with hardware-based frame rate metering, a technology that helps eliminate video frame stuttering when playing games. With two GPUs on board, frames can be handled almost simultaneously, which makes for smoother overall graphics, Nvidia said.

Nvidia also introduced at its Game Festival event this week a new cloud-based technology called GeForce Experience, which can assess a PC’s hardware and adjust game settings to run as optimally as possible on the hardware detected.

The new GeForce GTX 690 GPU will be available in "limited quantities" starting May 3, with wider availability slated for May 7. Nvidia said the card will be available from partners including ASUS, EVGA, Gainward, Galaxy, Gigabyte, Inno3D, MSI, Palit and Zotac, and is expected to start at $999.