A new video card from Nvidia or competitor AMD isn’t usually all that newsworthy, but when the latest card arrives with eight Graphics Processing Clusters (GPCs), and a total of 4 GB of GDDR5 video memory that runs at 6.008 GHz over two 256-bit memory, that is enough for hard-core enthusiasts to take pause.
For everyone else, the release of a video card that carries a price point just under US$1,000 will certainly draw attention.
The Nvidia GTX 690, which is powered by dual Kepler-based architecture-based GPUs, also features a chromium-plated aluminum casing that is a departure from the typical chips and fans on a board. Nvidia made it clear this one, which looks impressive on the outside while providing equally impressive graphics performance, wasn’t aimed at the casual gamer.
“The GTX 690 is truly a work of art — gorgeous on the outside with amazing performance on the inside,” said Brian Kelleher, senior vice president of GPU engineering at Nvidia. “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.”
For the Hardest of the Hard-Core
Rather than aiming at the gaming masses, Nvidia seems to be going the other direction with the GTX 690. But is this a wise strategy, given that console systems are falling in price, and the PC gaming market isn’t as strong as it once was?
“For a grand, I can’t see this as anything but a boutique product at this point,” said Joe Rybicki, freelance video game consultant. “Prices will come down, and eventually the new tech may have a wider impact, but at the moment this strikes me as the opposite of a game-changer. By that I mean it digs high-end PC gaming deeper into its secluded burrow.”
Yet Nvidia is now embracing the fact that this is a card for the hardest of the hard-core.
“The PC has, is, and always will be the pre-eminent gaming platform. Bar none,” Nvidia spokesperson Bryan Del Rizzo told TechNewsWorld. “The GTX 690 also allows those gamers to crank up all of the eye candy and Nvidia technologies, such as PhysX, for a truly immersive and realistic experience.”
Those using an old 17-inch CRT monitor or just playing “Angry Birds” on Facebook clearly aren’t the customer for the new Nvidia card, and the biggest gains will be seen by gamers who are gaming at 1900×1080 resolutions or higher, noted Del Rizzo — and playing the latest, graphics-intensive action games.
“This would be for folks using 30-inch displays, those using surround setups, where the game is displayed across three screens, or those playing in 3D Vision Surround — stereoscopic mode across multiple screens,” added Del Rizzo. “Games that can be experienced in all of this visual glory include ‘Battlefield 3’ and ‘Dirt 3.'”
Today’s High-End Is Tomorrow’s Base-Level
Just because the GTX 690 is the graphics card du jour doesn’t mean it will always be so. To that end, the technology it utilizes will likely — and in a remarkably short time as well — see its way to the mainstream. But it still allowed Nvidia to get there first.
“This plants a flag in the ground for Nvidia and allows them a bold finger waving in the air to say, ‘We’re No. 1,” said N’Gai Croal, chief consultant at Hit Detection. “So this is a ‘Guinness Book of World Records’ statement, but if they are doing this at the high-end, it is reasonable to think that the next generation of video game consoles — which won’t be announced for another year — will have technology on par with this.”
Nvidia and AMD have developed the graphics for video game consoles, and Del Rizzo emphasized that today’s systems from Sony and Microsoft are showing their respective age. “They may be cheaper, [but] they are using outdated technology that is at least four-to-five generations old and cannot offer the same visual and immersive gaming experiences as offered by the PC.”
At least until next time.
“It isn’t long until this kind of performance trickles down in laptops, tablets and even mobile phones,” Croal told TechNewsWorld. “This is directional, and the GTX 690 card is just a preview of how things are going to shape up. That’s the bigger news than Nvidia has just released a top-of-the-line video card.”