Skip to main content

The Story Of How GeForce GTX 690 And Titan Came To Be

My Personal Crusade: Acoustics

Beyond the good looks and impressive performance we saw from Nvidia’s GeForce GTX 690 and Titan, I was equally impressed by how unobtrusive the cards were, even under load. If there’s one thing that’ll kill a piece of hardware for me before I start benchmarking, it’s too much noise. AMD’s Radeon HD 6990 was so bad that I felt obligated to record video, lest you guys think I was exaggerating. When the reference Radeon HD 7970 GHz Edition showed up exhibiting acoustic issues of its own, I wondered how such an important characteristic could have gone unnoticed a second time. Finally, when my Radeon HD 7990 showed up, AMD’s team made it a point to mention that the card was designed carefully to operate quietly. And in a single-board configuration, it certainly does.

Nvidia’s record isn't spotless in the quest for quiet computing, though. It has the GeForce FX 5800 Ultra as a reminder of that. But the GeForce GTX 480 seemed to…let’s say encourage a renewed verve for the user experience, and not just frame rates.

You might think that’d be a simple matter of picking the right fan technology, perhaps spending more on a higher-quality blower, dialing in a smooth ramp, and hoping the engineers who designed your GPU kept efficiency in mind. But it’s not; there are trickier scientific forces at play. A few years ago, the board team decided to do something about squealing power circuitry and loud fans, kicking off two distinct efforts: component acoustics and fan acoustics.

The former required specific hires and specialized equipment for analyzing how the board and its on-board components move. Of course, when Nvidia chose to go down this path, it didn't know where the noises were coming from. The engineers figured out that there were two sources. First, they identified a ton of inductors that were put together poorly. As their glue let go over time, you’d end up with squealing. But even with good inductors, the board itself resonates. The SLI connector, for example, flaps around. At a certain point, that frequency ends up in an audible range and we hear it. So there are folks responsible for screening each product that gets built to catch those noises.

Interestingly, most of the prototypes that come back do make noise. When a power supply responds to a GPU idling at 25 W and jumping up to 250 W, a lot of those on-board components start moving, causing the board to flex, which you sometimes hear. Sometimes a few pieces can be relocated to fix this, but other times the whole layout has to change.

  • CaptainTom
    You could build cars that go 300 MPH, get 60 MPG, and are as strong as tanks; but if it costs as much as a house... Who cares? Yeah more money buys more. What is so impressive here?

    Granted it sure as hell is more impressive than the gains intel makes every year, but then again everything is impressive compared to that...
    Reply
  • jimmysmitty
    11631932 said:
    You could build cars that go 300 MPH, get 60 MPG, and are as strong as tanks; but if it costs as much as a house... Who cares? Yeah more money buys more. What is so impressive here?

    Granted it sure as hell is more impressive than the gains intel makes every year, but then again everything is impressive compared to that...

    If you consider that Intel is working in a much tighter TDP then it makes sense as to why they don't have massive jumps every year. With the ability to throw billions of transistors due to the 2-3x TDP, you can fit more and more every time you do a die shrink in the same area.

    As well, it's not like AMD is pushing Intel to do much anyways. FX is not competitive enough to push the high end LGA2011 setup and barley pushes LGA1155 let alone 1150.

    As for the design, I will admit it is beautiful. But my one issue is that with said aluminum shroud comes more weight and with more weight means more stress on the PCIe slot. Cards are getting bigger, not smaller. I remember when I had my X850XT PE. It took up one card slot and was a top end card. Even the X1800 took only one sans non reference designs. Now they take up two minimum and are pushing into 3. My 7970 Vapor-X pushes into the 3rd slot and weight a lot too.

    Soon we will have 4 slot single GPUs that push into the HDD area.
    Reply
  • bystander
    @the above
    Realize that GPU's do parallel processing, and a good chunk of the improvements on GPU speed is due to adding more and more processors and not just speeding up the processor itself. Intel works with CPU's, which do linear operations, and they cannot just add more processors and speed things up.

    Imagine if CPU's could just add more cores and each core automatically sped things up without having to code for it. That is what GPU's can do and that is why they have been able to advance at a faster rate than CPU's.
    Reply
  • CaptainTom
    ^ Yes but Intel could get rid of the HD 4600 on the desktop i5's and i7's to add more transistors so the thing is significantly faster. Maybe it would use more power, but its better than Haswell's side-grade over Ivy Bridge.
    Reply
  • emad_ramlawi
    I am AMDer when it comes to GPU`s, but got handed to Nvidia, the Titan and anything chopped off from GK110 looks impressive, its really great that the stock heat sink design is superior from the get-go, notice how many GK110 cards from different manufacturers that looks the same thing with the same heat sink, and usually same price they just slap there label on it, however in the same time, using top-notch material that costs 600-1000 is not evolutionary, and i don't believe in trick-down economy .
    Reply
  • scrumworks
    Gotta "love" how Tom's is so loyal nvidia fan. Bias will never stop until couple of those key persons leave and I don't see that happening any time soon.
    Reply
  • kartu
    What a biased article...

    690 is a dual GPU card, Titan is not.
    690 is about 20% faster than Titan.

    NEWSFLASH:

    7990 is 25% faster than Titan.

    Source: xbitlabs
    Reply
  • Fennecbutt
    No.
    Reply
  • yannigr
    Titan is an impressive card. 690 is an impressive card. 7990 is an impressive card. The 9800 GX2 that I had in my hands 2 years ago was a monster, truly impressive card. If only it had 2GB of memory (2X1)....

    Anyway, all those are old news now. The article is interesting but the fact is that we are waiting to see more news about Hawaii and later about Mantle and in a few months about Maxwell.
    Reply
  • iam2thecrowe
    11632406 said:
    What a biased article...

    690 is a dual GPU card, Titan is not.
    690 is about 20% faster than Titan.

    NEWSFLASH:

    7990 is 25% faster than Titan.

    Source: xbitlabs

    newsflash, the 7990 is hotter and noisier and suffers from poor frame latency, particularly when running multiple displays where nearly 50% of frames are dropped completely before they reach the monitor.......
    Seriously, Toms are more often AMD biased than Nvidia, so Don't complain about just one article.
    Reply