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

Optimizing Fan Technology For Less Noise

Then there’s the fan. Several different variables affect its performance. First, how fast is it spinning? The GeForce GTX 480 was a bit of a learning experience for Nvidia’s engineers. Just take a look at GeForce GTX 480 And 470: From Fermi And GF100 To Actual Cards! if you don’t remember how that played out. Without rehashing too much painful history, the board was both hot and loud. In the wake of the 480’s launch, Jen-Hsun and several other employees sat down and listened to various cards at different noise levels for weeks. In the process, Nvidia’s engineers settled on a 36 dB specification that later became the target ceiling for GeForce GTX 680.

Of course, getting there required an effective cooler, which is why product launches are often accompanied by talk of embedded heat pipe designs and, even more premium, vapor chambers that help cut temperatures by an additional eight to 12 degrees. If you assume five watts per degree Celsius, that’s up to 40 to 60 W of additional cooling at the same acoustic level. Take two competing GPUs rated for similar power, then, arm one with the more effective heat sink and deprive the other of comparable thermal performance. This comparison goes a long way in explaining my critique of acoustics in AMD Radeon HD 7970 GHz Edition Review: Give Me Back That Crown! Nvidia had to learn its lesson with GTX 480, which paved the way for a much less obtrusive 580. And the culmination of that work, which continued evolving after Fermi, is Titan’s sink.

We spent a few minutes in Nvidia's anechoic chamber

Second, how are the fan blades and airflow interacting within the cooler? A cooling solution can be not loud, but still annoying. Even at idle, we’ve had cards in the lab that exhibited a high-pitched buzz or whooshing of air. The buzz often comes from the motor. And for Nvidia, avoiding it meant working closely with fan vendors on a spec that defined what the motor needed to do. Suppressing the whistling noise requires some optimization of the scroll at the bottom of the fan, and again, this is something that had to be researched, identified, and then engineered around. To the layperson this all sounds easy, but if it were, we wouldn’t feel so strongly about the discrepancy between some of the offending cards we've reviewed from both AMD and Nvidia.

Despite his team’s progress, Nvidia’s Bell says he’s not completely happy with Titan’s acoustics and wants to cut down on motor noise even more. The experience he’s going for is getting into your car and turning on the engine. There’s a massive fan in there that’s really loud as it pours air across the components under your hood. But it’s not an issue in the cabin, and the noise you do hear isn’t offensive. Of course, if you have a GeForce GTX Titan you also know that, while it ships with a conservative fan ramp, it can also be tuned more aggressively if you’re willing to tolerate more noise.

  • 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