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Conclusion

Combined into a 4-way SLI configuration, two Nvidia GeForce GTX 690 cards are indeed overkill for ordinary users who play their games on a single monitor, even a high-resolution one. Well, we couldn't have any doubts about that really. The more surprising outcome of this test session is that such a tandem can indeed be helpful for a triple-monitor setup with a resolution of 3240x1920 pixels because a single GTX 690 wouldn’t cope. Such a high resolution translates into a very high load on the graphics subsystem, especially if you also enable full-screen antialiasing.

But the biggest surprise is that Nvidia isn’t quite ready for that resolution with its Kepler-based graphics cards. With 2 gigabytes of onboard memory and a rather narrow 256-bit bus, they do not let the Kepler GPU show its best as is illustrated by the summary diagrams of SLI efficiency:

The average performance growth compared to the single card is 47 to 66% at 2560x1440 pixels but only 37 to 42% at 3240x1920, although the more advanced graphics subsystem might be supposed to show its best at higher loads in the first place. Under the same conditions, two Radeon HD 7970 GHz Edition cards are 73-83% faster than a single such card at 2560x1440 and 81% faster at 3240x1920:

As a result, the two GeForce GTX 690s enjoy a huge advantage over the Radeon HD 7970 GHz Edition tandem at 2560x1440 but the gap shrinks at 3240x1920 so that the GeForce GTX 690 SLI even falls behind the CrossFireX tandem in four games from our list.

That’s unacceptable for graphics cards that cost twice as much as their opponents. Nvidia should pay attention to this fact when developing its new top-end products. After all, it is owners of such expensive premium-class cards that can afford to build a multi-monitor configuration.

It’s hard to describe subjective impressions from the Surround mode. It is something one must experience for himself. With the monitors in portrait orientation, you can let yourself be fully enveloped in the game. You stop to notice the monitors’ bezels after a few minutes, so they are not a problem at all. Compared to a big and high-quality Samsung S27A850D, playing on three simpler NEC E(X)231W monitors turned out to be a far more enjoyable and vivid experience. Of course, for maximum comfort you need three identical monitors that have the same response time, connection type and settings. If you decide to build such a configuration for yourself, you shouldn’t try to save on it. It’ll be worth the investment. And, on the contrary, if you want to build a cheap multi-monitor setup, you'd better not build it at all. The choice is yours anyway.

P.S.: The peak power consumption of our testbed with two Nvidia GeForce GTX 690 cards was 884 watts.
 
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