It’s been a long, agonizing wait for Nvidia’s next-generation graphics cards for us gamers and enthusiasts, and all we can say is that it has been totally worth it. Nvidia did give us a bit of a scare when they didn’t show-off ‘Kepler’ during CES, which led us to believe that perhaps the card wasn’t ready yet or that it wasn’t that much of an improvement over ‘Fermi’, but that’s not the case. They seemed to have learned their lesson with the first draft of Fermi, the GTX 480, which was obnoxiously ruthless in terms of power consumption and temperatures. Thankfully, they got their act together with the GTX 500 series and have managed to do one better with the new GTX 680 series. Along with better performance, Nvidia have managed to cut down on the power requirement of Kepler, while keeping the costs to the lowest possible levels. Speed and efficiency were the main goals here and we think they’ve hit those targets spot on.
A handsome looking card
Design and Build
ZOTAC was the first to send us their retail sample of the GTX 680 and as always, they seem to have one of the best bundles in the market. Currently, there’s only one SKU of Kepler and ZOTAC have stuck with the reference design and specifications. The card is packaged well in an attractive box, which highlights all the features of the card. The bundle, includes two Molex to 6-pin power connectors, DVI to VGA adapter, driver disk, installation manual and the best bit - Assassin’s Creed 3-game pack, which includes Assassin’s Creed, Assassin’s Creed II and Assassin’s Creed: Revelations. ZOTAC seems to be one of the only board manufacturers that continue to bundle free games with their cards and we really like what they’ve done with the GTX 680.
All set for four monitors
The card is built around the same reference design with ZOTAC’s signature orange colour thrown in. It’s a handsome card with a large ‘GEFORCE GTX’ lettering on the side, which can be seen if you have a windowed case. The GTX 680 is actually a bit shorter than the GTX 580, measuring just 10 inches in length. The entire card is enclosed, so all the hot air escapes through the rear vents. There’s a single blower styled fan in the front, which is said to be a lot quieter than their previous offerings.
Only two 6-pin power connectors are needed
The GTX 680 can now support up to four monitors from a single card, so we have two dual-link DVI connectors, HDMI 1.4a and DisplayPort. The GTX 680 also features a slightly different arrangement for the power ports. While they’re still placed at the back, face outwards, they are now placed one below the other. This makes it a bit tricky installing the second one, which is a bit recessed.
Nvidia have added a bunch of new features to the GTX 680, like GPU Boost, Adaptive V-Sync and some new Anti-Aliasing (AA) models. GPU Boost is similar to Turbo Boost, in the sense; the card will dynamically increase the clock speeds and voltages in a game, if and only if, it does not go beyond the set TDP. For instance, if there is an intense battle scene in the game which demands more shader power, the built-in algorithms will automatically check the current power draw, temperature, voltage, etc of the card and accordingly increase only those parameters that can be pushed. This keeps changing as you play the game and is built into Kepler itself, so it kicks in by default. Adaptive V-Sync can now be found in the Nvidia Control Panel and what it does is, dynamically toggle the V-Sync state depending on the frame rate. For instance, if you’re getting more than 60fps, then V-Sync will be on to avoid screen tearing and if it dips below 60fps, then it switches it off to avoid stuttering. The two new AA modes (FXAA and TXAA) are said to offer similar quality levels as MSAA, but without the huge performance hit.
GTX 680 exposed
ZOTAC follows the reference card specifications, so the core now sits at 1006MHz (base clock) and the boost clock is set to 1058MHz. IT also features 1536 shader units or CUDA cores, which is three times what the GTX 580 had. The memory is 2GB GDDR5 (6008MHz effective speed) running on a 256-bit memory bus. The card supports DX11 as well as DX11.1, Open GL 4.2, PCIE 3.0, up to 3-way SLI support, 3D Vision Surround and PhysX. The GTX 680 will also support a new version of the PhysX engine, which instead of relying on the game developer to program a preset damage to an object, the GTX 680 will be able to dynamically compute how an object shatters or breaks depending on how you damage it. This definitely looks and feels more realistic and we can’t wait for games to implement this. Now, let’s turn our attention to the burning question at hand; is it truly faster than the HD 7970? Well, there’s only one way to find out.
Processor: Intel Core i7-2600K CPU @ 3.40 GHz
Motherboard: GIGABYTE P67A-UD3R
Memory: G.Skill Ripjaws 8GB (4GB x 2) @1600MHz
Hard drive: Intel SSD 520 240GB (Boot Drive), WD Velociraptor 300GB (Secondary Drive)
GPU: ZOTAC GTX 680
PSU: Cooler Master Silent Pro 1000W
OS: Windows 7 Ultimate 64-bit
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