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
Despite the card not having a vapor chamber, like the GTX 580, the GTX 680 is just as silent as its predecessor. Nvidia have used a normal aluminium heatsink and copper heat pipes for the cooling, in order to keep costs down and it works like a charm. The card is whisper quiet on full load as well with the fan speed set to ‘Auto’. Temperatures are not too bad, either. The card idles at around 45 degrees Celsius and with FurMark running, it went to a maximum of 77 degrees Celsius. Not bad at all for a non-vapor chamber cooler. Since we barely had a day with this card, we couldn’t finish testing out the Adaptive V-Sync in time for this review, but we’ll surely be taking a closer look at it and hopefully, bring you a full analysis soon.
3DMark is a computer benchmarking tool created and developed by Futuremark Corporation to determine the performance of a computer's 3D graphic rendering and CPU workload processing capabilities. The latest version makes extensive use of all the new features in DirectX 11, including tessellation, compute shaders and multi-threading. We used the ‘Performance’ preset for this benchmark.
Battlefield 3 is a first-person shooter video game developed by EA Digital Illusions CE and is based on the new Frostbite 2 game engine. The game only supports DX10 and DX11, which enables enhanced in-game destruction with Destruction 3.0, creating more refined physics than its predecessor and quasi-realtime radiosity using Geomerics' Enlighten technology. The game is a visual treat and a nightmare for graphics cards, which makes it perfect for our test. We used the ‘Ultra High’ preset, Post AA – High, Blur – Full, Field of View – 90, Level – ‘Fear no Evil’.
Crysis 2 is a first-person shooter video game developed by Crytek and is based on the new CryEngine 3. Just like the first iteration of the game, Crysis 2 continues to be one of the best looking shooters to date. The settings used for this benchmark were ‘Ultra High’ preset in Adrenalin, DX11 and High-resolution texture patch.
Dirt 3 is a rallying video game and the third in the Dirt series of the Colin McRae Rally series, developed and published by Codemasters. The game is extremely scalable and features DX11 tessellation effects. We used the built-in benchmark tool, along with ‘Ultra’ quality preset.
Metro 2033 is a first-person shooter video game, which continues to bring even the toughest graphics cards down to their knees. The game has a lot of DX11 eye-candy, which really puts a strain on any GPU. All DX11 features were enabled for the benchmark and we used the “Tower” level for our test.
Batman: Arkham City
A sequel to Arkham Asylum, Arkham City features a more open world gameplay as well as DX11 elements. For this test, we disabled Nvidias’s PhysX, since it would be unfair to AMD’s cards. Everything else was maxed out.
All we can say is Kepler was definitely worth the wait and if you've just bought a HD 7970, then you should shoot yourself in the head right now. The GTX 680 steals the performance crown from AMD and is currently the fastest single card on the block. ZOTAC has taken this beauty and added a ton of value to it with a superb bundle, which I doubt anyone will beat. The best part is the pricing, as the GTX 680 from ZOTAC can be yours for an MSRP of Rs.32,999, so depending on the retailer and from where you pick it up you can get it for a little less. This makes it a lot cheaper, than any HD 7970 that’s currently selling in the market. Don’t be surprised to see a sudden price cut from AMD and even if it does happen, the GTX 680 still offers better value, so it’s really a no-brainer. If you’re in the market for the best single GPU graphics card, then ZOTAC’s GTX 680 is the best bang-for-buck GTX 680 in the market.
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