And here we are, you have arrived at the end of this rather long review. I do hope you found this read to be interesting -- that is also the word I'd like to describe the GeForce GTX 680 -- Interesting.
The card is a strong performer with some really good new features. Performance wise it will beat the competitions Radeon HD 7970 in most cases with an exception here and there. Sometimes a huge win, in other tests the performance remains close to a notch better. But that makes the GTX 680 a difficult card to position at its current price level of 500 USD.
GK104 is the name of the 28 nm build chip that is based on Kepler, and dare I say it? It was never intended to be the high-end product. For that NVIDIA would have named it GK110, personally I still think the GK110 will see the light at a later stage in time, likely end of the year.
That said it's very impressive to see the GK104 perform as it does, it really is in the most upper range of current high-end performance.
Overall the card is a beast really, there's not a game out there that it can't deal with. Anno 2070 at the best quality settings and 4xAA pushes 87 frames per second on average at 1920x1200, and still 55 fps at 2560X1600. In Crysis 2 we end at an average of 63 FPS in 1920x1200 with Ultra quality settings and that high resolution texture package and 4x AA.
Battlefield 3 is another example, with all eye candy opened up in game and again at 4xAA the card still pushes 57 FPS at 19x12 and that makes it the fastest single GPU based graphics card on the market.
The Dynamic Clock Adjustment technology is a little weird to observe, it however is a clever trick for the card to clock a little higher when the power envelope justifies it. With that baseclock of 1006 MHz and the "Boost" clock at 1058 MHz there's a little more room to play with. Interesting is that the card can break away from that boost clock as well, we have seen this reference card pass 1100 MHz on many occasions.
This Dynamic Clock Adjustment technology is also a big factor as to why the GK104 is behaving a littler better in some games then the other. Regardless, the new technology works well.
Interesting to see is that the feature maintains itself while overclocking. We overclocked the card to roughly 1250 MHz and even then the Dynamic Clock Adjustment technology kicks in, but here's where it will often clock down a little bit. overall though it did not hinder the overclocking experience and on average our card was managing 1250 MHz without any kind of voltage tweaking perfectly fine. The 10K 3Dmark 11 score is certainly testimony of that.
We're pleased to see that 28 nm also brought a much better power envelope towards the card. the card board power is rated at 195 Watt. Our measurements have shown that (while gaming) we used roughly 173 Watt, so we certainly have nothing to complain. NVIDIA did now disclose the idle power consumption of the card, but again we can tell you that with the GTX 680 installed this card was consuming very little power. In fact based on historic data we collect the idle power consumption was the lowest ever for a PC with a dedicated card installed.
What about SLI performance you ask ? Well, we'll have an article on that tomorrow. Above a hint.
Thermals then. Honestly I had hope to see a little better, the idle temp average at roughly 40 Degrees C, the peak heat levels can close in towards 80 Degrees C. That's perfectly fine within the thermal design of the card. But we prefer cards under load to remain under 70 Degrees C, albeit that is a bit of a personal preference.
The noise levels -- there's okay. In desktop and idle mode you will not hear the card, it really is silent. Under hefty gaming load however you will be able to hear the product. We rated the card at 41 DBa (including background noise). It however is a perfectly acceptable noise level that can be described as hearing a slight airflow in a silent room.
So with all that said it's time to wrap up the review and dive into the conclusion. We certainly like the GeForce GTX 680, it is quite amazing what NVIDIA is able to do with the GK104 which we still think was intended to be the mid-range chip. Hey -- it works for them and for you as well as the performance level of the GTX 680 definitely is grand. Whether or not it's a big enough gap for you to opt the Radeon HD 7970 we'll leave into your capable hands. It's good to see that the GTX 680 now supports gaming with three monitors with one card, here we do think that 2 GB of graphics memory would be on the shy side though. Well, a little birdie told us that a 4 GB model is in the pipeline as well. The new TXAA mode is something to be further explored in the future, and if the NVENC gets as widely supported in other software as we have tested with MediaShow Espresso, it can haul the proverbial toosh.
As always the biggest gripe for any high end range product is pricing, currently the indication for the GeForce GTX 680 2 GB is around the 500 USD marker, roughly 469 EUR, and if we take out pricing of the equation then the GeForce GTX 680 is a solid contender in today's graphics card arena. Definitely recommended.
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