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NVIDIA GeForce GTX 680 2GB Graphics Card Review - Kepler in Motion

Author: Ryan Shrout
Manufacturer: NVIDIA

Adaptive VSync

Adaptive VSync is a feature NVIDIA is integrating into the GTX 680 launch that attempts to finally provide the perfect solution for gamers that don't want stuttering and visual tearing in their gaming.  

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VSync (vertical sync) is a technology that has been around forever and limits the number of frames being rendered to match the refresh rate of the display (usually 60 Hz).  While this does provide a gamer with tear-free gaming, it also means the frame rate has to "jump" between levels rather than smoothly transitioning between them.  If your frame rate dips below 60 FPS then the card has to start outputting 30 FPS, the next multiple down from 60 Hz.  If it dips even further you would jump to 20 FPS, etc. 

The problem is that those jumps can appear in the game as stuttering and the difference between running a game at 30 FPS and 55 FPS is pretty dramatic. 

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With VSync disabled completely though, you will see visual tearing on horizontal lines in games. It is likely that every gamer has experienced this scenario. 

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NVIDIA's Adaptive VSync technology actually disables VSync when the frame rate drops below the 60 FPS level so the game can smoothly transition to 58, 57, 45, etc frame rates without stuttering, and without dropping all the way to 30 Hz.  This technology is possible because NVIDIA's driver is able to tell how many frames it is rendering and recognize when the transition is about to happen, disabling the feature.  You can enable this in the control panel in the same drop down box as you would normally find VSync options. 

Obviously we wanted to see this at work for ourselves so I ran through some Metro 2033 with the GTX 680.  You will see three collections of data: standard VSync Off, standard VSync On and Adaptive VSync.  

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With VSync off we averaged just over 63 FPS with a maximum frame rate of 107 FPS.  With standard VSync enabled you'll see the average fall all the way to 42 FPS but more importantly look at the red line in the top graph - the frame rate dips to the 30 Hz and back 60 Hz very quickly and when that happens you will often see a stutter as the transition takes place. 

With Adaptive VSync enabled (the green line), the performance closely matches the VSync disabled line (blue) when under 60 FPS but caps there as expected with VSync technology, preventing tearing.

March 22, 2012 | 09:30 AM - Posted by D1RTYD1Z619 (not verified)

After all these years It looks like I'm switching To Nvidia. BUY AMERICAN DAMN IT!!!YEEEEHAAAAWWWWWW jk

April 15, 2012 | 03:25 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

I'm a little disappointed in Batman AC at 1080p rez.

Nivida dips way down to laggy 25fps while AMD is in the 40s.

Average Frame rates are a little higher but not enough to notice during gameplay. You will notice a lag spike to 25fps though.

They say win gtx 680 but I'm thinking its really a win AMD.

Would rather have high min fps and ave 55fps vs averaging 60 fps and having lag spikes like that.

March 22, 2012 | 09:39 AM - Posted by Tom E (not verified)

Hey thanks for the much detailed review. I'm a gamer and try to upgrade my rig from time to time. Still using a pair of AMD 5870's and thinking/hoping to do an upgrade sometime. I've been thinking amd7970, but open to Nvidia too.

So I'll keep watching for more. Looking forward to Josh's review of the MXI 7970R.

Thanks for the good show.

March 22, 2012 | 10:22 AM - Posted by Josh Walrath

That is... a lot of green squares in those NVIDIA provided diagrams. They kinda burn my eyes. But in a good way.

March 22, 2012 | 10:32 AM - Posted by Tim Verry

o wow, you're right! Didn't look at that image when editing, but now that i have I think I'll be seeing green NVIDIA log shaped sun spots today! :P

March 22, 2012 | 12:02 PM - Posted by Tullan (not verified)

Awesome! Triple monitor benches and a perfomance/dollar increase. Any idea why the 7970 and 7950 are dead even at 5760x1080, do they have some common limiting factor at that res.? This is going to make for a tough choice if AMD drops their pricing to be competitive with this!

March 22, 2012 | 12:09 PM - Posted by AParsh335i (not verified)

It's about time they paid attention to what we want :)

March 22, 2012 | 12:40 PM - Posted by william snell (not verified)

im just wondering what the temp is the fan running at.

March 23, 2012 | 10:40 AM - Posted by Ryan Shrout

Well the temp was listed as 81C, is that what you needed?

March 22, 2012 | 12:43 PM - Posted by Oskars (not verified)

I checked some benchmarks around the web. This card has almost nonexistant GPU compute portion, this card is even worse than GTX 570 in GPU rendering, even worse, it is more than 2 times slower than the Radeon HD 7870. And that doesn't surprise me, only 3.5 billion transistors, compared to previous 3.2 billion.
This is a Gaming card only, don't make your self a fool and try to use this as a card for doing some work that pays you back with some green bucks. :P
I may be a bit harsh, but mostly it is true.

August 13, 2012 | 04:16 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

That's why there are gaming cards and cards for rendering. This is a gaming card review, your comment is unnecessary.

July 26, 2013 | 10:37 PM - Posted by Jasmine (not verified)

Works great on cloth and velour as well as in the pockets
and recesses in the block and head. Chunks of sludge would work loose, and then trash your wheel wells.
First of all it is necessary for one to save enough money before attending lawn care 76017 school.

However, there's no such thing as a" certified" testing lab.

Feel free to visit my web page - perennials in canton

March 22, 2012 | 02:12 PM - Posted by pdjblum

Great review, as usual. A little disappointed by the mins, but generally terrific absolute performance despite the low power consumption and reasonable temps. And nvidia is being reasonable with their pricing as well. Have been waiting for this for my son's rig, which is presently running two 460 1gb hawks in sli. At that price, with this performance, we are probably going to pull the trigger if they come back into stock at newegg at the same price.

Update:EVGA came back in stock and we pulled the trigger. Glad I had a $250 gift card from way back that I was saving for just such an occasion.

March 22, 2012 | 01:48 PM - Posted by Hacksaw777 (not verified)

Good review, been waiting on a good upgrade to my gtx 560's in sli. This should be a great card with the low power draw. I love my 560's but in battlefield the drop in fps to 30 fps at random points because of sli have been really annoying. I wonder if anyone has figured that out yet. (Ryan posted about this back in December I think)Doesn't matter as I just picked up the Msi card from Newegg as I was reading article I kept refreshing Newegg and it jumped in stock and I was able to get one. I can't wait , I ordered it next day for a total of $523.22 not bad. (Glad I got in before the price gouging begins) I am sure glad Nvidia this time around did better on their pricing. I was holding off on getting new card till these came out to see which was a better option. I have always like Nvidia for their drivers and control panel over Amd/Ati. I am glad I waited. Now just need to save for another one later on and get a triple 27" monitor setup and I will be golden.

March 22, 2012 | 02:15 PM - Posted by pdjblum

Hope the EVGA card, never bought EVGA before, is as good as your MSI. EVGA came available for me. Congrats.

March 22, 2012 | 02:02 PM - Posted by Hacksaw777 (not verified)

One question Ryan!!. Can you tell me what power supply will be required to run a sli configuration on the new gtx680.

March 23, 2012 | 10:41 AM - Posted by Ryan Shrout

The only requirement for a single GPU is a 550 watt power supply, so I am going to recommend a 750w for SLI.

March 22, 2012 | 02:15 PM - Posted by Hacksaw777 (not verified)

Dam wish I could have gotten the evga version. I just saw it come back in stock but I already got a tracking number for my shipment. I was going to change to the egva version.

March 22, 2012 | 02:20 PM - Posted by Tim (not verified)

Quick question Ryan. Will the new card and drivers allow you configure just two monitors for surround. Currently eyefinity lets you group two monitors together as a single display/resolution. Can you do this with the GTX 680?

Thanks!

March 23, 2012 | 10:42 AM - Posted by Ryan Shrout

No, they still require three displays.

Can I ask what use you have for a two panel configuration?

March 23, 2012 | 11:19 PM - Posted by Tim (not verified)

Thanks for the info. I have a very specific application in mind, which probably wouldn't apply to most people.

I've recently built a dual projector system for passive 3D. Having a 3840 x 1080p perfectly synced screen allows me to play full frame 1080p side by side 3d video. Doing this allows me to give each eye the full 1080p image.

The eyefinity setup keeps the monitors perfectly in sync as long as I use two of the same outputs, minidisplay port to hdmi for both. Mixing outputs introduced a very slight lag to one of the displays, which is barely noticable.

There is some other software(Stereoscopic Player) which will play 3d video to two mintors for this purpose, but I had trouble getting everything to sync up.

I was hoping Nvidia would add this feature, as I greatly prefer there drivers for most games. There is one option, I could buy one of the Matrox Triple Head to go adapt. and use it with the Nvidia card, but obv. there is a little extra cost going that route. Thanks for the info!

August 27, 2014 | 11:33 PM - Posted by https://china-brocade.com (not verified)

It's nearly impossible to find educated people about this subject, however,
you seem like you know what you're talking about! Thanks

March 22, 2012 | 02:36 PM - Posted by dagamer34 (not verified)

Seems AMD got thoroughly beat. Does this mean lower prices on the 7970?

March 22, 2012 | 03:40 PM - Posted by Oskars (not verified)

Nowadays it isn't that hard to make a GPU just for gaming. In raytracing rendering tasks it is surpassed even by GTX 570, not to mention radeon HD 7870 that does so more than two times.
It seems that nvidia will be adequate for productiviy work only with GK110 die. Because transistors will go from 3.5 to 6 billion, but Cuda cores only from ~1500 to ~2000, so it could be due to a higher percentage of computing cores on a given die.

March 22, 2012 | 02:47 PM - Posted by Matt Smith

I must admit. I want this. But it's too much and my Radeon 5850 is still fine.

March 22, 2012 | 08:53 PM - Posted by LordHog (not verified)

Regarding the following item in the article:

"Because the software is already handling so much of the decoding process from DirectX, CUDA, OpenCL, and more NVIDA found it to be more power efficient to continue to increase the workload in the software rather than on the chip itself. Some items remain on die though because of latency concerns, such as texture operations."

How much of a burden does this place on the CPU? 1%, 5%, 10%, or more? Will the driver sense which CPU core is being utilized the most and offload this processing to a core that is not being utilized for the game (knowing that most games probably don't use more than two cores)?

March 23, 2012 | 10:43 AM - Posted by Ryan Shrout

I asked this question and was told that move to the CPU was "very minimal" and that overall it was "the most efficient way" to get things done.

Though, like you, I wonder how much of this makes the GPU more efficient while the CPU LESS efficient. If it were a big deal though it would have shown up in our power consumption testing since it monitors total system power consumption or in performance result drops.

March 23, 2012 | 11:08 AM - Posted by Josh Walrath

Minimal is probably a good term here. With the ability to lay hands on inexpensive multi-core CPUs that often are not stressed in any game at standard resolutions, this software overhead looks to be a non-factor. There might be some corner cases, but you would expect the bottleneck to be somewhere else.

March 22, 2012 | 09:30 PM - Posted by nabokovfan87

Ryan, I know you were extremely busy or rushed in your review, I hope you read this and consider it deeply. I read the review at work, finally get to comment. I really think the review is lacking in a few key areas, and not to say it is biased, but it leaves out some critical information.

1. The OC of the 7970 is VASTLY superior to the Nvidia card. The MSI Lightning stock OC goes to 1070, and adds 5-7 AVG FPS in gaming. When you OC that to around 1150 as just about every reference card has been able to do, it is another 5-7 AVG FPS. That isn't including the "good" cards that can OC to ~1300 and have 20-25% more frames over the stock ref designs.

2. The skyrim bench especially as well as batman appear to simply be games where the Nvidia support at development clearly gives them the edge. It would be nice to see some other games added to the benchmarking roster of games.

Specifically, R.U.S.E., Alan Wake, Wings of Prey and even Crysis (not 2) would be some good games to add. The first 3 have some very nice "effects" settings which really push the high end cards. I have a 4850, the only one of those I can run well is crysis, but I have to turn everything down and middle of the road.

3. We ALL KNOW that the ATI 79xx cards are underclocked. To the point where the 7950 beats the 7970 with a slight OC. It is extremely interesting how Metro 2033 was the single benchmark where the ATI cards pulled ahead, but contrasting that with the skyrim results, it is clear as a reader that something isn't right here. BF3 has a slight nvidia edge, Batman and Skyrim appear to have a clear Nvidia edge, but it would seem that every other game might be a flip-flop type scenario, where one card does better on one thing and the others do things better on a different game. It appears to be a driver issue, and we all know that ATI has had dramatic driver issues with the 7 series, to the point where they barely came out weeks ago.

4. The speedboost, in my opinion, is a very poor "feature". I get the idea behind it, but it seems to be clearly for power savings only and seems very much like a marketing feature or something that would make sense on a laptop rather then a desktop. I would have loved to see a feature or setting where that can be disabled, and traditional OC is possible. I see it as a negative that this isn't available.

5. The OC being limited to around 2% is a very poor limit and shows just how much the turbo effects everything. I have seen the MSI Lightning 7970, as mentioned above, OC well beyond the 10-15% normal range, upwards of adding 20-25 AVG FPS to some games.

6. Even though we all know ATI is dropping prices, it is clear that the review was tilted in a way which let it seem like nvidia was doing "a favor" by undercutting the price. If you add up all of the above, it isn't simply as clear as that. Whoever comes out first gets the high price, it always, always drops. I think if you visit the price in a week, let alone a month, it will make a lot more sense, and pricing shouldn't be handled as a major factor when we have news that the competitor will be dropping prices in response. It comes off as irresponsible to the reader when I see that, or when I see things not mentioned like that in reviews.

It's a lot to digest, but I hope it makes sense.

I would love to see an "OC" comparison when you do SLI testing, as well as some new games added to the roster for testing.

Thanks for the review.

March 22, 2012 | 10:21 PM - Posted by nabokovfan87

For some info on skyrim, look at the apple to apple comparisons over here.

http://hardocp.com/article/2012/03/22/nvidia_kepler_gpu_geforce_gtx_680_...

A very close match without MSAA, MSAA is clearly nvidia biased, and when you turn on the vendor specific techniques, it is clear that AMD is having drastic issues.

1.33:1 without MSAA (would be 1:1 with OC)
2:1 with MSAA
4:1 with vendor specific

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