NVIDIA GeForce GTX 680 2GB Graphics Card Review - Kepler in Motion
Conclusions and Final Thoughts
I expected the GeForce GTX 680 to be faster than the Radeon HD 7970 from AMD but I honestly didn't expect it to perform THIS WELL right out of the gate. In my testing, the GTX 680 2GB card was able to beat AMD's flagship single-GPU card in Battlefield 3, Skyrim, DiRT 3 and Batman: Arkham City. The two offerings were pretty much a toss-up in Deus Ex and the AMD card came out ahead of the NVIDIA card in Metro 2033.
If you just want to use a scoreboard system, that is a 4-to-1 win for NVIDIA in our suite of 6 games. Now we of course don't test every game PC users want to see, but I really think this collection of titles is indicative of overall performance. Both 3DMark11 and Unigine Heaven 2.5 show the same results - NVIDIA's new GTX 680 is just a faster card than AMD's Tahiti.
Power and Efficiency
What is maybe even more impressive and more surprising, is that NVIDIA was able to do this while actually using less power than the Radeon HD 7970 3GB card under a peak load. NVIDIA has usually had the fastest single-GPU option going back to the days of the GTX 285, GTX 480 and GTX 580, but they always had the caveat of being hot and power hungry. The new Kepler GPU balances things out in a way that previously only AMD had the will to do and we found that with features like GPU Boost, the GTX 680 can balance power consumption with performance across a wide range of games efficiently.
There are a host of new features included on Kepler, starting with the addition of being able to support more than two displays. Yes, the AMD cards can still support 6 outputs if you can find one of those magic DP hubs but I think that the four NVIDIA has included are probably enough for most users. I really still wish that NVIDIA wasn't 2+ years behind on this — but we have it now so NVIDIA fans can stop being pestered by the AMD camp.
GPU Boost is the other big contributor to the success of Kepler as it enables the GPU to perform optimally for EACH game and allows the GPU clock to scale accordingly. In my testing the feature works — and works rather well — and yet still is flexible enough to allow gamers to overclock their new graphics cards with some easy to manipulate software. Yes, there are going to be some slight variances in performance for the same card in different environments as well as variances from card to card. However, until I am proven wrong I don't believe that it will be a dramatic difference that will plague consumers.
I am a big fan of both the new Adaptive VSync and Frame Rate Target options as well, because they give users the ability and added flexibility that we haven't seen before. The eternal debate of vsync on versus vsync off hasn't been put completely to rest, but with the capability to smoothly scale under 60 FPS now an option on the GTX 680 I can see enabling that more and more in my own gaming. Frame rate targeting allows gamers that are on older or less strenuous games to slow down the GPU and decrease power consumption rather than wasting both to unneeded frames.
Pricing and Availability
The GeForce GTX 680 2GB Card is available immediately (and was actually for sale last night if you were quick enough) and should have a decent enough stock for the initial surge of buyers. If not, and we start to see sell outs, I am told that NVIDIA plans on having an even larger shipment available in the first week of April.
- NVIDIA GeForce GTX 680 2GB - $499
- AMD Radeon HD 7970 3GB - $549
- AMD Radeon HD 7950 3GB - $449
- NVIDIA GeForce GTX 580 1.5GB - $409
As the prices sit today, the GTX 680 is not only the best performing single-GPU card on the market(and the most power efficient), but it is also a better value than the AMD Radeon HD 7970 3GB and likely even the HD 7950 3GB when you consider the performance delta between the cards. NVIDIA could have sold this card for $599 and while we would have complained, the performance and market variables would have allowed it. Instead, NVIDIA took a more consumer-friendly route and tried to price it closer to what we had expected months ago.
I think it goes without saying that the new GeForce GTX 680 2GB graphics card from NVIDIA really has impressed me in my short time with it. The performance of the new Kepler GPU is astounding as it was able to best the Radeon HD 7970 in the large majority or our tests and really only lost to it in one — Metro 2033. While some users might stress over the variability that it introduces, I think the GPU Boost technology is innovative and really helps the GPU stand up above the HD 7970 3GB in overall performance. Added bonuses like Adaptive VSync and Frame Rate Targeting add to the differentiation of the GTX 680 and the long-awaited ability to run NVIDIA Surround gaming configurations on a single GPU really completes the story.
The AMD Radeon HD 7000-series still has some advantages including 6 display support, a larger frame buffer on the HD 7970 and HD 7950 cards (along with a wider memory bus) and some pretty impressive overclocking headroom. The GTX 680 is likely my new favorite high end enthusiast graphics card, but it wasn't enough to simply cement itself as the only player. Competition is good, and competition is back.