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Nvidia GeForce GTX 680 review

Chris Finnamore
22 Mar 2012
Our Rating 
Price when reviewed 
429
inc VAT

Hugely fast, fairly power-efficient and not too expensive - a superb high-end graphics card

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Specifications

The GTX 680 is the first card we've seen with Nvidia's new 28nm "Kepler" architecture. Kepler brings some notable advancements over previous Nvidia cards, notably the ability to run games on three monitors from one card in Surround mode and dynamic GPU overclocking.

GeForce GTX 680

Nvidia claims the GTX 680 is the "Fastest, most efficient GPU ever built", and it certainly has some impressive specifications. There are 1,536 CUDA cores, a 1.01GHz core clock speed and the card's 2GB of GDDR5 memory runs at a huge 1.5GHz. It's a fairly compact card, too, at just 252mm long. This compares well to the AMD Radeon HD 7970 and its 277mm length, and you should have no problem fitting it in a medium-sized case. The card needs two six-pin PCI Express power connectors, and Nvidia recommends a 550-Watt power supply - this is no power-hungry monster like the dual-GPU GTX 590.

Despite its relatively modest size and power requirements, this is an extremely powerful graphics card. Its performance is helped by what Nvidia calls GPU Boost. This dynamically increases the GPU's clock speed in 13MHz increments from its stock 1.01GHz up to a maximum of 1.058MHz where there is sufficient power and thermal headroom. This helps to overcome bottlenecks when not all of the card's cores are being used to their full capacity, in a similar way to how Turbo Boost works on Intel processors when they're running lightly-threaded applications.

The card was extremely fast in our benchmarks. Dirt 3, running at 1,920 x 1,080 with 4x anti-aliasing and Ultra detail, ran at an amazing 114fps. This is far faster than the Radeon HD 7970, which only managed 88fps. The only card we've seen with a better score in this test was the dual-GPU GeForce GTX 590, which is significantly more expensive. In Crysis 2, at 1,920 x 1,080 and Ultra detail, we saw a smooth 46.1fps - slightly faster than the HD 7970's 42.9fps and again only beaten by the GeForce GTX 590's 48fps.

GeForce GTX 680

While previous Nvidia cards needed to be paired with another GPU in SLI mode to run three monitors in Surround mode (Nvidia's Eyefinity equivalent) the GTX 680 can run four monitors from one card, three of which can be used for gaming and one for other applications such as a web browser or chat program. It's more versatile than Eyefinity; the GTX 680 has HDMI, DisplayPort and twin DVI outputs, and you can use any combination for Surround - we had no problems running Surround with one DVI, one HDMI and one DisplayPort monitor, for example.

Next page - Nvidia Surround and conclusion

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