Nvidia is fond of drawing parallels. Onits prior-generation graphics cards, the company equated every modelto a different role on a virtual battlefield. GeForce GTX 480 was thetank big performance and, to a fault, a big price, big power, and bigheat, as well. GeForce GTX 460 arrived to be mentioned to like thehunter, incorporating a better balance of speed, efficiency, and costmore apropos to gamers. Eventually, GeForce GTS 450 was dubbed thesniper for its focus on enabling playable frame rates at 1680x1050,according to Nvidia.
As silly as that three of categoriesseemed, they create it more leisurely for us to put a finger on thepulse of GeForce GTX 680. While its name suggests a successor toNvidia’s present single-GPU flagship, this is decidedly the huntera gamer-oriented card that almost completely emphasizes theonce-emphatic message of improving general-purpose computeperformance. But hey, it does that whole gamer thing actually well,only as the GeForce GTX 460.
Regardless of the role it was plannedto fill, competition is the biggest influencer of positioning. AMDmay have higher-end cards on its road map that we have not watched orheard about until. Still, in the context of AMD’s six Radeon HD7000-series boards that are already available, Nvidia experiencesperfectly what it is up against.
Had Radeon HD 7970 been 30 or 40percent faster than it is, there is a good opportunity we would notbe looking at a GeForce GTX 680 today. Maybe it would have beencalled GTX 660 or 670. But because of where AMD’s flagship sits,Nvidia watches consideration in crowning its new hunter like asuccessor to its old tank everything the although making it fairlyclear that another piece of heavy armor is in the works. GeForce GTX680 addresses few of last generation’s most glaring competitivedisadvantages, and it adds a handful of interesting characteristics,also.
Appearing at thecard head-on, we watch that it uses a motor fan, which pushes hot airout of the card’s rear bracket. There is just about half of oneslot available for passing exhaust rear there. But as we will watchin our thermal and acoustic tests, the GTX 680 does not have atrouble contending on heat.At 10 inch long, the GeForce GTX 680’sPCB is half an inch longer as compared to AMD’s Radeon HD 7800boards and half an inch shorter as compared to the Radeon HD 7900s.
The remain of thedual-slot bracket plays host to four display outputs: two dual-linkDVI connectors, one full-sized HDMI port, and a DisplayPort output.All of them are useable concurrently, addressing one of our sharpestcritiques of all prior-gen Fermi-based boards. Like AMD, Nvidiaclaims that this card support HDMI 1.4a, monitors on 4K horizontalresolutions, and multi-stream audio. Up top, GeForce GTX 680characteristics twin SLI connectors, enabling two-, three-, andfour-way SLI configurations. In comparison, AMD’s Radeon HD 7970and 7950 likewise support up to four-way arrays.
We even acquire our first piece ofphysical evidence that Nvidia’s GK104 processor was planned to be aviable alternative in more mainstream environments: GeForce GTX 680employs two six-pin auxiliary power connectors. Those two inputs,plus a PCI Express slot, facilitate up to 225 W of power delivery.Nvidia rates this card for up to 195 W. Still, it even says typicalpower use is closer to 170 W. Keep those numbers in mind theavailable headroom between 170 W and the 225 W specification ceilingarrive into play shortly.
Nvidiaclaims it put a significant effort into three aspects of itsdual-slot cooler’s plan, contributing to an impressive acousticfootprint, as well under load. We can peel rear the GTX 680’sshroud for a closer look. First, the company cites a trio ofhorseshoe-shaped heat pipes embedded in the GPU heat sink, whichquickly draw heat away from GK104. Thermal energy is transferred fromthose pipes into a dual-slot aluminum sink.
Optimizations tothe drop itself even rank with Nvidia’s list of improvements. For a case, the fin stack is angled where air exits, creating more space,internally, between the cooler and exhaust grate. Seemingly, in priordesigns, heat was acquiring trapped among the bracket and fins,affecting cooling performance. Eventually, Nvidia says it addedacoustic dampening material to the fan motor a step it as well tookwith the GeForce GTX 580, which contributed to acquiring that card’snoise level down compared to its maligned predecessor.