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GF GTX 680/670 Round Up: EVGA, Zotac, MSI, GB, Asus
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Date: Jul 12, 2012
Section:Graphics/Sound
Author: Marco Chiappetta
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Introduction and Specifications

A little over three months has passed since NVIDIA unleashed its first Kepler-based GPU on PC gamers, known as the GeForce GTX 680. At the time of its arrival, the GeForce GTX 680 was the clear leader in high-end graphics cards. The card offered better overall performance than AMD’s competing Radeon HD 7970 and the GeForce GTX 680 was cooler, quieter, it consumed less power and was cheaper too. Although availability has been tight, in terms of technology, Kepler and the GeForce GTX 680 was Hot Hardware.

NVIDIA soon followed up with the more affordable GeForce GTX 670, which like its older brother, is a great performer. The GTX 670 has one of its SMX units disabled, which results in fewer active CUDA cores and texture units, but in practice the card offered similar, albeit somewhat lower performance than the higher-end GeForce GTX 680. The GTX 670 was still plenty fast though and had no trouble keeping pace with more expensive, competing hardware.

Now that Kepler has had a few months to marinate, however, NVIDIA’s board partners are ready with newer, custom GeForce GTX 680 and GTX 670 cards that push things a bit further than the initial batch of products based on NVIDIA’s reference design. As such, we thought it would be a great time to round-up some of the hottest offerings to see how they compare to each other and to AMD’s latest, the Radeon HD 7970 GHz Edition, which hit the scene recently.


That's a whole lot of GeForces right there...

Custom GeForce GTX 670 and GTX 680 Cards
Specifications & Features



Another group shot. From left to right--Asus, ZOTAC (x2), Gigabyte, and EVGA

We’ve got six cards on tap for you today, four GeForce GTX 680 and two GeForce GTX 670 cards, from companies like MSI, Asus, EVGA, ZOTAC, and Gigabyte. The complete list of cards, along with some of their basic specifications are broken down for you in the chart above. We’ll cover each one in more detail on the pages ahead, but as you can see they all differ in terms of their GPU and memory frequencies. All of the cards feature custom designs and wildly different cooling solutions as well.

In comparison to the reference GeForce GTX 680 and GTX 670 cards, all of the custom offerings we’ll be featuring here have GPUs that are clocked significantly higher, which should result in better overall performance. We won’t know until we fire up the cards and get to testing though, so let’s quit all this chatter and get down to business.
 
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EVGA and Asus GeForce GTX 680 Cards

First up, we’ve got a couple of GeForce GTX 680 cards to show you, the EVGA GeForce GTX 680 SC (Super Clocked) Edition and the gargantuan Asus GeForce GTX 680 DirectCU II TOP.



   
EVGA GeForce GTX 680 SC (Super Clocked) Edition

Physically, the EVGA GeForce GTX 680 SC is essentially identical to NVIDIA’s reference design. The cards use the same PCB and dual-slot cooler, and have the same output configuration. EVGA, however, has incorporated a few customizations. The EVGA GeForce GTX 680 SC sports a custom backplate to add rigidity and enhance cooling performance, it sports some custom decals on its fan shroud, and its GPU and memory clocks have been goosed a bit. Whereas stock GeForce GTX 680 cards have base / boost GPU clocks of 1006MHz and 1058MHz, the EVGA GeForce GTX 680 SC has base / boost GPU clocks of 1058MHz and 1124MHz. EVGA’s card also has higher clocked memory, 1552MHz (6208MHz effective) versus 1502MHz (6008MHz effective).

Other than its clocks, the EVGA GeForce GTX 680 SC’s features and specifications are similar to the reference design. This particular card has 2GB of GDDR5 RAM (4GB versions are also available or coming) and its outputs consist of the same dual DVI connectors, and HDMI and DP connectors. The EVGA GeForce GTX 680 SC only requires two 6-pin supplemental power connectors as well.

EVGA’s bundle with the GeForce GTX 680 SC includes a couple of cool “Enthusiast Built” stickers, a large EVGA Gaming poster, a quick installation guide and a driver / utility disc, which includes a copy of EVGA’s excellent Precision X overclocking / monitoring utility. In addition, a couple of dual-peripheral to 6-pin power adapters and a DVI to VGA adapters are included.



   
Asus GeForce GTX 680 DirectCU II TOP

Here we have the big-boy of the group, Asus’ GeForce GTX 680 DirectCU II TOP. The Asus GeForce GTX 680 DirectCU II TOP is a custom card through and through. It features a unique PCB design, with a beefed up digital / programmable VRM, and a massive triple-slot / dual-fan cooling solution equipped with a dust-proof fan design. The fans used in the cooler have additional ridges in the bearing design, which prevent dust from entering.

The custom VRM on the Asus GeForce GTX 680 DirectCU II TOP is designed to provide more stable power than reference solutions under load and the card also sports Asus' VGA Hotwire feature. VGA Hotwire works with Asus' Extreme Series motherboards and allows for voltage control through the motherboard's UEFI. The Asus GeForce GTX 680 Direct CU II also features Asus’ “Super Alloy Power” technology. According to Asus, the Super Alloy components on the card are reinforced with special alloy formula and manufactured under high temperature and pressure to provide more stable power and noise-free operation. The super allow caps on the card will reportedly last much longer than standard capacitors too.

The large cooler on the card, which has multiple copper heat-pipes and myriad aluminum fins, is designed to more efficiently and more quietly cool the card’s GPU and memory. The result is a gigantic, triple-slot GeForce GTX 680 that’s clocked higher than any other we tested, but is also relatively quiet and cooling, and quiet overclockable.

The Asus GeForce GTX 680 DirectCU II TOP’s base and boost GPU clocks are the highest of the bunch, at 1137MHz and 1202MHz, respectively. Although, the card’s memory frequency is the same as reference models—1502MHz (6008MHz effective). Asus also saw fit to incorporate 8-pin and 6-pin power connectors n the card, to provide more juice when necessary.

Included with our particular card was a basic manual and a driver / utility disc, but cards in full retail trim should also include some adapters and additional goodies. We should mention that Asus includes their GPU Tweak utility with the GeForce GTX 680 DirectCU II TOP, for easy hardware monitoring and overclocking.

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Gigabyte and Zotac GeForce GTX 680 Cards

Next up we have the Gigabyte GeForce GTX 680 OC Version with Windforce cooling and the ZOTAC GeForce GTX 680 AMP! Edition.



   
Gigabyte GeForce GTX 680 OC Version with Windforce Cooler

Although the card’s GPU is overclocked, the real attraction with Gigabyte’s offering is the Windforce cooler. Underneath three large fans sits an array of aluminum heatsink fins, linked to a copper base via copper heat-pipes. The cooler’s array of triple fans blows air directly onto the heatsinks, where some is diverted into the case and some exhausted outside. Although we found the Windforce cooler to be a tad more audible than NVIDIA’s reference cooler under load, the Windforce cooler does an excellent job of keeping temperatures in check, as you’ll see a little later. It also helped us to significantly overclock this card as well. We also like that Gigabyte’s Windforce cooler, despite being stacked with fins and three fans, is only a dual-slot solution.

The Gigabyte GeForce GTX 680 OC with Windforce cooler ships with its 2GB of memory clocked at the same 6008MHz (effective data rate) of reference cards, but with a base GPU clock of 1072MHz and a boost clock of 1124MHz. Outputs on the card are the same as the reference version as well (dual DVI, HDMI, DP), but Gigabyte’s offering requires 6-pin and 8-pin power feeds, not the dual 6-pins of stock GTX 680s.

Included with the Gigabyte GeForce GTX 680 OC with Windforce cooler were a quick installation guide, driver / utility CD, and a couple of power adapters. Nothing fancy in terms of the bundle, but the essentials are there.



   
ZOTAC GeForce GTX 680 AMP! Edition

It’s time to show off another behemoth—the ZOTAC GeForce GTX 680 AMP! Edition. Like the Asus card featured on the previous page, the ZOTAC GeForce GTX 680 AMP! Edition sports a custom, triple-slot cooler and PCB, and it’s overclocked well above NVIDIA’s reference specifications. ZOTAC, however, took a somewhat different approach to the AMP! Edition’s design.

The ZOTAC GeForce GTX 680 AMP! has a triple-slot wide cooler, but the card’s retention bracket is only two slots wide. That doesn’t mean much since the card will still encroach on two adjacent slots, but it may be easier to mount in some cases. The cooler is comprised of large aluminum heatsinks, linked together by an array of thick copper heat-pipes. Two large fans sit above the heatsinks in an angular shroud, blowing air down on the heatsinks and PCB. The cooler does its job fairly well and it’s relatively quiet too.

Like the other cards featured here, ZOTAC has done some factory overclocking as well. The ZOTAC GeForce GTX 680 AMP! Edition’s base and boost GPU frequencies are 1111MHz and 1186MHz, respectively, and its memory is pushed way above NVIDIA’s reference specifications--1652MHz (6608MHz effective) to be exact. With those frequencies, the ZOTAC GeForce GTX 680 AMP! Edition should be the fastest of the bunch in situations where memory bandwidth comes into play, like in AvP for example. Despite its higher clocks (and hence higher power requirements over reference cards), ZOTAC still outfitted the card with only a pair of 6-pin power connectors. It's got the same output configuration of the other cards too.

ZOTAC went all out on this card’s bundle as well. Included with the ZOTAC GeForce GTX 680 AMP! Edition, we found a user’s manual and quick installation guide, a coupon for the game TrackMania 2 Canyon, a driver utility disc, a ZOTAC case badge, a few peripheral to 6-pin adapters and a DVI to VGA adapter. The best addition to the bundle, however, was an Assassin’s Creed 3-Game Pack. If you’re keeping track, that’s four games included with this puppy—kudos ZOTAC.
 

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Zotac and MSI GeForce GTX 670 Cards

Next up we have the pair of GeForce GTX 670 cards making an appearance in this round-up, the ZOTAC GeForce GTX 670 AMP! Edition and the MSI GeForce GTX 670 Power Edition with Twin Frozr IV Cooler.



   
ZOTAC GeForce GTX 670 AMP! Edition

The ZOTAC GeForce GTX 670 AMP! Edition is essentially identical to the 680 AMP! on the previous page, save for the different GPU and one omission from its bundle, so we’ll re-use some of our description here.

Like it’s big brother, the ZOTAC GeForce GTX 670 AMP! also has a triple-slot wide cooler. The cooler is comprised of large aluminum heatsinks, linked together by an array of thick copper heat-pipes. Two large fans sit above the heatsinks in an angular shroud, blowing air down on the heatsinks and PCB. The cooler does its job fairly well and it’s relatively quiet too, although we did have an issue with our particular card which we’ll mention a little later.

The ZOTAC GeForce GTX 670 AMP! Edition’s base and boost GPU frequencies are 1098MHz and 1176MHz, respectively, and it’s memory is pushed way above NVIDIA’s reference specifications--1652MHz (6608MHz effective) to be exact. With those frequencies, the ZOTAC GeForce GTX 670 AMP! Edition should be the faster of the two 670 cards featured here. Despite its higher clocks (and hence higher power requirements over reference cards), ZOTAC still outfitted the card with only a pair of 6-pin power connectors. It's got the same output configuration of the other cards too.

Included with the ZOTAC GeForce GTX 670 AMP! Edition, we found a user’s manual and quick installation guide, a coupon for the game TrackMania 2 Canyon, a driver / utility disc, a ZOTAC case badge, and a few adapters—a couple of peripheral to 6-pin adapters and a DVI to VGA adapter. No Assassin’s Creed pack here, but at least ZOTAC saw fit to include a game.



   
MSI GeForce GTX 670 Power Edition with Twin Frozr IV cooler

Finally, we have the MSI GeForce GTX 670 Power Edition with Twin Frozr IV cooler. Although overclocked and fully custom, the slick Twin Frozr IV cooler is the standout feature on the MSI GeForce GTX 670 Power Edition. The dual-slot Twin Frozr IV sports high-density heatsinks, with dual 80mm cooling fans, and thick copper heatpipes that run from the cooler’s base up through the heatsink fins. We should also point out that the cooler’s base is made of pure copper and the entire assembly is nickel-plated. The Twin Frozr IV’s cooler has also been outfitted with custom “propeller blade” fans that reportedly push 20% more air than previous designs. In a move unique to MSI (at least in this round-up), the cooler features dust removal technology as well. The card’s fans will actually spin in the opposite direction (pulling air through up the heatsinks) for 30 seconds upon boot to expel any dust that may have built up within the heatsink assembly. When the 30 seconds is up, the fans will then spin in their normal direction, blowing air down onto the heatsinks.

The customizations on the MSI GeForce GTX 670 Power Edition don’t stop at the cooler. MSI has also overclocked the card, with 1020MHz (base) and 1098MHz (boost) clocks for the GPU. The memory runs at the same speed as reference models, however, at 1502MHz (6008MHz effective). The GeForce GTX 670 Power Edition also has a custom PWM that can handle mode current than reference designs and it’s outfitted with MSI’s “Military Class” components, which is to say it has solid caps and supper ferrite chokes installed. Supplemental power is handled by a pair of 6-pin connectors and the outputs on the card consist of a pair of DVI outputs and single DP and HDMI outputs.

Bundled with the GeForce GTX 670 Power Edition are a quick installation guide and user’s manual, dual peripheral to PCI Express 6-pin power adapters, a DVI to VGA adapter, and of course a driver / utility disc. Also available for the card is a copy of MSI’s Afterburner performing tuning and monitoring tool, which is available for download right from MSI’s website and allows for triple over-voltage adjustments for the card’s GPU, PLL, and memory.
 

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Test System and Unigine Heaven v3

How We Configured Our Test Systems: We tested the graphics cards in this article on an Asus P9X79 Deluxe motherboard powered by a Core i7-3960X six-core processor and 16GB of G.SKILL DDR3-1866 RAM. The first thing we did when configuring the test system was enter the system UEFI and set all values to their "optimized" or "high performance" default settings and disabled any integrated peripherals that wouldn't be put to use. The memory's X.M.P. profile was enabled to ensure better-than-stock performance and the hard drive was then formatted and Windows 7 Ultimate x64 was installed. When the installation was complete we fully updated the OS and installed the latest DirectX redist, along with the drivers, games, and benchmark tools necessary to complete our tests.

HotHardware's Test System
Intel Core i7 Powered

Hardware Used:
Intel Core i7-3960X
(3.3GHz, Six-Core)
Asus P9X79 Deluxe
(Intel X79 Express)

Radeon HD 7957
Radeon HD 7970 GHz Edition
GeForce GTX 680
GeForce GTX 670
MSI GTX 670 Power Edition
Zotac GeForce GTX 670 AMP!
EVGA GeForce GTX 680 SC
Gigabyte GTX 680 Windforce OC
Zotac GeForce GTX 670 AMP!
Asus GTX 680 DirectCU II TOP

16GB GSKILL DDR3-1866
Western Digital Raptor 150GB
Integrated Audio
Integrated Network

Relevant Software:
Windows 7 Ultimate x64
DirectX April 2011 Redist
ATI Catalyst v12.7B
NVIDIA GeForce Drivers v304.48

Benchmarks Used:

Unigine Heaven v3
3DMark 11
Batman: Arkham City
Just Cause 2
Alien vs. Predator
Metro 2033
Lost Planet 2
Dirt: Showdown

Unigine Heaven v3.0 Benchmark
Pseudo-DirectX 11 Gaming


Unigine Heaven v3.0

Unigine's Heaven Benchmark v3.0 is built around the Unigine game engine. Unigine is a cross-platform, real-time 3D engine, with support for DirectX 9, DirectX 10, DirectX 11 and OpenGL. The Heaven benchmark--when run in DX11 mode--also makes comprehensive use of tessellation technology and advanced SSAO (screen-space ambient occlusion) It also features volumetric cumulonimbus clouds generated by a physically accurate algorithm and a dynamic sky with light scattering.

Our first benchmark shows a clear performance trend, with all of the overclocked GeForce GTX 680 cards clearly outperforming the reference GTX 680. This test even shows one of the ZOTAC GeForce GTX 670 AMP! outpacing the stock GTX 680. It's also worth noting that all of the NVIDIA powered cards, with the sole exception being the reference GeForce GTX 670, lead the Radeon HD 7970s here.

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3DMark 11 Performance

Futuremark 3DMark11
Synthetic DirectX Gaming


Futuremark 3DMark11

The latest version of Futuremark's synthetic 3D gaming benchmark, 3DMark11, is specifically bound to Windows Vista and WIndows 7-based systems due to its DirectX 11 requirement, which isn't available on previous versions of Windows. 3DMark11 isn't simply a port of 3DMark Vantage to DirectX 11, though. With this latest version of the benchmark, Futuremark has incorporated four new graphics tests, a physics tests, and a new combined test. We tested the graphics cards here with 3DMark11's Extreme preset option, which uses a resolution of 1920x1080 with 4x anti-aliasing and 16x anisotropic filtering.

Although there is a little more data to digest here, 3DMark 11 tells essentially the same story as Unigine Heaven from the previous page. The overclocked GeForce GTX 680 cards take the tops spots, in order of highest-to-lowest boost clocks. And the factory overclocked GeForce GTX 670 cards sandwich the reference GeForce GTX 680. In this benchmark, however, the Radeon HD 7970 GHz Edition is able to pull ahead of the stock GeForce GTX 670, although it still trails the GTX 680 by a considerable margin.

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Lost Planet 2, Just Cause 2 Performance

Lost Planet 2
DirectX 11 Gaming Performance


Lost Planet 2

A follow-up to Capcom’s Lost Planet : Extreme Condition, Lost Planet 2 is a third person shooter that takes place again on E.D.N. III ten years after the story line of the first title. We ran the game’s DX11 mode which makes heavy use of DX11 Tessellation and Displacement mapping and soft shadows. There are also areas of the game that make use of DX11 DirectCompute for things like wave simulation in areas with water. This is one game engine that looks significantly different in DX11 mode when you compare certain environmental elements and character rendering in its DX9 mode versus DX11. We used the Test B option built into the benchmark tool with all graphics options set to their High Quality values.

Lost Planet 2 shows the same performance trend as 3DMark 11. The highest clocked GeForce GTX 680 cards are the fastest here, trailed very closely behind by the factory overclocked GeForce GTX 670 cards. The Radeons trail the GeForces in every instance, save for the reference GeForce GTX 670 to Radeon HD 7970 GHz Edition comparison at 2560x1600, where the Radeon comes out slightly ahead.

Just Cause 2
DX10.1 Gaming Performance


Just Cause 2

Just Cause 2 was released in March '10, from developers Avalanche Studios and Eidos Interactive. The game makes use of the Avalanche Engine 2.0, an updated version of the similarly named original. It is set on the fictional island of Panau in southeast Asia, and you play the role of Rico Rodriquez. We benchmarked the graphics cards in this article using one of the built-in demo runs called Concrete Jungle. The test results shown here were run at various resolutions and settings. This game also supports a few CUDA-enabled features, but they were left disabled to keep the playing field level, since AMD's cards can't use them.

Just Cause 2 is the first game test that shows a somewhat different performance trend. The Radeon HD 7970GHz Edition is the second fastest card of the bunch and trails only the Asus GeForce GTX 680 Direct CU II TOP at the lower resolution. At the higher resolution, the Radeon HD 7970 GHz Edition trails all of the factory overclocked GeForces, however. And as is expected, the highest clocked cards turn in the best overall performance.
 
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Metro 2033 Performance

Metro 2033
DirecX11 Gaming Performance


Metro 2033

Metro 2033 is your basic post-apocalyptic first person shooter game with a few rather unconventional twists. Unlike most FPS titles, there is no health meter to measure your level of ailment, but rather you’re left to deal with life, or lack thereof, more akin to the real world with blood spatter on your visor and your heart rate and respiration level as indicators. The game is loosely based on a novel by Russian Author Dmitry Glukhovsky. Metro 2003 boasts some of the best 3D visuals on the PC platform and includes a DX11 rendering mode that makes use of advanced depth of field effects and character model tessellation for increased realism. This title also supports NVIDIA PhysX technology for impressive in-game physics effects. We tested the game at resolutions of 1920x1200 and 2560x1600 with adaptive anti-aliasing and in-game image quality options set to their High Quality mode, with DOF effects disabled.

Metro 2033 benefits from a mix of higher GPU and memory clocks, and as such, the ZOTAC GeForce GTX 680 AMP! edition takes the top spot overall from the Asus GeForce GTX 680 DirectCU II TOP edition. All of the factory overclocked cards put up strong performances here though, with only a couple of frames per second separating the leaders from the slightly lower performing cards.
 

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Batman: Arkham City Performance

Batman: Arkham City
DirectX Gaming Performance


Batman: Arkham City

Batman: Arkham City is a sequel to 2009’s Game of the Year winning Batman: Arkham Asylum. This recently released sequel, however, lives up to and even surpasses the original in many ways. The story takes place 18 months after the original game. Quincy Sharp, the onetime administrator of Arkham Asylum, has become mayor and convinced Gotham to create "Arkham City" by walling off the worst, most crime-ridden areas of the city and turning the area into a giant open-air prison. The game has DirectX 9 and 11 rendering paths, with support for tessellation, multi-view soft shadows, and ambient occlusion. We tested in DX11 mode with all in-game graphical options set to their maximum values, at various resolutions.

The additional memory bandwidth afforded by the ZOTAC GeForce GTX 680 AMP! Edition's higher-clocked memory give it an edge in the Batman: Arkham City benchmark as well. In this game, the ZOTAC GTX 680 card once again leads the pack with the highest average framerates of the bunch.
 

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Dirt: Showdown Performance

Dirt: Showdown
DirectX 11 Gaming Performance


Dirt: Showdown

Dirt Showdown is the latest in a string of great racing games from Codemasters. Like is predecessor, 2011's Dirt 3, this game sports impressive visuals with DX11 support. “Ultra” settings for shadow effects, global illumination, tessellation, and post processing elements, like depth of field, are available in the game, and in turn, crank up the workload on the graphics subsystem. The game engine also makes use of multi-core processors for higher performance on top-end systems. We tested the game configured with its Ultra graphics options with 4X anti-aliasing enabled at resolutions of 1920x1200 and 2560x1600.

Dirt: Showdown's advanced effects, like global illumination, show off the strengths of the Radeons, as is evident by the Radeon HD 7970 cards' strong performance. The GeForces, however, perform as expected, comparatively speaking--the highest clocked cards pull ahead of the lower clocks ones, as expected.
 

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Alien vs. Predator Performance

Alien vs. Predator
DirectX 11 Gaming Performance


Alien vs. Predator

The Alien vs. Predator benchmark makes use of the advanced Tessellation, screen space ambient occlusion and high-quality shadow features, available with DirectX 11. In addition to enabling all of the aforementioned DirectX 11 related features offered by this benchmark, we also switched on 4X anti-aliasing along with 16X anisotropic filtering to more heavily tax the graphics cards being tested.



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Overclocking The GeForces

Although all of the cards featured in this round-up were already overclocked from the factory, we spent a little time overclocking them further to see what kind of headroom each had left. For these tests, we gave only the GPU a slight 100mV bump in voltage and increased the power target +20%. We then increased the GPU and memory clock offsets until we experienced instability or visual artifacts, or saw performance degradation.

Overclocking the GeForces
Putting The Pedal to the Meta

Ultimately, anyone overclocking a GeForce GTX 600 series card has much tweaking to do. More often than not, you’ll find that increasing a particular voltage or frequency may appear to function properly, when in fact performance decreases due to errors or throttling. You’ll also find that the GPU Boost clock may travel above or below the offset value, when the power target is also increased.

The cards in our round-up all overclocked relatively well, achieving a minimum boost clock of 1240MHz and a maximum boost clock of 1369MHz. Please note, these frequencies were the actual peaks reported by the overclocking utility and not simply the sum of the offset value and stock boost clock. The Asus card, no doubt tanks to its huge cooler and custom power delivery circuitry (and a bit of luck) hit the highest GPU clock, while the ZOTAC cards had the most memory frequency headroom. The full breakdown on overclocked frequencies is laid out in the chart above.

While we had the cards overclocked, we re-ran the Metro 2033 benchmark at 2560x1600 to see what kind of performance increases were realized. All of the cards showed some improvement, but they were already fast to begin with.
 

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Power Consumption, Noise, Temps

Before bringing this article to a close, we'd like to cover a few final data points--namely power consumption, temperatures and noise. Throughout all of our benchmarking and testing, we monitored acoustics and tracked how much power our test system was consuming using a power meter. Our goal was to give you an idea as to how much power each configuration used while idling and also while under a heavy workload. Please keep in mind that we were testing total system power consumption at the outlet here, not just the power being drawn by the graphics cards alone.

Total System Power Consumption
Tested at the Outlet

Despite the wildly different designs of the cards featured in this round-up, power consumption tracked exactly with GPU / memory frequencies. The highest clocked cards were also the ones that consumed the most power, although the deltas were relatively small. For example, the highest clocked card—the Asus GeForce GTX 680 DirectCU II TOP—consumed only 32 more watts than a reference GeForce GTX 680 card under load. Idle consumption was similar among all of the cards, with only 8 watts separating the highest and lowest values.

In terms of their operating temperatures, the results are almost as varied as the coolers themselves. The coolest running card by a couple of degrees was the Gigabyte GeForce GTX 680 OC with WindForce cooler, followed my MSI, Asus, ZOTAC, and then MSI. Looking at the results, it’s clear the custom coolers are more effective than the reference design (which is used on the EVGA card), but we did experience one anomaly. You’ll notice the ZOTAC GeForce GTX 670 AMP! had higher clocks that it’s GTX 680-based counterpart, even though the latter has higher frequencies and is more powerful. We found that the ZOTAC GeForce GTX 670 AMP!’s cooler wasn’t seated optimally, which was resulting in higher temps. We never experienced any instability or heat-related issues, but re-seating the cooler, applying fresh thermal paste and making sure things were tightly secured brought temps down considerably. We’re reporting the temps as the cards came from the factory though.

In terms of noise output, all of the cards were quiet at idle and inaudible over our PSU fan and CPU cooler. Under load, the fans on each card do spin up considerably, but we would not consider any of the cards loud by any means. The Gigabyte card was most audible, followed by the EVGA card. The differences between the others was negligible.

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Our Summary and Conclusion

Performance Summary: Summarizing the performance of the cards featured in this round-up is fairly straightforward. The highest clock GeForce GTX 680 cards put up the best overall scores, followed by the lower clocked GTX 680 cards, and then the GeForce GTX 670s. All were strong performance, however. The Asus GeForce GTX 680 DirectCU II TOP and ZOTAC GeForce GTX 680 AMP! Edition in particular traded the pole position, thanks to the Asus card’s GPU, which was the highest clocked of the bunch, and the ZOTAC card’s speedy memory. We should also point out that the factory overclocked GeForce GTX 670 cards typically hung with or offered better performance than a reference GeForce GTX 680. Also, the overclocked GeForce GTX 680 cards fared much better against the recently released Radeon HD 7970 GHz Edition than the reference cards, outpacing AMD’s latest more often than not.

So, which of these cards would we spend our hard-earned money on? Well, that depends on your ultimate goal. First, let’s breakdown their prices:

  • Asus GeForce GTX 680 DirectCU II TOP - $539
  • ZOTAC GeForce GTX 680 AMP! Edition - $549
  • Gigabyte GeForce GTX 680 OC w/ Windforce - $524
  • EVGA GeForce GTX 680 Super Clocked - $519
  • ZOTAC GeForce GTX 670 AMP! Edition - $449
  • MSI GeForce GTX 670 Power Edition OC - $429

Looking back through the numbers and considering current pricing, our picks would have to be the Gigabyte GeForce GTX 680 OC with Windforce cooling or the MSI GeForce GTX 670 Power Edition OC. We’re not huge fans of triple-slot coolers, especially since dual-slot solutions can be just as effective, without having to sacrifice and additional slot. With that said, there is only $30 separating the GeForce GTX 680 cards and $20 separating the GeForce GTX 670s. If you want what is arguably the fastest single-GPU powered graphics card on the market, by all means grab the Asus card—it’s a beast. If you’d like to save a few bucks though, the EVGA GeForce GTX 680 Super Clocked offers much of the performance, minus a few bells and whistles. If total cost is a factor, however, the GeForce GTX 670 cards are clearly the better value. They offer 90%+ of the performance of a GeForce GTX 680 at significantly lower cost. If you can live without having the absolute fastest graphics card, there’s some real savings to be had with the GeForce GTX 670s.

Gigabyte GTX 680 OC w/ Windforce
MSI GeForce GTX 670 Power Edition OC

Asus GeForce GTX 680 DirectCU II TOP
ZOTAC GeForce GTX 680 AMP! Edition
EVGA GeForce GTX 680 Super Clocked

 
ZOTAC GeForce GTX 670 AMP! Edition



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