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Gigabyte GeForce GTX 680 Super OverClock Review
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Date: Jan 31, 2013
Section:Graphics/Sound
Author: Marco Chiappetta
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Introduction and Specifications

There’s just something about high-end, custom graphics cards that makes us a little giddy. Perhaps it’s their menacing appearance--even the fastest, most powerful processors just look like their lower-end counterparts when sitting side-by-side. But a hulking custom graphics card, with an elaborate, oversized cooler and fierce heat pipes wrapping around a gargantuan heatsink just looks freakin’ cool no matter how you slice it. Whip out a high-end graphics card and a CPU in front of a casual geek and we promise you they’ll point to the graphics card and blurt out, “What the heck is that?” far more often than not.

That’s exactly what happened the first few times we showed the Gigabyte GeForce GTX 680 Super OverClock to some visitors of the lab. The Gigabyte GeForce GTX 680 Super OverClock is one of those rare graphics cards that is a total departure from its reference model counterpart, and not only is it completely custom and much larger than a standard GeForce GTX 680, but it’s also clocked higher and has a few additional features, too.

The card’s full specifications are listed below, but we have more intimate details and a full performance profile posted on the pages ahead.

Gigabyte GeForce GTX 680 SuperOverclock
Specifications & Features

Chipset GeForce GTX 680
PCB Form ATX
Core Clock Base clock: 1137 MHz
Boost clock: 1202 MHz
Shader Clock N/A
Memory Clock 6200 MHz
Process Technology 28 nm
Memory Size 2048MB
Memory Bus 256 bit
Card Bus PCI-E 3.0
Memory Type GDDR5
DirectX 11.1 API
OpenGL 4.2
I/O Dual-link DVI-I*1
DVI-D*1
DisplayPort*1
HDMI*1
Digital max resolution 2560 x 1600
Analog max resolution 2048 x 1536
Multi-view 4
Card size H= 64mm, L=303 mm, W=148 mm
Power requirement 650 W


This is the part of graphics card review where we’d usually discuss what additional goodies and software were included with the card, but our Gigabyte GeForce GTX 680 Super OverClock unfortunately shipped sans accessory bundle. Regardless, consumers don’t usually spring for a card like this one because it includes a couple of adapters and a nifty tchotchke or two. The hardware is the star of the show with a product like the Gigabyte GeForce GTX 680 Super OverClock, and this puppy is a star indeed. More pics await on the next page.

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Gigabyte GeForce GTX 680 SOC

The first thing you’ll notice about the Gigabyte GeForce GTX 680 Super OverClock is that the card is huge. This monster is about 11.5” long and sports a thick, triple-slot cooler that’s outfitted with not just one or two cooling fans, but five fans that actually pull air upward, parallel to the PCB, unlike most other graphics cards on the market.

Underneath the gigantic cooler on the Gigabyte GeForce GTX 680 Super OverClock lies an NVIDIA GeForce GTX 680 GPU, with a base clock of 1137MHz and a boost clock of 1202MHz, and 2GB of GDDR5 frame buffer memory clocked at an effective 6200MHz. If you’re keeping track, those are some hefty overclocks above the reference GeForce GTX 680’s base, boost, and memory clocks of 1006MHz, 1058MHz, and 6005MHz, respectively.

The heatsink on the Gigabyte GeForce GTX 680 Super OverClock is about 9” long and 2.5” tall, and it consists of a dense array of aluminum heatsink fins and a vapor chamber, linked together by five 9.6mm copper heatpipes. As we’ve mentioned, there are five small cooling fans mounted along the top of the card, which pull air upward over the entire length of the heatsink fins. As you’ll see a little later, this cooler configuration does an excellent job keeping temperatures in check, but that cooling performance comes at a price. The smallish fans on the card emit an audible, high-pitched whine when the card is under load. More on that a little later.

In addition to its custom cooler, there are a few other things that differentiate the Gigabyte GeForce GTX 680 Super OverClock. For one thing, this card is a member of Gigabyte’s Ultra Durable VGA+ family of products, which means it's outfitted with high-quality components such as Japanese Solid Capacitors, Ferrite Core and Metal Chokes, and Low RDS MOSFETs. This particular card also sports Tier 1 Samsung or Hynix memory and Prodalizers to help maintain clean and smooth power delivery. Gigabyte’s Super OverClock boards are also treated with aggressively binned and tested GPUs to ensure stability at factory overclocks and ensure some additional overclockability. Further, the Gigabyte GeForce GTX 680 Super OverClock has a dual-BIOS switch that gives users the ability to switch from the standard BIOS to an alternate BIOS that caters to extreme LN2 overclockers.

Other features of the Gigabyte GeForce GTX 680 Super OverClock include dual-8-pin power connectors, a rigid aluminum backplate, dual DVI outputs, and HDMI and DP outputs, as well as a custom case bracket with the letters "SOC" cut out to form vents.

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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 disable 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 7970 GHz Edition
GeForce GTX 680
Gigabyte GeForce GTX 680 SOC
Asus Matrix 7970 Platinum Edition

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

Relevant Software:
Windows 7 Ultimate x64
DirectX April 2011 Redist
AMD Catalyst v12.11B
NVIDIA GeForce Drivers v370.10

Benchmarks Used:

Unigine Heaven v3
3DMark 11
Batman: Arkham City
Hitman: Absolution
Alien vs. Predator
Metro 2033
Sleeping Dogs
F1 2012

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.

The Gigabyte GeForce GTX 680 Super OverClock dominated the Unigine Heaven benchmark. In terms of framerate and the overall score, this card put up the best numbers by a significant margin, thanks to its higher clocked GPU and memory.

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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.

The performance trend in 3DMark11 looks much like Unigine Heaven on the previous page. The Gigabyte GeForce GTX 680 Super OverClock put up the highest scores once again, besting the reference GTX 680 and Radeon HD 7970 GHz Edition cards by significant margins.

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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.

The Alien vs. Predator benchmark eats up memory bandwidth, hence the major advantages for the Radeons and their 384-bit memory bus here. Compared to the reference GeForce GTX 680, however, the Gigabyte GeForce GTX 680 Super OverClock performed very well, outpacing the stock card by almost 6%.

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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; 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.


All of the cards we tested were evenly matched in the Metro 2033 benchmark. The Gigabyte GeForce GTX 680 Super OverClock was the fastest at 1920x1200, but the factory-overclocked ASUS Matrix Radeon HD 7970 Platinum put up the best average score at the higher 2560x1600 resolution. The deltas separating the cards were tiny, however.

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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 at various resolutions with all in-game graphical options set to their maximum values.

We had another fairly tight grouping in the Batman: Arkham City benchmark, and once again the Gigabyte GeForce GTX 680 Super OverClock comes out on top at the lower resolution. With the resolution cranked up to 2560x1600 though, the ASUS Matrix Radeon HD 7970 Platinum takes the pole position.

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F1 2012 Performance

F1 2012
DirectX 11 Gaming Performance


F1 2012

F1 2012 is Codemaster’s latest Formula One racing simulation, and like the Dirt series, it sports impressive visuals with DX11 support. “Ultra” settings for shadow effects and post processing elements like depth of field then become available to the gamer and in turn crank up the workload on the graphics subsystem. The game engine also makes use of multi-core processors for better performance on high-end systems. We tested the game configured with its Ultra graphics options at resolutions of 1920x1200 and 2560x1600 with 4X anti-aliasing enabled.

All of the cards we tested were tightly grouped in the F1 2012 benchmark, although we did see a trend similar to previous tests in this game as well. Here, the Gigabyte GeForce GTX 680 Super OverClock took the top spot at 1920x1200, only to fall victim to the ASUS Matrix Radeon HD 7970 Platinum once again at 2560x1600.

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Sleeping Dogs Performance

Sleeping Dogs
DX11 Gaming Performance


Sleeping Dogs

Sleeping Dogs is an open-world game in which you play the role of Wei Shen, an undercover cop trying to take down the Triads from the inside. In the game, you have to fight your way up in the organization and take part in various criminal activities without blowing your cover. We tested Sleeping Dogs at two resolutions, with all in-game graphical options set to their maximum values with FXAA enabled.

The Sleeping Dogs benchmark heavily favors the AMD Radeon-based graphics cards tested here, as evidenced by the 7970 cards' dominant performance overall. The Gigabyte GeForce GTX 680 Super OverClock puts up a decent score, however, and outruns the reference GTX 680 by over 10%.

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Hitman: Absolution Performance

Hitman: Absolution
DirectX 11 Gaming Performance


Hitman: Absolution

Hitman: Absolution follows Agent 47, a cold-blooded assassin, who takes on his most dangerous contract to date. Betrayed by those he once trusted - and now hunted by the police - he suddenly finds himself at the center of a dark conspiracy and must embark on a personal journey through a corrupt and twisted world. We tested the game at multiple resolutions, with all in-game options set to their maximum values and global illumination and 4X anti-aliasing enabled.

Hitman: Absolution's support for global illumination put a hurting on the GeForce-powered cards here. As such, the Radeons hold onto a clear lead. The Gigabyte GeForce GTX 680 Super OverClock, however, clearly outpaces the reference card--as expected.

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Overclocking the GTX 680 SuperOverclock

Although the Gigabyte GeForce GTX 680 Super OverClock is already overclocked from the factory, we spent a little time pushing it even further to see what kind of headroom it had left. For these tests, we gave the GPU a 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.


Gigabyte's OC GURU II Running On The GeForce GTX 680 Super OverClock

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.

Overclocking The Gigabyte GeForce GTX 680 Super OverClock
Tweakin' With GPU Tweak



In the end, we were able to take the Gigabyte GeForce GTX 680 Super OverClock up from its stock 1137MHz (base) / 1202MHz (boost) clock to 1305MHz, with an effective memory clock rate of 6548MHz (up from 6200MHz). Please note that these frequencies were the actual peaks reported by GPU-Z and not simply the sum of the offset value and stock boost clock.

While the card was overclocked, we re-ran a couple of tests and saw some significant performance gains, as you can see in the charts above.
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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 of 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

Somewhat surprisingly, despite being outfitted with five cooling fans and being clocked much higher than the reference card, the Gigabyte GeForce GTX 680 Super OverClock consumes only slightly more power. While idle, the Gigabyte card consumed only 4 more watts, and under load that delta shrunk to only 2 watts.  Also note that the GeForces consume significantly less power than the Radeons, hinting at the GeForces' better power efficiency.

We also monitored temperatures throughout testing and were somewhat impressed with the Gigabyte GeForce GTX 680 Super OverClock's cooling. The oversized, triple-slot wide cooler and five fans clearly outperform the two-slot reference cooler; Gigabyte's card was a full 13'C cooler under load. Further, in real-world conditions, the Gigabyte card's cooling fans never spun up past 48%. The five small fans on the GeForce GTX 680 Super OverClock, however, emit an audible high-pitched whine under load, which may irk some users. The card isn't loud in real-world situations, but it may be bothersome to users sensitive to certain sounds.

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Our Summary and Conclusion

Performance Summary: To put it simply, the Gigabyte GeForce GTX 680 Super OverClock is a beast of graphics card. In fact, it is one of the fastest single-GPU powered graphics cards we have ever tested. The card's increased GPU and memory frequencies give it a significant performance advantage over reference GeForce GTX 680s in many circumstances. The Gigabyte GeForce GTX 680 Super OverClock also outperforms a reference Radeon HD 7970 GHz Edition more often than not, although the similarly monolithic and factory-overclocked ASUS Matrix Radeon HD 7970 Platinum outpaced the GTX 680 at higher resolutions.


The Gigabyte GeForce GTX 680 Super Overclock

Fully custom high-end graphics cards usually command a hefty premium. In the case of the Gigabyte GeForce GTX 680 Super OverClock, that is true to an extent, but this monster is actually priced competitively; as of this writing, this card can be had for $479 after rebate (regular price: $509). Considering the fact that much lower-clocked reference GeForce GTX 680 cards sell for about $459 currently, the Gigabyte GeForce GTX 680 Super OverClock is priced pretty well. If you don't mind the triple-slot cooler and the associated sacrifices that come with it, this card is absolutely worth the extra twenty bucks. The Gigabyte GeForce GTX 680 Super OverClock also proved to be a decent overclocker, it runs much cooler than reference models, and it's clearly more power efficient than competing Radeon HD 7970 GHz Edition cards. Although we could do without the high-pitched whine emitted from the card's cooling fans when under load, the Gigabyte GeForce GTX 680 Super OverClock is one heck of an awesome graphics card that's sure to turn some heads if you stick this monster in a windowed system.

 

  • Great Performance
  • Good Overclocker
  • Competitive Price
  • Powerful Cooler
  • Three-Slots Wide
  • "Whiney" Fans



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