After a long and turbulent few months filled with much speculation and deliberate misinformation, we finally have NVIDIA's belated response to the the 28nm AMD Southern Islands GPUs – the Geforce GTX 680 (current name, among former identities). In the first of many Keplers that we will be evaluating, we take a look at ASUS's reference offering and see if its indeed a worthy contender (or pretender) to the reigning king of the hill Radeon HD 7970. Overclocked benchmarks also included!
Introduction and Specifications
(ED: Due to the limited amount of time and deliberate obstruction by hostile parties who will remain anonymous, we will review the card as is first and publish a technical piece on the new Nvidia Kepler architecture later today or tomorrow.)
Here we have the ASUS GTX 680 2GB, based off NVIDIA's reference design. We won't be too surprised to see custom Direct CU variants later.
Card measures 10 inches long (shorter than HD 7970 @ 11.5 inches) and takes up 2 slots.
NVIDIA deployed a 6+6 pin PCIe connector (theoretically means up to 75+75+75W of power draw) on this board with a new stacked layout. If we look closely on the PCB we can see unused solder points for another 6 pins, implying that there could be other SKUs with higher power requirements.
I/O Panel – We get a full sized DP, HDMI connectors (why not their mini/micro variants?) as well as single-link and dual-link DVI outputs. We are not a fan (get the pun?) of half height exhaust holes as it creates unnecessary turbulance and kills the possibility of single slot water cooling
Back of card – would really prefer a backplate here to prevent short circuits, considering that a lot of vital soldering points are exposed.
This card has got one of the most spartan bundles ever – only a double Molex to 6-pin PCIe convertor and the mandatory manual/driver CD.
By default, the reference cards are clocked just over 1GHz on the core (which is the trend for new cards now, not accounting for fancy GPU Boost throttling) and a commendable 1.5GHz GDDR5 (6GHz) on the memory. With only 2GB of framebuffer and a 256 bit memory bus (as opposed to 3GB and 384 bit on the cards they are competing with), this disparity will come into play in bandwidth starved scenarios like high (ahem multi-monitor) resolutions and scenes with complex textures. Like all the other cards this year, the GTX 680 comes with PCIe 3.0 support which is currently only (unofficially) supported by Intel's enthusiast Sandy Bridge-E and the upcoming Ivy Bridge mainstream chips.