Asus GTX680 Graphics Card Review

AMD have had it all their own way in 2012 as Nvidia have taken longer than expected to launch their latest ‘Kepler’ hardware. The guys in green want to reclaim the high end performance throne with the ‘fastest, most efficient GPU ever built’ and today we are looking at the latest high end GTX680 graphics card, courtesy of ASUS.
This review has been long overdue due to some hardware problems with previous GTX680 samples we received. When we finally received a fully working sample we had been forced to move onto other hardware in our ever expanding review queue. The life of a tech site is fast moving, schedules shift on a daily basis. But better late than never, we say.
By now most of you will have read multiple reviews on the high end hardware and we already know it is good. Nvidia always have one goal in mind and that is to win the battle, I do admire them for that.
Sometimes I can question the mental maturity of their PR and marketing division but on a hardware level they rarely disappoint. My only interest is the hardware they release anyway and that is why we are here today.
The GTX680 implements a new system of adjusting the clock speed and voltages dynamically. The goal is to ensure the ultimate performance level while optimising the power consumption. The interesting comparisons will be against AMD’s HD7970 and MSI’s overclocked R7970 Lightning and seeing how the new card slots into the overall market.

Product Nvidia GTX580 Nvidia GTX590 Nvidia GTX680 AMD HD7970
Transistors 3000m 3000m x2 3540m 4310m
Core Clock 772mhz 607mhz 1006mhz+ 925mhz
Memory clock 1002mhz 855mhz 1502mhz 1375mhz
Shaders 512 512×2 1536 2048
ROPs 48 48×2 32 32
Memory amount
3GB 3GBx2 2GB 3GB
Memory bus width 384bit 384 bit x 2 256 bit 384 bit

The Asus GTX680 arrives in a spectacular box with three red claws on the front. Very dramatic. They also list the main specifications of the hardware on the front of the box.

The bundle is rather weak, some literature on the product, a software disc and a power converter cable.

The Asus GTX680 follows the Nvidia reference design, with a company sticker running along the middle of the card. It is built around a black PCB. The rear of the PCB has a Richtek RT8802A voltage controller visible which rests on its own little PCB. You can see this closer on the next page via the high resolution images.

The GTX680 is SLI capable in 2,3 and 4 way configurations. Be prepared to dig deep into your wallet for a QUAD setup.

The GTX680 is powered from two 6 pin PCI E connectors, which are stacked above each other. We can see just how optimised the power draw must be already as Nvidia have ditched the demand for an 8 pin connector. The maximum power draw from two 6 pin connectors is around 225 watts.

The card has ports for two DVI connectors, dual link. There is also a full sized HDMI port (1.4a compatible) and a full sized DisplayPort connector. You can use all of the outputs at the same time, so finally Nvidia have caught up with AMD in this regard.

There are a plethora of screws to remove to get access to the PCB. The cooler is encased inside the plastic shroud with only the copper base viewable. This design does cool the core, memory and VRM’s. The board uses high quality Hynix GDDR5 memory, model H5GQ2H24MFR rated to run at 1,500mhz (6,000mhz effective).

An overview of the card in GPUz. the core runs at 1006mhz with a ‘boost clock’ speed of 1059mhz. More on this later in the review. The GTX680 has 2GB of GDDR5 memory which is connected via a 256 bit memory interface.
On this page we present some super high resolution images of the product taken with the 24.5MP Nikon D3X camera and 24-70mm ED lens. These will take much longer to open due to the dimensions, especially on slower connections. If you use these pictures on another site or publication, please credit Kitguru.net as the owner/source.





To test today we are using our long standing Core i7 970 system, which is overclocked. We have a variety of hardware benchmarked on this system within the last couple of months which will make for an interesting market comparison.
Main Test System:
Processor
: Core i7 970 @ 4.6ghz
Graphics: Asus GTX680
Cooling: Coolit Vantage
Motherboard: MSI X58A-GD65
Chassis: Thermaltake Level 10 GT
Power Supply: Corsair AX1200
Memory: 6GB ADATA @ 2133mhz 9-10-9-32
Storage: Kingston SSDNow V+ 512GB Gen 2 SSD (Storage) / Crucial RealSSD C300 256GB (OS boot)

Comparison Cards:
MSI R7970 Lightning Edition
HD7970
HD7950
Sapphire HD7870 Overclock Edition
HD7870
HD7850
HD6990 (880 core)
HD6970
HD6950
HD6870
Sapphire HD7770 1GHZ OC Edition
XFX HD7770 Black Edition S CFx
HD7770 CFx
HD7770
Sapphire HD7750 Ultimate Edition
HD6790
HD6770
HD6670
GTX590 SLi
GTX590
GTX580 SLi
GTX580
GTX570
Monitors: Dell U3011
Software:
Windows 7 Enterprise 64 bit
Unigine Heaven Benchmark
3DMark Vantage
3DMark 11
Fraps Professional
Steam Client
FurMark
Games:
HomeFront
Alien V Predator
Dead Island
Tom Clancy HAWX 2
Resident Evil 5
Far Cry 2
F1 2011
Total War: Shogun 2
All the latest BIOS updates and drivers are used during testing. We perform generally under real world conditions, meaning KitGuru tests games across five closely matched runs and then average out the results to get an accurate median figure. If we use scripted benchmarks, they are mentioned on the relevant page.
Some game descriptions are edited from Wikipedia.
Unigine provides an interesting way to test hardware. It can be easily adapted to various projects due to its elaborated software design and flexible toolset. A lot of their customers claim that they have never seen such extremely-effective code, which is so easy to understand.
Heaven Benchmark is a DirectX 11 GPU benchmark based on advanced Unigine engine from Unigine Corp. It reveals the enchanting magic of floating islands with a tiny village hidden in the cloudy skies. Interactive mode provides emerging experience of exploring the intricate world of steampunk.
Efficient and well-architected framework makes Unigine highly scalable:
  • Multiple API (DirectX 9 / DirectX 10 / DirectX 11 / OpenGL) render
  • Cross-platform: MS Windows (XP, Vista, Windows 7) / Linux
  • Full support of 32bit and 64bit systems
  • Multicore CPU support
  • Little / big endian support (ready for game consoles)
  • Powerful C++ API
  • Comprehensive performance profiling system
  • Flexible XML-based data structures
We use the following settings: 1920×1080 resolution. Anti Aliasing off. Anisotrophy 4, Tessellation normal. Shaders High. Stereo 3D disabled. API: Direct X 11.


The ASUS GTX680 is significantly faster than the reference clocked HD7970, but it falls a couple of frames per second behind the class leading MSI R7970 Lightning.
Futuremark released 3DMark Vantage, on April 28, 2008. It is a benchmark based upon DirectX 10, and therefore will only run under Windows Vista (Service Pack 1 is stated as a requirement) and Windows 7. This is the first edition where the feature-restricted, free of charge version could not be used any number of times. 1280×1024 resolution was used with performance settings.


The Asus GTX680 scores 32,997 points, which is around 1,600 points more than the reference clocked HD7970. It is significantly less than the MSI R7970 Lightning however which scores just over 34,000 points in this Direct X 10 test.
3DMark 11 is designed for testing DirectX 11 hardware running on Windows 7 and Windows Vista the benchmark includes six all new benchmark tests that make extensive use of all the new features in DirectX 11 including tessellation, compute shaders and multi-threading.
After running the tests 3DMark gives your system a score with larger numbers indicating better performance. Trusted by gamers worldwide to give accurate and unbiased results, 3DMark 11 is the best way to test DirectX 11 under game-like loads.
If you want to learn more about this benchmark, or to buy it yourself, head over to this page.


The GTX680 scores 9,411 points which is an incredible result, slightly higher than the GTX590, and only 400 points less than the HD6990. In this Direct X 11 test the GTX680 outperforms even the MSI R7970 Lightning, by a significant margin.
HQV Benchmark 2.0 is an updated version of the original tool and it consists of various video clips and test patterns which are designed to evalute motion correction, de-interlacing, decoding, noise reduction, detail enhancement and film cadence detection.
There are two versions of the program, standard definition on DVD and high definition on Bluray. As our audience will be concentrating on HD content so will we.
This has a total of 39 video tests which is increased from 23 in the original and the scoring is also up from a total of 130 to 210. As hardware and software gets more complicated, the software has been tuned to make sure we can thoroughly maximise our analysis.
Read our initial analysis over here.

Asus GTX680
Dial
4
Dial with static pattern 5
Gray Bars 5
Violin 5
Stadium 2:2 5
Stadium 3:2 5
Horizontal Text Scroll 3
Vertical Text Scroll 5
Transition to 3:2 Lock 5
Transition to 2:2 Lock 0
2:2:2:4 24 FPS DVCAM Video
5
2:3:3:2 24 FPS DVCam Video
5
3:2:3:2:2 24 FOS Vari-Speed
5
5:5 FPS Animation
5
6:4 12 FPS Animation
5
8:7 8 FPS Animation
5
Interlace Chroma Problem (ICP)
5
Chroma Upsampling Error (CUE)
5
Random Noise: Sailboat
5
Random Noise: Flower
5
Random Noise: Sunrise
5
Random Noise: Harbour Night
5
Scrolling Text
5
Roller Coaster
5
Ferris Wheel
5
Bridge Traffic
5
Text Pattern/ Scrolling Text
5
Roller Coaster
5
Ferris Wheel
5
Bridge Traffic
5
Luminance Frequency Bands
5
Chrominance Frequency Bands
5
Vanishing Text 5
Resolution Enhancement
15
Theme Park
5
Driftwood 5
Ferris Wheel
5
Skin Tones
5
Total 192
The hardware scores 192 points out of a possible 210 which is excellent.
F1 2011 is the newest Direct X 11 racing game from industry pioneers CodeMasters. The 2011 Formula One season is the 62nd FIA Formula One season. The original calendar consisted of twenty rounds, including the inaugural running of the Indian Grand Prix before the cancellation of the Bahrain Grand Prix. Pirelli returns to the sport as tyre supplier for all teams, taking over from Bridgestone. Red Bull Racing are the reigning Constructor’s Champions. Red Bull Racing’s Sebastian Vettel is the defending Drivers’ Champion, one of five World Champions appearing on the grid.


F1 2011 runs well on both leading AMD and Nvidia hardware and we see the reference clocked GTX680 draws almost head to head with the MSI R7970 Lightning, falling only a single frame behind in the minimum frame result. The reference clocked HD7970 is left in the dust.
Homefront’s PC version was developed by Digital Extremes, a Canadian developer responsible for numerous Unreal Tournament games and Bioshock ports. It received mixed reports, although Kitguru really likes the single player aspect of this title. The engine isn’t the most demanding on the market, but it requires decent partnering hardware for solid frame rates at 1080p.

Fantastic results, averaging 80 frames per second. This is 2 more than the MSI R7970 Lightning Edition and 8 more than the reference clocked HD7970.
Aliens V Predator has proved to be a big seller since the release and Sega have taken the franchise into new territory after taking it from Sierra. AVP is a Direct X 11 supported title and delivers not only advanced shadow rendering but high quality tessellation for the cards on test today.
To test the cards we used a 1080p resolution with DX11, Texture Quality Very High, MSAA Samples 1, 16 af, ambient occulsion on, shadow complexity high, motion blur on. We use this with most of our graphics card testing so cards are comparable throughout reviews.

The Asus GTX680 outperforms the reference clocked HD7970, but falls a little behind the MSI R7970 Lightning Edition. This intensive Direct X 11 engine has been an AMD favourite now since it was released.
Dead Island is a first person horror action-adventure video game developed by Techland and published by Deep Silver for Microsoft Windows. It is centered on the challenge of survival on a zombie-infested open world island with a major emphasis on melee combat. It is rather good fun, for a short while, but it becomes repetitive.


Fantastic performance from the GTX680, averaging 174 frames per second, a single frame behind the MSI R7970 Lightning and four more than the reference clocked HD7970.
Tom Clancy’s H.A.W.X. 2 is an arcade-style flight action game developed by Ubisoft Romania and published by Ubisoft. After the events of the first game, the H.A.W.X squadron is sent to Middle East, where a high level of violence is being registered, and the appearance of various insurgents leaders in various hotspots. The team also has to investigate the mysterious disappearance of Russian nuclear weapons. The player will be controlling three groups: one American (Hunter), one British (Munro) and one Russian (Sokov), each with its own pilots and supporting characters. There will also be references to other characters in the Tom Clancy universe.
We are testing in full DX11 mode with all settings to maximum.


The Asus GTX680 outperforms the dual GPU HD6990 with this particular engine, which is slanted towards Nvidia hardware. That said, the results are impressive as we can see it claims the second position behind the dual GPU GTX590.
Resident Evil 5, known in Japan as Biohazard 5, is a survival horror third-person shooter video game developed and published by Capcom. The game is the seventh installment in the Resident Evil survival horror series, and was released on March 5, 2009 in Japan and on March 13, 2009 in North America and Europe for the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360. A Windows version of the game was released on September 15, 2009 in North America, September 17 in Japan and September 18 in Europe. Resident Evil 5 revolves around Chris Redfield and Sheva Alomar as they investigate a terrorist threat in Kijuju, a fictional town in Africa.
Within its first three weeks of release, the game sold over 2 million units worldwide and became the best-selling game of the franchise in the United Kingdom. As of December, 2009, Resident Evil 5 has sold 5.3 million copies worldwide since launch, becoming the best selling Resident Evil game ever made.


This Direct X 10 game still looks great, and the GTX680 powers through it at these settings, slotting in right behind the HD6990 at the top of the chart.
Far Cry 2 (commonly abbreviated as “FC2 or “fc2″) is an open-ended first-person shooter developed by Ubisoft Montreal and published by Ubisoft. It was released on October 21, 2008 in North America and on October 23, 2008 in Europe and Australia. It was made available on Steam on October 22, 2008. Crytek, the developers of the original game, were not involved in the development of Far Cry 2.
Ubisoft has marketed Far Cry 2 as the true sequel to Far Cry, though the sequel has very few noticeable similarities to the original game. Instead, it features completely new characters and setting, as well as a new style of gameplay that allows the player greater freedom to explore different African landscapes such as deserts, jungles, and savannas. The game takes place in a modern-day East African nation in a state of anarchy and civil war. The player takes control of a mercenary on a lengthy journey to locate and assassinate “The Jackal,” a notorious arms dealer.
Far Cry 2 is still a popular game and the open world environment can be taxing on even the latest hardware available today.
Settings: 1920×1200, D3D10, Disable Artificial Intelligence(No), Full Screen, Anti-Aliasing(8x), VSync(No), Overall Quality(Ultra High), Vegetation(Very High), Shading(Ultra High), Terrain(Ultra High), Geometry(Ultra High), Post FX(High), Texture(Ultra High), Shadow(Ultra High), Ambient(High), Hdr(Yes), Bloom(Yes), Fire(Very High), Physics(Very High), RealTrees(Very High).

The Asus GTX680 averages 131 frames per second which is 18 fps ahead of the MSI R7970 Lightning Edition. Again this engine favours Nvidia hardware, but it is still a very strong result.
Shogun 2 is set in 16th-century feudal Japan, in the aftermath of the Ōnin War. The country is fractured into rival clans led by local warlords, each fighting for control. The player takes on the role of one of these warlords, with the goal of dominating other factions and claiming his rule over Japan. The standard edition of the game will feature a total of eight factions (plus a ninth faction for the tutorial), each with a unique starting position and different political and military strengths.
We are using the built in benchmark which is available via the STEAM client for this game.



Strong performance yet again, faster than the HD7770 in Crossfire. Shogun 2 runs better on AMD hardware, so the GTX680 can’t challenge the HD7970 this time.
The tests were performed in a controlled air conditioned room with temperatures maintained at a constant 24c – a comfortable environment for the majority of people reading this.
Idle temperatures were measured after sitting at the desktop for 30 minutes. Load measurements were acquired by playing Crysis Warhead for 30 minutes and measuring the peak temperature. We also have included Furmark results, recording maximum temperatures throughout a 30 minute stress test. All fan settings were left on automatic.


The Asus GTX680 peaks around 72c when gaming, which is great for a reference cooled card. The temperatures rise to 80c under Furmark load.
We have changed our method of measuring noise levels. We have built a system inside a Lian Li chassis with no case fans and have used a fanless cooler on our CPU. We are using a heatpipe based passive power supply and an Intel SSD to keep noise levels to a minimum. The motherboard is also passively cooled. This gives us a build with completely passive cooling and it means we can measure noise of just the graphics card inside the system when we run looped 3dMark tests.
Ambient noise in the room is around 20-25dBa. We measure from a distance of around 1 meter from the closed chassis and 4 foot from the ground to mirror a real world situation.
Why do this? Well this means we can eliminate secondary noise pollution in the test room and concentrate on only the video card. It also brings us slightly closer to industry standards, such as DIN 45635.
KitGuru noise guide
10dBA - Normal Breathing/Rustling Leaves
20-25dBA – Whisper
30dBA - High Quality Computer fan
40dBA - A Bubbling Brook, or a Refridgerator
50dBA - Normal Conversation
60dBA - Laughter
70dBA - Vacuum Cleaner or Hairdryer
80dBA - City Traffic or a Garbage Disposal
90dBA - Motorcycle or Lawnmower
100dBA - MP3 player at maximum output
110dBA - Orchestra
120dBA - Front row rock concert/Jet Engine
130dBA - Threshold of Pain
140dBA - Military Jet takeoff/Gunshot (close range)
160dBA - Instant Perforation of eardrum

AMD could learn a thing or two from this reference cooler. Not only does it keep the card relatively cool, but the fan is well controlled, emitting very low noise levels at all times. This is extremely impressive, especially when factoring in the performance at hand.
To test power consumption today we are using a Keithley Integra unit and we measure power consumption from the VGA card inputs, not the system wide drain. We measure results while gaming in Crysis Warhead and record the results.
In such an energy aware climate, AMD are making a big deal out of their new ‘ZeroCore Power’ technology. Many solutions today use power gating, clock gating and memory compression to reduce idle power requirements, but ZeroCore power technology can completely power down the core GPU while the rest of the system remains active.

This is a long way from the Nvidia hardware of yesteryear. Nvidia finally have the power consumption well under control, hovering around 180-190 watts when gaming.
Nvidia’s GTX680 uses a system of ‘dynamic’ overclocking, otherwise known as ‘Boost clocks’.
This Boost clock mode uses a variety of factors to determine whether it is a good idea to run at higher speeds, or not as the case may be. It analyses power consumption, GPU load, temperature and memory load, among other factors.
The driver is coded to make on the fly decisions about what clock speed is safe in comparison with heat output and power use. The automatic overclocking algorithms need to be coded with a variety of safety parameters.

Above, the GPUz screenshot of the Asus GTX680. We can see that the boost speed is set to 1,059mhz. This is the ‘average’ clock speed that the core will run under during typical gaming load. The clock speed may actually exceed this speed depending on the given situation.
For overclocking today we used the latest beta of MSI’s Afterburner software. We spent a long time playing with the card and analysing how far we could push it without encountering instability. I will say now that we managed to get the card higher than the speeds below, but I did notice very minor artifacting with some games, which would indicate potential problems, long term.


The latest Afterburner works on a “+” figure, indicating speeds above the default clocks. The card has a huge level of headroom available, stable at 1,204mhz core with the memory running at a staggering 7Gbps effective (1756/7,024mhz). We didn’t play with voltage tweaking as the card runs at just under 90c with our final settings above.


Incredible results, scoring over 10,000 points. The final score of 10,458 points is around 500 points more than the last generation HD6990. It is only around 1,500 points less than two GTX 580′s in SLi!
The Nvidia GTX680 has pushed the high end sector further forward, replacing the HD7970 at the top of the performance charts. Not only is the card faster than the HD7970, but the reference cooler is a superior design and surprisingly quiet under even demanding situations. It is just a shame we received samples with technical issues before we managed to get our review published today.
The Asus GTX680 we had for review is based around the reference design and overclocked very well, hitting a core clock speed of 1,204mhz. At this speed the card was able to outperform the HD6990 in the Direct X 11 3DMark 11 test, which is incredible, scoring 10,458 points at the default performance settings. The reference HD7970 by comparison scores around 7,800 points.
We included results from the class leading MSI R7970 Lightning, a highly overclocked HD7970 which could be considered the best that the range can offer. We included a quick reference table below showing how the cards stacked up against each other from our tests in the review.

We set the graph above up with a simple scoring methodology. Winner takes 5 points, second place gets 3 points and last place a single point.
The Asus GTX680 with the reference cooler is the fastest card in the Direct X 11 benchmark 3DMark 11, although it falls a little behind the MSI R7970 Lightning Edition in 3DMark Vantage and Unigine Heaven. The GTX680 however outscores the reference HD7970 in all of the tests, except the AMD favourite Total War: Shogun 2.
AMD lead the way with the image quality HQV Benchmark, so we gave both HD7970 and MSI R7970 Lightning 3 points for this, as they perform equally. The GTX680 takes last place scoring 1 point.
The MSI R7970 Lightning puts up a good fight against the GTX680, claiming top spot in Alien V Predator, Total War Shogun 2 and F1 2011. The GTX680 fights back taking HomeFront, HAWX 2, Far Cry 2, Dead Island and Resident Evil 5.
The GTX680 is the most power efficient design, claiming top spot, and it also outperforms the reference AMD HD7970 cooler, by a clear margin. The MSI Twin Frozr IV however claims the top spot in regards to noise emissions.
Right now the ASUS GTX680 can be bought from Overclockers in the UK for £459.95 inc vat. The MSI R7970 Lightning is normally £499.99 inc vat, but Overclockers UK have an exclusive deal for this card at £479.99 inc vat. The GTX680 is clearly very competitively priced, although the Nvidia reference cooler isn’t as good as the Twin Frozr IV, so it is a close call when factoring everything into the buying decision.
The ASUS GTX680 is an extremely impressive card and it is a worthy replacement for probably my favourite video card of all time, the GTX580. Nvidia fans can rejoice, because the card is extremely fast, quiet, efficient and has plenty of headroom for additional overclocking.
Pros:
  • HD7970 has been replaced as the fastest single GPU card on the market.
  • Great power consumption.
  • bags of overclocking headroom.
  • Quiet
Cons:
  • The MSI R7970 Lightning Edition gives the reference clocked GTX680 a run for its money.
  • weak bundle from ASUS.
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