KFA2 Geforce GTX680 EX OC review


A few weeks ago we reviewed the Nvidia GTX680 and today we are following up with a look at one of the high end, custom cooled, overclocked cards from Nvidia partner KFA2. We have looked at several KFA2 cards in the past and have been impressed with their hardware so far. Is the new GTX680 EX OC worth the high asking price?
KFA2 are a relatively new player to the scene however they are already getting a reputation in enthusiast circles, especially in regards to their heavily modified cooling implementations.
ProductNvidia GTX580Nvidia GTX590Nvidia GTX680KFA2 Geforce GTX680 EX OC
Transistors3000m3000m x23540m3540m
Core Clock772mhz607mhz1006mhz+1110mhz+
Memory clock1002mhz855mhz1502mhz1502mhz
Shaders512512×215361536
ROPs4848×23232
Memory amount3GB3GBx22GB2GB
Memory bus width384bit384 bit x 2256 bit256 bit
The KFA2 Geforce GTX 680 EX OC not only ships with a custom designed cooling solution, but the company have boosted the core clock speed to 1110mhz, which should translate to decent frame rate gains when compared against the reference card.
Specification:-
  • KFA2 Own Design GeForce GTX 680
  • Innovation Cooler Design giving powerful yet silent cooling
  • Overclocking Performance
  • Extreme Cool
  • Extreme Quiet
  • 6-Phase Core PWM,
  • 2-PhaseMemory PWM
  • Core Clock: 1110MHz (GK104)
  • Core Boost Clock: 1176MHz
  • Memory: 2048MB GDDR5
  • Memory Clock: 6008MHz (Effective)
  • Memory Interface: 256-Bit
  • Processing Cores: 1536
  • Shader Clock: 2220MHz
  • Bus Type: PCI-Express GEN 3.0 (Backwards compatible)
  • Display Connectors: 2x Dual-Link DVI-I, 1x HDMI 1.4a & 1x Displayport
  • SLI Ready (Upto 3-Way SLI Supported)
  • HDCP Capable
  • DirectX 11 Support
  • OpenGL 4.0 Support
  • PhysX Enabled
  • CUDA Enabled
  • 3D Vision Enabled
  • NVIDIA Surround Enabled
  • Lower power consumption (Maximum consumption 195 watts at stock speed)
  • 1x 8-Pin + 1x 6-Pin PCI-E Connectors required
  • Card Dimensions: 270*111.15*38.75 mm
  • Warranty: 2 Years
  • Supplied with FREE KFA2 NVIDIA GPU Keyring worth £9.95
KFA2 box art is very appealing and different. If you don’t buy their hardware then a group of ‘hoodies’ will be paying a visit. Yes, its dramatic license.
The bundle contains literature on the product, including an installation guide. They supply a software disc and several video converters. According to the Overclockers store page, they also bundle an Nvidia GPU Keyring, although our sample box didn’t contain this for the shot above.
The KFA2 GTX 680 is built around a blue PCB with a silver and black dual fan cooler taking centerstage.
‘GTX 600 Series’ is highlighted at the far end of the cooler in blue print.
The GTX680 is SLI capable in 2,3 and 4 way configurations. If you want a quad configuration of these cards then be prepared to pay close to £2,000.
The reference design GTX680 takes power from two 6 pin PCI E power connectors. The KFA2 GTX680 EX OC swaps out one of the 6 pin connectors for an 8 pin connector. We will look at the power demand later in the review.
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 meaning that Nvidia are finally competitive with AMD.
We are glad we removed the cooler before testing as the GPU core was covered with excessive thermal paste. We cleaned the core and applied some high grade Noctua thermal paste.
The cooler is removed with only four screws around the GPU. The cooler is hefty, based around a copper core. There are four thick heatpipes leading into two separate racks of aluminum fins. KFA2 have designed this PCB to accept two fan headers from either fan, rather than run them together into a single header. The board uses high quality Hynix GDDR5 memory, model H5GQ2H24MFR rated to run at 1,500mhz (6,000mhz effective).
A GPUz overview of the hardware. This card runs faster, with the core clocked @ 1110mhz (1111mhz according to GPUz). Memory is set to 1,500mhz (6Gbps effective). Boost speed is set to a maximum of 1176mhz. This GTX680 has 2GB of memory which is connected via a 256 bit memory interface. KFA2 also make a 4GB version of this card, but it is considerably more expensive.
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 this year which will make for an interesting market comparison.
Main Test System:
Processor
: Core i7 970 @ 4.6ghz
Graphics: KFA2 Geforce GTX680 EX OC
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:
GTX680
MSI R7970 Lightning Edition
HD7970
MSI R7950 Twin Frozr III 3GD5/OC
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:
Alien V Predator
Dead Island
Tom Clancy HAWX 2
Resident Evil 5
Far Cry 2
F1 2011
Total War: Shogun 2
Battlefield 3
Elder Scrolls V: SkyRim
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.
We can see already that the KFA2 GTX680 EX OC is an incredibly powerful card, averaging 93.4 frames per second, faster than the last generation dual GPU GTX590. The HD6990 manages to outperform the KFA2 by around 9 frames per second.
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.
Certainly no shortage of performance with this Direct X 10 based benchmark, scoring 34,726 points. Falling in right behind the dual GPU HD6990.
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.
It wasn’t long ago that we were amazed when a single GPU discrete graphics card was scoring over 8,000 points. This overclocked KFA2 GTX680 managed to break the 10,000 point barrier, surpassing the HD6990. A score of 10,213 points is incredible.
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.
KFA2 Geforce GTX680 EX OC
Dial
4
Dial with static pattern5
Gray Bars5
Violin5
Stadium 2:25
Stadium 3:25
Horizontal Text Scroll3
Vertical Text Scroll5
Transition to 3:2 Lock5
Transition to 2:2 Lock0
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 Text5
Resolution Enhancement
15
Theme Park
5
Driftwood5
Ferris Wheel
5
Skin Tones
5
Total192
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.
The GTX680 responds exceptionally well when overclocked. The KFA2 GTX680 EX OC is 8 frames per second faster in this benchmark than the reference clocked GTX680. This is a considerable improvement for this engine.
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.
This engine favours AMD hardware. We can see that this is the first time the MSI R7970 Lightning has outperformed the overclocked KFA2 GTX680 solution. Regardless the results are fantastic, averaging over 100 frames per second.
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.
We experienced CPU limiting at these settings, with the KFA2 GTX680 averaging 176 frames per second. We increased the resolution to 2560×1600 with maxed settings and still averaged over 140 frames per second with the hardware.
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.
A Nvidia favourite engine, as indicated by the results throughout the range of hardware. The KFA2 GTX680 averages 146 frames per second, which is a great result for this discrete solution.
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.
The overclocked GTX680 EX OC manages to outperform the HD6990 in this test, averaging 178 frames per second at our chosen settings.
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 overclocked KFA2 Geforce GTX680 EX OC outperforms the reference solution by 5 frames per second.
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.
Great results from the KFA2 Geforce GTX680 EX OC, averaging 68 frames per second at 1080p with high image quality settings. No performance concerns with this demanding Direct X 11 title. It is worth pointing out that this particular engine does favour AMD drivers and hardware.
The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim is an action role-playing open world video game developed by Bethesda Game Studios and published by Bethesda Softworks. Skyrim‘s main story revolves around the player character’s efforts to defeat Alduin, a Dragon god who is prophesized to destroy the world. Set two hundred years after Oblivion, the game takes place in the fictional province of Skyrim, upon the continent of Tamriel, and the planet of Nirn. The open world gameplay of the Elder Scrolls series returns in Skyrim; the player can explore the land at will and ignore or postpone the main quest indefinitely. Skyrim has received universal acclaim from critics, selling more than 3.5 million copies within the first 48 hours of release.
Great performance results with Skyrim, averaging 68 frames per second in our intensive section of the environment.
According to EA, Battlefield 3 garnered 3 million pre-orders by the day of its release. It is unknown at present whether these figures are worldwide or just for the US. The pre-order total makes it “the biggest first-person shooter launch in EA history”, according to the publisher. The engine is beautiful on the PC and very demanding of the partnering hardware.
A demanding game at these high settings, although the hardware on test has no problem maintaining very smooth frame rates. The KFA2 card averages 95 frames per second at these settings.
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 KFA2 Geforce GTX680 EX OC runs around 5c cooler than the reference card, although the fan never spins up much higher when loaded with Furmark, as indicated by the variable reduction. 67c when gaming is a fantastic result for such a high end board.
The fans spin around 1,400 rpm when gaming, and this only rises to 1,500 rpm when tasked with the demanding synthetic 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
The KFA2 GTX680 cooling solution is fantastic. The fans only spin at around 1000 rpm when idle, and rise to around 1,400 rpm when gaming. There is not a significant amount of noise, even when loaded in Furmark. Generally this card will remain ‘silent’ inside a performance chassis. Considering the ultimate performance this is a heck of an achievement.
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.
The results are as we would expect, demanding around 180 watts when gaming. The GTX680 is an extremely efficient design considering the performance it can deliver.
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 KFA2 Geforce GTX680 EX OC. We can see that the boost speed is set to 1,176mhz (from a default of 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.
Our overclocking results weren’t quite as impressive as I had hoped. We tried a mixture of increasing the core voltage and other settings, but the core maxed out at 1,189mhz. Still the card is extremely powerful out of the box so it isn’t really that big a deal.
When we reviewed a reference cooled GTX680 several weeks ago we were extremely impressed with the latest Nvidia high end card. It would be fair to say that KFA2 have taken the reference design and enhanced it in many key areas.
With a high end discrete graphics card we have learned to expect a certain amount of noise, however the reference cooled GTX680 is surprisingly quiet. We have been saying it for a very long time, but AMD really do need to ditch their huge stockpile of tiny red fans and adopt a similar principle to Nvidia.
The KFA Geforce GTX680 EX OC has improved even further on the excellent Nvidia reference design. The addition of an extra fan means that KFA2 can spin both at a slower rate. We only recorded a shift of 500 rpm between idle and load states, which means that the noise levels only increase slightly.
In reference form, the GTX680 was very closely matched to the MSI R7970 Lightning, but the KFA2 GTX680 EX OC has pushed the performance boundaries into a different stratosphere. This new KFA2 card also managed to outperform the dual GPU GTX590 with the tessellation heavy Unigine Heaven Benchmark.
The reference GTX680 hardware responds exceptionally well to overclocking, and with the 100mhz core boost it manages to outperform the AMD HD6990 in the Direct X 11 based 3DMark 11.
We were expecting this card to cost around £500 inc vat, however we were pleasantly surprised to see a retail price of £479.99 inc vat. Sure, it is a lot of cash for a graphics card, but the price premium is only around £30 more than a reference design. If you are already spending £450 on a graphics card, we doubt that another £30 will really make that much of a difference.
Pros:
  • Fastest single GPU card we have tested.
  • over 10,000 points in 3Dmark 11, more than the AMD HD6990.
  • Even quieter than the reference GTX680.
  • efficient power consumption considering the incredible performance.
  • Good price point.
Cons:
  • None we can mention.
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