GeForce GTX 680 2 GB Review: Kepler Sends Tahiti On Vacation

Benchmark Results: NVEnc And MediaEspresso 6.5

Back when Intel introduced Quick Sync as Sandy Bridge’s secret weapon, I estimated that it’d take both AMD and Nvidia about a year to go from CUDA- and APP-based video transcoding to a more purpose-built fixed-function pipeline capable of better performance at substantially lower power use.

Well, AMD introduced its solution almost exactly one year after I wrote Intel’s Second-Gen Core CPUs: The Sandy Bridge Review. Unfortunately, drivers enabling the hardware-based feature weren’t ready when its Radeon HD 7970 launched. They didn’t make it into the Radeon HD 7950 review, either. We missed Video Codec Engine functionality a couple of weeks later when Radeon HD 7770 and 7750 hit our lab. And we were told to keep waiting more recently before the Radeon HD 7870 and 7850 introduction.

Now it’s Nvidia’s turn. GeForce GTX 680 includes a feature called NVEnc theoretically able to take a number of input codecs and decode, preprocess, and encode H.264-based content.

Intel’s year-old Quick Sync feature accepts MPEG-2, VC-1, and H.264 and outputs MPEG-2 or H.264. Conversely, Nvidia is not specific about compatible input formats. However, we know it’s limited to H.264 output. But while Intel’s engine maxes out at 1080p in and out, NVEnc purportedly supports up to 4096x4096 encodes.

Like Quick Sync, NVEnc is currently exposed through a proprietary API, though Nvidia does have plans to provide access to NVEnc through CUDA.

Nvidia gave us access to a beta version of CyberLink’s MediaEspresso 6.5 with support for its NVEnc fixed-function encode/decode acceleration feature.

Our standard workload for this app involves converting an almost-500 MB MPEG-2 file into an iPad 2-friendly H.264-encoded movie. We ran it over and over, coming up with inferior performance on the GeForce GTX 680 compared to Nvidia’s GeForce GTX 580 or 590. Then, the company let us know that there’s a bug in its driver affecting the performance of MPEG-2 transcodes.

So, I grabbed the H.264-based trailer for The Assault and tried again. Sure enough, NVENC made a much more pronounced difference, cutting the transcode time almost in half compared to the other two Nvidia cards.

It’s worth mentioning that, whereas we’ve had major issues getting AMD’s hardware-accelerated encode working in MediaEspresso, the latest drivers and latest build of CyberLink’s software seem to address our struggles. However, performance remains pretty modest. While the new Radeon HD 7900-series cards manage to slightly trail Nvidia’s prior-generation hardware in an H.264-to-H.264 transcode, the MPEG-2-to-H.264 operation is far less favorable. In both cases, the Radeon HD 6990 shows downright poorly.

Now, as far as we know, AMD’s Video Codec Engine—introduced late last year and conceptually similar to NVEnc—is still not functional. There’s a good chance this could help put AMD’s newest cards back in the running. However, the fact that we’re still waiting for driver support almost four months later is not impressive.

Create a new thread in the US Reviews comments forum about this subject
This thread is closed for comments
327 comments
    Your comment
    Top Comments
  • borden5
    oh man this's good news for consumer, hope to see a price war soon
    44
  • Anonymous
    Hail to the new king.
    39
  • outlw6669
    Nice results, this is how the transition to 28nm should be.
    Now we just need prices to start dropping, although significant drops will probably not come until the GK110 is released :/
    34
  • Other Comments
  • Anonymous
    Hail to the new king.
    39
  • borden5
    oh man this's good news for consumer, hope to see a price war soon
    44
  • johnners2981
    Damn prices, in europe we have to pay the equivalent of $650-$700 to get one
    26
  • outlw6669
    Nice results, this is how the transition to 28nm should be.
    Now we just need prices to start dropping, although significant drops will probably not come until the GK110 is released :/
    34
  • Anonymous
    Finally we will see prices going down (either way :-) )
    23
  • Scotty99
    Its a midrange card, anyone who disagrees is plain wrong. Thats not to say its a bad card, what happened here is nvidia is so far ahead of AMD in tech that the mid range card purposed to fill the 560ti in the lineup actually competed with AMD's flagship. If you dont believe me that is fine, you will see in a couple months when the actual flagship comes out, the ones with the 384 bit interface.
    -5
  • Chainzsaw
    Wow not too bad. Looks like the 680 is actually cheaper than the 7970 right now, about 50$, and generally beats the 7970, but obviously not at everything.

    Good going Nvidia...
    26
  • Anonymous
    run the test on the same speeds then lets talk...
    -31
  • SkyWalker1726
    AMD will certainly Drop the price of the 7xxx series
    32
  • rantoc
    2x of thoose ordered and will be delivered tomorrow, will be a nice geeky weekend for sure =)
    20
  • scrumworks
    Nothing surprising here. Little overclocking can put Tahiti right at the same level. Kepler is actually losing to Tahiti in really demanding games like Metro 2033 that uses the latest tech. Pointless to test ancient and low tech games like World of Warcrap that is ancient, uses dx9 and is not considered cutting edge in any meter.
    -16
  • Scotty99
    scrumworksNothing surprising here. Little overclocking can put Tahiti right at the same level. Kepler is actually losing to Tahiti in really demanding games like Metro 2033 that uses the latest tech. Pointless to test ancient and low tech games like World of Warcrap that is ancient, uses dx9 and is not considered cutting edge in any meter.


    Sigh...

    WoW has had DX11 for quite a long time now. Also, go play in a 25 man raid with every detail setting on ultra with 8xAA and 16x AAF and tell me WoW is not taxing on a PC.
    23
  • yougotjaked
    Wait what does it mean by "if you’re interested in compute potential, you’ll have to keep waiting"?
    16
  • scrumworks
    Wow, now that I moved some more pages I see Kepler really sucks at computing. I think it's very surprising even if you claim otherwise! That how Kepler managed to barely overpass Tahiti in gaming because it's totally useless in computing apps. That is something that Tom's and folk usually praise in nvidia, their ability to be like supercomputers. I guess there is a totally different ring in the bell now and all the sudden computing doesn't matter.
    -12
  • dragonsqrrl
    Just throwing this out there now, but some AMD fanboy will find a way to discredit or marginalize these results.

    ...oh, wait.
    0
  • klausey
    Great to see nVidia jumping back into the game and forcing AMD to lower its prices accordingly. I was shocked to see the card actually available at the MSRP of $500 on launch day. I guess we'll see how long that lasts.

    For everyone suggesting that nVidia will release another true "flagship" beyond the 680, I think you are spot on, IF AMD gives them a reason to. There's no reason to push it at the moment as they already hold the crown. If, on the other hand, AMD goes out and makes a 7980, or 79070 SE card with higher clocks (more like what the 7970 can achieve when properly overclocked), I definitely see nVidia stepping their game up a bit.

    Either way, it's awesome to see both AMD and now nVidia taking power consumption into consideration. I'm tired of my computer room feeling like a toaster after an all nighter.
    24
  • rantoc
    yougotjakedWait what does it mean by "if you’re interested in compute potential, you’ll have to keep waiting"?


    He means waiting for the GK110, that will be a more of a compute card while this GK104 is more equiped towards gaming.
    18
  • EXT64
    Really disappointing DP compute, but a tradeoff had to be made and this card is meant for gaming, so I can understand their position. Hopefully GK110 is a real card and will eventually come out.
    13
  • Anonymous
    but will it run tetris with multiple displays?
    -7
  • amk-aka-Phantom
    Oh yeah, team green strikes back! :D Now let's see what 660 Ti will be like, might suggest that to a friend.
    7