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GeForce GTX 680: The Hunter Scores A Kill

GeForce GTX 680 2 GB Review: Kepler Sends Tahiti On Vacation
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Sometimes, when a new graphics card launches, we really have to put some effort into figuring out whether the performance and features justify the price. It’s not a science, and the right answer isn’t always crystal clear.

This is not one of those times.

GeForce GTX 680 is now the fastest single-GPU graphics card, and not by a margin that leaves room to hem or haw. Making matters worse for AMD, the GTX 680 is priced right between its Radeon HD 7970 and 7950. Providing that Nvidia’s launch price sticks, both Radeon HD 7900s need to be significantly less expensive in order to compete. I'd expect to see the 7970 drop $100. The 7950 would have to slide $50 to leave some room between the 7870 and 7970.

Every indication points to the GeForce GTX 680 beginning its life as a GK104-based embryo, destined to do its duty as Nvidia’s hunter-class card. With pointed strengths in gaming, compute performance was something it had to sacrifice, just like GeForce GTX 460. But fate dealt this chip a different hand when it proved competitive against AMD’s flagship in games. GK104 would not be following in GF104’s footsteps. Instead, it'd take the reigns from the GF110-derived tank, GeForce GTX 580. In principle, that's like Rosie taking over for Oprah. But rather than falling on its face, GK104 turns out to be a great follow-up.

Make no mistake—AMD’s Radeon HD 7970 serves up better frame rates than Nvidia’s outgoing flagship at lower power. That’s a recipe for superior performance per watt, and our index demonstrates AMD’s success versus GeForce GTX 580. But then GeForce GTX 680 steps up with enough speed to outpace every other single-GPU card out there. And it only requires a pair of six-pin auxiliary power connectors. We can’t quite corroborate Nvidia’s claim that it improved on Fermi’s performance per watt by 2x. But real data does suggest it gets 72% 44% of the way there, which is still pretty crazy.

Given our benchmark data, power results, a distinguished list of features, and a competitive price tag, the GeForce GTX 680 is easily a better gaming card than Radeon HD 7970. And because Nvidia finally supports more than two display outputs, I can consider Kepler for my own workstation.

That is, of course, if I’m able to part ways with $500. Budget-constrained gamers should remember that the Radeon HD 7870, which AMD previewed earlier this month, just recently showed up on shopping sites. Sitting right around $360, I consider it a smarter value than both of the 7900s. It trades blows with GeForce GTX 580 in the benchmarks, and it sips power. Don’t let today’s GeForce GTX 680 news completely overshadow availability of what we consider to be a far more accessible piece of hardware. Kepler is cool, but it’s definitely pricey.

But hey, at least on the bright side, it should be available on launch day, and it should sell for close to Nvidia's estimated street price. Prior to the embargo lifting, Newegg had a bit of a slip and its GeForce GTX 680s were made available for a brief time. Tom's Hardware reader Doug Mytty sent us the above screen shot showing a number of brands selling cards around $500. A couple of others go quite a bit higher, but that's par for the course, really.

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Top Comments
  • 44 Hide
    borden5 , March 22, 2012 12:55 PM
    oh man this's good news for consumer, hope to see a price war soon
  • 38 Hide
    Anonymous , March 22, 2012 12:46 PM
    Hail to the new king.
  • 33 Hide
    outlw6669 , March 22, 2012 12:59 PM
    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 :/ 
Other Comments
  • 38 Hide
    Anonymous , March 22, 2012 12:46 PM
    Hail to the new king.
  • 44 Hide
    borden5 , March 22, 2012 12:55 PM
    oh man this's good news for consumer, hope to see a price war soon
  • 26 Hide
    johnners2981 , March 22, 2012 12:58 PM
    Damn prices, in europe we have to pay the equivalent of $650-$700 to get one
  • 33 Hide
    outlw6669 , March 22, 2012 12:59 PM
    Nice results, this is how the transition to 28nm should be.
    Now we just need prices to start dropping, although significant drops will probably not come until the GK110 is released :/ 
  • 23 Hide
    Anonymous , March 22, 2012 1:00 PM
    Finally we will see prices going down (either way :-) )
  • -4 Hide
    Scotty99 , March 22, 2012 1:03 PM
    Its a midrange card, anyone who disagrees is plain wrong. Thats not to say its a bad card, what happened here is nvidia is so far ahead of AMD in tech that the mid range card purposed to fill the 560ti in the lineup actually competed with AMD's flagship. If you dont believe me that is fine, you will see in a couple months when the actual flagship comes out, the ones with the 384 bit interface.
  • 26 Hide
    Chainzsaw , March 22, 2012 1:04 PM
    Wow not too bad. Looks like the 680 is actually cheaper than the 7970 right now, about 50$, and generally beats the 7970, but obviously not at everything.

    Good going Nvidia...
  • 32 Hide
    SkyWalker1726 , March 22, 2012 1:05 PM
    AMD will certainly Drop the price of the 7xxx series
  • 20 Hide
    rantoc , March 22, 2012 1:13 PM
    2x of thoose ordered and will be delivered tomorrow, will be a nice geeky weekend for sure =)
  • 23 Hide
    Scotty99 , March 22, 2012 1:21 PM
    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.
  • 16 Hide
    yougotjaked , March 22, 2012 1:21 PM
    Wait what does it mean by "if you’re interested in compute potential, you’ll have to keep waiting"?
  • 0 Hide
    dragonsqrrl , March 22, 2012 1:22 PM
    Just throwing this out there now, but some AMD fanboy will find a way to discredit or marginalize these results.

    ...oh, wait.
  • 24 Hide
    klausey , March 22, 2012 1:24 PM
    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.
  • 18 Hide
    rantoc , March 22, 2012 1:24 PM
    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.
  • 13 Hide
    EXT64 , March 22, 2012 1:26 PM
    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.
  • -7 Hide
    Anonymous , March 22, 2012 1:27 PM
    but will it run tetris with multiple displays?
  • 7 Hide
    amk-aka-Phantom , March 22, 2012 1:27 PM
    Oh yeah, team green strikes back! :D  Now let's see what 660 Ti will be like, might suggest that to a friend.
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