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

GeForce GTX 680: The Hunter Scores A Kill

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.

Chris Angelini
Chris Angelini is an Editor Emeritus at Tom's Hardware US. He edits hardware reviews and covers high-profile CPU and GPU launches.
  • Hail to the new king.
  • borden5
    oh man this's good news for consumer, hope to see a price war soon
  • johnners2981
    Damn prices, in europe we have to pay the equivalent of $650-$700 to get one
  • outlw6669
    Nice results, this is how the transition to 28nm should be.
    Now we just need prices to start dropping, although significant drops will probably not come until the GK110 is released :/
  • Finally we will see prices going down (either way :-) )
  • Scotty99
    Its a midrange card, anyone who disagrees is plain wrong. Thats not to say its a bad card, what happened here is nvidia is so far ahead of AMD in tech that the mid range card purposed to fill the 560ti in the lineup actually competed with AMD's flagship. If you dont believe me that is fine, you will see in a couple months when the actual flagship comes out, the ones with the 384 bit interface.
  • Chainzsaw
    Wow not too bad. Looks like the 680 is actually cheaper than the 7970 right now, about 50$, and generally beats the 7970, but obviously not at everything.

    Good going Nvidia...
  • run the test on the same speeds then lets talk...
  • SkyWalker1726
    AMD will certainly Drop the price of the 7xxx series
  • rantoc
    2x of thoose ordered and will be delivered tomorrow, will be a nice geeky weekend for sure =)