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GeForce GTX 680, Part 2: SLI, 5760x1080, And Overclocking

On SLI, Competition, Overclocking, And Availability

The last 24 hours involved a flurry of benchmarking, analyzing specific use cases, and troubleshooting strange behaviors. Let’s consider each addition to our launch coverage, one topic at a time.

First, SLI and CrossFire. A great many games stand to benefit from two GeForce GTX 680s or Radeon HD 7970s working cooperatively, particularly if you have a 30” screen or three 1920x1080 displays. In several instances, a second card means the difference between unplayable performance at 5760x1080 and a generally smooth experience. Aside from Metro 2033, Nvidia’s newest single-GPU flagships consistently top the charts. In light of a lower price tag and fewer driver-related oddities, I wouldn’t hesitate to buy two GeForce GTX 680s instead of the two Radeon HD 7970s I purchased (and for $100 less), given an opportunity to choose again.

Great! So, give me two then. Er, we’re sorry. GeForce GTX 680s are no longer available. Although there were plenty of entries for them at launch, they sold out within just a couple of hours. That probably shouldn’t have come as a surprise, given Nvidia’s competitive position against Radeon HD 7970. Nevertheless, we’re sticklers about availability, and the fact that you can’t buy a GTX 680 means that folks who simply cannot wait might want to consider a Radeon HD 7970 in the meantime. After all, there are plenty of them, and they generally seem to have quite a bit of built-in headroom.

Ah, overclocking. Don’t the Radeon HD 7970s retake significant ground in the hands of enthusiasts? They certainly can, yes. In some cases, a Radeon that would have trailed a GeForce, unmodified, may be able to outpace the Nvidia card after an overclock. When you take into account the fact that we hit Overdrive’s core ceiling of 1125 MHz and that folks have seen more than 1300 MHz from Tahiti, the potential performance gains are substantial. We’d really like to see AMD provide access to more aggressive settings. When its PowerTune technology is doing its job, settings that push higher than the board’s TDP should be dealt with elegantly anyway.

Once Nvidia addresses its current availability dearth, the pressure will be back on AMD. In my initial analysis, I concluded that the Radeon HD 7970 would need to drop $100. I’d be comfortable revising that to $75. Right now, at $550, the company is charging more for a lower-performing product, and that’s a bad combination. At $475, AMD could at least duck in under the GeForce GTX 680 and hook enthusiasts with solid gaming, superior compute, and perhaps more enthusiast-friendly Overdrive ceilings. Kepler may have sent Tahiti on a short vacation, but AMD has all of the tools it needs to get back to business. Let’s see if the company is willing to use them.

  • tacoslave
    amds driver team needs to get off its ass i mean look at those crossfire results thats downright pitiful .
    Reply
  • bystander
    tacoslaveamds driver team needs to get off its ass i mean look at those crossfire results thats downright pitiful .What is wrong with their crossfire performance?

    You do have to look at the high resolution benchmarks to see actual crossfire results, as 1080p benchmarks are being bottlenecked by the CPU.
    Reply
  • I am a PC
    It is quite clear that the Radeons are more powerful but that once again the Nvidia favoring benchmark suite once again favors Nvidia.
    Reply
  • Would like to see CUDA compute instead of openCL stuff. Something like Blender/Cycles benchmark.
    Reply
  • cangelini
    I am a PCIt is quite clear that the Radeons are more powerful but that once again the Nvidia favoring benchmark suite once again favors Nvidia.If you were to hand-pick a suite to favor AMD, what would it include? :) You did notice the Radeons doing really well in Battlefield and Metro, right?
    Reply
  • cangelini
    AgonothetaWould like to see CUDA compute instead of openCL stuff. Something like Blender/Cycles benchmark.Our Blender test is being working on right now--currently we're only utilizing the Tiles/Cycles engines for CPU reviews.
    Reply
  • My MSI 7870 came with Catalyst 12.3, so why use 12.2 if 12.3 is out there?
    Reply
  • weatherdude
    You know, I'm starting to wonder what the Tom's Hardware labs are like. I hope it has something to keep the staff sane as they run tests over and over again.

    Anyways, looks like the competition in the GPU world is going strong right now. To me both the GTX 680 and Radeon 7970 are fine pieces of work. The general compute performance of Tahiti is really really good though so will AMD really reduce the prices significantly below the GTX 680?

    Great review as usual. All your hard work is appreciated.
    Reply
  • cangelini
    sniper13xMy MSI 7870 came with Catalyst 12.3, so why use 12.2 if 12.3 is out there?Because it's not?
    Reply
  • cangelini
    weatherdudeYou know, I'm starting to wonder what the Tom's Hardware labs are like. I hope it has something to keep the staff sane as they run tests over and over again.Anyways, looks like the competition in the GPU world is going strong right now. To me both the GTX 680 and Radeon 7970 are fine pieces of work. The general compute performance of Tahiti is really really good though so will AMD really reduce the prices significantly below the GTX 680?Great review as usual. All your hard work is appreciated.If ever you're in Bakersfield, CA, you're welcome to drop by and check the lab out. It's like a gamer candy store, literally stacked with graphics cards higher than I can reach!
    Reply