Starting with the build quality of the ZOTAC/NVIDIA GeForce GTX 680 we have a reference card which offers a good, solid level of quality. The card is assembled well with no loose components and quality parts used throughout, though we know that there will be custom models released soon which offer enhanced levels of build quality which is always a bonus.
The main design of the card, and GPU, will remain the same though and on that front the GTX 680 is hard to fault. We have a card which supports all of the latest features such as PCIe 3.0 and DirectX 11.1 as well as PhysX, Stereoscopic 3D, HDMI 1.4a, DisplayPort 1.2, and even has its own dedicated video encoding accelerator. The ability to power three screen gaming (including 3D, without the need for active adapters) brings it up to the level required for a modern enthusiast GPU and the ability to add a fourth screen ensures we can keep track of the online world while gaming. The ability to enable FXAA in all games is also a bonus and for anyone gaming at 1920×1080 that would be the recommended setting as the card is more than capable of offering the enhanced IQ and playable framerates.
The power design is also hugely impressive and that starts with the power socket layout which keeps wiring compact before moving on to the more technical aspects where the Kepler excels. By taking a leaf out of the features used by modern CPUs NVIDIA have significantly improved on the power use of their previous generation but not only that, they offer better performance in this area than the 7970, running on 50w less power when gaming.
The implementation of hardware monitoring and power/performance balancing doesn’t negatively impact framerates though and at 1920×1080 the GTX 680 almost always exceeds the performance of a reference clocked 7970, in fact it tends to match or exceed the 7970 running at its maximum rate for air cooling. At 5760×1080 the result is a little less clear cut though. The GTX 680 still performs well and does win in some benchmarks but generally it offers similar performance to a reference 7970 rather than exceeding that level.
In terms of SLI performance the GTX 680 is in reasonable shape with current drivers. As always there are games which don’t benefit from dual GPUs as much as we would like but key titles are supported more often than not and the overall experience is better on NVIDIAs drivers than AMDs. Power use was slightly better at idle on the 7970 but load went in favour of the GTX 680s by some way with noise levels also lower on ZOTAC’s card. Would we opt for SLI at the moment on GTX 680? Probably not for a few driver revisions but a lot of that is down to how strong single card performance is now, along with the fact one card can power 4 screens.
So that brings us to value where the GTX 680 with an RRP of £429 inc. VAT or €419 exc. VAT sits just below the 7970 level with NVIDIA suggesting some of their partners, maybe even ZOTAC, may go even lower soon. At the RRP the GTX 680 offers good value for consumers who are looking for an enthusiast product and ZOTACs bundle and warranty only adds to this.