Review: NVIDIA GeForce GTX 680

6/6/2012 6:39:14 PM

New GPU architectures don't come quite as frequently as processors, which is why the NVIDIA GTX 680 is such a monumental arrival.

The kepler architecture


NVIDIA's Kepler GPU architecture is designed from the ground-up with the purpose of maximising performance while maintaining optimal performance per watt. In other words: Power Efficiency.

Kepler succeeds the previous Fermi architecture, which was the first to bring two key advancements: full geometry processing to the GPU (enabling DirectX 11 tessellation), and a great improvement to the GPU's performance in general computation. While undoubtedly powerful, it also consumes a lot of power -- something the Kepler aims to rectify.

The Kepler's architecture features two key changes. Firstly, they redesigned the streaming multiprocessor (the most important building block for GPUs) for optimal performance per watt. Secondly, they added a feature called GPU Boost, which increases clock speed to improve performance within the card's budget.

This gives birth to Kepler's new SM, called SMX. SMX eliminates the Fermi's "2x" processor clock and uses the same base clock across the GPU. SMX balances out this change by using an ultra-wide design with 192 CUDA cores. The total cores on the GeForce GTX 680 is at 1,536 cores, easily outperforming their older cards.

GPU boost

Description: GPU boost

GPU's today operate on a Thermal Design Point (TDP) that leaves a lot of headroom when running most games. GPU Boost automatically adjusts the clock speed based on the power consumed by the currently running app (instead of the most power hungry one), and as such will dynamically increase the clock speed to take advantage of the extra power headroom. It uses realtime hardware monitoring as opposed to application-based profiles, reading a huge amount of data such as GPU temperature, hardware utilisation and power consumption. Depending on these conditions, the GPU will raise the clock and voltage accordingly.

More monitors

Previous GTX cards require two cards to power three monitors. The GTX 680 only requires one card for three, with an additional monitor for non-gaming display. The display ports support here include HDMI, DVI-D and mini DisplayPorts.


Description: FXAA

FXAA is a new anti-aliasing method that works differently from the typical MSAA method (which renders everything at four times the resolution); it picks out the edges in a frame based on contrast detection, subsequently smoothing out the aliased edges based on gradient. The result is equally smoothened edges without the consumption of additional memory.

TXAA is a higher step in AA mode, designed for direct integration into game engines. It combines the raw power of MSAA with sophisticated resolve filters similar to those employed in CG films. It comes in two modes: TXAA 1 (8 x MSAA with performance similar to 2 x MSAA) and TXAA 2 (better image than 8 x MSAA with performance comparable to 4 x MSAA)

Description: TXAA

Adaptive V-SYNC

Description: Adaptive V-SYNC

Vertical sync (V-Sync) is a remedy to screen tearing during games, but V-Sync often causes frame rate drops and notable stuttering. The new NVIDIA 300 drivers introduces the Adaptive V-Sync feature, which automatically enables or disables itself based on whether the frame rate exceeds the refresh rate of the monitor. That way, V-Sync becomes a much more attractive option for gamers.

Vapour- chamber cooling

While other manufacturers will inevitably go for their own proprietary cooling methods, the GTX 680 has a vapour-chamber cooling system by default.


Naturally, the GTX 680 supports NVIDIA SLI technology (combine three cards for world-changing performance), NVIDIA PhysX (accurate physics emulation) and NVIDIA 3D Vision (for, well, 3D support).

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