|NVIDIA GeForce GTX 680 Graphics Performance|
|Reviews - Featured Reviews: Video Cards|
|Written by Olin Coles|
|Thursday, 22 March 2012|
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First Look: GeForce GTX 680
From a distance, the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 680 looks a lot like the video cards of previous generations. Unless you're close enough to notice the details, the flagship models appear to all be about the same overall size. The outer dimensions for the GeForce GTX 680 give this 1.5" tall double-bay, 3.9" wide, 10.0" long graphics card a similar profile, but it's actually slightly shorter than the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 570, GeForce GTX 580, AMD Radeon HD 6970, and Radeon HD 7970 (each 10.5" long).
A rear mounted 60mm (2.4") blower motor fan with a slight offset takes advantage of the chamfered depression to draw cool air into the angled fan shroud, allowing more air to reach the intake whenever two or more video cards are combined in close-proximity SLI configurations. NVIDIA's add-in card partners with engineering resources may incorporate their own cooling solution into the GTX 680, but most brands are likely to adopt the cool-running reference design.
Specified at 195W Thermal Design Power output, the GeForce GTX 680 operates at levels less than the previous four generations of GTX flagship products. Because TDP demands have been reduced, NVIDIA's GeForce GTX 680 has also reduced power supply requirements. Rather than using the traditional eight- and six-pin PCI-E power connections, GeForce GTX 680 requires two six-pin PCI-E connections - identical to the GeForce GTX 570. Similar to previous GeForce shroud designs, the GeForce GTX 680 shares an identical vent near the header panel.
The GTX 680 reference design offers two simultaneously functional dual-link DVI (DL-DVI) connections, a full-size HDMI 1.4a output, and a DisplayPort 1.2 connection. Add-in partners may elect to remove or possibly further extend any of these video interfaces, but most will likely retain the original engineering. Only one of these video cards is necessary to drive triple-display NVIDIA 3D-Vision Surround functionality, when using both DL-DVI and either the HDMI or DP connection for third output. All of these video interfaces consume exhaust-vent real estate, but this has very little impact on cooling because the 28nm Kepler GPU generates less heat than past GeForce processors, and also because NVIDIA intentionally positions the heatsink far enough from these vents to equalize exhaust pressure.
As with past-generation GeForce GTX series graphics cards, the GTX 680 is capable of two and three card SLI configurations. Because GeForce GTX 680 is PCI-Express 3.0 compliant device, the added bandwidth could potentially come into demand as future games and applications make use of these resources. Most games work well using moderate settings on a single GeForce GTX 680 graphics card, but multi-card SLI configurations are perfect for gamers wanting to experience high-performance video games played at their highest quality settings with all the bells and whistles enabled.
In our next section, we disassemble the GeForce GTX 680 for a more detailed look and inspect the internal component technology that NVIDIA used to build this Kepler-based video card...