We’ve said from the very first time we laid out hands on a 28nm GPU that you’d be foolish to rush into a high-end GPU purchase without waiting to see what the competition had to offer, and boy has it been worth the wait. While not superior in every test, the GTX 680 2GB comfortably surpasses the HD 7970 3GB on the balance of our benchmark suite when it comes to performance and power consumption, by what are in some circumstances very large margins indeed.
Click to enlarge - The GTX 680 2GB is a great card, at a great price
Interestingly, the GTX 680 2GB seems to have more of an edge the lower the resolution; at 1,920 x 1,080 with 4xAA we saw frame rates up to 35 per fast faster than the HD 7970 3GB in Skyrim, but this dropped to a 22 per cent advantage in the same game at 2,560 x 1,600 with 4xAA. Could the GTX 680 2GB’s lesser memory bandwidth be telling here, particularly as this is an area often associated with high resolution performance? Regardless the advantage is still there (albeit by a smaller factor) even at 5,760 x 1,080, and is made more impressive by the fact that in more than a few of our tests, the GTX 680 2GB managed to match the dual-GPU monster that is the GTX 590 3GB. To see this sort of performance from a single-GPU card just twelve months later is great, but to see it from a card that pulls 171W less system power is just staggering.
What’s more, the GTX 680 2GB also addresses a short coming of the Nvidia brand as a whole by finally bringing Nvidia Surround to a single GPU card. Add in performance innovations such as GPU boost, a shorter PCB, and the requirement for just a pair of 6-pin PCI-E power connectors and it’s hard to look beyond the GTX 680 2GB at the top end.
Click to enlarge - Cards from partners such as PNY (left) and Zotac (right) will all be stock models at launch - we'll have to wait for custom coolers and PCBs
Pricing of course will be crucial, but even there we’re hearing very encouraging things. Despite an MSRP of £429, we’ve been told by board partners that many cards will be hitting at prices below £399 on launch day. Availability is immediate, although stock will be limited; retailers have told us that there's likely to be a 'one card per customer' policy. At this price Nvidia is certainly asking some tough questions of AMD.
We’re expecting imminent price cuts to both the HD 7950 3GB and HD 7970 3GB which at time of writing are on sale for around £350 and £415 respectively. At these prices, the GTX 680 2GB immediately makes both a poor choice. It’s more than fast enough to warrant the extra £50 over an HD 7950 3GB (by an amazing 42 per in BF3 at 1920 x 1,080 with 4xAA), and considerably faster, cheaper, smaller and more efficient than the HD 7970 3GB too.
While we realise that £400 is a great deal to spend on a GPU, we really feel that the performance, power consumption and features on offer with the GTX 680 2GB more than justify the outlay. The GTX 680 2GB represents a meaningful jump in performance, features and efficiency that AMD's high-end hasn't matched and the result is a simply outstanding GPU. If you’ve got the money, then this is the card to get.