The NVIDIA GTX 680 comes at a time when NVIDIA has found themselves constantly battling against AMD for the title of fastest graphics card. So far, AMD has done a pretty good job of keeping NVIDIA on their toes and delivering pretty good performance to price ratios. Admittedly, as a result of this war and the ever increasing size of chips and memory, prices of high-end GPUs have really only been inching upwards with some GPUs selling for about $600 a piece. We believe that this is a result of a few factors, primarily due to a lack of real capacity to manufacture these high-end chips as well as a low propensity to price them cheaply. As such, we've been seeing GPU price slowly inch upwards...
With the NVIDIA GTX 680, we are hoping to see a reversal of this trend. NVIDIA has completely changed the way that the company designs their chips in a whole host of ways and has built-in new features into these chips that make them a complete sea change from what NVIDIA has done in the past. NVIDIA, Since G80 (8800GTX) has really been all about big chips and that, for the most part, has really hurt them when it came to making their cards efficient, cool and inexpensive. AMD, on the other hand, has for the most part been all about smaller more efficient chips. Today marks the day when the tables have turned.
NVIDIA's GTX 680 is based upon NVIDIA's GK104 GPU which is part of the Kepler generation of graphics processors. The GTX 680 is a 3.54 billion transistor chip with 1536 shader cores which fits inside of a 294mm ^2 package which is manufactured on TSMC's 28nm process. The card's base clock is 1006MHz, and features a 1058 MHz 'Boost Clock' which means that the card can and will overclock itself with the Boost Clock when there is a light load on the chip. NVIDIA has opted for 2GB of GDDR5 running at 6Gbps or 1500Mhz clock before the quad-pumped multiplier effect of GDDR5. We will go further into the specifications of the GPU's architecture and features in the following pages... All of this, fits into a chip with a TDP of 195w. Why does any of this matter? Because this is a significant departure from the GTX 580 (GF110) which is a 520mm^2 chip with 3 billion transistors (500M fewer) and 512 shader cores with a clock speed of 772MHz and a TDP of 244w. The GTX 680 (GK104) is a 43 percent smaller chip than the GTX 580 (GF110) and features 17 percent more transistors while tripling the amount of shader cores and reducing the power consumption by 20 percent.
In today's review, we'll be going a little over the architecture as well as the new features that the Kepler architecture and GTX 680 bring to gamers. We will also evaluate the GTX 680's GPGPU performance as well as gaming performance, since after all, this is a gaming graphics card first and foremost. This review will be less technically focused on the GPU design decisions that NVIDIA has made and more of a focus on simple performance metrics and user experiences. We have written a separate piece solely dedicated to going in-depth into the architecture, the decisions made when designing that architecture as well as the future of the Kepler architecture as we see it.
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