NVIDIA's GeForce GTX 680 was introduced just weeks ago and has taken the enthusiast market by storm. It offers great performance at significantly reduced power consumption. NVIDIA's dynamic overclocking algorithm works well and provides a nice speed boost for the card. We are now seeing the first custom GTX 680 board designs pop up.
Palit's GeForce GTX 680 JetStream uses a custom PCB and triple fan cooler. The company also included a generous clock increase to 1085 MHz base clock and 1575 MHz memory. In terms of pricing Palit is sticking with the reference design pricing of $499.
GeForce GTX 680 Market Segment Analysis
||2x 2048 MB
||2x 1536 MB
|Memory Bus Width
||2x 256 bit
||2x 384 bit
You will receive:
- Graphics card
- Driver CD + Documentation
- PCI-E power cable
- HDMI Adapter
- DVI Adapter
Palit built a large cooler that covers the whole area of the card using three fans.
Due to the shape of the cooler, the card will need 2 1/2 slots in your system.
Display connectivity options include two dual-link DVI ports, one full-size HDMI port and one full-size DisplayPort. You may use all the outputs at the same time, thanks to NVIDIA Kepler's new display output controller.
An HDMI sound device is included in the GPU, too. It is HDMI 1.4a compatible which includes HD audio and support for Blu-ray 3D movies. The DisplayPort outputs are version 1.2 which enables the use of hubs and Multi-Stream transport.
You may combine up to four GTX 680 cards from any vendor in a multi-GPU SLI configuration for higher framerates or better image quality settings.
Pictured above are photos of the front and back, showing the disassembled board. High-res versions are also available (front
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A Closer Look
Palit's thermal solution uses four heatpipes to transport heat away from the GPU to a large heatsink, where the three fans take care of removing it from the card.
For voltage control the card uses a NCP 4206 controller, this is the first time I see this controller, and there is no info available online regarding its features.
The GDDR5 memory chips are made by Hynix, and carry the model number H5GQ2H24MFR-R0C. They are specified to run at 1500 MHz (6000 MHz GDDR5 effective).
NVIDIA's new GK104 graphics processor introduces the company's brand-new Kepler architecture. It is NVIDIA's first chip to be produced on a 28 nanometer process, at TSMC Taiwan. The transistor count is 3.54 billion.
Benchmark scores in other reviews are only comparable when this exact same configuration is used.
|Test System - VGA Rev. 17
||Intel Core i7-3770K @ 4.7 GHz
(Ivy Bridge, 8192 KB Cache)
||ASUS Maximus V Gene
||2x 4096 MB Corsair Vengeance PC3-12800 DDR3
@ 1600 MHz 9-9-9-24
||WD Caviar Blue WD5000AAKS 500 GB
||Antec HCP-1200 1200W
||Windows 7 64-bit Service Pack 1
GTX 680: 301.24
ATI: Catalyst 12.3
LG Flatron W3000H 30" 2560x1600
3x Hanns.G HL225DBB 21.5" 1920x1080
- All video card results were obtained on this exact system with the exact same configuration.
- All games were set to their highest quality setting unless indicated otherwise.
- AA and AF are applied via in-game settings, not via the driver's control panel.
Each benchmark was tested at the following settings and resolution:
- 1280 x 800, 2x Anti-aliasing. Common resolution for most smaller flatscreens today (17" - 19"). A bit of eye candy turned on in the drivers.
- 1680 x 1050, 4x Anti-aliasing. Most common widescreen resolution on larger displays (19" - 22"). Very good looking driver graphics settings.
- 1920 x 1200, 4x Anti-aliasing. Typical widescreen resolution for large displays (22" - 26"). Very good looking driver graphics settings.
- 2560 x 1600, 4x Anti-aliasing. Highest possible resolution for commonly available displays (30"). Very good looking driver graphics settings.
- 5760 x 1080, 4x Anti-aliasing. Typical high-end gaming multi-monitor resolution. Very good looking driver graphics settings.
Alan Wake, released in 2012 for PC, is a highly successful third-person horror shooter that revolves around the adventures of novelist Alan Wake who has to battle the "darkness" which takes over living and dead things. Alan's signature flashlight is used to strip the forces of darkness of their protection, to make then vulnerable to conventional weapons.
The engine of Alan Wake uses DirectX 9, but features complex lighting effects which makes it a quite demanding title. We benched with highest settings.
Aliens vs. Predator
Aliens vs. Predator is based on a merger of the Aliens and the Predators franchise: two legendary alien species that are in conflict with each other, fighting to the death with human marines caught in between. The first person shooter game was developed by Rebellion Studios, who also developed the first AVP PC title and released in February 2010. It is one of the first DirectX 11 games with support for new features like tessellation, which is why AMD heavily promoted it at the time of their DX 11 card launches. We use the AVP benchmark utility with tessellation and advanced DX11 shadows enabled.
Batman: Arkham City
Batman is back on the LCD screen with Arkham City, a sequel to Batman: Arkham Asylum, by Rocksteady Games and WB. It was released to the PC platform in November. Batman is imprisoned in Arkham City, an infamous district of the DC Universe that contains the scum of Gotham, most of which Batman helped get in there. In order to get out he must go through scores of baddies, and encounter many of the iconic super-villains along the way. He's not entirely alone.
Batman Arkham City uses the same Unreal Engine by Epic, as Arkham Asylum, but thanks to the engine's modularity, it has been overhauled, outfitted with the latest technologies, including a graphics engine that takes advantage of DirectX 11.
Arguably the most anticipated online shooter title among real gamers - PC gamers, Battlefield 3 is the latest addition to some of the most engaging online multi-player shooter franchises. It combines infantry combat with mechanized warfare including transport vehicles, armored personnel carriers, main battle tanks, attack helicopters, combat aircraft, pretty much everything that goes into today's battlefields. The infantry combat is coupled with role-playing elements, which makes the experience all the more engaging. It also has a single-player campaign which added a few gigabytes to its installer.
Behind all this is a spanking new game engine by EA-DICE, Frostbite 2. It makes use of every possible feature DirectX 11 has to offer, including hardware tessellation, and new lighting effects, to deliver some of the most captivating visuals gamers ever had access to. Not playing this game on PC is grave injustice to what's in store. Faster PCs are rewarded with better visuals.
BattleForge, a card based RTS, is developed by the German EA Phenomic Studio. A few months after launch the game was transformed into a Play 4 Free branded game. That move and the fact that it was included as game bundle with a large number of ATI cards made it one of the more well-known RTS games of 2009. You as a player assemble your deck before game to select the units that will be available. Elemental force choices can be from forces of Fire, Frost, Nature and Shadow to complement each other.
The BattleForge engine has full support for DX 9, DX 10 and DX 10.1, we use the internal benchmark tool in DirectX 11 mode with highest settings to acquire our results.
Call of Duty 4
Call of Duty 4 is a first-person shooter that is built on the award winning Call of Duty Series. It is the first version to play in modern times. In a near-future conflict between the United States, Europe and Russia you get to play as a United States Marine and a British SAS operative. The engine is Infinity Ward's own creation and has true dynamic lighting, depth of field, dynamic shadows and HDR. Even though the game plot is scripted you will find yourself in intense battles, often working together with computer controlled team mates. Later installments of the Call of Duty Series use the same game engine, so this test is also representative of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 performance.
Sid Meier's Civilization V (or Civ 5 in common jargon), is the latest addition to the franchise of masterfully-crafted real-time strategy games that let you play God to a nascent civilization of your choice all the way up to the space-age. Civilization V uses large 3D worlds that are procedurally-generated, and takes advantage of hardware tessellation features offered by DirectX 11 to exponentially step up complexity of cities, models, terrains, and objects. It is also expected of this generation of GPUs to handle the larger texture loads that come with the eye-candy.
After the tremendous success of Far Cry, the German game studio Crytek released their latest shooter Crysis in 2007. The game was by far the most hyped and anticipated game in 2007, and forums were full of "Can my system run Crysis?" threads because of the high hardware requirements of this game. Just like in Far Cry the plot evolves on a small island with a thick and richly detailed jungle world. A lot of attention has been given to small details like accurate physics. For example when you fire on a tree trunk, it will shatter and the tree will fall over leaving a stump behind. Enemies in a car can be stopped by shooting the tire of the car. The game graphics are top notch, even today, yet the game still runs well on most computers.
Crysis 2 takes the player into an alien-infested New York City. The game adds a tactical options mode that allows several approaches to attack a heavily infested enemy location. The new Nanosuit 2.0 that the player uses offers more freedom in ability use, for example multiple abilities can be used at the same time. To better accommodate a given play style weapons can be customized with silencers, laser sights or even a sniping scope.
For rendering Crytek's CryEngine 3 is used which comes with reduced system requirements compared to the first Crysis game. Since Crysis 2 is a multi-platform game, with major development focus on console, the graphics on launch day were only DirectX 9. DirectX 11 functionality was added later in a patch. We use the DX11 version and the high-res texture pack for our benchmarking.
The latest addition to the Collin McRae Rally franchise, DiRT 3, of multi-format rally motorsport. DiRT 3 introduced more of the same great racing experience Collin McRae DiRT 2 gave you, but with better gameplay, and the new Gymkhana freestyle motor-acrobatics mode, which you'll more likely love than hate. It uses a more polished, performance-optimized version of the EGO engine, version 2.0, which takes advantage of more DirectX 11 features than version 1.0 used on Collin McRae DiRT 2, did.
Dragon Age II
Dragon Age II is the second game in BioWare's Dragon Age franchise and was released in March 2011. As player, named Hawke, you will be able to pick your hero from several classes and grow him over the course of the adventure. Gameplay takes you through a linear narrated story of Hawke's rise to become the legendary "Champion of Kirkwall".
BioWare's Lycium Engine has support for DirectX 11, using tessellation, advanced dynamic lighting and camera effects like depth of field. We benchmark the DX11 version with details set to highest.
Developed by Flying Wild Hog, a studio that prides itself with the fact that its creation is PC-exclusive (bless them), Hard Reset is a first person shooter that's set in a future cyberpunk setting of a dystopian world. It reintroduces many of the gameplay mechanics that made classics such as Quake wicked fun, which today's tactical military shooters eroded, creating a 'void' for.
The game uses the studio's in-house Road Hog Engine, which isn't particularly heavy on new-generation DirectX features, but can still get taxing with some GPUs.
Metro 2033 is a first-person shooter game that is set in a post-apocalyptic Moscow - as the name suggests inside the metro system. You will fight mutants or other humans who like to take away your shelter. The game has many gameplay elements similar to STALKER, also the engine has similar features. This is because two STALKER engine programmers left GSC Game World and started their own company which is now making Metro 2033.
The engine has support for all the latest eye candy like DirectX 11 and Tessellation. Unfortunately it leaves a less than optimized impression, making it a candidate to surpass Crysis for the highest hardware requirements. We test in DirectX 11 mode with details set to "Very High".
STALKER: Call of Pripyat
STALKER: Call of Pripyat takes places shortly after the events of the previous game STALKER: Shadow of Chernobyl. The player is one of many stalkers who are attracted by the Zone in hope of finding fame, wealth and artifacts. Over the course of the game you meet Strelok, the protagonist of the first STALKER game and team up with him to progress through the Zone.
An updated X-Ray Engine 1.6 powers the game with support for DirectX 11 using Compute Shaders for improved shadow rendering and tessellation to improve model quality.
StarCraft II, released in July 2010, is a sequel to Blizzard's award-winning strategy game StarCraft. In the 26th century three species Terrans, Protoss and Zerg are at war. The campaign takes you through many missions on different planets where you have to face the various enemy factions, sometimes several of them. StarCraft II features a similar number of units as the original game, some of them new. Due to the massive success of the first game, Blizzard chose to focus large aspects of the game on multiplayer combat through Battle.net. The campaign serves as a good introduction to units and concepts and competitive multiplayer is where the action is at.
The StarCraft 2 engine supports only DirectX 9, but several patches have improved rendering quality and available options considerably. We test using a recorded 1 vs. 1 multiplayer replay in the late game phase. Please note that Star Craft II is very CPU limited on high-end cards, especially on lower resolutions, so you may not see much scaling between some cards. Star Craft II does not support multi-monitor gaming, because it would provide an unfair advantage in competitive multiplayer, as a larger portion of the map would be visible.
Total War: Shogun 2
Set in 16th century feudal Japan, Total War: Shogun 2 takes the player on a quest for domination to conquer and unite the warlords of Japan. Moving away from the European setting of previous Total War games, the game is now designed around principles of the brilliant Chinese general Sun Tzu and his book "The Art of War". Gameplay is switched between real-time battles during which units on the battlefield are controlled and turn-based strategy which enable diplomacy, economy and production management. Taking control of a castle is comprised of several different stages which adds more complexity to warfare.
We benchmark using the highest settings in DirectX 11 mode, which was added via patch after release.
The Elder Scrolls: Skyrim
This isn't just a game, it's a masterpiece. A very large sandbox game that rejects the quality-quantity inverse-proportionality. By genre a role-playing game, TES: Skyrim combines some of the best elements of older titles in the franchise, with some new sandbox elements to churn out an extremely engaging, and addictive game. It makes use of Bethesda's Creation Engine, which isn't visually-intensive in that it doesn't use taxing graphics features, but the game's presentation itself, with large open worlds, end up taxing your hardware. Faster GPUs result in smoother gameplay with most eye candy turned on.
World of Warcraft: Cataclysm
World of Warcraft is the most successful massively multiplayer online game in the world with far over 12 million monthly subscribers. The game is centered around the epic battle between the Horde and Alliance factions with many other races getting involved in a long and complex story line. Even though it has been released in 2004, Blizzard has always added incremental improvements to the graphics, especially with new expansions. One key success of World of Warcraft is that it will run on a large number of slower systems, but also delivers a decent graphics experience on high-end systems. We test in DirectX 11 mode with details set to "Ultra".
3DMark 11 is the very latest from the house of Futuremark, which has given out some of the most comprehensive benchmark applications for PC enthusiasts and gamers. 3DMark 11, as the name might probably suggest, makes use of Microsoft DirectX 11 API, and puts every feature at its disposal to use, creating astonishingly-realistic visuals. In the process, it evaluates DirectX 11 compliant GPUs, and lets gamers know what to expect from games from the near future that make use of the API, in terms of visual realism. The tessellation and depth of field tests are particularly of interest here. 3DMark11 has no proper support for multi-monitor configurations.
Unigine Heaven 2.0
Unigine Heaven was one of the first demos that supported DirectX 11. Heaven is a technology demonstration for Unigine engine which supports DirectX 9 through 11 and OpenGL too. Version 2.0 adds more scenes and optionally more complex tessellation features. While there is some controversy surrounding the benchmark whether it is an accurate representation of what to expect from future games in regards to DirectX 11 we still chose it as test to get an insight into potential future gaming.
Cooling modern video cards is becoming more and more difficult, especially when users are asking for quiet cooling solutions. That's why the engineers are now paying much more attention to power consumption of new video card designs. An optimized fan profile is also one of the few things that board vendors can do to impress with reference designs where they are prohibited to make changes to the thermal solution or components on the card.
For this test we measure power consumption of only the graphics card, via PCI-Express power connector(s) and PCI-Express bus slot. A Keithley Integra 2700 with 6.5 digits is used for all measurements. Again, the values here reflect card only power consumption measured at DC VGA card inputs, not the whole system.
We chose Crysis 2 as a standard test representing typical 3D gaming usage because it offers: - very high power draw - high repeatability - is a current game that is supported on all cards due to its DirectX 9 nature - drivers are actively tested and optimized for it - supports all multi-GPU configurations - test runs a relatively short time and renders a non-static scene with variable complexity.
Our results are based on the following tests:
- Idle: Windows 7 Aero sitting at the desktop (1280x1024 32-bit) all windows closed, drivers installed. Card left to warm up in idle until power draw is stable.
- Multi-Monitor: Two monitors connected to the tested card, which use different display timings. Windows 7 Aero sitting at the desktop (1280x1024 32-bit) all windows closed, drivers installed. Card left to warm up in idle until power draw is stable.
- Average: Crysis 2 at 1920x1200, Extreme profile, representing a typical gaming power draw. Average of all readings (12 per second) while the benchmark was rendering (no title/loading screen).
- Peak: Crysis 2 at 1920x1200, Extreme profile, representing a typical gaming power draw. Highest single reading during the test.
- Maximum: Furmark Stability Test at 1280x1024, 0xAA. This results in a very high non-game power consumption that can typically be reached only with stress testing applications. Card left running stress test until power draw converged to a stable value. On cards with power limiting systems we will disable the power limiting system or configure it to the highest available setting - if possible. We will also use the highest single reading from a Furmark run which is obtained by measuring faster than when the power limit can kick in.
- Blu-ray Playback: Power DVD 9 Ultra is used at a resolution of 1920x1200 to play back the Batman: The Dark Knight disc with GPU acceleration turned on. Playback starts around timecode 1:19 which has the highest data rates on the BD with up to 40 Mb/s. Playback left running until power draw converged to a stable value.
Power consumption of the Palit GeForce GTX 680 JetStream slightly lower as NVIDIA's reference design in 3D. In 2D we see surprising numbers, in all three non-gaming states Idle, Multi-monitor and Blu-Ray, the card went all the way down to the lowest clocks of 314/162 MHz. It seems that NVIDIA has changed their latest driver to be more power efficient on GTX 680.
Overall NVIDIA's power consumption is now on par with that of AMD's latest Radeon HD 7000 Series.
One missing feature on the GTX 680 is AMD's ZeroCore power, which basically turns off the card when the monitor is switched off, resulting in a power consumption of around 1 W. NVIDIA's GTX 680 will consume full idle power in that case, which is 14 W. This might be an important point for office systems that do not get turned off overnight. Or media PC systems that are always on to provide storage/background downloading, yet are not actively used.
In the past years users would accept everything just to get more performance. Nowadays this has changed and people have become more aware of the fan noise and power consumption of their graphic cards.
In order to properly test the fan noise a card emits we are using a Bruel & Kjaer 2236 sound level meter (~$4,000) which has the measurement range and accuracy we are looking for.
The tested graphics card is installed in a system that is completely passively cooled. That is passive PSU, passive CPU cooler, passive cooling on the motherboard and a solid state drive.
This setup allows us to eliminate secondary noise sources and test only the video card. To be more compliant with standards like DIN 45635 (we are not claiming to be fully DIN 45635 certified) the measurement is conducted at 100 cm distance and 160 cm over the floor. The ambient background noise level in the room is well below 20 dBA for all measurements. Please note that the dBA scale is not linear, it is logarithmic. 40 dBA is not twice as loud as 20 dBA. A 3 dBA increase results in double the sound pressure. The human hearing is a bit different and it is generally accepted that a 10 dBA increase doubles the perceived sound level. The 3D load noise levels are tested with a stressful game, not Furmark.
Idle fan noise of the Palit GTX 680 JetStream is unbeliably low. It is actually one of the quietest cards in idle that I ever tested - and it's the fastest too. Under load the three fans on the Palit card emit significantly less noise than the single fan on NVIDIA's cooler, which helps makes the a great choice for high-end users that are looking for low noise levels.
The graphs on this page show a combined performance summary of all tests and resolutions from previous pages. Each graph shows the tested card as 100% and all other cards' performance relative to it. A sixth graph summarizes all tests in all resolutions to calculate the total relative performance of the review sample.
Performance per Watt
Using the relative performance scores from the previous page and the typical gaming power consumption result, the following graphs show efficiency of the cards in our test group.
Performance per Dollar
If you are looking for the best bang for the buck, then you will love this graph. We looked up the current USD price of each card on the popular online shop Newegg and used it and the relative performance numbers to calculate the Performance per Dollar Index.
The overclocks listed in this section were achieved with the default fan and voltage settings as defined in the VGA BIOS. Please note that every single sample overclocks differently, that's why our results here can only serve as a guideline for what you can expect from your card.
Maximum stable clocks of our card are 1165 MHz core (16% overclock) and 1833 MHz Memory (22% overclock).
Overclocking the Palit GTX 680 JetStream works well, slightly better than the reference design. Memory reaches the exact same clock.
Important: Each GPU (including each GPU of the same make and model)
|Maximum Overclock Comparison
||Max. GPU Clock
||Max. Memory Clock
|Palit GTX 680 JetStream
|ASUS GTX 680 DirectCU II
|NVIDIA GTX 680
|AMD HD 7970
will overclock slightly differently based on random production variances.
This table just serves to provide a list of typical overclocks for similar cards,
reached during TPU review.
Using these clock frequencies we ran a quick test of Battlefield 3 to evaluate the gains from overclocking.
Actual 3D performance gained from overclocking is 8.9%.
Temperatures are low thanks to the triple fan cooler. Combined with the low noise this is a perfect combination.
Load temps are well optimized and look like they have been designed to not exceed 80°C, which is a good thing, as NVIDIA's dynamic overclocking mechanism takes temperature into account and lowers maximum boost clocks by 13 MHz each 10°C.
Important: GPU temperature will vary depending on clocks, voltage,
|GPU Temperature Comparison
|Palit GTX 680 JetStream
|AMD HD 7970
|NVIDIA GTX 680
|ASUS GTX 680 DirectCU II
|AMD HD 7970
cooler design and production variances. This table just serves to provide
a list of typical temperatures for similar cards, reached during TPU review.
Modern graphics cards have several clock profiles that are selected to balance power draw and performance requirements.
The following table lists the clock settings for important performance scenarios and the GPU voltage that we measured. We measure on the pins of a coil or capacitor near the GPU voltage regulator.
The card uses NVIDIA's dynamic overclocking mechanism, which means it will dynamically adjust clock and voltage based on render load, temperature and other factors.
For the graph below, we recorded all GPU clock, GPU voltage combinations of our benchmarking suite for the 1920x1200 resolution. The plotted points have transparency, so they can add up to indicate more often used values. A light color means the clock/voltage combination is rarely used, a dark color means it's active a lot.
Value and Conclusion
- Palit's GeForce GTX 680 JetStream follows the NVIDIA reference design pricing of $499.
- No price increase over reference design
- Large performance increase
- Overclocked out of the box
- Additional OC headroom left
- Low power consumption
- Up to four active displays now, makes surround possible with one card
- Support for PCI-Express 3.0 and DirectX 11.1
- Support for CUDA and PhysX
- Dynamic OC can't be turned off
- Manual overclocking more complicated than before
- 2 1/2 slot design not for all
- No technology similar to AMD's ZeroCore power
||Palit's GeForce GTX 680 JetStream uses a custom triple fan cooler and a custom PCB design. It looks like both have been optimized for cost reduction, which enables the company to offer the card at the same price as the reference design.|
Thanks to an overclock of 80 MHz out of the box, we see an about 5% performance increase over the NVIDIA reference design. Usually higher clocks mean higher power consumption, not so with the Palit GTX 680 JetStream. In our testing the card consumes about 10 Watts less under load than the NVIDIA reference design which is running slower clocks. This is evidence that Palit made the right choices when redesigning the PCB of the GTX 680.
Palit's excellent fan profile that seems to be carefully matched to the requirements of the card and the capabilities of the cooler provides great noise levels. In idle the card is actually one of the quietest cards I ever reviewed. Under load the card is much quieter than the reference design, too. Palit's choice of triple fan, 2.5 slot design certainly paid off in this area. If you choose to use this card in an SLI system, ensure you have enough space between slots.
Overall the Palit GTX 680 JetStream is a solid improvement over NVIDIA's reference design. Since it comes at no price increased compared to stock cards, I can easily recommend this card to all users who are looking for a GTX 680, yet are not willing to spend too much on custom overclocked versions.