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NVIDIA GEFORCE GTX 680 (Kepler) 2GB Reference Video Card Overclocked

We take the time to overclock the brand new GTX 680 2GB and see what kind of performance boost we can get out of it.

13 minutes & 25 seconds read time


NVIDIA GEFORCE GTX 680 (Kepler) 2GB Reference Video Card Overclocked 02

Earlier today we bought you a review on the NVIDIA GEFORCE GTX 680 2GB, and for all our personal issues with NVIDIA, we made it pretty clear that this is an absolutely awesome video card from the green team that offers some serious power.

Since that went live we've been hard at work overclocking the new model to see just how much performance we could get out of it. To do that there's only one program we used, and that's of course MSI Afterburner which has always served us extremely well when it comes to GPU overclocking.

Overclocking didn't go as smoothly as we'd hope, though. Again due to a complete lack of communication from NVIDIA we found ourselves pushing up the clocks, but seeing no gains. Thanks to some companies that actually do like to deal with us, we found out that you had to go into "Settings" on MSI Afterburner and adjust the Power Limit of the video card.

In our case we move it from 100%, to the maximum amount, which is 132%. With that done we found ourselves finally seeing some performance gains. With that all up and running it was time to move forward and see just what we could get.

Of course before we cover the performance the first thing we need to do is look over the testbed on the next page and of course check out the overclocking levels we got. Once that's done we'll then get into the performance side of things before we wrap everything up.

Benchmarks - Test System Setup and Overclocking

NVIDIA GEFORCE GTX 680 (Kepler) 2GB Reference Video Card Overclocked 99

We would like to thank the following companies for supplying and supporting us with our test system hardware and equipment: Intel, ASUS and Corsair.

When it came to overclocking the GTX 680 we did run into a little trouble initially, but found ourselves getting under way fairly quickly. Looking below you can see the kind of overclock we managed.

NVIDIA GEFORCE GTX 680 (Kepler) 2GB Reference Video Card Overclocked 01

We got our 1006MHz core to 1146MHz or 1199MHz via the Dynamic clock. As for the memory you can see that also got a nice overclocking moving from 6008MHz to 6808MHz. This is a pretty nice overclock out of the card and should bring with it some strong performance gains.

As for the cards in our graphs today we've got almost an identical line up to our first review which saw the GTX 570 and GTX 580 from NVIDIA along with the HD 7950, HD 7970 and HD 6990 from AMD.

Along with those cards we've also got the HD 7970 overclocked to give us an idea of how a reference clocked HD 7970 goes against the new GTX 680 when it's overclocked.

There's really not much more that has to be said so I think we can just sit back and get into the performance side of things to see just what kind of boost we're able to get from the card when we crank up the clocks.

Let's get started!

The FPS Numbers Explained

When we benchmark our video cards and look at the graphs, we aim to get to a certain level of FPS which we consider playable. While many may argue that the human eye can't see over 24 FPS or 30 FPS, any true gamer will tell you that as we climb higher in Frames Per Seconds (FPS), the overall gameplay feels smoother. There are three numbers we're looking out for when it comes to our benchmarks.

30 FPS - It's the minimum number we aim for when it comes to games. If you're not dropping below 30 FPS during games, you're going to have a nice and smooth gaming experience. The ideal situation is that even in a heavy fire fight, the minimum stays above 30 FPS making sure that you can continue to aim easily or turn the corner with no dramas.

60 FPS - It's the average we look for when we don't have a minimum coming at us. If we're getting an average of 60 FPS, we should have a minimum of 30 FPS or better and as mentioned above, it means we've got some smooth game play happening.

120 FPS - The new number that we've been hunting down over recent months. If you're the owner of a 120 Hz monitor, to get the most out of it you want to get around the 120 FPS mark. Moving from 60 FPS / 60 Hz to 120 FPS / 120 Hz brings with it a certain fluidity that can't really be explained, but instead has to be experienced. Of course, if you're buying a 120 Hz monitor to take advantage of 3D, an average of 120 FPS in our benchmark means that in 3D you will have an average of 60 FPS, which again means you should expect some smooth gameplay.

Benchmarks - 3DMark 11

3DMark 11

Version and / or Patch Used: 1.1

Developer Homepage:

Product Homepage:

Buy It Here

3DMark 11 is the latest version of the world's most popular benchmark. Designed to measure your PC's gaming performance 3DMark 11 makes extensive use of all the new features in DirectX 11 including tessellation, compute shaders and multi-threading. Trusted by gamers worldwide to give accurate and unbiased results, 3DMark 11 is the best way to consistently and reliably test DirectX 11 under game-like loads.

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Straight away under 3DMark 11 we can see a really nice boost in performance which sees the GTX 680 sitting right on the heels of the dual GPU HD 6990. As for the HD 7970, we can see even overclocked, the GTX 680 manages to win out when it is overclocked.

Benchmarks - Unigine Heaven Benchmark

Unigine Heaven Benchmark

Version and / or Patch Used: 2.5

Developer Homepage:

Product Homepage:

New benchmark grants the power to unleash the DirectX 11 potential in the gift wrapping of impressively towering graphics capabilities. It reveals the enchanting magic of floating islands with a tiny village hidden in the cloudy skies. With the interactive mode emerging experience of exploring the intricate world is ensured within reach. Through its advanced renderer, Unigine is one of the first to set precedence in showcasing the art assets with tessellation, bringing compelling visual finesse, utilizing the technology to the full extend and exhibiting the possibilities of enriching 3D gaming.

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Heaven continues the trend with strong performance gains and you can see it has no issue taking out top spot in this scenario.

Benchmarks - Tom Clancy's H.A.W.X. 2

Tom Clancy's H.A.W.X.2

Version and / or Patch Used: Benchmark Demo

Timedemo or Level Used: Built-in Test

Developer Homepage:

Product Homepage:

Tom Clancy's H.A.W.X. 2 is an arcade-style flight action game developed by Ubisoft Romania and published by Ubisoft. The game is the sequel to Tom Clancy's H.A.W.X., released in 2009.

The game begins with Colonel David Crenshaw participating in a routine patrol mission in the Middle East. After halting an insurgent attack, a volley of missiles is fired at the Air Force base that Crenshaw was stationed at, with one of the missiles disabling Crenshaw's aircraft, resulting Crenshaw being in enemy captivity. A joint strike force composed of the U.S. Navy, U.S. Air Force, and a Ghost Recon squad executes an operation to rescue Crenshaw. In Scotland, Royal Navy Pilot Colin Munro encounters an unidentified passenger aircraft that explodes from an on-board bomb when undergoing training exercise. In Russia, an air force squadron led by Colonel Denisov and Captain Dmitri Sokov engages separatist aircraft but is ordered to retreat from the region after numerous Russian military installations have been attacked.

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H.A.W.X. 2 was already doing very well for the GTX 680 and you can see overclocked the performance gap between the GTX 680 and everything else here is lengthened.

Benchmarks - Mafia II

Mafia II

Version and / or Patch Used: Latest Steam Update

Timedemo or Level Used: Built in Benchmark

Developer Homepage:

Product Homepage:

Buy It Here

Mafia II is a third-person action-adventure video game, the sequel to Mafia: The City of Lost Heaven. It is developed by 2K Czech, previously known as Illusion Softworks, and is published by 2K Games. The game is set from 1943 to 1951 in Empire Bay (the name is a reference to New York's state nickname "The Empire State"), a fictional city based on San Francisco and New York City, with influences from Chicago and Detroit. The game features a completely open-ended game map of 10 square miles. No restrictions are included from the start of the game. There are around 50 vehicles in the game, as well as licensed music from the era.

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Mafia II was another game that saw really strong performance from the GTX 680 and again we can see that the overclock just helps strengthen the lead for the new model.

Benchmarks - Lost Planet 2

Lost Planet 2

Version and / or Patch Used: Benchmark Demo

Timedemo or Level Used: Built in Benchmark - Test A Scene 1

Developer Homepage:

Product Homepage:

Lost Planet 2 is a third-person shooter video game developed and published by Capcom. The game is the sequel to Lost Planet: Extreme Condition which is also made by Capcom, taking place ten years after the events of the first game, on the same fictional planet. The story takes place back on E.D.N. III 10 years after the events of the first game. The snow has melted to reveal jungles and more tropical areas that have taken the place of more frozen regions. The plot begins with Mercenaries fighting against Jungle Pirates. After destroying a mine, the Mercenaries continue on to evacuate the area, in which a Category-G Akrid appears and attacks them. After being rescued, they find out their evacuation point (Where the Category-G appeared) was a set-up and no pick up team awaited them. The last words imply possible DLC additions to the game, "There's nothing to be gained by wiping out snow pirates... unless you had some kind of grudge."

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Moving into Lost Planet 2 we can some great performance again from the GTX 680 and the overclock in this case helps push the card past the HD 6990 at 1680 x 1050 and 1920 x 1200 while it lines up perfectly with it at 2560 x 1600.

Benchmarks - Aliens vs. Predator

Aliens vs. Predator

Version and / or Patch Used: Standalone Benchmark

Timedemo or Level Used: Built in Benchmark

Developer Homepage:

Product Homepage:

Aliens vs. Predator is a science fiction first-person shooter video game, developed by Rebellion Developments, the team behind the 1999 original PC game, and published by Sega for Microsoft Windows, the PlayStation 3 and the Xbox 360. The game is based on the Alien vs. Predator franchise, a combination of the characters and creatures of the Alien franchise and the Predator franchise. There are three campaigns in the game, one for each race/faction (the Predators, the Aliens and the Colonial Marines), that, while separate in terms of individual plot and gameplay, form one overarching storyline.

Following the storyline of the campaign modes comes the multiplayer aspect of the game. In this Multiplayer section of the game, players face off in various different gametypes in various different ways.

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Aliens vs. Predator was one game that we saw the GTX 680 fall behind the HD 7970 at stock. We can see overclocked our numbers come up and actually line up fairly close to the overclocked HD 7970.

Benchmarks - Just Cause 2

Just Cause 2

Version and / or Patch Used:

Timedemo or Level Used: Dark Tower

Developer Homepage:

Product Homepage:

Just Cause 2 employs the Avalanche Engine 2.0, an updated version of the engine used in Just Cause. The game is set on the other side of the world from the original Just Cause, on the fictional island of Panau in Southeast Asia. Panau has varied terrain, from desert to alpine to rainforest. Rico Rodriguez returns as the protagonist, aiming to overthrow the evil dictator Pandak "Baby" Panay and confront his former mentor, Tom Sheldon.

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Just Cause 2 performance is really strong and overclocked we can see the GTX 680 really only falls behind at the highest resolution. At 1920 x 1200 and 1680 x 1050 we can see its performance is around the HD 6990.

Benchmarks - Metro 2033

Metro 2033

Version and / or Patch Used: Latest Steam Update

Timedemo or Level Used: Built in Benchmark

Developer Homepage:

Product Homepage:

Metro 2033 is an action-oriented video game with a combination of survival horror and first-person shooter elements. The game is based on the novel Metro 2033 by Russian author Dmitry Glukhovsky. It was developed by 4A Games in Ukraine and released in March 2010 for Microsoft Windows and Xbox 360.[3] In March 2006, 4A Games announced a partnership with Glukhovsky to collaborate on the game.[4] The game was announced at the 2009 Games Convention in Leipzig;[5] a first trailer came along with the announcement.[6] A sequel was announced, currently titled Metro: Last Light.

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Metro 2033 sees some great gains with the overclock on offer and probably more importantly we can see that the 2560 x 1600 performance jumps pass that 60 FPS number at 2560 x 1600.

Benchmarks - Dirt 3

Dirt 3

Version and / or Patch Used: Latest Steam Update

Timedemo or Level Used: Built in Benchmark

Developer Homepage:

Product Homepage:

DiRT 3 boasts more cars, more locations, more routes and more events than any other game in the series, including over 50 rally cars representing the very best from five decades of the sport. With more than double the track content of 2009's hit, DiRT 3 will see players start at the top as a professional driver, with a top-flight career in competitive off-road racing complimented by the opportunity to express themselves in Gymkhana-style showpiece driving events.

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Dirt 3 follows the trends with some strong gains across the board and you can see that the new GTX 680 when overclocked manages to pull ahead of everyone else here.

Benchmarks - Far Cry 2

Far Cry 2

Version and / or Patch Used: 1.01

Timedemo or Level Used: Ranch Long

Developer Homepage:

Product Homepage:

Buy It Here

The Dunia Engine was built specifically for Far Cry 2 by the award-winning Ubisoft Montreal development team. It delivers the most realistic destructible environments, amazing special effects such as dynamic fire propagation and storm effects, real-time night-and-day cycle, dynamic music system, non-scripted enemy A.I. and so much more.

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Far Cry 2 holds no surprises and across the board we see some strong performance gains at all resolutions. Not that they're really necessary on these high-end cards.

Benchmarks - High Quality AA and AF

High Quality AA and AF

Our high quality tests let us separate the men from the boys and the ladies from the girls. If the cards weren't struggling before they will start to now.

NVIDIA GEFORCE GTX 680 (Kepler) 2GB Reference Video Card Overclocked 30
NVIDIA GEFORCE GTX 680 (Kepler) 2GB Reference Video Card Overclocked 31
NVIDIA GEFORCE GTX 680 (Kepler) 2GB Reference Video Card Overclocked 32

Good gains across the board, but the most important one comes under Aliens vs. Predator where we see the overclock helps push us into that 60 FPS realm, which is the frame rate we consider playable.

Temperature Test

The temperature of the core is pulled from MSI Afterburner with the max reading used after a completed run off 3DMark Vantage and the Performance preset.

NVIDIA GEFORCE GTX 680 (Kepler) 2GB Reference Video Card Overclocked 40

That overclock and extra performance does come at a cost and you can see that the temperature on the card has jumped up a bit. It's still nothing too major, but two overclocked cards in SLI might be interesting.

Sound Test

Pulling out the TES 1350A Sound Level Meter we find ourselves quickly yelling into the top of it to see how loud we can be.

After five minutes of that we get a bit more serious and place the device two CM away from the fan on the card to find the maximum noise level of the card when idle (2D mode) and in load (3D mode).

NVIDIA GEFORCE GTX 680 (Kepler) 2GB Reference Video Card Overclocked 41

Noise on the card has also jumped up, but it's not too bad. It does fall in line with our overclocked HD 7900 series cards and we know from our benchmarks that they do come in a bit slower.

Power Consumption Test

Using our PROVA Power Analyzer WM-01 or "Power Thingy" as it has become quickly known as to our readers, we are now able to find out what kind of power is being used by our test system and the associated graphics cards installed. Keep in mind; it tests the complete system (minus LCD monitor, which is plugged directly into AC wall socket).

There are a few important notes to remember though; while our maximum power is taken in 3DMark06 at the same exact point, we have seen in particular tests the power being drawn as much as 10% more. We test at the exact same stage every time; therefore tests should be very consistent and accurate.

The other thing to remember is that our test system is bare minimum - only a SSD hard drive is used with a single CD ROM and minimal cooling fans.

So while the system might draw 400 watts in our test system, placing it into your own PC with a number of other items, the draw is going to be higher.

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Looking at power draw it's interesting to see that outside of a little fluctuation, it's almost identical to the card clocked at stock.

Final Thoughts

The new NVIDIA GeForce GTX 680 video card doesn't need to be overclocked to stand out for us. Out of the box the new model offers some killer performance that really stands out from the competition. All at a $500 - $550 price point that applies a large amount of pressure to the team over at AMD.

While overclocking does involve a little bit more in terms of pushing up the power control, it's overall just as easy as any other video card and you can see today you're able to get some nice gains in performance thanks to software like Afterburner from MSI.

NVIDIA could've probably priced this card at $599 and it would line up with a price structure that you'd normally expect from NVIDIA. At $549, it would've been a pretty easy buy over the HD 7970 that hits at the same price point. At the $499 mark, though, it's a really easy buy.

The big question is going to come down to stock. Both AMD and NVIDIA are notorious for running out of stock a week after launch. Companies start to see a trickle amount of stock come in and then it's going to come down to a war of what you can get.

If you bought a HD 7970, you shouldn't be disappointed, it has been out for a good two months already and you've been enjoying what AMD has bought to the table for that time. Something that turns me off is the fact we're dealing with only 2GB of GDDR5. I feel like we're kind of past that and we can see that if AMD is able to win out in any scenario, it's at the highest resolutions. A bit more VRAM from NVIDIA I think would do wonders for very high resolution gaming.

It's also safe to say that it's going to become even more useful when you start to go to multi monitors setups. Depending on stock, I don't think it will be to long before we see a company offer a 4GB version of the GTX 680. Considering the price point of the 2GB one as well, I think it's safe to say that a 4GB card would continue to hold quite strong value.

Overall there's little that can be picked at when it comes to the new GTX 680. Overall it's a really good video card that offers some great performance and some great overclocking headroom. As always, though, we really look forward to seeing what companies do with the cooler. There's always room for improvement over the reference cooler and we know some companies are already working hard at improving it.

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Shawn takes care of all of our video card reviews. From 2009, Shawn is also taking care of our memory reviews, and from May 2011, Shawn also takes care of our CPU, chipset and motherboard reviews. As of December 2011, Shawn is based out of Taipei, Taiwan.

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