Gainward GEFORCE GTX 680 2GB Phantom Video Card Review

Gainward expands the Phantom series with the new high-end GEFORCE GTX 680 from NVIDIA. We check the model out and see what this video card can do.

Manufacturer: Gainward
16 minutes & 33 seconds read time

Introduction and Package

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Like a couple of NVIDIA only partners it's been a while since we've seen anything from Gainward and that's mainly due to the simple fact that NVIDIA partners haven't really had anything new to show off for the past few months. That is of course until we saw the release of the new GEFORCE 600 series video cards.

While at launch Gainward was ready with its reference design card, a few weeks after they had the Phantom model ready - a series that we've liked on their mid and high-end video cards since it launched. Today, though, we see the series get its fastest model yet, the GTX 680.

GTX 680 is a GPU we've loved since its launch - it has offered us incredible performance and the price tag NVIDIA launched the model at was super competitive. There's only ever been one issue the whole time. Stock has been quite pitiful since its launch on the market and it's not looking much better at the moment as you head on over to Newegg and see every model is out of stock.

Of course there are a few things we need to do before we get into the performance side of things. First thing we'll do is check out the package to see what Gainward has done before we move onto the video card itself.

Once we've done that we'll go over the specifications of this overclocked model from Gainward before we quickly cover our testbed and talk about some of the other video cards that will be in our graphs here today. Then it's onto the performance side of things before we wrap everything up. First things first, though, let's see what's going on with the package and bundle here today on Gainward's new GTX 680 2GB Phantom.


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Looking through the box we get a good idea of some of the main features including a factory overclock, 6-phase PWM and DrMOS. The two features that are most highlighted, though, come in terms of the cooler.

You can see that a large part of the focus is on the new Phantom cooler which is said to operate quieter than the reference cooler, while also helping make the video card run cooler. We'll find out how much truth there is to this a little later on when we get to testing the noise and temperature.

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As for the bundle it's in fairly typical Gainward fashion that we don't see a lot going on. We've got a manual and driver CD alongside a DVI to VGA connector, HDMI to DVI connector and dual 6-pin PCIe to 8-pin PCIe power connector. Overall there is nothing all that exciting, but it includes everything you'll need to get the video card up and running.

The Card and Specifications

The Card

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Having a look at the GTX 680 2GB Phantom the first thing most people think is that we're dealing with a passive cooled video card. While we do indeed have a massive heatsink on the outside that has a number of heatpipes coming out the bottom, we do have two fans that sit behind.

While the design is a little strange looking to see at first, it has proven to work in the past and with the latest line up of video cards running cooler than ever, we should hopefully see some good numbers come out of the Phantom cooler.

The only issue with the design is that it's a triple slot card. While it's not a problem for most people who are opting for only a single card setup, it's something that you do need to take note of. If you have a RAID card or maybe a sound card that needs to go in the third slot, a triple slot video card is going to cause issues.

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Moving around the video card you can see the dual power setup in the form of a single 8-pin and 6-pin PCIe power connector. Closer to the front we've got two SLI connectors, which let us get up to four of these video cards running together. Of course the large cooler design is going to make that difficult.

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Looking at the I/O side of things we've got two Dual-Link DVI connectors in the form of a DVI-D and DVI-I port. Along with that you can see we've got a HDMI port alongside a full size DisplayPort connector to round everything off.


As we mentioned earlier the Gainward GTX 680 2GB Phantom comes overclocked out of the box. Looking below you can see that both core and memory clock has been raised from the default NVIDIA speeds of 1006MHz / 1059MHz via boost and 6008MHz QDR.

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You can see the core here comes in at 1085MHz which helps push the boost speed to 1150MHz while the 2GB of GDDR5 has been pushed to 6300MHz QDR.

Benchmarks - Test System Setup

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

While nothing in our testbed has changed, we've expanded our testing a little more by expanding upon the AA / AF side of things. Where we would in the past test three games at one resolution, we're now testing five games at two resolutions.

We've been adding these results over the past few months to our graphs, but this is the first time we're implementing them in our reviews. Not all video cards have been tested in the new tests, but most have been. Increasing the AA line of benchmarking helps make sure we can apply more pressure to our video card setups today and make them work harder than ever, providing you a better representation of gaming performance.

As always, though, before we get into the testing side of things let's quickly cover the video cards that will be included in our benchmarks today. Along with the Gainward GTX 680 2GB Phantom, we've also got the GTX 670, GTX 680 and 4GB GTX 680 from Palit.

On the AMD side of things we've got the high-end HD 7950 and HD 7970 along with the older dual GPU offering from AMD the HD 6990 to help round out everything here.

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

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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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Starting off with 3DMark 11 as always we can see a strong boost in performance from the Gainward offering thanks to the out of the box overclock that is on offer. It really helps separate itself from the reference clocked GTX 680 and even the 4GB version.

Benchmarks - Unigine Heaven Benchmark

Unigine Heaven Benchmark

Version and / or Patch Used: 2.5

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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.


Looking at Heaven numbers we again see the Gainward GTX 680 2GB Phantom performing very well with it coming out ahead of our other video cards here including the other GTX 680s we've got in our graphs.

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

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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 performance is strong across the board and you can see the Gainward offering again comes out ahead of everything else here. It goes to really show what a nice boost in clock speeds can do for overall performance.

Benchmarks - Mafia II

Mafia II

Version and / or Patch Used: Latest Steam Update

Timedemo or Level Used: Built in Benchmark

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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 performance follows the same trends that we've seen all along. The only difference is here the HD 6990 manages to pull out a small win at 2560 x 1600 as it gains an extra couple of FPS. Apart from that, though, we can see our Gainward GTX 680 2GB Phantom is sitting ahead of the pack.

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

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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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Looking above we can see these results mirror Mafia II exactly with the Gainward GTX 680 2GB Phantom beating out everything at 1680 x 1050 and 1920 x 1200 and it falling only just behind at 2560 x 1600 to the older dual GPU HD 6990 from AMD.

Benchmarks - Aliens vs. Predator

Aliens vs. Predator

Version and / or Patch Used: Standalone Benchmark

Timedemo or Level Used: Built in Benchmark

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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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We've mentioned this a few times, but NVIDIA hasn't done great under Aliens vs. Predator with the latest generation of GPUs.

Looking above, though, you can see the overclock on offer from Gainward helps push that 2560 x 1600 number to a playable 60 FPS, a number none of our other GTX 600 series based video cards have managed to hit.

Benchmarks - Just Cause 2

Just Cause 2

Version and / or Patch Used:

Timedemo or Level Used: Dark Tower

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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 looks good at all resolutions with playable numbers across the board. We can see some really nice gains against the reference clocked video card with the most appreciated being seen at 2560 x 1600 as we move away from that 70 FPS area into the 80 FPS one making sure we've got ultra-smooth gameplay.

Benchmarks - Metro 2033

Metro 2033

Version and / or Patch Used: Latest Steam Update

Timedemo or Level Used: Built in Benchmark

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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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Looking above you can see that the GTX 680 2GB Phantom from Gainward is the only single GPU video card that is able to break that 60 FPS barrier at the highest resolution.

Moving below that you can see we've got some really good FPS with playable numbers not being an issue. 120Hz monitor owners might be looking for something a bit higher, though.

Benchmarks - Dirt 3

Dirt 3

Version and / or Patch Used: Latest Steam Update

Timedemo or Level Used: Built in Benchmark

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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 performance across the board is very strong and we continue to see the Gainward GTX 680 2GB Phantom out perform all the other video cards we have here including the dual GPU HD 6990 and the 4GB GTX 680 we've looked at previously.

Benchmarks - Far Cry 2

Far Cry 2

Version and / or Patch Used: 1.01

Timedemo or Level Used: Ranch Long

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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 numbers are where you'd expect them with strong performance across the board. Let's get into some AA and AF testing to see how our cards hold up here today.

Benchmarks - High Quality AA and AF

High Quality AA and AF

While we test all our games with maximum in-game settings, turning on Anti-Aliasing (AA) and Antistrophic Filtering (AF) helps take the intensity of our testing to another level.

Here we see video cards go from playable FPS to an unplayable FPS and the real power houses continue to help break that 60 FPS mark we always aim for to provide a smooth gaming experience.

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Starting with Mafia II we can see strong performance at 1920 x 1200 while 2560 x 1600 performance sees all video cards fall below that 60 FPS mark. The closest to it, though, is the Gainward offering with a 56 FPS average.

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Aliens vs. Predator on the other hand struggles with playable numbers at both resolutions on these NVIDIA based video cards. On the other hand you can see the HD 7970 manages to sneak past that 60 FPS mark at 1920 x 1200.

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As much as people say that Far Cry 2 isn't intensive today, you can see looking above that we're not all that far above that 30 FPS minimum at 2560 x 1600. None the less we're above it and we've got playable numbers at both resolutions here with AA and AF cranked right up.

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While Metro 2033 manages to pull in playable numbers with AA and AF on at 1920 x 1200, you can see 2560 x 1600 numbers are just way too low to be able to offer a solid gaming experience.

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Just Cause 2 sees good numbers at 1920 x 1200, but you can see moving to 2560 x 1600 we drop just below that 60 FPS average that we aim for.

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.

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Looking at the heat numbers we can see they sit in the middle of the pack with numbers that are similar to the other non-reference GTX 680s that we've looked at in the past.

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).

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Noise is something that Gainward are really trying to highlight with this model and you can see the numbers look very good coming in just over 60dB at load.

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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Power draw numbers are really good coming in below 400 watts. Considering the amount of grunt these video cards have, the power draw is really impressive.

Final Thoughts

Gainward has brought a really strong NVIDIA GEFORCE GTX 680 based video card to the table that stands out from the reference model with more performance, stronger cooling numbers and lower noise levels. There's very little to complain about when it comes to the Phantom, if we had to pick on anything though, it would be the bundle.

Like most companies these days, though, Gainward has opted for smaller bundles and instead let the video card do all of the talking. It doesn't really bother us and it helps keep the price down slightly, which is always a good thing. If we had to pick something, though, to complain about, it would be the smaller bundle.

From a performance point of view the strong overclock that Gainward has bought to the core and memory helps give a real boost in performance. I think what's more important, though, is the fact that often times we see that the overclock helps push the average FPS to that magical 60 FPS mark that we consider provides a solid gaming experience.

Outside of the actual FPS performance you've then got the performance of the cooler, which is very strong. While temperatures line up with some of the other aftermarket coolers we look at, we see the cooler really shines when it comes to the noise side of things offering us some great levels.

In the end we've got a really nice aftermarket version of what is a very strong model out of NVIDIA. If you're happy with a video card that is a little fatter (remember this video card will take up 3 slots) than the reference model, the Gainward option is going to be a fantastic choice.

Thanks to a strong overclock combined with a cooler that not only looks great, but performs exceptionally well, you just have a really strong video card that stands out from the pack. If you're on the market for a GTX 680 that's going to perform better than a reference one in cooling, noise and performance, then this is one video card you should be looking at for sure.

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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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