Introduction and Package
The GTX 680 has become a little quiet for NVIDIA with partners not doing a whole lot with the model lately. To be honest it feels like a little bit of a mistake considering how aggressive AMD has been lately with its high-end Radeon offerings. The release of the new GHz Edition HD 7970 means that AMD get in the spotlight again when it comes to high-end models and the upcoming dual GPU 7990 is going to shine more light on them.
Saying all that, though, we can see that Inno3D have mixed it up with the tongue twisting Inno3D GTX 680 iChill Black Series Accelero Hybrid 4GB video card. When Inno3D asked if we wanted to look at it we jumped at the chance to see a new GTX 680. It wasn't until the card arrived and I pulled it out of the box to realize we had a cool video card on our hands. What makes it so cool? Well, we will find that out in just a moment.
As always there's a few things that we need to do before we take a closer look at the card and the first thing is to see what's going on with the package and the contents. Once we've done that we'll move onto the card to see what exactly is going on. From there we move onto the specifications. With the card being as cool as it is, though, we have taken the chance to overclock it as well so while we'll look at the out of the box clock speeds we'll then take the time to see how we went with the overclocking side of things.
Finally we'll move into the testbed side of things and then we'll also cover the cards that we'll be including in our testbed today before we then get into the performance side of things. As mentioned, though, let's see what's going on with the package and bundle here today.
Checking out the box we don't actually have heaps of detail. We've got the model name along with mention that it carries 4GB of GDDR5 while there's mention of 3DMark 11 being included. Turning over we've got some text about the model on a whole.
Moving inside the box and looking at the package you can see we've got an iChill mouse pad included along with a bit of paperwork including a 3DMark 11 key and some manuals in regards to setting the card up. We've also got a power supply guideline booklet which gives you an idea on what kind of power supply you should be using for the card while you can also see we've got a driver CD.
Along with all that you can see above we've also got a dual Molex to 8-pin PCIe power connector, DVI to VGA connector and a bunch of screws along with a couple of washers to help setup the card. Yes, washers! Read on!
The Card and Specifications
Pulling the card out of the box the first thing we notice is the 120mm radiator attached to it. This was a really cool surprise as when we organized the review sample we didn't look into it at all so to pull it out and see that it had its own all in one water cooling system attached too it was really cool.
It holds just a single 120mm fan, but if you wanted to you could install a second fan for a push pull configuration. You'd need to buy that fan separately. Coming off it we've got a single 4-pin fan connector that can just be plugged into your motherboard to run the fan.
Moving back to the card you can see that Inno3D haven't just opted for the water block to do all the work, instead they've also installed a fan on the card to help keep everything as cool as possible, hence the "hybrid" in the model name. I think our biggest worry at the moment is going to be the noise levels, but we'll find out what exactly is going on in that department a little later on in the review.
On the power side of things you can see we've got an 8-pin PCIe and a 6-pin PCIe power connector. It's a little bit of a squeeze to get our power connectors in due to the tubes that run into the card, but once in you shouldn't have any serious issue getting up and running. The main thing you want to do is make sure you don't bend the tube or block it off in anyway.
Across the front we've got the SLI connectors which provide the ability to run up to four of these cards which would be a truly awesome setup. Of course we're not too sure we want to figure out the cost or if it will fit in all systems.
Along with the 4-pin fan connector that is attached to the radiator fan we've also got a Molex connector that comes out the top of the card which is used for the pump. It's great to see that Inno3D have made this a really long cable so you shouldn't have any major issue plugging it in. The length also means that it shouldn't get in the way of anything.
Finally we finish up with the I/O side of things and you can see we've got two Dual-Link DVI connectors on the right hand side. On the left you can see we've got a HDMI port alongside a DisplayPort while the top half also provides a vent to let the fan push some of the hot air out of your chassis.
It comes as no surprise that Inno3D would take the time to overclock this card out of the box and that's of course what they've done.
Looking below you can see they've done a pretty good job when it comes to the default clocks lifting the core clock from 1006MHz / 1058MHz via boost to 1124MHz / 1189MHz via boost.
They've also give the memory clock a boost and that's an area we see most companies ignore. Looking below you can see we've gone from default 6008MHz QDR to a fairly impressive 6280MHz QDR. Not only that, but Inno3D have chosen to double the amount of memory from the typical 2GB to a more impressive 4GB.
Since the card does carry with it an all in one water cooling solution we figured that we'd take the time to overclock the card and see just how much performance we can get out of it. As you can see we got a slight boost on the core to 1149MHz which brings us to 1214MHz via boost. And we took the 4GB of GDDR5 to 6560MHz QDR.
Benchmarks - Test System Setup
Looking above you can see our testbed and there are no real surprises present so we'll just quickly get into the cards that will be included in our graph today.
We've of course got the Inno3D GTX 680 iChill Black Series Accelero Hybrid 4GB running at our overclocked speeds of 1214MHz on the core and 6560MHz QDR on the 4GB of GDDR5.
Along with that we've also got a reference clocked GTX 680 and a 4GB GTX 680 from Palit alongside a pre-overclocked GTX 680 from Gainward under the Phantom name.
On the AMD side of things we've got the reference clocked GHz Edition of the new HD 7970 and the pre-overclocked 6GB TOXIC version from Sapphire and an overclocked Vapor-X 4GB version also from Sapphire as we want to see just how this overclocked Inno3D GTX 680 can go against the overclocked GHz Edition HD 7970's.
Let's get started, this should be fun!
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
Version and / or Patch Used: 1.1
Developer Homepage: http://www.futuremark.com
Product Homepage: http://www.3dmark.com/3dmark11/
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.
Starting off with 3DMark 11 we can see the Inno3D GTX 680 shoot straight out in front of all our other cards here with a solid 11,000 3DMarks being present.
Moving to the Extreme preset you can again see that the Inno3D card has no problems competing with everything else that is being thrown at it. Let's move onto Heaven to see if the strong performance continues.
Benchmarks - Unigine Heaven Benchmark
Unigine Heaven Benchmark
Version and / or Patch Used: 2.5
Developer Homepage: http://www.unigine.com
Product Homepage: http://unigine.com/press-releases/091022-heaven_benchmark//
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.
Moving into Heaven we again see extremely strong performance with the Inno3D GTX 680 again shooting out ahead of everything else. Of course it doesn't come as a huge surprise that the GTX 680 does well here in this Tessellation heavy benchmark.
We'll see how it goes when we get into the actual gaming side of things.
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: http://www.ubi.com/UK/default.aspx
Product Homepage: http://www.hawxgame.com/
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.
H.A.W.X 2 has always been a good benchmark for NVIDIA cards and you can see again there's no issue for the Inno3D GTX 680 with it coming out ahead of everything at all resolution including the higher 2560 x 1600 one, a resolution that tends to favor AMD Radeon offerings.
Benchmarks - Mafia II
Version and / or Patch Used: Latest Steam Update
Timedemo or Level Used: Built in Benchmark
Developer Homepage: http://www.2kczech.com/
Product Homepage: http://www.mafia2game.com/
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.
Looking at Mafia II performance this is the first time we see the Inno3D GTX 680 get a loss as it falls 4 FPS behind our overclocked HD 7970 GHz Edition cards at the highest resolution.
Below that, though, we can see it manages to outperform both models at 1920 x 1200 and 1680 x 1050.
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: http://www.capcom.com/
Product Homepage: http://www.lostplanet2game.com/
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."
Lost Planet 2 performance is extremely strong across the board and you can see we've got playable numbers across the board. More importantly we can see the Inno3D GTX 680 again performs ahead of everything else here including the overclocked HD 7970s.
Benchmarks - Aliens vs. Predator
Aliens vs. Predator
Version and / or Patch Used: Standalone Benchmark
Timedemo or Level Used: Built in Benchmark
Developer Homepage: http://www.rebellion.co.uk/
Product Homepage: http://www.sega.com/games/aliens-vs-predator/
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.
Aliens vs. Predator sees our overclocked HD 7970 GHz Edition cards come out ahead here which doesn't come as a huge surprise since we've seen the GTX 600 series not perform extremely well under this benchmark.
The important thing to note, though, is that we're able to break the 60 FPS barrier at 2560 x 1600 which is something we see most GTX 680s struggle with.
Benchmarks - Just Cause 2
Just Cause 2
Version and / or Patch Used: 188.8.131.52
Timedemo or Level Used: Dark Tower
Developer Homepage: http://www.eidos.com/
Product Homepage: http://www.justcause.com/
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.
Moving over to Just Cause 2 we've got very strong performance and at 1920 x 1200 we can see that performance between the Inno3D GTX 680 and overclocked HD 7970 GHz Edition cards is very close while moving to 2560 x 1600 we see the latter offerings come out ahead. Overall, though, we've got playable numbers at all resolutions.
Benchmarks - Metro 2033
Version and / or Patch Used: Latest Steam Update
Timedemo or Level Used: Built in Benchmark
Developer Homepage: http://www.4a-games.com/
Product Homepage: http://www.thqnordic.com/
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. In March 2006, 4A Games announced a partnership with Glukhovsky to collaborate on the game. The game was announced at the 2009 Games Convention in Leipzig; a first trailer came along with the announcement. A sequel was announced, currently titled Metro: Last Light.
Metro 2033 paints a similar picture to what we've seen out of our other intensive benchmarks. At 1920 x 1200 and 1680 x 1050 we can see the Inno3D GTX 680 when overclocked has no issue coming out ahead of the competition. When we move to 2560 x 1600, though, we can see it falls slightly behind with the Inno3D GTX 680 coming out just 4 FPS behind the HD 7970 GHz Edition TOXIC.
More importantly, though, we can see that we're able to break the 60 FPS mark again. Like Aliens vs. Predator; the 60 FPS barrier is something that the GTX 680 tends to have trouble with at 2560 x 1600, but not with this Inno3D model when in its overclocked state.
Benchmarks - Dirt 3
Version and / or Patch Used: Latest Steam Update
Timedemo or Level Used: Built in Benchmark
Developer Homepage: http://www.codemasters.com/
Product Homepage: http://www.dirt3game.com/
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.
Dirt 3 performance across the board is extremely strong and for the most part you can see we're battling it out with the overclocked HD 7970s. We again see the GTX 680 fall slightly behind at the highest resolution, but we're fortunately ahead of that 60 FPS mark that we always aim for that provides a smooth gaming experience.
Benchmarks - Far Cry 2
Far Cry 2
Version and / or Patch Used: 1.01
Timedemo or Level Used: Ranch Long
Developer Homepage: http://www.ubi.com/
Product Homepage: http://www.farcry2.com/
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.
Here we see strong performance as you'd expect across the board and it's clear that no matter what resolution you're playing at you won't have an issue playing Far Cry 2 at any resolution with this video card.
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.
Getting into the AA side of things you can see we've got some great FPS at 1920 x 1200 under Mafia II, but when we move to 2560 x 1500, we fall just below that 60 FPS mark by a single FPS while the overclocked HD 7970 GHz Edition cards manage to sneak just ahead of that 60 FPS number.
We manage to just scrap in that 60 FPS mark at 1920 x 1200, but moving to 2560 x 1600 our numbers are way too low to provide a solid gaming experience.
Far Cry 2 numbers are good at both resolutions and you can see we're sitting in line with our overclocked GHz Edition cards at 2560 x 1600 while we're ahead at the lower 1920 x 1200 resolution.
Metro 2033 look good at 1920 x 1200, but like all our other cards here we fall behind the 60 FPS number at 2560 x 1600. Compared to the GHz Edition cards you can see at 1920 x 1200 we're a solid 9 - 11 FPS behind with our GTX 680.
Just Cause numbers look good and you can see like the HD 7970 GHz Edition TOXIC card from Sapphire we're able to just sneak in a 61 FPS number at 2560 x 1600. Overall you can see we're very close to our AMD offerings here.
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.
If there was one area that we would hope this GTX 680 would do well in it's the temperature one and you can see the Inno3D even when overclocked puts out some awesome numbers.
While we're sitting a little warm at idle you can see when under load this is the second coolest running video card here with the low-end HD 7750 being the only card to come in cooler. It's great to see that the cooler that Inno3D has opted for performs so darn well. Let's hope it doesn't come at the cost of noise.
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).
Noise was one area that we thought the Inno3D GTX 680 iChill Black Series Accelero Hybrid 4GB might fail in due to the fact we're dealing with two fans, one on the radiator and a second on the video card itself.
Looking above, though, you can see it's not an issue as the numbers show that it runs very quiet. When you consider the amount of power that it puts out as well, it's really quite amazing how cool and quiet this video card runs.
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.
Power draw on the card is really strong as well coming in at an even 450 watts under load. Considering we're overclocked and added a water cooling pump into the mix I really thought we'd be dealing with a bit more power draw.
You can see, though, we're below the GHz Edition cards when overclocked which is really a testament to the power draw for the GTX 680.
This is just a fantastic NVIDIA GEFORCE GTX 680 video card. I don't think there's really any other way to put it and it really surprised us in a couple of areas. AIO water cooling solutions don't always have the best name, but you can see that this option clearly does its job, and very well. The noise levels are simply fantastic which is great news considering we're dealing with two extra fans.
The best news comes from the temperature side of things. Of course you hope that solutions like this will put out some of the best numbers when it comes to cooling, but it's not always the case. Looking at the numbers, though, you can see we've got some awesome figures with the card being the second coolest cards we've tested to date. The only card that runs cooler is a low-end Radeon HD 7750 and that's only 3c cooler - amazing performance!
When it comes to the performance side of things the card is strong, but like other GTX 680's, it's plagued with issues at the highest resolution of 2560 x 1600. While some would blame the amount of memory on the card you can see that even with 4GB on the Inno3D offering, it falls behind. The issue isn't the amount of memory, but the fact that NVIDIA opted for a 256-bit memory bus while AMD offer a wider 384-bit bus. It's the biggest downfall when it comes to the GTX 680 and we would've loved to have seen them make it wider as I think it would've gave them a clear win over AMD at every resolution.
Considering the GTX 680 has been a bit quiet lately it's great to see Inno3D come out with something that clearly stands out from the pack in a big way. The problem is at the moment we don't know the price tag that is associated with the model and we know that it's not going to be cheap. Considering the amount of power this model puts out, though, and the efficiency of the cooler, the price is going to be easily justified for consumers who have the money to spend.
Having a high-end card that runs as quiet and cool as the Inno3D GTX 680 iChill Black Series Accelero Hybrid 4GB is a rarity and that means it's going to be expensive. And when you also consider the fact that Inno3D have taken the time to double the amount of GDDR5 memory, that's also going to bring a premium.
We're not sure how many of these cards Inno3D will sell because of the associated cost, but we're sure they're not going to be producing them like a normal GTX 680. If you're after a video card that is powerful and also is quiet and runs cool, this Inno3D video card should be at the top of your list.
Inno3D has done a fantastic job here making sure that the GTX 680 continues to stay relevant in a time where AMD are pushing out new variations to take the spot light off NVIDIA. This is easily one of the best, if not the best, NVIDIA GEFORCE GTX 680 video cards we've reviewed.
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