Silent and Powerful
In March we got a preview of the Asus’ offering of Nvidia’s GTX 680 graphics card. Needless to say, we couldn’t get our hand on it. It’s been a few months but Asus finally lent us a review unit. But not just any review unit, we got the Asus GTX680-DC2T-2GD5 DirectCU II TOP which uses Asus’ DirectCU II cooling system to keep the heat in line.
Using Nvidia’s top of the line single GPU card and Asus’ DirectCU II cooler, we were expecting a lot GTX680-DC2T-2GD5. It didn’t disappoint.
There is a lot to talk about the Kepler architecture which the GRX 680 is based on. New features such as Adaptive V-Sync, FXAA and TXAA, and GPU Boost are the most notable.
GPU Boost is essentially Turbo Boost for graphics cards. What this means is that the GTX 680 will dynamically overclock itself if it detects that it still hasn’t reached its maximum TDP (temp). For example, when playing a relatively old game, that game won’t be pushing the GTX 680 to its maximum. This means that the card isn’t hitting its maximum TDP. What GPU Boost will do is ramp up the card, raising the clock speeds until it reaches the TDP mark. This should in essence give you higher performance when gaming.
Adaptive V-Sync dynamically turns V-Sync on and off depending on the refresh rate of the monitor. With such high-end cards like the GTX 680, 3D games will tend to go past the refresh rate of a monitor. This tends to show screen tearing which breaks the images of the games because the monitor can’t handle the fast output of the graphics card. The solution to this is to turn on V-Sync or Vertical Sync. V-Sync also has its disadvantages. When V-Sync is on, the refresh rate is synchronized by multiples of the refresh rate set. This means that when you have a refresh rate of 60, if the frames of a game drop even a couple of frames below that, card will automatically drop the frames to the next multiple of 60, which is 30FPS. This leads to a dramatic slowdown and stuttering when gaming.
Nvidia developed Adaptive V-Sync which enables V-Sync when the FPS goes above the refresh rate set by the user of the display and then turns it off when it detects the FPS goes below the refresh rate set. The result is smooth graphics with no stuttering and image tearing.
As for FXAA and TXAA, these Anti-Aliasing algorithms were developed to alleviate the additional processing to make the graphics smoother. What this means is that you get the same image quality as with MSAA but using less resources. While TXAA needs to be integrated by the developer, FXAA, on the other hand, can be used even if the game isn’t designed for FXAA.
The card itself is big. Because of the DirectCU II cooling system, the whole card takes up three PCI slots. This is a significant consideration especially when you have limited space in your PC case or you intend to use two GTX680-DC2T-2GD5 DirectCU II TOP in SLI mode.
After testing a lot of graphics card, you tend to appreciate cards have a well-designed cooling system. Asus’ DirectCU II cooler is one of those cooling system that maintains the temperature of the card even when overclocked as well as being quiet.
The GTX680-DC2T-2GD5 is already overclocked out of the box at 1201MHz for the GPU and 6008MHz for the Memory Clock. Reference GTX 680 is only clocked at 1006MHz. With the Asus Tuning software installed, you can select Gaming mode which further overclocks the GPU and Memory Clocks a bit further at 1221MHz and 6048MHz respectively.
However, we wanted more. We were able to push the GPU clock from 1201MHz to 1281MHz and the memory clock from 6008MHz to 6108MHz. Anything beyond those clocks, the driver on our Windows test bed would crash.
Speaking of the tests, we used our usual synthetic tests and games to test the card.
For the synthetic benchmarks, we used 3DMark Vantage, 3DMark 11, and Unigine Heaven. All three benchmarks were tested at Stock, Gaming, and Overclocked settings. With 3DMark Vantage, we used both Performance and Extreme benchmarks.
As you can see from the charts above, we gained around 2.47% performance in Unigine Heaven as well as gaining significant points in both 3DMark benchmarks.
However, it in the actual games that we can judge the performance of the GTX 680. We used Street Fighter IV, Battlefield 3, Batman: Arkham Asylum, and Dirt 2 as our test games where we used the internal benchmarks for all but Battlefield 3 where we used Fraps. We tested with 1680×1250 resolution and at maximum graphical settings on all the games.
|Street Fighter IV||Stock||Gaming||Overclocked|
|Batman: AA||Stock:No PhysX||Stock:PhysX Hi||Gaming||OC’d:No PhysX||OC’d:PhysX Hi|
In all but Dirt 2, we see an increase of about 1% to 3% from the stock speeds when overclocked. However, we see an anomaly with Dirt 2 as we noticed a dip in performance when overclocked. This is almost a 3% dip from stock.
Overall, the Asus GTX680-DC2T-2GD5 DirectCU II TOP has met and exceeded our expectations. Adaptive V-Sync is definitely noticeable and a very much appreciated feature and PhysX as well for games that support it.
The Asus GTX680-DC2T-2GD5 DirectCU II TOP costs PhP26,950.
Plus: Adaptive V-Sync, Performance; PhysX
Minus: Expensive, Big
Bottomline: If you have money burning in your pocket, the Asus GTX680-DC2T-2GD5 DirectCU II TOP is definitely a buy. You get the power of the Nvidia GTX 680 while still having a relatively quiet system with Asus’ DirectCU II cooling system.