NVIDIA Kepler GPU GeForce GTX 680 Video Card Review

The silicon we have all been waiting for is here. NVIDIA is launching its next generation GeForce GTX 680 video card, poised with the new flagship GPU from NVIDIA. Can it compete with AMD's Radeon HD 7970? We were somewhat amazed at how this NVIDIA GPU does when it comes to gaming, pricing, efficiency, and features.

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Mass Effect 3

Released on March 6th, 2012, Mass Effect 3 is the third installment in the widely popular Mass Effect video game series. This action role-playing game is a primarily a third person shooter developed by BioWare and published by Electronic Arts.

We are using the full downloaded version of Mass Effect 3 from Origin with the latest patch update. It is a DX9 game that uses the Unreal 3 Game Engine. We are currently working on a full Gameplay Performance and Image Quality evaluation now so stay tuned for that. Our run-through covers the entire mission at Lesuss Monastery.


Highest Playable Settings - Single Display

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To completely disable VSYNC and turn off the framerate limiter we have to manually edit the configuration INI file. We input the line to disable VSYNC and turn off Min and Max framerate smoothing so that we could achieve the highest possible framerates in this game, otherwise the graph would be nothing but a straight line at 62 FPS.

Mass Effect 3 performs extremely well on all three video cards tested and hardly presents a challenge for these even at 2560x1600. Unfortunately, there aren't many graphics options we can manipulate with Mass Effect 3. If you browse to the default install directory for this game under "Origin Games" you will find a folder called "Binaries." In this folder is an EXE called "MassEffect3Config.exe." This program lets you set a few more options that aren't in the in-game settings. However, these were already turned up to the highest values by default, so we were operating at the highest possible settings this game supports. This game uses shader based AA in the form of FXAA to reduce aliasing. Therefore, the highest, and best method for reducing AA is to go ahead and leave AA turned on in the game so that FXAA is used.

We had no trouble running this game at 2560x1600 on the new GeForce GTX 680, or the Radeon HD 7970. We experienced no glitches or any odd graphic anomalies in this brand new game. We did experience extremely fast performance; performance that was well above what is needed to have a smooth experience in this game. The new GeForce GTX 680 averaged 128 FPS with a minimum of 87 FPS. The AMD Radeon HD 7970 averaged 122.5 FPS with an 83 FPS minimum. Even the GeForce GTX 580 maintained a minimum framerate above 60 FPS. At this level of performance it is draw between the newest video cards. While technically the GTX 680 was "faster" it didn't change the gameplay experience or make it feel any different compared to the Radeon HD 7970.


1920x1200 Apples-to-Apples Performance

We feel it is important to look at performance at 1920x1200 with the GeForce GTX 680 versus the Radeon HD 7970. Every single display gameplay page will look at apples-to-apples performance at 1920x1200. While 1920x1200 is technically higher in resolution than 1920x1080 (1080p) these are rather close, and will give you a good idea about 1080p performance. 1920x1200 is a common 16x10 ratio resolution that is common for displays up to 24" in size.

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For Mass Effect 3 we reduced the resolution to 1920x1200 which gave us even higher, and massively impressive framerates with these high-end video cards.

What we really find interesting is that the difference in performance between the GeForce GTX 680 and Radeon HD 7970 widens at this lower resolution. When we were at 2560x1600 there was a small 4% difference in performance. However, at 1920x1200 the performance difference widens to 9%.