GIGABYTE GTX 680 Super Overclocked Edition Review

The GIGABYTE GTX 680 Super Overclock Edition supports one of the fastest factory overclocks on the market. GIGABYTE also outfitted this video card with a massive heatsink and a new fan design. We will be testing it against the GeForce GTX 680, Radeon HD 7970 GHz Edition, and the highly overclocked MSI GTX 680 Lightning.

Introduction

GIGABYTE is a hardware manufacturer and one of the most respected PC component builders in the business today. The company was established in 1986 in Taipei, Taiwan, and is best known for its motherboards. Gigabyte has a vast product line, including motherboards, graphics cards, notebooks, LCDs, mobile devices, tablet computers, computer cases, and many other PC peripherals.

Today we will be looking at GIGABYTE's new flagship video card, the GIGABYTE GTX 680 Super Overclock Edition video card (GVN680SO-2GD) which is currently online for $619. This beast is costly, so let's see if it is worth that high price.

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NVIDIA GeForce GTX 680

NVIDIA released its new GeForce GTX 680, code-named "Kepler" on March 22nd, 2012. The Kepler "GK104" architecture is much like its Fermi predecessor. The GeForce GTX 680 has 8 SMX clusters which each have 192 CUDA cores inside and a control logic which has a reduced size. The GPU is built using 28nm technology.

The GeForce GTX 680 itself is comprised of 3.54 billion transistors packed into 1536 CUDA cores with a default clock speed of 1006MHz. The GeForce GTX 680 also has a boost clock which it will increase to during graphically demanding applications and guarantees at least 1058MHz. There are a total of 8 geometry units and 128 texture units, along with 32 ROPs. This video card also uses the new PolyMorph 2.0 Engine which NVIDIA claims has 4x the tessellation performance of the Radeon HD 7970.

The GeForce GTX 680 is designed to be paired with 2GB of GDDR5 memory on a 256-bit bus, running at 1502MHz for a 6.0Gbps data rate and a maximum theoretical bandwidth of 192.2GB per second. The typical board power is 195W which will work with the advanced diagnostics to create more efficient and lower overall power consumption, with extra power available when needed. A standard GeForce GTX 680 only requires two 6-pin PCI-E connectors. It can support up to 4 displays on a single video card, with a Dual Link DVI-I connector, a Dual Link DVI-D connector, one HDMI connector and one DisplayPort connector.


GIGABYTE GTX 680 Super Overclock Edition

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The GIGABYTE GTX 680 Super Overclock (SOC) Edition card comes fully loaded with what we except from a gaming video card. It is tied with the ASUS GTX 680 DirectCU II TOP video card for the fastest factory overclock available on a GeForce GTX 680. GIGABYTE is also introducing the Windforce 5X anti-turbulence cooling system.

As we mentioned, the GIGABYTE GTX 680 SOC Edition comes with the fastest factory overclock available on a GTX 680. It is configured to run at 1137MHz on the GPU Core, an increase of 131MHz compared to a reference GTX 680 that runs at 1006MHz. The GPU Boost frequency runs at 1202MHz which is an increase of 144MHz compared to the reference GTX 680's 1058MHz GPU Boost frequency. The memory is 48MHz faster than a reference GTX 680's speed of 1502MHz (6GHz GDDR5), letting it run at 1550MHz (6.2GHz GDDR5). With the new and improved cooling system we should be able to get a strong manual overclock.

The Windforce 5X Anti-Turbulence cooling system uses several new concepts. The most noticeable of these is the massive 3 slot heatsink fitted on the front of the video card. This provides a large surface area for the heat to spread to. The next component of the cooling system are the fans. GIGABYTE uses 5 small fans placed along the top edge of the GIGABYTE GTX 680 SOC Edition. You would think these fans would blow the air across the finned heat sink, but instead these pull air off of the video card and blow it into the case, to be exhausted by case fans. There are also 9, 6mm copper heat pipes that extend from the copper vapor chamber contacting the GPU, 5 of these on the I/O panel side, and 4 more opposite. These smaller fans are also meant to create less noise than traditional turbine fans, or 2-3 fan cooling systems.

GIGABYTE is most well known for its quality motherboards. It has implemented the Ultra Durable components onto the GIGABYTE GTX 680 SOC Edition. Some of these include the Proadlizer 4 capacitor chips which have lower power loss than standard capacitors. The GIGABYTE GTX 680 SOC Edition also uses Tier 1 Samsung and Hynix memory. The components on this board will help deliver cleaner and more consistent power to the GPU, provide cooler temperatures, and extend the life of the video card. GIGABYTE also included a one-touch dual BIOS switch on the board. There is the default Super Overclock BIOS and an LN2 (Liquid Nitrogen cooling) BIOS. By pressing the LN2 BIOS is there to help avoid cold bugs at extremely low temperatures.

The GIGABYTE GTX 680 SOC Edition is the second most expensive GeForce GTX 680 video card available on Newegg, priced at $619.99. Newegg also has a promotion going on for a coupon to download Borderlands 2 for free, a $60 dollar value. You can read more about the GIGABYTE GTX 680 Super Overclock Edition's specifications here.

GIGABYTE GTX 680 Super Overclock Edition Pictures

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As mentioned the GIGABYTE GTX 680 SOC Edition video card will take up 3 slots in your case. The card is all black, on a black PCB. There is an aluminum cover on the front of the video card that protects the finned heatsink. The back of the GIGABYTE GTX 680 SOC Edition is also covered by an aluminum plate, which is meant to protect mounted components.

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There is an opening along the top of the video card where you can look behind the aluminum cover and see the copper heat pipes extending from the GPU. The "Xtreme" button on the video card determines the BIOS that the video card will be running. With the button in the default Super Overclock BIOS the button will be lit up red. After pressing the button and enabling the LN2 BIOS the button turns blue.

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The rear I/O panel houses a Dual-Link DVI-I connector, a Dual-Link DVI-D connector, an HDMI connector, and a DisplayPort connector. On top of the GIGABYTE GTX 680 SOC Edition are the 5 small fans that pull heat off the video card. The top of the video card also houses the power connectors, which require two 8-pin PCI-E power adaptors and a minimum 650 Watt power supply to run correctly. The GIGABYTE GTX 680 SOC Edition measures 11.5 inches long, 2.5 inches wide, and 4.75 inches high.