We've taken a look at a few factory upgraded GTX680s, from the Windforce to the AMP!. Today it's time to take a look at a model that has previously delivered the goods, the Gigabyte Super Over Clock.
The biggest change between this card and the normal third-party variants is a rather unique take upon the cooling solution, which we'll get to on the next page.
By now you all know what to expect from a GTX680, so let us get down to the nitty gritty.
Out of the box the SOC comes with a 121MHz overclock on the base, and 144MHz on the boost, when compared to the reference card. Considering we got our reference card to overclock past that we're hoping for big things from this Super Over Clock model.
|Chipset||GeForce GTX 680|
|Core Clock||Base clock: 1137 MHz |
Boost clock: 1202 MHz
|Memory Clock||6200 MHz|
|Process Technology||28 nm|
|Memory Bus||256 bit|
|Card Bus||PCI-E 3.0|
|Digital max resolution||2560 x 1600|
|Analog max resolution||2048 x 1536|
|Card size||H= 64mm, L=303 mm, W=148 mm|
|Power requirement||650 W|
There is no doubt about what we have here, the Super Over Clock logo dominating an otherwise nicely understated box. Inside we're not overwhelmed with accessories, just the standard manual and driver we're used to seeing in every graphics card.
The big news is the cooler. A gigantic triple-slot affair that is devoid of fans on the front but rather has five 40mm ones on the side. Considering that we all left such small fans back in the 90s it's extremely surprising to find them utilised here.
The heatsink part of the card is as massive as you would expect. Not limited in size because of the need to have fans in their usual place, the heatsink is three slots deep. It's not only the depth of the card that is surprising. With the addition of the fans on the edge the whole thing is about the biggest GPU we've ever seen.
As with all GTX680s the Gigabyte SOC is power hungry with two 8pin PCIe inputs keeping the Kepler GPU supplied with all the juice it needs. A rather hopeful two SLI fingers are available. With such an enormous card you haven't a hope of using both of them, unless you own some theoretical motherboard from the future. Finally we have a button to switch between the two available BIOS, so you can overclock to the limits, safe in the knowledge you have a stable one to fall back on.
Gigabyte GTX680 Super Over Clock
Intel Core i7-3960X @ 4.6GHz
ASUS Rampage IV Extreme
Corsair Dominator Platinum
Corsair Neutron GTX
Windows 7 Ultimate x64
Given the name of the card, and all those fancy features, we'd expect a serious overclock and we just don't get one. Certainly the GDDR5 can handle a hefty boost, but the Kepler GPU itself barely manages an extra 43MHz. Hugely disappointing.
So the big question is, does this elephantine cooler actually give us mega cooling performance?
No. It's 6° hotter than the MSI Twin Frozr 3, and 5° hotter than the Zotac AMP!. Not only that but the stock temperatures are toasty too, reaching the levels of the overclocked reference card.
Not exactly an auspicious start. Hopefully the performance will be better.
Thankfully after the poor showing in overclocking and temperatures, the SOC picks up the pace in 3D Mark. Both Vantage and 3D Mark 11 see it ahead of the other 680s we've tested, albeit by a small fraction. The biggest improvement as always is in the Performance score and once the detail is increased with the Extreme preset things narrow considerably.
3D Mark Vantage
3D Mark 11
In the dark depths of space the SOC fits in between the Gigabyte and Zotac, with a couple of frames gained and lost respectively.
Batman Arkham City
With the Caped Crusader the beats all the other GTX680s that we've tested, although with the overclock in place the minimum frame-rate drops considerably.
We obtain a good result in Crysis 2, with the SOC performing well both out of the box and with our mild overclock in place. Surprisingly the reference card is the best performer here.
Dirt 3 is nothing if not an inconsistent performer. Probably best that we move on to the next benchmark.
Far Cry 2
If Dirt3 is inconsistent then we don't know what to make of Far Cry 2 either. Both the MSI and SOC offerings are miles ahead of where the other results indicate they should be. However, between those two the SOC does just edge ahead.
It's surprising how little extra performance we get from the overclock. Although it's a mild overclock you'd imagine that such a gentle game as Mafia 2 would see more than a single frame improvement in minimum frame-rate.
Metro is well known around here for its relatively poor performance on nVidia cards. Thankfully it's consistently poor, so it's actually a very useful comparison test. As it is the SOC is around the same performance level of the Windforce and even the stock nVidia card. It's also about 3 FPS behind the Zotac AMP!, which in Metro 2033 might as well be a mile.
Resident Evil 5
Thanks to the excellent engine that underpins the last proper Resident Evil game, the frame-rates are excellent on everything. The Gigabyte Super Over Clock matches the Zotac as the best of the GTX680s we've put through their paces.
With the anti-aliasing off the SOC follows the results we saw in the Performance 3D Mark tests, with the card being a shade better than the other GTX680s we've tested.
For all the extra bells and whistles that have been given to the SOC since we saw the Windforce a few months ago, we have to say that they don't really make much of a difference to the final performance.
The Witcher 2
There isn't a sterner test in our arsenal, or indeed the world, than The Witcher 2. The looks match the requirements though and it's as "next-gen" as anything you'll ever see. In keeping with what seems to be the theme of our review, the SOC just doesn't light up the world.
One of the very cool things about the current generation of graphics cards for end users is that even the bog standard specification models have huge performance. Of course this does mean that the thriving industry of big companies pumping out pre-overclocked cards with a much quieter cooler is somewhat in danger. At the very least they need to have enormous benefits to justify the extra cost. The last time we saw a Super Over Clock it was definitely worthy of the extra money, being probably the finest GTX580 around.
The same can't be said for the GTX680 SOC. There is one thing about the card that you first notice when you look at the pictures of it, and especially so when you hold it in your hand, and that's the unique (as far as we can recall) cooling solution.
We demand three things from our coolers. In descending order of importance, quiet, cool (duh) and good looking. So let's start with the noise. It has 5 40mm fans on it. Expectations are for something that would run a Delta close. As it is the cooler isn't as loud as it looks like it will be, but that's hardly saying much. No matter what you do with power management tweaks there is only so much that you can reduce the decibel level and under load this is a lot louder than even the reference cooler. So with one black mark against it, maybe it's at least good at cooling? Nope. It's cooler than the default nVidia model, and also cooler than the Windforce although that wasn't exactly designed for the PCB. So when we compare it to designs that were created for the GTX680, the MSI Twin Frozr and the Zotac AMP! we find the SOC is not only considerably louder, but 6°C hotter too under load. At idle it's even worse. The card is quiet but well over 40°C.
Finally the looks. Not only is it a triple slot cooler, but with the addition of the fans on the side its positively gigantic. Definitely not for those with a small case. Or a medium case. We don't remember any GTX680 having heat issues, so why the big cooler? It looks rubbish, like a bodge job put together by someone who couldn't afford proper fans. It's too hot, and too noisy. Impossible to recommend and quite how it saw the light of day is beyond us.
Performance is pretty good, especially out of the box. If there is one thing the GTX680 SOC has got it's a great overclock. It doesn't leave us much headroom to squeeze anything extra out. Sure we might have lost the silicon lottery with our model, but again when you're laying down the thick end of £500 you'd expect to be limited only by thermals and power. As we've seen through our testing, as you ramp up the image quality the SOC isn't quite capable of delivering the highest scores. It's by no means disgraced, but just not quite as accomplished as the Zotac AMP! and certainly not the same quality of all-rounder.
This reminds us very much of the ASUS Matrix. The card performs well in spite of the many additions rather than because of them thanks to the excellent underlying GPU. All the extra bits and bobs do nothing to enhance the product at all and just drive the price up. An unbranded GTX680 will serve you as well and if you demand something with a bit more flash and flair then grab the Zotac AMP!. Normally we'd give this a bronze thanks to the quality of the Kepler GPU, but that cooler is such an abomination, so wholly without a redeeming feature, that we'd be doing both you, and the commitment to excellence we stand for, a disservice to do so.
Thanks to Gigabyte for supplying the GTX680 Super Over Clock for review. Discuss it in the OC3D Forums.