So far we've seen a couple of modified GTX680s, from Gigabyte and Zotac, that have shown how much performance can be gained from the Kepler core when you tweak it a little.
Knowing that the heat isn't too much of an issue the coolers have been geared towards silence rather than providing particularly frosty temperatures, although they have done that too.
So with a couple of cards in the books it's time to take a look at the next model from MSI equipped with their excellent Twin Frozr III cooler, the MSI GTX680 TF3 OC.
By now you're all aware of what the GTX680 brings to the table, so let's crack on with seeing what the MSI version has under its belt.
The MSI GTX680 is the slowest clocked of the three cards we've seen so far. Admittedly we're only talking a handful of MHz, and the Gigabyte proved that speed isn't everything, but still it's worth noting. Otherwise it's business as usual, so let's take a moment to have a look at the card.
|Graphics Engine||GeForce GTX 680|
|Bus Standard||PCI Express x16 3.0|
|Memory Interface||256 bits|
|Core Clock Speed(MHz)||1058 (Boost Clock: 1124)|
|Memory Clock Speed(MHz)||6008 (3004x2)|
|Texture Fill Rate(billion/sec)||N/A|
|Display Output (Max Resolution)||2560x1600|
|DirectX Version Support||11|
|OpenGL Version Support||4.2|
|Card Dimension(mm)||270x129x38.75 mm|
If ever a card demonstrated the versatility of the Twin Frozr cooler, it's the GTX680. Considering we first saw this many models ago, the fact it's still capable of being utilised on the very latest high-end GPUs is a testament to the excellent design.
The Twin Frozr is one of the more attractive coolers around, and those giant heatpipes make us smile in anticipation. It's nice to see a dark PCB as well after the gaudy blue on the Gigabyte.
MSI have also kept the 6+6 stacked PCIe power arrangement we saw on the reference nVidia card.
Of course heatpipes mean nothing if you haven't got decent fans to help move the air around, and the Twin Frozr 3 has a pair of 80mm PWM fans keeping it all cool.
At the business end things remain standard with a couple of DVIs, a DisplayPort and an HDMI.
MSI GTX680 Twin Frozr 3 OC
Intel Core i7-3960X @ 4.6GHz
ASUS Rampage IV Extreme
Noctua NF-F12 Fans
Windows 7 Ultimate x64
Of course it wouldn't be much cop if we didn't see how much extra performance was available to us, and the MSI slides neatly in to second place of our overclocks, behind the Zotac AMP! but ahead of the Gigabyte Windforce.
We've often said how good the Twin Frozr cooler is, and rarely has a clearer demonstration been had. Even in this sweltering heat it's the coolest GTX680 we've seen.
3D Mark Vantage
Being so dependant upon clock speeds it's not surprising to see the MSI just edge into second place at stock, and share the spoils when overclocked in Vantage. Although to be honest when you're talking about a couple of hundred points from nearly forty-thousand, who cares?
3D Mark 11
Things switch around a little in 3D Mark 11, the MSI being only in third at stock but doing slightly better when overclocked. We're still only dealing with a handful of points though, as all the GTX680s are very close.
Alien vs Predator
Starting off with the pretty old AvP, the MSI slides into third spot behind the Gigabyte, with the Zotac romping off into the distance. Relatively of course.
Batman Arkham City
If the stock results bear out how tight the performance of the latest GPUs is, the big impressive result here is the overclock when combined with the latest Forceware drivers. We finally, and it's taken some months, see an average result of over 60FPS.
From the heights of Batman Arkham City, we return to normal with Battlefield 3 and the MSI GTX680TF3 sliding neatly between the Gigabyte and the Zotac. Although it's worth noting how far ahead the Zotac AMP! is, we also have to bear in mind the excellent performance we saw from the overclocked GTX670.
A change of game but the result remains the same. The MSI is consistently good, but just shy of the Zotac AMP!.
I have to confess that I haven't a clue what is going on here. So far we've had one strange result in all of our GTX680 reviews and today it's the turn of Dirt 3. Perhaps it knows that Dirt Showdown has been released and it's trying to show off. Either way there is no explanation for why we're getting such an insane score here.
Far Cry 2
It's clear that the latest version of the nVidia drivers has provided an enormous boost in Far Cry 2. What started with an amazing result in the GTX670 test has continued with the MSI GTX680. Impressive stuff.
Thankfully after a couple of bizarre results, things get back to normal with Mafia 2 and the MSI slots back in to its customary second place with the stock results being good and the overclocked result giving a nice performance boost.
Metro 2033 is as reliable as ever, being pretty average on nVidia cards. Hopefully when Last Light finally appears on the scene the developers have taken note of this and upgraded the engine to work well on a single GPU.
Resident Evil 5 - DX9
In the DirectX 9 version of Resident Evil 5, the MSI is neck and neck with the Gigabyte, but still in the shade of the Zotac AMP!
Resident Evil 5 - DX10
The results remain the same in DirectX 10 mode, with the MSI neck and neck with the Gigabyte card. nVidia have certainly got a very stable GPU that performs well no matter what cooler is on top.
Back to the benchmarking, and the MSI GTX680 TF3 is very very close to the Windforce, and of course ahead of the stock nVidia card.
Increasing the levels of image quality doesn't change the result. Moving on.
The Witcher 2
Now we've finally managed to download the enormous Witcher 2 Enhanced patch, it's back on the menu. Any belief about optimisation is swiftly put to bed as the results at disappointing at stock, and right on the money when the MSI is overclocked.
It seems clear that the days when a manufacturer could take a reference GPU and completely reinvent it are over. Such is the incredible quality, and coolness, of the standard nVidia card that it's very difficult for a partner to bring something particularly new to the table.
Sure you can give it a factory overclock and get a few extra frames per second and that's all well and good. Also you can stick an alternative cooler on it, which helps the noise a little thanks to the larger fans. Except the stock card is cool enough that your overclock isn't really thermally limited, at least at the levels most of us will be attempting.
And that's about it.
Specifically the MSI looks good because the Twin Frozr cooler always looks good. Unlike the Windforce it actually looks like it was designed for the card rather than bolted on from the parts bin. The Twin Frozr 3 cooler is as quiet and capable as it's always been, and there is a lot to be said for something just working, even if it's in an unflashy manner that doesn't allow for 'new and improved' advertising blurb. We'd much rather have something tried and tested. MSI have wisely retained the 6+6 PCIe power arrangement that the Kepler GPU was designed to utilise. The factory overclock is decent, and the card manually overclocks pretty well.
Having tested three partner cards now it's fairly clear that the Zotac AMP! is, if anything, better than we originally thought it was. The Gigabyte Windforce is the weakest of the bunch, but only just, and the MSI is slightly more consistent, but really you would be fine with any GTX680 based card, even if the GTX670 has really taken a chunk out of the potential market for the full-fat GPU.
We're happy to award the MSI GTX680 Twin Frozr 3 our OC3D Silver Award, and also add to the fact that out of the GTX680's we have tested so far from Vendors this would be the one we would personally all choose just because it is so quiet, temps are great and its probably the best looking of the bunch too.
Thanks to MSI for providing the GTX680 Twin Frozr 3 OC for review. Discuss in our forums.