These are great times to be someone who loves hardware. With the release of the HD7970 AMD stole the Fastest Single GPU Crown from nVidia, who swiftly responded with the GTX680 and now, much like the UK Government, we have both companies sharing the title.
On test today is our first of the factory overclocked variants of the GTX680, the Zotac GTX680 AMP! Edition.
As many of you know from previous versions, the AMP! has always been one of the better hardcore cards around, with an excellent cooler and usually a pretty decent overclock too. So of course we have to see if the GTX680 keeps up this trend.
The first thing you notice is the 105MHz overclock on the GPU, and effective 600MHz overclock on the GDDR5. Considering that the GTX680 is no slouch anyway, this should really kick the performance up another notch.
|Interface||PCI Express 3.0* x16 (Compatible with 1.1)|
|GPU||GeForce® GTX 680|
|Core clock||1111 MHz (base) - 1176 MHz (boost)|
|Shader Clock||2222 MHz|
|Memory Clock||6608 MHz|
|Memory Size||2 GB|
|DVI||2 (DVI-I & DVI-D)|
|VGA||(With included DVI-to-VGA adapter)|
|Max Resolution||2560 x 1600|
|SLI Supported||Yes (3-way)|
|Dual-Link DVI Supported||Yes|
|Windows® 7 Capability||Certified for Windows® 7 with DirectCompute support|
|Game Bundle||ZOTAC Assassin’s Creed® 3-Game Pack|
The packaging leaves no doubt as to which version of the card you're picking up. The AMP! is writ large and proud, dominating the front of the box, which is resplendent in the usual Zotac black and yellow.
Opening up the box we find the card safely contained in some high density foam. For the accessories it's all fairly standard stuff with adaptors and things, although the inclusion of the Assassin's Creed titles will guarantee a lot of gaming excitement even if it's your first ever GPU and makes a nice change from Dirt 3.
And here she is, positively bristling with vents and heatpipes. Whereas the reference design cooler is a single fan, two-slot affair, this is much larger with two fans, multiple heatpipes and it's two and a half slots wide. Worth noting for those of you thinking of going SLI with a smaller motherboard size.
We considered the GTX680 to be one of the finest reference coolers in a long time, but there is no denying the eye-catching splendour of the AMP!. Swathes of chrome and copper wherever you look. Hopefully the performance will be worth the audaciousness of the Zotac design.
Other than the cooler with it's huge fans and heatpipes spilling out the sides, things are normal at both input and output ends. It still only uses two 6pin PCIe power inputs, and still has the same display output options of the standard card.
Zotac GTX680 AMP! Edition
Intel Core i7-3960X @ 4.6GHz
ASUS Rampage IV Extreme
Noctua NF-F12 Fans
Windows 7 Ultimate x64
Naturally when a card comes out of the box with this level of performance it's difficult to squeeze too much more out and we managed an extra 40MHz at both standard and boost speeds. So we expect the 'stock' results to match our previous overclocked reference card, and the overclocked AMP! to not bring too much to the party. But that's why we test, to find out.
Blimey. If the reference design traded silence for fairly high temperatures, then the sheer surface area of the AMP! shows how cool a GTX680 can be. Not only is it the coolest at idle of any of our cards on test, but it's not far away from being the coolest when under load either. An amazing result, especially when you remember how fast this card is clocked to.
3D Mark Vantage
Starting off with good old 3D Mark, we find the AMP! right on the money out of the gate. Performance is very close to our self-overclocked GTX680, and the little extra overclock we did manage to squeeze out of it gives a suitably small improvement. But a hassle free 40000 P score, and the X score being 500 points above the reference card, certainly have us off to a good start.
3D Mark 11
The result is much the same in 3D Mark 11 with the P score being about the same as our reference card when overclocked, and the biggest boost coming once we move in to the Extreme preset, which is the level of resolution and image quality people will actually use.
Alien vs Predator
AvP actually gives us a few extra frames at both stock and overclocked, and the minimum frame-rate gains the most, pushing through the 60FPS barrier.
Batman Arkham City
Batman Arkham City gives us a very surprising result with the Zotac a long way ahead of everything except the HD7970 OC and the SLI setup, where it's pretty much neck and neck. The minimum frame-rate is where the AMP! really shines, helping to give a smooth experience at all times.
Battlefield 3 follows the pattern of Batman Arkham City, with the Zotac really shining out at nearly 90 and 91 frames per second on average. Some exceptional performance even at these detail settings.
Crysis 2 returns the AMP! to around the level of the reference card, although we do see a slight drop in absolute performance, this is largely to do with the variances in the onscreen action during the testing as much as anything else. Still the reference card was ahead so it's got to be noted.
As we near the end of the Dirt 3 cycle whilst waiting for Dirt 4, the AMP! result is surprising mainly because of how much of an improvement we saw from our little overclock. Even still the AMP! provides a hugely playable experience either out of the box or with an overclock.
Far Cry 2
Renowned for preferring the Radeon cards, the Zotac AMP! makes a good fist of Far Cry 2 with the overclock on both it and the reference GTX680 giving near identical scores.
The AMP! Edition positively ripped through Mafia 2 giving some of the best scores we've seen from a single GPU setup, and easily the best nVidia result in the graph.
The single-GPU limitations of Metro 2033 are well documented, and whilst the HD7970 managed to break through the 40 FPS barrier the nVidia cards still are more limited by the engine than their own performance, and things aren't any different with the Zotac AMP!.
Resident Evil V - DX9
Capcoms famous Zombie shooter has been ported to the PC so well that it's playable on almost anything (even the HD7770 gets over 100FPS) and the Zotac GTX680 AMP! is no exception pushing up close to 180FPS.
Resident Evil V - DX10
The DirectX 10 pathway for Resident Evil V always, oddly, provides a higher average frame-rate than the DirectX 9 version and the AMP! just edges ahead of the reference GTX680.
The Zotac AMP! makes good on its big out of the box overclock to give a magnificent 89FPS average, a not inconsiderable 4FPS improvement over the reference overclocked result.
Increasing the anti-aliasing to the maximum really puts a strain on the system and the Zotac AMP! is up to the challenge giving us around 59 FPS average. If you've ever run the Unigine Heaven benchmark you'll know how impressive this is.
It's fair to say we're big fans of the current graphics card scenario where you really have a choice about which card you wish to go with. The performance between them both is so tight that everyone is a winner.
Indeed we were so impressed with the heatsink and performance from the stock designed GTX680 that we questioned whether a factory overclock/third-party cooler would actually bring much to the party.
With the Zotac AMP! it has two big things going for it. The biggest thing, of course, is the factory overclock. Judging from how little extra we were able to extract it's obvious that Zotac are making the most of their batch of GPUs rather than take the safe "20MHz extra" route that some manufacturers decide upon. We know that not everyone wants to overclock their card and indeed the pre-overclocked cards are very popular. Last time we mentioned this there was some disquiet on the forums, but if factory overclocked cards with a price-premium didn't make manufacturing and sales sense, then companies wouldn't do it. The fact these cards exist mean that they're popular. So if you're going to go with one that has an overclock out of the box, why not go for the one with the most banzai speed? The AMP! is really pushing the abilities of the Kepler GPU.
Overclocking always generates heat, and the AMP! cooler is unbelievable at dispersing that heat. Due to the more open nature of the cooler and the fact it has two fans instead of one, it is a little louder than the reference design. However, the cooling ability more than makes up for this. Not only is it the coolest card in our graph at idle, but is the coolest overclocked card too. The GTX560Ti and Gigabyte HD7970 are a couple of degrees cooler, but that's at stock. Regardless the cooler not only bristles out of the card at every opportunity, but does a handsome job of keeping the GPU frosty.
The only downsides are that you can't overclock it much more than it already is, the cooler is a little louder than the stock one, and obviously you're paying a premium for having the overclocking done for you. Finally the overclocked results are pretty much inseparable from the results you'd get by overclocking a reference card.
So it looks great, performs very well both in temperature and frames-per-second styles, and has the full Assassin's Creed bundle to keep you entertained, and for this reason we're happy to award it our OC3D Silver Award.
Thanks to Zotac for supplying the GTX680 AMP! Edition for review. Discuss in our forums.