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Review: NVIDIA GeForce GTX 680
by Damien Triolet
Published on April 9, 2012

After three months of Radeon domination, NVIDIA owed it to itself to react! It has now done so with the GeForce GTX 680, introducing the first Kepler generation GPU and looking to surpass the Radeon HD 7970 without sending power consumption through the roof.

GK100? GK104? GK110? Where’s the big one?
AMD and NVIDIA usually launch the biggest GPU of a new family first. This GPU then serves as the flagship release for the rest of the range. This launch, however, is an exception!

We’ll probably never know exactly why this has happened as NVIDIA isn’t in the habit of speaking about products that haven’t been announced but which have been cancelled or delayed, but it does look very much as if the GeForce designer was forced by some issue or another to review its initial plan and cancel or delay the release of the biggest GPU in the Kepler family, which should now see the light of day later in the year under the codename GK110.

We imagine that NVIDIA decided to be pragmatic about the situation and not make the same mistakes it made with Fermi, a generation on which the release of the biggest GPU, the GF100, caused quite a few problems. If they were having issues with the big GPU, it no doubt made more sense to focus on a smaller one, especially as this particular one seemed so promising. NVIDIA therefore decided to focus first on the GK104, successor to the GF114 used on the GeForce GTX 560 Ti.

The GK104 and its 3.5 billion transistors.

Does this mean NVIDIA has had to review its ambitions to take back top spot in terms of performance? This is probably what the company thought at first but after seeing how the Radeon HD 7970 performed, it will have become clear that although giving a very good showing, the Radeon didn't represent as big a jump on the previous generation as all that, with AMD rather focussing its resources on laying the foundations of an architecture looking towards the future, notably in terms of GPU Computing. NVIDIA will have thought that the HD 7970 could therefore be in reach of the GK104, designed simply to offer optimal efficiency in video games.

The company then presumably worked hand over fist to try to offer a GeForce GTX 680 based on a full and highly clocked version of this GPU. Along with additional work to optimise drivers, it would aim to put the Radeon HD 7970 under pressure, making for a tight battle in prospect!

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