Welcome international readers! This is the English version of a Dutch review on Hardware.Info. Since we are the first to extensively test a Quad-SLI configuration of nVidia's brand new GeForce GTX 680, we wanted to make these exciting results available to a wider audience. Enjoy!
Yesterday, nVidia introduced the GeForce GTX 680. Our Dutch readers can click here to read our in-depth review. One question we did not yet answer - what kind of performance can you expect when you combine two of these new cards? Or three? Or maybe even four?
That was not an easy question to answer. Getting our hands on two of these cards, much less four of them, on the day of the launch, was about as easy as making penguins fly. However, in the end we were able to track down enough of these cards to show you some results. Together with our own reference model, we were ready for some Quad-SLI GTX 680 action!
ASUS and Zotac
In our race against the clock it was ASUS that came through first. The first nVidia partner to deliver a GeForce GTX 680 to our offices, they gave us the ASUS GTX680-2GD5. It's common that, when a new high-end video card is launched, the samples from the different manufacturers are actually reference models adorned with a manufacturer's own print and logo. That is also the case here. The ASUS card therefore looks somewhat hipper, with a nice design that flows into the ASUS logo.
Zotac was also able to quickly deliver one of their first GeForce GTX 680s to our test lab. The Zotac GeForce GTX 680 2GB is also a reference model with their own print on it. As an extra bonus, Zotac bundles games from the Assassin's Creed series.
We want to express our sincere thanks to Alternate in Ridderkerk for providing us with the last and fourth card. As one of the few chosen shops in the Netherlands, they can pride themselves on having a limited number of GeForce GTX 680 cards available today (link). They were kind enough to make their supply even more limited for our benefit, temporarily at least. The card they gave us also comes from ASUS.
The specifications of the ASUS and Zotac cards won't be a surprise to those that read our GTX 680 review: 2 GB GDDR5 RAM, 1006 MHz base clock, 1058 MHz boost clock, 1502 MHz memory clock freqency, 2x DVI, 1x HDMI and 1x DisplayPort 1.2. Our Benelux readers should be aware that ASUS and Zotac are two of nVidia's preferred partners for the Benelux. This means that it is very probable that these will be two of the brands that will first appear in (online) stores.
So, we have four GeForce GTX 680s. We've added an able power supply and a suitable motherboard and CPU. Let's get started with SLI, Triple SLI, and Quad SLI!
Quad SLI, oh yeah!
The SLI and Triple-SLI benchmarks were run on our standard testing rig. It consists of an Intel Core i7 3960X (Sandy Bridge-E) processor, an ASUS P7X79 Pro motherboard, 16 GB Corsair DDR3-1600 RAM, a Samsung Spinpoint F1 hard drive and a Cooler Master Silent Pro Gold 1200 watt power supply. For Quad-SLI we switched to an ASUS Rampage IV Formula motherboard and an Enermax Platimax 1500W PSU. All benchmarks were done in Windows 7 x64.
All benchmarks were run at 1920x1080 (Full HD) and 5760x1080 (3x Full HD). In both resolutions we tested the games with normal settings and on the highest available settings with 4x AA when possible. It is with three monitors that the double, triple, or quadruple video card setup really shows its power.
When running the setups with two and four cards we didn't run into any problems. With three cards however, we faced many stability and compatibility problems. You'll see in the charts that 4-way SLI scales better than 3-way many times.
On the following pages the existing AMD video cards appear in red, all nVidia cards appear in green, and the GeForce GTX 680 and GeForce GTX 680 SLI configurations appear in blue. We did not include budget video cards to avoid clutter. We also tested AMD's Radeon HD 7970 in Dual-, Triple-, and Quad-Crossfire configurations, so of course we show those results as well.
In 3DMark Vantage two cards score 46,842 points, only marginally faster than the HD 7970. 3DMark Vantage does not scale well to three or four cards.
In 3DMark 11 Performance the GTX 680 in SLI scores over 1,000 points more than two HD 7970s. The Extreme setting scales perfectly to four cards to a maximum of 10,850 points. Impressive!
Aliens vs Predator
Aliens vs Predator was one of the two games where a single GTX 680 could not equal the performance of an HD 7970. The same holds true for SLI. Interestingly, Crossfire clearly scales better in this game than SLI.
Batman: Arkham City
We saw some very nice scores in Batman: Arkham City. In Full HD with medium settings SLI did not have any added value, but with three monitors the nVidia GTX 680 card had excellent scaling, much better than AMD. However, running this game with four cards was pointless, since it actually worsened the performance.
On a single monitor with two GTX 680s you get much better scores in Battlefield 3 than with two HD 7970s. However, with three monitors the two HD 7970s performed better. Crossfire also scales better to more cards at that high resolution.
In Crysis 2 the nVidia GTX 680 stands head and shoulders above the rest, especially in 5760x1080 resolution. More than 50 fps on the highest settings is pretty impressive in Crysis 2. That trend continues with three and four cards: 88.3 fps on the highest settings is quite remarkable. Once again: impressive!
Excellent GTX 680 SLI-scaling in Metro 2033, but AMD keeps its lead with two cards as well. With four cards however it is nVidia that scores the highest, except at maximum settings.
The Elder Scrolls V Skyrim
In Skyrim we also see very nice GTX 680 SLI-scaling, and it is at the top of its class in every graphic. A bit peculiar is that on normal settings quad-SLI is slower than normal SLI, in both resolutions.
In the power usage test we once again witness the excellent work that AMD has done in terms of idle usage. A second card is almost completely powered down when idling on the Windows desktop, using less than 3 watts. The difference we measured in SLI is quite significant. Idle our system used 96.4 watts with two HD 7970s, with two GTX 680s it used 114,5 watts.
The tables are turned in Metro 2033, however. With two HD 7970s we measured 511 watts, but with two GTX 680s the usage did not go above 475.7 watts.
Measurements for triple-SLI will soon we added. Since we had to test quad-SLI on a different motherboard, those results are not comparable.
In the table below we listed all scores of a single GTX 680 and those of two cards in SLI, with the scaling in the third column.
We can see that SLI improves performance with an average of 62 percent. If we look solely at 5760x1080 resolution, then the scaling is 177 percent. At that resolution with the highest settings scaling reaches 188 percent.
If we compare with AMD Radeon HD 7970 CrossfireX, then we see that the standard SLI-scaling is slightly inferior. With AMD we measured a 69 percent increase in performance on average, and 84 percent in 5760x1080. However, on the highest settings nVidia scored a little better, 88 percent compared to 84 percent.
|Benchmark||GeForce GTX 680||GeForce GTX 680 SLI||Scaling|
|3DMark Vantage Performance||35519||46842||132%|
|Heaven 2.5 - 16x AF - 1920x1080 - Normal||83,1||144,7||174%|
|Heaven 2.5 - 16x AF - 1920x1080 - Extreme||64,6||118,8||184%|
|Heaven 2.5 - 16x AF - 5760x1080 - Normal||23,6||43,9||186%|
|Heaven 2.5 - 16x AF - 5760x1080 - Extreme||13,7||40,7||297%|
|Metro 2033 - Medium - 1920x1080||57||103||181%|
|Metro 2033 - Very High - 1920x1080||30||53||177%|
|Metro 2033 - Medium - 5760x1080||22||41||186%|
|Metro 2033 - Very High - 5760x1080||12||21||175%|
|Aliens vs Predator - Normal - 1920x1080||99,7||185,2||186%|
|Aliens vs Predator - High 4x AA - 1920x1080||58,2||107,3||184%|
|Aliens vs Predator - Normal - 5760x1080||45,4||78,8||174%|
|Aliens vs Predator - High 4x AA - 5760x1080||26,7||49,4||185%|
|Dirt 3 - Medium - 1920x1080||233,5||234,8||101%|
|Dirt 3 - Ultra 4x AA - 1920x1080||119,8||178,6||149%|
|Dirt 3 - Medium - 5760x1080||119,2||185||155%|
|Dirt 3 - Ultra 4x AA - 5760x1080||49,8||88,99||179%|
|Hard Reset - Normal - 1920x1080||148||142,9||97%|
|Hard Reset - Ultra 4x AA - 1920x1080||96,3||113,4||118%|
|Hard Reset - Normal - 5760x1080||107,4||100,1||93%|
|Hard Reset - Ultra 4x AA - 5760x1080||47,9||75,4||157%|
|The Elder Scrolls V Skyrim - Normal - 1920x1080||227,97||250||110%|
|The Elder Scrolls V Skyrim - High 4x AA - 1920x1080||120,08||205,9||171%|
|The Elder Scrolls V Skyrim - Normal - 5760x1080||95,65||169,4||177%|
|The Elder Scrolls V Skyrim - High 4x AA - 5760x1080||50,47||92,8||184%|
|Batman Arkham City - Medium - 1920x1080||123||119||97%|
|Batman Arkham City - Very High 4x AA - 1920x1080||79||100||127%|
|Batman Arkham City - Medium - 5760x1080||51||73||143%|
|Batman Arkham City - Very High 4x AA - 5760x1080||29||49||169%|
|Total War Shogun 2 DX11 - Medium - 1920x1080||135,9||210||155%|
|Total War Shogun 2 DX11 - Ultra 4x AA - 1920x1080||59||113,2||192%|
|Total War Shogun 2 DX11 - Medium - 5760x1080||44||81,4||185%|
|Total War Shogun 2 DX11 - Ultra 4x AA - 5760x1080||22,7||41,5||183%|
|Battlefield 3 - Medium - DoF 90 - 1920x1080||121,5||153,5||126%|
|Battlefield 3 - Ultra 4x AA - DoF 90 - 1920x1080||66,7||120||180%|
|Battlefield 3 - Medium - DoF 90 - 5760x1080||49,9||81,1||163%|
|Battlefield 3 - Ultra 4x AA - DoF 90 - 5760x1080||25,4||41,2||162%|
|Crysis 2 DX11 - Very high - Hi-res Edge AA - 1920x1080||77,4||98,9||128%|
|Crysis 2 DX11 - Ultra - Hi-res Edge AA - 1920x1080||72,2||98,5||136%|
|Crysis 2 DX11 - Very high - Hi-res-Edge AA - 5760x1080||27,3||54||198%|
|Crysis 2 DX11 - Extreme - Hi-res-Edge AA - 5760x1080||27,3||51||187%|
|Average (5760x1080 Ultra)||188%|
We made a video of our impression of the GeForce GTX 680 in Quad-SLI configuration. It's worth a look!
In a nut shell, nVidia GeForce GTX 680 SLI scales really, really well. Overall perhaps a little bit less than AMD Radeon HD 7970 Crossfire, but in 5760x1080 it outperforms AMD's card. That's also the resolution where SLI truly comes into its own. If you only use one monitor, having two of these cards is overkill. But when gaming on three screens the second GTX 680 definitely improves performance, staying mostly above 60 fps without having to make (too many) concessions in terms of quality.
Combining three or four GTX 680s gives even better results, as you can see in the benchmarks, but in some cases it actually has the opposite effect. It's the usual story with triple- and quad-SLI and Crossfire configurations - it's primarily a treat for overclockers wanting to achieve the highest 3DMark scores. However, should you win the lottery or find that treasure in the back yard, playing around with four GTX 680s is great fun!