Best High End Enthusiast video card is a sought after title Nvidia and AMD, and both manufacturers look for different reasons to encourage customers to buy their products. In the past Nvidia has always tried to target the enthusiast market seeking the best performance sometimes at the cost of power efficiency, noise or price and in these categories AMD has always exceled while taking hits in performance. With the most recent generation of enthusiast cards, AMD fired first with its Radeon HD 7970 several months ago. The odd thing about this release, however, was the steep initial price which at launch was more expensive than any prior enthusiast AMD video card. The Nvidia GeForce GTX 680 was the response to the Radeon HD 7970 and at launch immediately stole the performance king title as well as benefiting from better power efficiency, noise control and price. Since the release the card has increased in price and the Radeon HD 7970 has decreased in price to become more competitive.
If you’re interested in the best of the best performance from a single GPU the Geforce GTX 680 is the king until you take into account Nvidia’s newly released Geforce GTX 690 which features two slightly under clocked GTX 680s on a single PCB. The card is capable of providing the same performance as previous enthusiast graphics cards running in SLI or Crossfire (running two graphics cards in parallel for a performance boost). Currently the only notable downside to anyone considering the GeForce GTX 680 is its availability. The card is sold out in almost every online retailer and physical store location as is usually the case with high end cards such as these and supply is always very limited.
After much anticipation and waiting I was able to get my hands on a GeForce GTX 680 and my first impression was that the card was a lot smaller than a pair of GeForce GTX 570s which I had owned. The card enables implementation in smaller cases or a lot of clutter within their case preventing larger graphics cards from fitting properly. The physical size of the card coupled with its low power draw (195 watts total for the card as opposed to 360 Watts on a GTX 580!) allows this card to fit into a wider range of cases and setups than previously possible. This opens up new potential possibilities for smaller ITX form factors and specialized prebuilt machines like Alienware’s X51 which suffer from strict size and power constraints.
Speaking from experience I have built a lot of computers, and have upgraded my graphics card several times in the last two years alone trying to find a card which gives good performance for its value. With the GeForce GTX 680 I sought to replace two GeForce GTX 570s which ran a lot hotter and consumed a lot more power to provide an astonishing amount of performance. After replacing my pair of GeForce GTX 570s I immediately noticed that when the machine was idling there was a substantial drop in heat output, the entire room felt a lot cooler and the ambient temperature within my case dropped significantly. Even while gaming, the card remains quite cool and disturbingly quiet, the stock fan profile keeps the card near silent even while gaming. I’ve been thoroughly impressed with the performance of a single GeForce GTX 680; before this card I have never been able to run most games at the highest graphics settings without needing a second card for SLI or Crossfire.
As a summary, the GTX 680 has the best possible performance, power efficiency and noise control in its class. From a price standpoint anyone looking for a card in this price bracket should look no farther this is the current greatest value for the money. Unfortunately, stock levels are very low and attempting to acquire one will be very challenging.