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Nvidia 680GTX Has Arrived

By Matt Simpson - Thursday, March 29, 2012

There are few things in the computer world that generate more media buzz than the first in a new generation of Graphics Processing Units. Think of it as an IPhone launch but for nerds in the know. It’s been some months since ATI launched their new generation of cards, but shortages have left them unable to parley that into the lead that it could have been for ATI/AMD. Now the new NVidia cards are out and they look really good so far.

Graphics Wars

Since ATI, now owned by AMD and Nvidia are the last two major players left in the Graphics Processor Unit, or GPU race, each tries to outshine the other at every turn. To say which is the best is a hard task, and would be accompanied by more fan boy flaming than someone with an Android phone at an Apple Store. It is no secret that Nvidia has been the larger of the two for some time, but much like with its CPU business, AMD just won’t give up and makes small inroads into Nvidia share’s with each generation of card. In the past, ATI has forced Nvidia into price wars and launching products ahead of plan as whoever currently holds the fastest card record is the one who sells the most cards. It’s the PC equivalent of an arms race or a horsepower war.

The only problem with this arms race is that it’s one designed to make small, incremental steps, rather than annihilate the competition. This makes the most sense from a business perspective, but means that the consumer has to either wait several generations to see a real improvement or be willing to shell out the big bucks for a fairly marginal improvement. The number of games that require a cutting edge video card are also far fewer than they used to be, so you have no need to go and buy the latest video card to go with that new game you’ve been waiting for.

The 680GTX

The several orders of magnitude of increased performance that Nvidia was claiming turned out to be little more than the standard BS line they always tow before new releases to try to increase online buzz. It is faster than its predecessor and in most cases it is faster than ATI’s competitions. It also “finally” starts a trend with video card makers to try to make more power efficient products. With modern GPU’s, or video cards, as many still call them, the power consumption of the graphics chip can match the entire rest of the system. This new model appears to shave almost 100 watts off of its predecessor while improving performance.

That’s a good start, now another hundred watts with the next generation would be greatly appreciated. I’m not even that green, but the power consumption of modern video cards is absolutely ridiculous and is an area where until recently, little effort was made. The card will use only 2GB of memory, compared with the 3 GB offered by ATI, which is surprising since the size of the memory footprint is such a common and seemingly powerful marketing tool.

Conclusion

Would buying this card be a good idea?  I can absolutely say no. It will be stuck at the 500 dollar mark for a couple of months until the new wears off and that’s a great deal of premium to pay for a few percentage points beyond what a video card of half the price will provide. Since this was a new architecture, there will likely be a hardware refresh sooner than later as ATI will be ready for one to combat this card. Usually the best deals are to be found during the hardware refresh, rather than with the new architecture releases. If you want to spend the big bucks, I’d still wait as there is already a known big brother to this card waiting in the wings. I would hate to spend that much to get so little and find it superseded within a couple of months.




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