ASUS Geforce GTX 680 TOP graphics card

This chunky graphics card handles modern computer games with ease

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ASUS Geforce GTX 680 TOP
  • ASUS Geforce GTX 680 TOP
  • ASUS Geforce GTX 680 TOP
  • ASUS Geforce GTX 680 TOP

Pros

  • Plenty of power for the most demanding games
  • Factory overclocking brings extra performance
  • Well built, effective cooler

Cons

  • Takes up three card slots
  • High price

Bottom Line

ASUS’ GTX 680 TOP is one of the most expensive single-GPU cards on the market, but it comes with the best performance we’ve seen in this segment. It’s big, solid, and well cooled.

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If you’re looking for a new graphics card for your high-end gaming rig, but you don’t want to shell out for an overpriced power supply to run a dual-GPU setup, your choices will be limited to the AMD Radeon HD 7970 or the Nvidia Geforce GTX 680. This ASUS GTX 680 TOP comes overclocked straight out of the box, and it has the best performance we’ve seen from any single-GPU graphics card.

ASUS Geforce GTX 680 TOP DirectCU II: Design and setup

The Geforce GTX 680 card design isn’t as big as we were expecting. Previous top-of-the-line cards have been very long — we’re looking at you, Radeon HD 4870X2 — but the PCB of the GTX 680 is no bigger than the mid-range AMD Radeon HD 7870.

The DirectCU II cooler bolted onto this ASUS Geforce GTX 680 TOP variant is longer than the PCB by a few centimetres, but more imporant is how thick the cooler is. With heatpipes, aluminium fin cooler and twin fans, the cooler takes up a whole three card slots on your PC’s motherboard and case.

In our test PC, there was plenty of room for the GTX 680 TOP, but if you’re using a smaller PC case or shorter motherboard and have any aspirations towards using a dual-card setup, abandon them now — or at least buy your graphics cards from a store that will take them back if they don’t fit.

The build quality of the ASUS Geforce GTX 680 TOP DirectCU II is excellent. It’s one of the most solid graphics cards that we have handled, with the chunky DirectCU II cooler joined by an aluminium backplate that runs along the entire length of the card’s circuit board. The backplate gets warm while the card is in use, but this is an indication that it’s doing a good job of dissipating heat from hot-spots on the PCB.

The ASUS Geforce GTX 680 TOP DirectCU II has a set of connectors that’s relatively standard for a modern video card. A dual-link DVI-D port, a second dual-link DVI-I port, HDMI and DisplayPort mean that there’s plenty of options to connect a digital display like a LCD monitor or TV. You’ll need a PC power supply with a minimum output of 550 Watts to run this card.

ASUS Geforce GTX 680 TOP DirectCU II: Specifications and performance

The reference Geforce GTX 680’s specifications set it comfortably as the most powerful single-GPU graphics card on the market. 2GB of GDDR5 RAM, Nvidia’s latest 28nm ‘Kepler’ GK104 GPU, 1536 CUDA cores, a GPU clock of 1006MHz (boosted to 1058MHz during full power 3D), 6008MHz memory clock — for anyone that actually understands them, these figures mean serious graphics performance and excellent 3D quality at high resolutions.

But that’s not all; since this ASUS card is factory-overclocked, it gets an extra speed boost over the standard GTX 680 specs. Its GPU clock is 1137MHz, boosting to 1201MHz. This is around 13 per cent faster than a standard GTX 680.

We tested the ASUS GTX 680 TOP against a reference Nvidia GTX 680 in three applications: Metro 2033, Battlefield 3, and Crysis 2. These games are some of the most demanding on current PC hardware, and can really push a card to its limits at high and extreme quality settings.

Crysis 2, 1680x1050: 61.4 fps (standard GTX 680: 55.4fps)
Crysis 2, 1920x1200: 49.6 fps (standard GTX 680: 45.6fps)
Crysis 2, 2560x1600: 36.3 fps (standard GTX 680: 33.1fps)

Metro 2033, 1680x1050: 92.3 fps (standard GTX 680: 82.9fps)
Metro 2033, 1920x1200: 72.4 fps (standard GTX 680: 65.8fps)
Metro 2033, 2560x1600: 60.2 fps (standard GTX 680: 52.1fps)

Battlefield 3, 1680x1050: 95.2 fps (standard GTX 680: 82.5fps)
Battlefield 3, 1920x1200: 82.3 fps (standard GTX 680: 76.3fps)
Battlefield 3, 2560x1600: 59.5 fps (standard GTX 680: 53.1fps)

With Crysis 2 as a comparison between these two GTX 680 variants and the Radeon HD 7870, you can see that moving to a high-end card like the GTX 680 offers a big performance boost of around 50 per cent, albeit at a price premium that’s nearly twice the price of the 7870.

In all benchmarks the ASUS GTX 680 TOP has around 10 per cent better performance than its standard variant. The GTX 680 standard and TOP cards’ street prices at the three online stores we looked were an average of $721 and $783 respectively, so the TOP is around 8.5 per cent more expensive. This makes it technically good value versus the standard card, but we are talking very expensive components here in the first place.

We should mention that the DirectCU II cooler bolted onto the ASUS Geforce GTX 680 TOP is very well designed. ASUS says it’s 20 per cent cooler and 14dB quieter than the stock single-fan heatpipe cooler of the standard GTX 680.

We didn’t measure the exact difference in volume between the stock cooler and the DirectCU II cooler, but it is definitely quieter. When the cards are running flat-out with a demanding 3D game, the DirectCU II fans have a far more bearable low hum versus the stock cooler’s higher-pitched screech.

ASUS Geforce GTX 680 TOP DirectCU II: Conclusion

The cooler of the ASUS Geforce GTX 680 TOP DirectCU II is very effective, but also very bulky. The card itself is very powerful, but comparatively very expensive.

We can definitely recommend the ASUS Geforce GTX 680 TOP, with these caveats: unless you’ve got a big single or multi-monitor setup, and unless you plan to play demanding games with high graphical settings, you may be adequately served by a cheaper card.

If you were already planning to buy a Geforce GTX 680 or other top-of-the-line GPU, the ASUS Geforce GTX 680 TOP DirectCU II is a good product: the performance boost it offers over a standard card is better than its extra asking price.

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