This past weekend, our former GPU testbed gave up the ghost, so we were forced to rebuild. In doing so, we replaced the motherboard (moving from a GIGABYTE EX58-EXTREME to a G1. Sniper), upgraded the CPU (quad-core Core i7-975 to six-core i7-990X), finally moved from a hard drive to an SSD (Kingston HyperX) and also upgraded the PSU (Corsair HX1000 to AX1200). The unfortunate thing is that this testbed doesn’t have PCIe 3.0 support, but at this point in time, and perhaps even well into the future, we don’t consider it an issue.
To help keep things simple, we haven’t gone through great lengths to disable a ton of Windows services on this testbed as we have the previous one, as over time, I’ve found doing so to be nothing more than a waste of time. We still disable major services such as Windows Update, Search, Firewall and Defender, but don’t go much deeper than that. To start off with a more lightweight OS, we’ve opted to use Windows 7 Professional N.
Here’s a quick look at the updated testbed:
Intel Core i7-990X Extreme Edition – Six-Core @ 4.00GHz – 1.325v
GIGABYTE G1. Sniper – F4E BIOS (12/12/2011)
Kingston HyperX – 12GB DDR3-1600 8-8-8-24-1T, 1.66v
|AMD Graphics||Radeon HD 7970 3GB (Reference) – Catalyst 12.2|
|NVIDIA Graphics||GeForce GTX 680 2GB (Reference) – GeForce 300.99|
Onboard Creative X-Fi
Kingston HyperX 240GB SATA 6Gbit/s SSD
Corsair AX1200 1200W
Cooler Master HAF X Full-Tower
Gateway XHD3000 30″
Corsair H50 Self-Contained Liquid Cooler
Windows 7 Professional N SP1 x64
In our full review we’ll have a collection of current games, but for the sake of just getting this article out there, we’re including just Futuremark’s 3DMark 11 here.
As we can see with the ultra-limited testing above, NVIDIA has a powerful card on its hands. When AMD released its Radeon HD 7970, it definitively had the fastest single GPU on the market, and I remember wondering if NVIDIA could possibly have a GPU right around the corner to put it in its place. The answer to that question as we see now, is “yes”, it did.
In our tests thus far, NVIDIA’s GTX 680 is about 10~15% faster than the Radeon HD 7970, depending on the test. It’s nothing major, but it’s still significant given the pricing.
Speaking of, AMD is pricing its HD 7970 at $549 SRP, while NVIDIA further rubs salt in the wound by pricing its GTX 680 at $499. There’s little doubt that AMD will follow-up with price-drops in the coming month; hardly atypical of any other launch in recent memory. While this is less-than-ideal for AMD, it’s a great thing for consumers. There’s always a worry that the opposing company won’t be able to deliver a truly competitive product, but we have no such thing to fuss over here.
At this point we don’t have information on when the next Kepler cards will arrive, a la GTX 660 and 670, but it’s our expectation that we’ll see them surface over the course of the next couple of months. AMD already has a full suite of HD 7000 series cards out, after all, so NVIDIA can’t rely only on its top-end card to keep consumers away from AMD. The next couple of months should be exciting.
During the media event NVIDIA held a couple of weeks ago, we were given a gameplay preview of both Borderlands 2 and Max Payne 3. While we don’t have anything to share from the former, we do have a couple of NVIDIA-provided shots from Max Payne 3.
Stay tuned for our full Kepler review next week.
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