Hardware Review: Gigabyte GTX 680 4GB

Gigabyte GTX 680 4GB

By on October 25, 2012 at 4:52 pm

Using your mobile at a gas station can cause the pump to explode into flames. Increasing the amount of memory on a video card from 2GB to 4GB will increase game performance. Blue whales are the largest living things on Earth. Which of these three facts is actually true? The answer will probably surprise you – they’re all bollocks. Mobiles have never caused a fire at a petrol station, the largest living thing on the planet is technically a mushroom colony in Oregon’s Malheur National Forest, and doubling your VRAM from 2GB to 4GB has absolutely no impact on performance… for 99.99% of users.

The vast majority of today’s video cards have enough memory that size isn’t an issue, with mid-range cards equipped with 1024MB while premium jobbies are decked out with 2048MB. Sure, running at 16x antialiasing with 2650 x 1600 resolution will hit the 1024MB limit of a GTX 650 Ti, but the GPU doesn’t have the horsepower to process that kind of quality anyway. Cards that do have the grunt to churn out such cracking graphics, like the GTX 680, have the full 2048MB of memory, and that amount is plenty even when running at such stupidly high settings. Sadly most gamers don’t realise this; they simply see a big number on the box and thinks it means they’ll get a squillion frames per second in Battlefield 3.

The more-memory-myth

This myth is perpetuated by AMD in particular, endowing its products with copious amounts of memory well over the upper end used by games of the period. Currently AMD’s Radeon HD 7970 ships with a whopping 3GB of GDDR5, yet PC developers aim for a video memory amount of between 1024MB and 2048MB, depending on the card. I can only conclude AMD does so because gamers believe it makes for a better experience, resulting in more sales.

This same company often trots out the myth that folks packing triple monitors need the extra video memory due to the higher demands of running at 5760 x 1080. In theory it makes sense – the larger the image, the more memory needed for textures. Antialiasing also gulps up memory like a Tour De France rider in a steroid factory. However, in reality the memory bandwidth – that is, the speed at which the memory can be accessed – is much more important than how much of it there is. Less memory running at faster speeds will generally beat more memory running at lower speeds. There’s a reason that a 2GB GTX 680 generally beats the 3GB Radeon HD 7970, even while running triple screens.

Let’s put it to the test

But what about a video card like Gigabyte’s new GV-N680OC-4GD, which uses the powerful GTX 680 GPU to drive a whopping 4096MB of memory? How does this compare to other GTX 680 cards packing 2GB, but otherwise identical? The memory bandwidth on both versions is identical, with an effective memory frequency of 6008MHz running over a 256-bit memory bus. Does doubling the memory have any impact on game performance?

We ran one of the most demanding games currently available to find out. Battlefield 3 is known for using as much memory as it can get its battle-fatigued mitts on, so we ran it at three resolutions including triple 1920 x 1080 screens, and also compared it with an NVIDIA GTX 680 reference card overclocked to the same speed as the Gigabyte card. An AMD Radeon 7970 was thrown in to see whether its 3GB of memory would help.

As you can see, the extra memory made absolutely no difference. In fact, the 2GB version was 1 frame per second faster at 1080p, but this is within the limits of variance. Buying a 4GB card to play today’s games just doesn’t make sense.

We ran one more test, just to double check the results, and this time left the Radeon HD 7970 out so you could focus on 2GB versus 4GB. Dirt 3 uses DirectX 11 effects to create one of the best looking racers around, and serious drivers often race with three monitors to get that “in-cockpit” sensation. Will a 4GB card help them out?

Once again it’s plain to see that doubling the VRAM has had no impact at all.

And yet, we’re about to toss everything we just said out of the window. Buying a video card with more memory can be a good idea, but only if you’re buying with an eye on future gaming performance. It’s inevitable that in the next few years 2048MB will become the bare minimum acceptable for gaming, with the preferred amount leaping to 3072MB. If you’re buying your card today with the idea that it’ll last you another three or four years, it’s wise to buy a model with more memory to meet those future demands. However, if you’re like me and silly enough to upgrade every year or two, the added memory isn’t worth it unless it costs exactly the same as a card with less memory.

So the doubling of memory on the Gigabyte GV-N680OC-4GD doesn’t make much difference in today’s games, but what about the rest of the card? Being based on NVIDIA’s GTX 680 GPU we know that it’ll perform basically identically to every other GTX 680 on the market; this is the fastest single GPU product currently available. Gigabyte has given the card a very slight factory overclock, increasing the GPU core speed to 1071MHz, which is about the same as competing cards from Zotac and ASUS. Where it differs is the use of a triple fan Windforce cooler. It might not look like much, but those three fans are remarkably efficient at moving heat away from the GPU. We ran FurMark to test the fan noise under load, and were blown away at the 46dB rating, which makes this one of the quietest GTX 680′s on the market.

With street prices hovering around $650, the GV-N680OC-4GD costs around $100 more than Gigabyte’s 2GB GTX 680 products. Whether or not you want to pay the extra amount totally and utterly depends on how long you think you’ll be using the product. If you plan on upgrading to next year’s GTX 780 when it comes out, stick with the 2GB version and spend the $100 you’ll save on another SSD. However, if you’re holding off for several generations until the GTX 980 releases, the extra memory will come in handy. By 2015, when Battlefield 6 requires more video memory than that found in an entire 2012 PC, the 4GB of onboard memory will probably come in mighty handy.

Good:

  • Great for future-proofing if you upgrade infrequently
  • Overclocked to 1071MHz
  • Whisper-quiet at 46dB, one of the quietest GTX 680′s on the market

Bad:

  • Essentially zero performance improvement over stock 2GB version of the same card under current gaming conditions
25 comments (Leave your own)

TL;DR: Don’t waste your money on a 4GB video card.

 

Even if there is no improvement, feel free to send a couple my way Games.on.net. :P I’ll even take the cards you used for the benchmark, haha.

 

Depends on the game.

But I suspect the number of games that can use 4G range in the 0.01% as it is.

Personally, I’d like to see this test applied to something like GTA4 (or very soon, GTA5) on full settings.

 

“Antialiasing also gulps up memory like a Tour De France rider in a steroid factory”, topical lulz.

Great to read a review on a high-end card that doesn’t piss-fart around about how amazing it is. Thanks for (potentially) saving me some cash were I to upgrade! In the future, I won’t be fooled by claims of extra RAM (whereas I would have bought it before reading this.

 

Please don’t use your phone at the servo, the poor workers are still bound by policy to stop you. And you’ll probably get run over. And timely review, looking to upgrade soon.

 

How have people’s experiences been with Gigabyte. I’ve found them (in the last 12 months) to be annoying pains in the behind.

 
Village idiot

I second
Murray Hibble‘s thoughts. More of these no bs hardware reviews. It made me feel comfortable with my recent 680 2gb purchase, explained a few things I wasn’t sure of and dispelled a few myths that were previously fed to me (triple monitor bs for example)

 

Next time how about trotting out a neutral engine not a biased engine like Frostbite 2. It’s been pretty clear for a long time that FB2 favours nvidia cards, how about trying out a game that uses larger textures too so it CAN use that extra memory. Max Payne 3 actually uses much larger textures at the max resolutions, Crysis 2 is a neutral engine and again can utilise high detail textures. Games coming out over the next year are going to start using a lot more and a lot larger textures as the cards out there start to support them, so keep that in mind when discarding a Gfx card with more memory because “today’s games don’t use it”….

All the lower memory cards do is limit the texture detail level present in games and yes bandwidth is a major concern, but this review is far from being accurate and clear.

 

2GB of VRAM on a card is justified for me because I play a lot of Arma 2 and Arma 2 can make use of that much VRAM whereas the only others I can think of that do are Max Payne 3, GTA4 and DCS (and some other flight sims).

 

rsoblivion right on the money, maybe research the topic of the review if you have no idea why your ‘tests’ aren’t showing any difference in results.

 

The review is slightly misleading.

If you are running 5760×1080 with minimal AA then anything over 2GB per GPU is a waste. However if you are running even a slightly higher resolution, or high levels of AA at that resolution things are very different.

There is a place for 4GB cards, and a good reason to get them.
I personally have 3x DELL 27inch untrasharps, meaning my native resolution is 7680×1440, without 3GB+ cards I would be crying.

Anything Less than 3GB of memory per GPU makes gaming a slide show, even on low quality settings with no AA etc.
This is because the frame buffer at this resolution is quite simplify massive. Now add reasonable quality textures, triple buffering and AF etc to the mix and you are paging to system memory constantly, you will be lucky to see 10fps.

2x AMD 6990′s (which is 8GB total, 2GB per GPU) playing bf3 at 7680×1440 is like watching a power point demo entitled – How to die and TK a lot in DICE’s latest masterpiece.

The same principal applies to 2xGTX690s, or 4xGTX680-2GBs for example.

Now swap those 2GB cards out for a single GTX680-4GB card and things are very different.
Go and Get a 2nd GTX680-4GB and even though you may be broke, you will be distracted from the hunger (and calls from Energy Australia) by the new found smoothness of the games at your crazy high res, you can even get silly and turn on AA if you want.

A single frame @ 7680×1440 is around 42MB, and that’s just the front buffer. Things get crazy behind the scenes.

 

Just for above, SLi and Crossfire don’t share memory across the cards, they only split the processing workload, hence why a single 4GB card is better then 2 2GB cards.

 

gtxaartaxlt,

Yeas gtxaartaxlt, I’ve had nothing but trouble with Gigabyte cards in the past.

One of the caps blew on my last one, a few weeks before the warranty expired, sent it back, got it fixed & less than a week later, another one went.

The shop I got it from then gave me a “refurbished” second hand replacement which worked fine… until I installed the drivers for it -.-

When I took THAT one back the sales guy assured me they tested it & it worked fine, however after some persuasion, they finally gave me a brand new card, this time an ASUS. Haven’t had a single problem with it.

 

I paid $680 here in WA for one I think it is.

Sure I could go for the 2gig version, but $100 for an extra 2gig I may or may not use is fine.

That and I’m an indie game dev so, I like to work with hardware/pushing things to it’s limits so I kinda need it.

When it eventually comes, it’ll be a nice upgrade from my radeon HD 5870. Upgrading my old PSU that’s a 650 watt and 8 years old too, LOL.

Love Antec PSU, despite what others say.

 
steve_rogers42

BRINGO!

3D comparison for 2gb vs 4gb and also, play skyrim ffs, or something else that will remove your crankypants! Also the 7970 allows you to connect more monitors than the 680 does, maybe thats why it needs more vrammms?

 

Why is it that Nvidea showed the GTX 680 getting around 80 fps and this review said 55? and the im pretty sure the GTX 690 4G getting over 100 fps?

 

Anyway i’m upgrading soon and was planning on getting a 690 because i upgrade infrequently and have 3 full HD monitors so should I get a 690 or a 680? I want to have PhysX and DX11 run smoothly :D

 

actually that makes me think GTX 680 4G or GTX 690 4G?

 

The GTX 690 4GB is not actually correctly named. It’s 2x 680 GPU’s each with 2GB GDDR5 each. So for high resolutions with dual/triple screens the GTX 680 4GB paired with a 2GB or second 4GB model would be a far better solution. With the Z77 or X79 Chipsets you’d even be able to utilise the full 16x PCI-e bandwidth making the twin setup even more tempting.

BTW the settings nvidia used were not BF3 midgame with everything on stupid max. They made sure that the settings were lowered in the right areas to achieve a 60+ FPS score, which means cherry picked card, good CPU (2700/3770/3960X or another CPU that wouldn’t bottleneck the card) and fast RAM with an SSD or two in RAID 0. Not ya standard rig ;)

 

don’t get an INNO 3D card, they are bad as well

 
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