Pros: You paid for power - you've got it!!!
Cons: somewhat hindered 240hz, high resolution 3D-enabled performance
I’ve always trusted NVIDIA to make quality video card chipsets ad stand by their products with easily downloadable updates that come regularly as operating system firmware changes. My very first desktop was a Hewlett Packard Pavilion 8570c Pentium III 450MHz with a Voodoo 3 3000 card which I later upgraded to a Geforce II. I was far happier with the Geforce series and I’ve never strayed from them.
For my latest work/play home office computer: Hewlett Packard H8 Envy with a Core i7, Hyper-X "Beast" 32GB kit, Windows 8 (with Direct X11) I’ve chosen the EVGA GTX680 with 4GB of dedicated video RAM to carry me through the next couple years of online gaming. This isn’t just a computer… this is an investment. At least that’s what I told my C.P.A !!!
This card offers 1536 CUDA cores, 4096 MB of RAM, and is even capable of SLI - being linked with other cards to run software in maximum resolutions, at maximum frames per second on very large monitors/HDTV sets!
POWER SUPPLY/ OPERATION
The card includes its own cables, but some of you with off-the-shelf PC’s that support cards of this type will have power supply cables sitting there waiting to be used with a new card. I left my cables in the box, popped the card into the slots and was up and running in fewer than 5 minutes. In order to use this card you must have an empty PCI-express slot, and two empty spaces on your case since it’s dual bracket.
This card required a 550-Watt power supply and my H8 only came with a 300 Watt power supply. I simply upgraded that component to a Raidmax (less than $50 at Best Buy). The card draws almost 200 Watts on the 12-Volt power supply.
One of the best features of this card is that its cooling fan runs eerily quieter than the card I used to have. The H8 tower’s interior was already kept cool and clean, but even with the bigger power supply and card I didn’t need to upgrade to any custom cooling solutions to keep the temperature down while monitoring in HW MonitorPro. HWMP is a benchmarking software that allows you to see at a quick glance the temperature of your CPU and power supply, your fan’s RPM, current, voltage – you name it. So long as everything runs cool you’re good to go. Any danger alarms can be met with protection shutdowns.
My Core i7 runs at a smooth 23° C degrees on average and the card runs a bit higher while gaming at about 33°C. I never leave the computer on while not gaming so I don’t give it even the slightest chance to get hot – although multi-hour gaming sessions never bring the temperature near 38°C.
Naturally, you can put this card under serious stress. In fact, to not run it on dual monitors is a sin because the card can effectively handle not only 2 monitors simultaneously, but up to 4 monitors simultaneously! The card’s HDMI, DVI-D, DVD-I and Display Port 1.2 may all be used simultaneously. Due to the sheer space required to pull that off, I can’t test 4 monitors simultaneously, but I was able to connect two HP 25” monitors using Windows8’s expanded desktop and Falcon 4.0.
This card includes several innovative technologies such as “GPU boost” and “ Dynamic V-Sync” GPU-boost automatically alters the chip’s CPU processing speeds to accommodate the software you are using. If you are simply playing solitaire, the CPU decreases its 2D processing power accordingly to become more energy efficient. Pop in Crysis 3 and turn the settings way up and all the sudden the card comes to life – increasing processing power, current draw and fan speed. Dynamic V-Sync is there to help eliminate screen tearing if you have the card connected to substandard Monitors, 720 or 1080p Televisions. It locks the game’s frame rate to the monitor’s refresh rate. I tested this on a Vizio TV which had a 60Hz refresh rate and Crysis. Though Crysis could run higher than 60 frames per second, the card kept it’s max frames locked to the TV’s refresh rate. It worked as advertised and setup was automatic when connected via HDMI. The card even allows you to set a target framerate manually just in case you want to run your games lower than 60fps. Single monitor digital resolution is pegged at 2560x1600 (at 60, 120 or 240Hz) and resolutions topping out at 5760 x 1080 on dual monitors (over DVI) becomes painlessly accessible.
If there was one disappointment to note other than the pricetag, I should mention that I did see some stuttering while running Crysis 3 in its highest settings at 240fps in 3D mode. 3D usually causes framerate drops no matter how powerful your card is so if you are planning to use this in conjunction with a 3D capable 1080p Television or monitor, you may want to consider the GTX690 instead. Fortunately, you can scale down performance, but I simply don’t see this card running multiple monitors at max resolutions in 3D. I am not willing to spend the money to get dual GTX 680 or 690 cards and I prefer a single monitor for gaming because I find it less distracting.
Included in the card’s software suite is EVGA’s overclocking tool “Precision X”. Fan Speed, GPU Temperature, and line graph performance logs/statistics are just a few of the features there to let you know that you aren’t just playing graphic intensive games… you are kicking their asses. Crysis, Crysis 3 and Far Cry 3 would normally make most computers chug along, but this card used in conjunction with a Core i7 will completely annihilate them. Turning up all settings to “ultra high” becomes effortless and worry-less. Many of us have tried to run games on cards that couldn’t handle all features turned on – forcing us to go back and downgrade shadows, water effects, particle effects, etc. NO MORE OF THAT HERE…
In order to get the newest drivers for this card, I made a simple visit to EVGA’s website, entered the name of the card and clicked on the support tab of the card. Drivers were available, registration was easy and plenty of manuals/faqs were present. There were even quick links to forums where I could talk to other players with the card.
I am testing this card on as many monitors and HDTV's as I can get my hands on, just to see what the best options and settings are, but for the most part, it doesn't seem to have many shortcomings when used for average gaming needs. Check back for updates to this review if you are interested in my monitors tests.
The best devices are devices that work as advertised and don’t require support. This EVGA card is exactly that and out of the box it’s making me smile each time I fire up the computer. However, as Jason Bourne said: “Look at what they make you give…” This card costs roughly half the price of my computer rig and its memory chip upgrade. Granted I’m given unincorporated small business tax credits for my electronic equipment, but regular gamers will have to fork over $600 to get this kind of *oomph*.
Do you really need the extra 2GB of RAM when a regular card will run less than $300 and still give you 2GB of dedicated Video RAM? A GTX 660 will cost half the price and still allow you to run up to 4 monitors in lower resolutions right? Well – this choice is up to individual wallets (or Credit Cards). I enjoy being able to “set it and forget it” – never being forced to compromise power and performance. If you want to run multiple monitors without hitting the limits of the video RAM buffers, you'll need two of these in SLI.
One of these is enough to run a single monitor or HDTV at its highest resolution, but you'll need to dial down refresh rates a tad if you want to do so in 3D mode.