EVGA GeForce GTX 680 SC+ Review
So here we are a few weeks after NVIDIA’s GTX 680 launch and remarkably, the GPU market’s landscape hasn’t changed all that much. Despite a hard launch which saw thousands of cards available from day one, the GTX 680’s popularity has prevented it from being widely available at retailers. This situation has played a large part in AMD’s decision to stay the course on the HD 7970 and HD 7950’s price points regardless of NVIDIA’s lower cost and higher performance.
With reference cards flying off the shelves faster than they can be produced, NVIDIA’s board partners are in an envious position but that hasn’t stopped them from developing alternative designs. Take EVGA for example: their new warranty practices have virtually guaranteed them a seat at the popular kids’ table but their lineup for GTX 680 cards is set to explode in the coming months. Initially, their reference version was quickly snapped up by early adopters but they have now introduced three additional cards: the SC, SC+ and the Hydro Copper. All of them are overclocked, the SC+ includes a custom backplate and the Hydro Copper includes a custom water block for reduced temperatures (and hopefully higher Boost clocks) but that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Expect a new Signature series in May with higher clock speeds, a custom PWM design, an upgraded heatsink layout and an option for 4GB of GDDR5 memory. The FTW and Classified cards should be out at about the same time so stay tuned for those as well. For the time being though, we’ll be looking at the newest member of EVGA’s family: the GTX 680 SC+.
Within EVGA’s lineup, the SC-series effectively replaces the Superclocked models we are all used to seeing. This means higher clock speeds but unlike the GTX 500-series Superclocked cards, memory rates have been increased, but not by a significant amount. Even though users can’t increase the GTX 680’s Base Clock through software means, EVGA has gone ahead and increased the minimum clock speed at which their card will operate to 1058MHz. This may not seem like all that much but it should balance out performance in quite a few applications.
The real differentiating factor here is the Boost Clock increase. Initially, this was set at 1113MHz but shortly before the first shipments of SC and SC+ cards shipped out, EVGA rolled out a BIOS update that inched it up to 1124MHz. While the Boost Clock tends to fluctuate around quite a bit and never stays in the same place for long, we never saw it go below the 1155MHz mark. As a matter of fact, in most applications we saw core clocks of between 1215MHz and 1275MHz so obviously EVGA has allowed for some additional overhead since our reference card usually topped out at 1110MHz.
In terms of price, the GTX 680 SC+ goes for about $30 higher than EVGA’s reference version and due to the inclusion of the aforementioned backplate, commands a $10 premium over the SC version. Granted, $530 is quite a bit to ask for the SC+ but it is still less expensive than the reference HD 7970s out there and significantly undercuts the $599 some custom AMD cards go for.
Unlike some other EVGA cards, the warranty covers you for three years (which is the industry standard these days) but upgrades are available. For anyone that wants to buy a high end card and keep it for more than three years, the $30 for five years of protection could be worthwhile. EVGA’s Step Up and Advanced RMA programs can also be added for a cost.
EVGA has also introduced a new set of warranty terms that buyers will surely be interested in. Their coverage will now be tied to the products and not the end user so you can sell the card and the balance of the original three year warranty will transfer to the new owner. Unfortunately any extended warranties won’t be transferred to the next owner and nor will any purchased Step Up or Advanced RMA programs. You can read more about this on EVGA’s site but from our standpoint, this is a worthwhile benefit in the place of a lifetime warranty.
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