ZOTAC AMP edition is something that just recently with the 660 Ti we found to be a seriously ferocious competitor. AMP edition cards are built for all out speed and coming with highly capable performance oriented coolers we expect great things from them. Today looking at the 680 AMP edition we expect no different.[review_ad]
Introduction – ZOTAC GTX680 AMP Edition
ZOTAC has always been one to do things a bit different whether we’re talking color schemes or even design. Being a very large and primary player in the small form factor market, they have figured out how to service some of the most demanding customers. Small form factor users usually require a decent amount of power while being small and quiet. For the enthusiasts category the demand is more about absolute power and size is actually one of the defining characteristics, as many see it as bigger is better. With this mindset enthusiasts love having ridiculously extreme looking products that also can pull off being very fast, and this is where we are at today as we have the AMP edition GTX 680 from ZOTAC.
The ZOTAC AMP Edition GTX 680 is exactly what enthusiasts are all about much like a muscle car with big loud pipes and an idle that will simply rattle windows the AMP edition 680 looks the part as well as it plays it. The AMP edition GTX 680 has huge heatpipes jotting upward from the cooler as a proud banner signifying that there is some serious power in this one.
The ZOTAC GTX 680 AMP Edition comes to market at present street price of $549.99 direct from Newegg at the time of writing. This does place it a bit on the high side as the ASUS GTX 680 DCII Top edition has slightly higher specs for about 20 bucks less. With this its also worth noting you get a 3 game bundle of the Assassins Creed series which should be a nice little bonus and help even out the playing field a bit.
AMP Edition Triple Slot Cooler
ZOTAC has always adorned their AMP edition cards for the most part with large non reference performance coolers that are very capable and also pretty awesome looking. In the case of the 680 AMP this is a triple slot monster that is every bit of triple slot spacing as the cooler extends well past reference and comes with dual orange bladed fans that actually crate a interesting look for the card and also a pretty cool black shroud around the cooler that just gives the card an overall industrial or mechanical look but also a effective design.
The GTX 680 easily supports 3D vision and also with the new Kepler GPU’s also supports up to 4 displays so even 3D vision surround is possible form a single card. I would hold off jumping the gun on 3D surround on a single card though as some higher level titles will need multiple cards to pull off the framerate needed for an awesome gaming experience in multi monitor 3D mode.
The Nvidia GeForce cards have supported CUDA for a long time now but as GPU models have progressed so has the cards ability to do work and CUDA processing has followed suit as many apps can utilize the Nvidia CUDA feature to allow offloading of heavy processing loads to the GPU for even higher performance and better productivity.
PCI Express Gen 3 Capable
ZOTAC wants to make sure you know that this card will work with any board out there with a PCIe slot but also you get a nice little boost when running in a PCIe Gen 3 capable platform as any possible bottleneck is definitely relieved with that kind of pipeline to work with.
Overview of the ZOTAC GT680 AMP
The packaging for the AMP Edition 680 is similar to what we saw on the 660 Ti card but a bit larger. The front shows at the top what I had mentioned previously which is the inclusion of the 3 game bundle of the Assassins Creed series. Other key specs are listed but for the most part a large AMP! takes up most of the front as ZOTAC definitely wants you to know this is their best of the best. The rear has multilingual info along with some key story line about AMP edition graphics. Also a few game screenshots and some supporting performance details.
here is what you see when we open the box.
Here is a list of all items included in the accessory pack:
- Installation Disc
- Dual 4 Pin Molex to 6 Pin PCIe Power adapters
- Installation manuals/material
- DVI to VGA Adapter
- Assasin’s Creed Bundle (approx $70.00 value)
The accessory package is complete as you can expect and of course includes the previously mentioned 3 game bundle. (Consisting of Assassin’s Creed, Assassin’s Creed II & Assassin’s Creed Revelations) This bundle when doing a quick check on steam would be an approximate retail value of $70.00 USD which definitely adds some value to the whole card combo especially if your a fan of the Assassin’s creed franchise.
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Here we have the card out of the protective foam and box and boy is it BIG! The large heatpipes really do sail quite high above the heatsink/card combo and make the card much taller than you would expect so definitely no skinny cases for this thing, but then again who’s gonna get a card like this and throw it in a tiny case? Overall the card is largely based on reference design which means its a proven design since its the way NVIDIA designed it to begin with. This may affect overclocking performance as reference VRM designs can have a tough time matching the performance of some of the custom PCB variants. If this is anything like the 660Ti though I think it will be just fine.
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The rear IO supports multiple connectivity options including:
This connectivity is vast and supports any display you could find. Being a Kepler based card also means it can support up to 4 displays so therefore all of these ports can be populated to offer an awesome surround + accessory gaming display array.
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The cooler is super thick 3 slots thick to be frank and it shows as you see the massive fin array and huge heatpipes. The heatpipes feed down into the base which we will look at when we remove the cooler but as you see from the bottom shot there is plenty of surface area to pull the heat away from the GPU. The cooler being so wide does require special note as any SLI configuration above 2 way will require specially spaced slots and special SLI ribbons unless of course your looking to go liquid cooled at which point it really doesnt matter. This is another advantage as this card being a reference design there should be plenty of liquid cooling options available rather quickly.
Popping the top on the AMP Edition GTX 680
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The cooler, once removed, we found an interesting design as the baseplate contacting the GPU is a vapor chamber design. This means that the vapor chamber saps heat away, passes it to the sandwiched heatpipes which carry it to the fin array to be dissipated to the ambient air. Usually there is a vapor chamber or a heatpipe but to see the 2 mixed in such way is intriguing but hey if it works im not gonna complain. Looking back at the card with the large cooler removed and I find the plate type cooler which is 2 separate pieces. One is covering the VRAM and the other is a T shape and covers the VRM which once uncovered I verified my suspicions that it is a reference design completely.
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The reference design board is kept true even to the stacked 6 pins ready to feed this hungry beast. The stacked 6 pins are not at all a bad design and work quite well but I do see that some of the high performance models use a 8 pin/6 pin combo for the extra power overhead when overclocking. Here we see the GK104 GPU which is the basis for pretty much every 6 series part and it is a very powerful piece of technology just waiting to be unleashed.
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The rear we see the PWM controller like we covered in our reference 680 article which appears to sit on its own mini pcb which likely made life much easier for NVIDIA to test out different control combinations to find the best combo for what they needed. I actually like this design as when it comes time to push the limits and get some extreme overclocks underway you have a raised area that looks to be even easier to mod for manual voltage control or even some hopeful hardware overvolting to get some record breaking clocks. The lower area has 6 blank solder pad sets which were likely in place for capacitor components which wound up being rendered unnecessary when the design was completed. The rear of the GPU which of course has the most direct feed to the GPU houses some components located in direct opposite the GPU which is likely to clean up the signal going to the GPU and give the power delivery best as possible for optimum performance.
Testing & Methodology
We’ve expanded our testing suite considerably since the X79 chipset release, and will continue to use the same methods for most of the motherboards and CPU’s we test. In the interests of thoroughness and accurate results, we run each test at least three times, and some tests more than that. We average the total of all the tests from each benchmark then report the average here.
The OS we use is Windows 7 Pro 64bit with all patches and updates applied. We also use the latest drivers available for the motherboard and any devices attached to the computer. We do not disable background tasks or tweak the OS or system in any way. We turn off drive indexing and daily defragging. We also turn off Prefetch and Superfetch. This is not an attempt to produce bigger benchmark numbers. Drive indexing and defragging can interfere with testing and produce confusing numbers. If a test were to be run while a drive was being indexed or defragged, and then the same test was later run when these processes were off, the two results would be contradictory and erroneous. As we cannot control when defragging and indexing occur precisely enough to guarantee that they won’t interfere with testing, we opt to disable the features entirely.
Prefetch tries to predict what users will load the next time they boot the machine by caching the relevant files and storing them for later use. We want to learn how the program runs without any of the files being cached, and we disable it so that each test run we do not have to clear Prefetch to get accurate numbers. Lastly we disable Superfetch. Superfetch loads often-used programs into the memory. It is one of the reasons that Windows occupies so much memory. Vista fills the memory in an attempt to predict what users will load. Having one test run with files cached, and another test run with the files un-cached would result in inaccurate numbers. Again, since we can’t control its timings so precisely, it we turn it off. Because these four features can potentially interfere with benchmarking, and and are out of our control, we disable them. We do not disable anything else.
We are revamping our testing method in order to better represent motherboard performance and offering to the consumer. Also we want to make it an easier read for you without miles of endless charts. We ask that you provide feedback in an effort to help us deliver better reviews for you.
|Case||Open Air Test Bench|
|CPU||Intel Core i7-3770K|
|Motherboard||ASUS Maximus V Formula
|Ram||16GB Patriot Viper Xtreme 2400MHz +|
|CPU Cooler||Swiftech H20-320 Edge|
|Hard Drive||Western Digital Velociraptor 300GB|
|SSD||Intel 510 series SATA III 120GB|
|GPU||ZOTAC GTX 680 AMP Edition|
|PSU||Thermaltake Toughpower Grand 1200W|
|Mouse||Tt eSPORTS Black gaming mouse|
|Keyboard||Tt eSPORTS Meka G1 mechanical gaming keyboard|
In order to ensure no system bottleneck we clocked the CPU to 4.6GHz to ensure there is no reason the system will slow down the cards performance at all.
Some may ask why we chose the mainstream Z77 system and we can explain. Up until recent the X79 enthusiasts platform does not really support PCIe Gen 3 on the Nvidia 600 series GPU’s and come to find out it is due to the inherent instability many have seen with the X79 platform with Gen 3 products including AMD parts. This is why Nvidia has been hesitant to enable it, and now there is a workaround via registry to get it working but in order to ensure best possible testing scenarios we have stuck to the natively supported Z77 platform.
Important note: Overclocking can cause component failure. Please exercise caution when attempting any level of overclock on system components.
We will use the following applications to test the performance of the graphics card.
Synthetic Benchmarks & Games
|Aliens vs. Predator|
|Batman: Arkham City|
The ZOTAC AMP Edition card overclocked well but a bit below others i have tested. The maximum clock setting I could reach with the AMP edition is 1143MHz with full stability. The voltage increase was limited with the software I used for testing but with some software with a bit more headroom or even maybe a hard mod for vGPU I think this card could have more in it. One good thing is that even with maximum clock the card did not reach a temp that I would consider in an unsafe zone as it barely touched 75°C.
Memory overclocking was not bad at all as I hit 1880MHz with full stability which is nothing to scoff at. All in all the card comes with a decent overclock out of the box and has some headroom to spare. It may not be as much as some but it does do well.
The temperatures were recorded with full loaded Heaven benchmark looping for over 30 minutes or longer depending how long it took for the card to level out in temps and sat at a plateau for more than 10 minutes.
|GPU Temperatures||Temperature (Idle/Load)|
|ZOTAC GTX 680 AMP OC||33C/75°C|
|ZOTAC GTX 680 AMP||31C/74°C|
The AMP Edition cooler kept things in check rather well and for this I really have no complaint but its thermals are not exceptionally better than others we have tested so for that I would say it is passable.
The Zotac GTX 680 AMP Edition cooler is well tuned as even under load with the fans starting to ramp heavily the sound I hear from it is not strong enough that I would worry about hearing it in a closed case. On a test bench it is noticable at 4 feet but at 2 feet you definitely know its there.
Real world/Gaming Benchmarks
3DMark 11 is the newest in Futuremark’s suite of benchmarking utilities. Its a fully capable DirectX11 benchmark which also stresses and analyzes the system performance as a whole to simulate a heavy rendering environment such as a high end game or other app the end user may run. This benchmark was run with Performance settings 5 times and all runs were averaged for the result below.
Here the AMP edition holds a decent lead over a reference 680 which is nice and definitely any advantage over the reference card is a plus.
Aliens Vs Predator
Aliens Vs Predator is a quite demanding game and overall just a cool title so we had some fun running this one through its paces.
Alien Vs. Predator makes for a strong showing for the AMP card as it jumps far ahead of the reference 680 and 670 which is definitely a excellent result.
Metro 2033 likely one of the toughest games to crack that I have tested with as it brings virtually every GPU to its knees. The Zotac AMP 680 holds its own but still with full detail i would say we need at least 2 cards to guarantee smooth gameplay as this game is just flat out stressful.
Batman: Arkham City
Batman once again shows the AMP’s strengths as it gains 10 FPS over the reference 680 which is very good especially as this card is basically just a high binned reference model card.
Dirt 3 although being marketed with AMD cards shows a strong result with the 680 although the AMP does not take as commanding of a lead it still does take a nice lead above the 670 and reference 680.
When receiving the ZOTAC GTX 680 AMP I was pretty stoked as I always love to see what can be done when a company steps away from the reference. Speaking of reference pretty much everything about this card is reference except the cooler. and the cooler is simply massive and at default it keeps the card close to what I have seen from other non reference cards such as the ASUS DirectCU II TOP temperature wise. Noise, if ramped up is there but nothing I would consider ridiculous unless its right next to your head in an open test bench.
Overclocking on this card for the GPU is quite limited and this could be due to the fact that vGPU adjustment simply cannot go very far and I am hoping in the future there will be a tool available to push it more as I feel like it is being held back a bit. A software voltage control with more range would be ideal as most users will not hard mod a card just to get more volts and performance.
SLI, as long as you have a board with triple slot spaced slots should be fine but some boards may have an issue here. 3-Way and 4-Way will definitely be all but impossible without some serious custom PCIe ribbons and SLI cables. At this point I do think this is pretty much common knowledge as triple slot coolers have been around a few generations now and everyone is pretty well versed on some of the challenges.
The inclusion of the Assassin’s Creed game pack is really cool as it adds definite marketable value to the combo and honestly makes the price a bit more feasible as the Assassin’s Creed games are pretty awesome in my opinion. I will not say it adds a full 70 dollar value to the package as that would mean that it places this as almost the cheapest 680 on the market, but with the added value of the games it gets close to the lower priced efforts and with a nice factory overclock.
Mentioning overclocking also brings up some sore spots as ZOTAC does not have a capable software yet available. Finding a software from another manufacturer is easy enough and it works fine but I am eagerly awaiting a good software from ZOTAC to really show what their AMP edition is made of and I feel that could really add some serious street cred to their already strong AMP lineup.
I try to look at each product I receive as a whole and with ZOTAC products its always a mixed bag because there is so much I like with the “dare to be different” design approach. Adding multiple full games to the bundle which gives the buyer/gamer a real value and some new games to show off the performance of their new AMP edition toy. But the sticking with reference design sometimes can bite you on a top end product as on one side it ensures the widest compatibility with aftermarket components such as custom watercooling units, but also reference designs are not known for the highest overclocks either as the VRM is designed by reference to be super durable at default settings. The only thing this card is missing is some overclocking love in the build of the VRM and component selection and a nice overclock software and I would truly say this card could be unstoppable.
Anyone looking to get into a 680 with a unique look, a monster cooler and an excellent bundle of games could easily look at the ZOTAC AMP Edition GTX 680 to smash through most any current gen games with little to no issues even on max detail. With the Kepler GPU means you can also enjoy your games with multi monitor support up to 4 displays on a single card for a great multi-screen platform as well to offer not just extreme surround gaming but the enhanced productivity that kind of screen real estate can offer.
|OUR VERDICT: ZOTAC GTX 680 AMP Edition|
|Summary: The ZOTAC GTX 680 AMP simply plugs in and goes and has a monster cooler to show it means business. With some small improvements this card could be unstoppable. for this it receives the Bjorn3D Silver Bear Award.|