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PoV/TGT GTX 680 review, Air Cooling vs. Water Cooling

by on23 August 2012


This review was intended to show how water cooled and air cooled Pov/TGT GTX 680 cards fare against each other. We know that users who treasure silence tend to go for water cooled cards, but as you can see – there are alternatives.

GTX 680 4GB Beast definitely stands out as the best performer among the GTX 680 cards we’ve tested and its higher factory overclock translates to better performance out of the box. The Beast’s GPU ticks 131MHz higher than reference while the Ultra Charged’s GPU is 105MHz faster than reference. In our tests, the Beast outran the Ultra Charged by some 6 to 7 percent.

Despite the quite high factory overclocks, both cards ran cooler than their reference counterpart. When the cards were under load, the Beast’s GPU was more than 30°C and the Ultra Charged by 10°C cooler than the reference card. This in itself is proof enough that the Ultra Charged’s cooler is excellent.

Let’s talk about noise levels, or lack thereof. The water cooled Beast card will be as quiet as your cooling system is. We hooked it up to a triple fan radiator system and, expectedly, got an inaudible system.              

The Ultra Charged ‘s cooler was only slightly “louder” than our water cooling solution. With its three fans and huge heatsink, this is the quietest air cooler for GTX 680s we’ve had in our lab.

Last but not the least is overclocking and you should know by now that TGT used Low Leakage Selection chips, which provide superior overclocking potential as well as additional headroom.

The fight for best overclocker turned out to be quite even as well, since we went beyond 1210MHz for the Base clock (1300+MHz Boost) on both cards. We expected the air cooler to be louder after our additional overclock, but we barely heard the difference. Obviously, the thermals aren’t the barrier to higher scores and it seems the GPU simply need more voltage for such feats.

In standard cases, this would be the part where we talk about how loud air cooler get compared to water cooling solutions, but the GTX 680 4GB Ultra Charged simply had none of it. Its cooler excelled in each aspect except for the width of three slots. Still, we think three-slot wide solutions are entirely justified, as long as we have performance to show for it. In this case, it worked well.

Of course, it’s the users who decide in the end, meaning their wallets will do the shopping. The water block and a high factory overclock come at a price and the Beast goes for about €775. The Ultra Charged on the other hand sells for around €620.

It’s clear that the cards aren’t aimed at the masses, especially since buying a water cooled card requires you to have a water cooling system. The Ultra Charged requires no such thing and you’ll be up and playing in no time.

The choice of cards raises another question, this time of upgradability and whether a particular user needs water cooling to begin with. A few points are for certain though – both cards are beasts in their own right and their performance and practically non-existent noise levels would do anyone’s rig proud.


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Last modified on 23 August 2012
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