GeForce GTX 680 announced, powerful enough for Samaritan

At GDC earlier this month, we saw Unreal Engine's impressive Samaritan tech demo running on a single GPU for the first time. Epic Games' Mark Rein told us that the demo was being powered by a new Nvidia card, simply codenamed Kepler. While we were able to see the hardware, the graphics card manufacturer was keeping quiet about the card's specs.

Well, until today. The GeForce GTX 680 represents the beginning of Nvidia's next generation GPU architecture. "With Kepler we wanted not only to build the world's fastest GPU, but also the world's most power efficient," Nvidia said in the announcement.

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According to Nvidia, the GTX 680 introduces two changes that improve the GPU's energy efficiency. The first is the new streaming multiprocessor, described as "the most important building block" of the GPU, designed for "optimal performance per watt."

The increased power efficiency will result in a quieter and cooler gaming experience. However, it serves a practical purpose as well. The Samaritan demo, which previously required three GTX 580 cards, would draw a total of 732 watts to run. A power supply of that nature just isn't practical for PC gaming purposes. The GTX 680, in contrast, draws at most 195 watts of power, making it an upgrade your computer won't explode from using.

A new feature called "GPU Boost" will also dynamically fluctuate clock speed. The card has a base clock of 1006 MHz and a boost clock of 1058 MHz. Nvidia promises that "GPU Boost doesn't take away from overclocking." They argue that "with GPU Boost, you now have more than one way to overclock your GPU. You can still increase the base clock just like before and the boost clock will increase correspondingly. Alternatively, you can increase the power target. This is most useful for games that are consuming near 100% of this power target."

The card will be available to purchase starting today for about $500 at select retailers. With it, you'll be able to boast about your ability to run Samaritan--in spite of not actually being able to play anything that looks like it yet.