The GTX780Ti is still capable of making our jaws drop when we look at the performance, especially when comparing it to the previous 6xx series.
Gainward have been around forever producing outstanding graphics cards. Anyone who recalls their Golden Sample series will know how much performance they can extract from your 3D weapon of choice.
So with a GPU that's renowned for extraordinary capabilities, and in a variant produced by a manufacturer known for getting the most from a GPU, the Gainward Phantom should be an amazing card. At least on paper.
This also gave us the perfect opportunity to see how the SLI performance of the GTX780Ti compares to the Titan and plain GTX780 SLI setups that we've tested before.
So without further ado, let's see if the Gainward GTX780Ti Phantom SLI setup is enough to make the socks beneath our Christmas tree seem even more uninspiring than they already are.
Initially the technical specifications for the Phantom don't appear to be anything special. Standard Ti clock speeds and sizes, as well as the regulation output options.
Of course a specs list doesn't tell the whole story. The Phantom has a neat trick up it's sleeve.
|Product Name :||Gainward GeForce® GTX 780 Ti Phantom|
|GPU :||GeForce GTX 780 Ti|
|GPU Clockspeed :||1046 MHz (boost) / 980 MHz (base)|
|Memory :||3072MB GDDR5 (384 bits)|
|Memory Clockspeed :||3500 MHz (DDR7000)|
|Pixels per clock (peak) :||N/A|
|Bandwidth :||336 GB/s|
|Ramdac :||400 MHz|
|Bus :||PCI-Express 3.0 x 16|
|Cooling :||2.5 Slot Fan cooler|
|Connectivity :||Dual DVI, DisplayPort|
|Product Size :||274mm x 112mm|
|Power Connector :||8-pin *2|
The packaging for the Phantom is simple with the card itself front and centre, and just the product and manufacturer logos tucked away in a corner. Stealthy. Inside the box we have the usual graphics card accessories of display adaptors and Molex to PCI power, as well as the driver disk that nobody ever uses due to the speed with which graphics drivers are updated.
The moment you catch sight of the Phantom you realise that this isn't a regulation cooler. After all the fans aren't on top, and that definitely causes a raised eyebrow.
This is why the fans aren't obvious, and the real innovative star of the Gainward show. So often you can vacuum your fans but can't get into the fins to clean them without dismantling the cards. You can't even properly clean the fans on most graphics card coolers. With the Gainward Phantom the fans are kept in place with a single screw so that they slide out easily for proper cleaning.
Once they're removed you can use an attachment on your vacuum to get in there and clean out all the dust that accumulates. You can also see the cut-out that positions the fan connector. Working out how to enable fan removal without dismantling the card to unplug them is the real challenge and one that Gainward have solved ingeniously. It almost takes a leaf from a drive caddy.
We think that a pair of cards always looks stunning, and it's a large reason as to why we prefer two cards to something like a GTX690, and we're sure you'll agree that as a SLI arrangement the Gainward Phantoms look particularly striking.
Gainward GTX780Ti Phantom x2
Intel Core i7-3960X @ 4.6GHz
ASUS Rampage IV Extreme
Corsair Dominator Platinum
Corsair Neutron GTX
Windows 7 x64
Overclocking the Gainward is as simple as all nVidia overclocking is these days, and whilst we don't get quite the extreme speeds we've seen from a couple of models it's still impressive with +120MHz on the boost making 1100MHz then the GPU Boost taking it right up to 1230MHz when under load plus we managed to get another 300MHz effective out of the GDDR5.
As a single card the cooler works very well, as there is plenty of room for the fans to suck cold air in and expel it out the sides. In an SLI arrangement though the temperatures quickly rise and the fans have to work harder, and therefore louder, to try and maintain the temperatures. We might even see a couple of scenarios where the GPU Boost 2.0 has to declock the card to keep things around the 80° threshold.
3D Mark Vantage
As a single card the Phantom is very much where we'd expect to find it. The GTX780Ti is great enough that it would be impossible to have a bad one. The SLI setup really emphasises how far nVidia have come with their GK110 GPU though, as it's better than our SLI'd GTX690's. Unbelievable scores. Nearly 50000 X marks is staggering.
3D Mark 11
We don't think we'll be giving any secrets away to say that the SLI offering is the fastest thing we've ever tested. Certainly if it's capable of spanking the Quad-GPU GTX690SLI setup then nothing else will get close. Slightly surprising is that the SLI is only around a 70% performance increase, which is quite a bit lower than recent efforts we've seen.
We're pretty sure that the Ice Storm test is limited somehow. When you're only getting 10000 points extra for a whole other GTX780Ti, and a regular GTX780 give a bigger score, it's obvious that there is a hard limit. Probably 200k.
We know that everyone, ourselves included, are most interested in whether the two Phantoms are capable of doing justice to Fire Strike Extreme, and it's safe to say that they do. 5900 is our single card record, and the two Gainward cards give us an overclocked result of 9901. Eye-opening doesn't begin to cover it. For the curious amongst you two GTX Titans got 8011.
Alien vs Predator
With a minimum frame rate of over 200FPS it's fair to say that Alien vs Predator provides no challenge whatsoever for the Gainward cards. As a single card they're okay, not amazing but about average. Of course the SLI result is the one that makes your eyes pop. Maximise all the settings and still comfortably break 300FPS average.
Batman Arkham City
You all know the drill with Batman by now, so we wont bore you. The drop in the stock SLI test at 2560x1440 is a surprise though, and one we can't quite understand. It appeared smooth enough in play, and as Batman will get 60FPS on a Nokia 3310 we don't see where the problem lies. Nonetheless, there it is.
It's difficult for us not to end up as the "PC Gaming Master Race" stereotype when it comes to BattleField 4. Whilst most of the gaming world is prostrating themselves before its beauty, and people are selling kidneys and grandmothers to buy consoles that just about get 40FPS at middling resolutions, we are happy with well over 60FPS from a GTX780Ti at 2560x1440 and with maximum anti-aliasing. The two card setup breaks through 120FPS, which is useful if you have a 3D monitor. Either way it makes us chuckle at the salivating from the console generation at something we PC gamers take for granted. Now if only we could convince the developers to take advantage of all this power, but that's another debate for another day.
Another title that benefits enormously from the smoothness and detail of the powerful GK110 GPU at the heart of the Gainward Phantom is BioShock Infinite. Although again we see that the extra card doesn't give us the 90% or so performance increase that has become more common in recent years.
Unquestionably the biggest performance gains from moving between a single card and an SLI arrangement are had at the more extreme resolutions, and the Gainward Phantom, especially when overclocked, really shines in the more demanding CatZilla tests, gaining 10000 and 7000 points respectively in the 1080P and 1440P benchmarks.
Crysis 3 has been patched and driver tweaked a load since launch. It reached the point where 60FPS at 1080P was definitely achievable on a good rig. Now with the Phantom SLI setup we see over 60FPS in 2560x1440, something that seemed impossible in the early days of release. In 1920x1080 we're still seeing about a 50% improvement with the extra card, but up the resolution and we're close to 100% better off than a single card.
Far Cry 3
We've spoken before about how well the GTX780Ti responds to overclocking and few titles demonstrate this better than Far Cry 3 in SLI. The single Phantom is okay, not amazing, but the SLI is good at stock and mind-blowing when overclocked, nearly doubling the single card performance.
Can you say CPU limited? The single card performance is good, but the SLI performance is strange, barely scraping 70FPS in 1080P and yet almost matching it at the much more demanding 2560x1440 resolution. Curious.
It's hardly a secret that Metro just loves a dual card setup, and the Gainward Phantom absolutely decimates it, easily doubling the results in Metro 2033, and doing likewise in the higher resolution test. Last Light does highlight what we were saying about the cooling though, as the stock card initially declocked massively to stay cool, ending up beneath the single card at 1080P.
Resident Evil 6
Yet another title where it appears we're hitting an internal limit, Resident Evil 6 has always been capable of great performance on a multitude of cards so it was a surprise to see us unable to break through the 20k point barrier, especially when the higher resolution results are so positive. Again the Phantom is okay as a performer if not quite at the heights of some other GTX780Ti's.
Emphasising how the twin card setup is mainly of benefit in higher resolutions, the Gainward SLI arrangement is only a bit better than the single card in 0xAA 1080P, but starts rocking and rolling as the image quality and resolution increase until by the time we hit 8xAA Ultra texture 2560x1440 the Phantom SLI is doubling the performance of a single GTX780Ti.
Unigine Heaven maintains this excellent performance of the SLI when compared to the single card, and with the overclock in place the difference is even more marked than the increase of stock vs stock.
Just for fun we thought we'd show you how the GTX780Ti SLI setup compares to the other big nVidia offerings in a selection of games. The short version is that it's staggering how much of an improvement the Ti version has over even the GTX Titan, much less the GTX780. Probably not worth upgrading if you've already got GTX780s, but if you're wondering what to spend that Christmas bonus on, the Phantoms are a fine choice.
Some of the conclusions about the Gainward GTX780Ti Phantom write themselves. The GK110 GPU is an absolute star and, if you'll pardon the expression, an instant classic that will sit alongside the Voodoo 2, the Radeon R300 and nVidia G80 as ones that people will remember fondly when thinking back on early computers they had or titles that blew their mind. The GTX780 was impressive, but the Ti variant is an absolute star with almost unbelievable performance.
So what does the Gainward Phantom offer beyond being based around such an impressive GPU?
Easily the star of the show is the cooler. One of the biggest problems in graphics card coolers since the dawn of time has always been the intake of dust which gradually erodes the cooling performance. Whilst it's possible to vacuum the fans and attack them with a microfibre cloth you can never get them as clean as when they were new and even if you can the fins of the aluminium heatsink still gradually get packed with dust. You could dismantle the card and clean it properly, but it's not the kind of thing that the average user will want to do, and even for experts it still voids your warranty which is hardly the top of the list of things you wish for.
Gainward have beautifully solved this problem by sandwiching the fans in the centre of the cooler and having them attach with power cables akin to a drive caddy. Just unscrew the thumb screw at the front and slide each fan out in turn and you can clean them easily and thoroughly. Whilst they're out the heatsink is then very open and available to be cleaned in a manner of your choosing. Given the importance of temperatures in the excellent nVidia GPU Boost 2.0, this cooler gives performance benefits beyond merely extending the life of your purchase. It's outstanding. There are a couple of slight issues in that it's not the most efficient setup so in a dual-card rig it has to work harder, and thus louder, to maintain the temperatures. It's fine as a single card, albeit a shade below the very best offerings.
Speaking of performance that tiny edge of cooling below some of the finer offerings means that the performance is a frame or two below the best. However, given the enormous power available from the GTX780Ti and the ease of cleaning the card we think it's a small price to pay. As a SLI setup the performance is frankly ridiculously good. We know that's not a major shock, who'd've thought two expensive top-end cards paired up give good results (everyone) but given that the Phantoms not only out-performed the GTX Titan and GTX780 SLI offerings we'd tested, but also two GTX690s we can't help but shout loudly about how impressive the two Gainward cards are. We never thought that arrangement would be beaten on the next gen, let alone from two single GPU cards rather than two (theoretical) GTX790s.
With great looks, and a hugely inventive solution to the cooling problems and eye-popping performance, the Gainward GTX780Ti Phantom is worthy of our OC3D Gold Award. That cooler is brilliant enough to earn our rare Innovation Award too. The sheer cost of the SLI option makes a Gold untenable, but the performance is so blistering that it has to win our OC3D Performance Award.
Thanks to Gainward for supplying the GTX780Ti Phantoms for review. Discuss your thoughts in the OC3D Forums.