When we reviewed the GTX Titan we were left stunned by how much of a leap forward in performance it had. Then the GTX780 appeared and, frankly, we were left wondering why anybody would purchase a GTX Titan when nearly identical performance could be had from the GTX780. It was as if nVidia had made their own flagship card obsolete.
However, we know that many people enjoy the sheer adulation that comes from owning such a premium piece of hardware. Indeed as many of those also prefer the amazing level of performance that can come from doubling up your cards in an SLI setup.
Which left us wondering. Is the GTX780 as outstanding in SLI as the GTX Titan SLI would be? What kind of performance could be had from such an expensive array of high-end cards?
With the British Summer finally appearing and us all being bathed in sunshine, the country feeling good because a Brit had finally won Wimbledon, then perhaps it's time to continue the sunny theme with some performance guaranteed to make you feel good. So let's test these two behemoths and see which of the two is the arrangement to have.
2x Gigabyte GTX780
2x Gigabyte GTX Titan
Intel Core i7-3960X @ 4.6GHz
ASUS Rampage IV Extreme
Corsair Dominator Platinum
Corsair Neutron GTX
Windows 7 x64
Two cards always look gorgeous. There is just something about a pair that can't be matched by the twin-GPU single card options. With the i7-3960X pushing the cards hard, this is very much a money-no-object system.
Two Gigabyte GTX780s at the bottom, and two Gigabyte GTX Titan's at the top. We like the look of both the cards although the Titan is very understated for something that costs this much!
3D Mark Vantage
Starting off with a bang, the GTX780 SLI gives us a new OC3D P-Score record of 61065. Yes, even better than the GTX690 SLI. Perhaps the most surprising result is that the Titan performed better as a single card in the Extreme test, yet the GTX780 comfortably out-performs it when in SLI. Although given the price differential the HD7970CF setup runs them both surprisingly close.
3D Mark 11
As the intensity increases with 3D Mark 11, the two top-range nVidia cards really stretch their lead over anything remotely similar that's available. Once again the GTX780 scales better than the GTX Titan, although the 9301 X marks and 21706 P score for the Titan SLI give it the victory. Just.
Once again the GTX780 SLI comes out swinging with a brand new OC3D record in the Ice Storm benchmark. The first time we've seen the 200000 mark broken. As the tests increase in intensity the Titan just about sneaks ahead, although the differences are negligible. 8011 in the 3D Mark Fire Strike Extreme preset from the GTX Titan SLI is particularly jaw-dropping.
Considering that the GTX Titan has twice the GDDR5 of the GTX780, we'd have expected that as the image quality and resolution were ramped up that the Titan would increase it's lead, whereas the opposite is the case. Both setups are extremely close, but in the 1440P test it's the GTX780 SLI that comes out ahead, 14394 to 14272.
There is no point in running 1920x1080 tests on such a powerful system, but even at 2560x1440 the GTX780 SLI is making mincemeat out of the GTX Titan SLI. Only 5 frames ahead in 0xAA and yet 9 ahead once we have 8x MSAA employed. The Titan scales well, but the GTX780 scaling is another world. Over 100FPS average in 8xMSAA @ 1440P.
The trend we've seen so far continues in Unigine Valley. No matter how high the resolution or the relative differences in the amount of available GDDR5, the GTX780 SLI is out-performing the apparently bigger brother Titan.
The big question when testing a graphics card, or in this case two, is whether the benchmark results transfer across to gaming. There are many setups which provide incredible 3D Mark scores but pale when in a gaming scenario, and vice versa. So far we've seen that the GTX780 SLI arrangement makes a mockery of its alleged lesser status by continuously matching or beating the GTX Titan SLI. In gaming tests we see that continues to be the trend. Only AVP, by a single frame, and Far Cry 3, by relatively big eight, favour the Titan. Otherwise it's the GTX780 SLI all the way. Eagle eyed readers will see that Metro Last Light is clearly crippled by the same lack of optimisation that absolutely plagued Metro 2033 in its early days.
Nobody is going to run these two cards flat out and hope for a light electricity bill. However it's worth noting that two of the most powerful cards on earth, in a system that's heavily overclocked, still only draws 691 Watts at the wall. You really are buying bigger PSUs just for the reduction in noise that the efficiency overhead allows.
So the million dollar question that's been lighting up the forums and discussions over a pint is, "which is better, the GTX780 or GTX Titan, and do you need that 6GB of GDDR5 in high resolution settings?".
When we looked at the GTX780 we found it to be a couple of frames behind the GTX Titan, but because of the price differential it was the wiser choice, even if it wasn't the choice for the people who demand the absolute best and the kudos that comes from being able to claim you have a GTX Titan in your system. So it stood to reason that running the very latest titles at maximum settings on our big 2560x1440 monitor should stretch the gap between the two offerings. After all, if the GTX Titan is two or three frames better as a single card then as two it should be five or six better in SLI right. Right?
If anything has come from our SLI testing today it's that the GTX780 is an even better proposition than it seemed as a single card. Regularly when the going got tough and the benchmarks strenuous the Gigabyte GTX780 SLI setup trumped its bigger brother. Only in the low resolution gentler benchmarks, 3D Mark on the performance preset and CatZilla) did the Titan have enough raw CUDA cores to take the crown and even then it's by a barely noticeable margin.
The biggest shocks come from the fact that the GTX780s clearly scale much better than the Titans. We often saw numbers near or past the 100% mark from the extra card, whereas the GTX Titan never really doubled the single card performance. In gaming, which is where it counts, the GTX780 SLI setup was constantly ahead of the Titan. After all, nobody can watch Unigine on a loop, no matter how beautiful it is.
So the GTX780 was the sensible choice for all but the most well-heeled user or those who are seeking to break some world records. In SLI the GTX780 is the best choice for both your pocket and for those looking for the smoothest gameplay experience around. You could argue that for the two people who have three 30" monitors then perhaps the extra GDDR5 available to the GTX Titan frame buffer will mean that it will squeak out a little more performance than the GTX780, but if you could afford such an arrangement you'd buy the Titan's regardless of cost.
The GTX780 SLI setup is the current champion. The King. The Daddy. It bows to nobody. It has given us the highest scores we've ever seen in some tests, and out-performed even a GTX690 SLI setup, which isn't exactly lacking in performance. The GTX Titan exists solely for those with more money than sense, who rely upon the cachet of the name amongst those who believe that bigger must be better. It isn't though.
Thanks to Gigabyte for supplying the GTX780s and GTX Titans for our review. Discuss your thoughts in the OC3D Forums.