When the GTX Titan was released a couple of months back we were all surprised at quite a few elements of the release. We raised our eyebrows at the timing of it, the incredible performance that was available, the price and why it wasn't labelled numerically as all their previous releases have been (TNT cards excepted).
It seems that the GTX Titan was the advance guard though, as the GK110 GPU has found a new home in the, externally identical, nVidia GTX780.
Now this model has reverted to the numbering scheme is it a heavily cut-down version of the GTX Titan, designed to make such a behemoth affordable for the masses, or is it a Titan in everything but name?
Time to find out.
Naturally the nVidia documentation is expressing how much of an improvement to the GTX680 the GTX780 is. We know that it's really the Titan in disguise, or at least that if we have to compare it to a high-end card then the Titan makes for the most obvious comparison.
So what's changed? Well the GDDR5 has halved, which given the price of it is not a large surprise. Even at the highest resolutions you'd struggle to maximise the frame-buffer on a GTX Titan, so 3GB is not a great loss and it's 1GB more than the GTX680 which can make a big difference. The clock-speed is up from 837/876MHz to 863/900Mhz, and the memory remains the same at an effective 6008MHz.
Equally we have the same amount of Raster Processors as the GTX Titan with 48. In fact besides the memory the only other big change is the drop of 384 CUDA cores down from 2688 on the GTX Titan to 2304 on the GTX780. Still a world ahead of the GTX680 though.
Hopefully these relatively minimal reductions in the available power of the GTX780 should be balanced out by the increased clock-speed and some outstanding numbers should be had.
If someone covered up the name of the card embossed upon the left, or indeed the name at the top of this review, we'd wager that nobody could tell the difference between this and the GTX Titan. That was an astonishing product though, so we have high hopes for the GTX780.
We still love the cooler. The combination of the brushed aluminium shroud and a seriously hefty heatsink looks the business. It helps that we know that, on the Titan at least, it worked well too.
Every bit of the PCB is stuffed to the gunwales with Samsung memory chips and power phases, as well as the GK110 GPU itself.
In case you're just glancing at the review and think we're using pictures of the Titan, or if you want to make certain your eBay purchase is the right thing, the main differences are the obvious GTX780 logo embossed on the business end of the card, and the lack of the extra 3GB of GDDR5 on the reverse. Eagle-eyed readers will also note that the bottom corner of the GTX780 contains two horizontal and one vertical batch of solder, whereas the Titan had two horizontals. To be short, we're certain it's the same card with a couple of tweaks.
Finally the GTX780 requires the same 6+8pin combination of power inputs that we see on most high-end cards. The outputs are in keeping with nVidia tradition, being made up of two DVIs, a HDMI and a DisplayPort. We have to confess we prefer this setup to the dozens of DisplayPorts on the Radeons. We still don't know many people who own a DisplayPort monitor, and anything that reduces adaptors is good in our book.
Intel Core i7-3960X @ 4.6GHz
ASUS Rampage IV Extreme
Corsair Dominator Platinum
Corsair Neutron GTX
Windows 7 x64
Because the GPU Boost v2 automatically overclocks the card as long as it's within the thermal threshold, you will always get a maximum temperature of 80°C. So strictly speaking the temperatures aren't of great importance. It's more about the noise, and thankfully the cooler is as quiet as we've come to expect from recent nVidia offerings.
3D Mark Vantage
The rather old 3D Mark Vantage provides our first results, and straight away you can see that the GTX780 is just a shade short of the incredible performance we saw with the GTX Titan. The reduction in shaders and GDDR5 is only losing us a few points, but massacring the GTX680.
3D Mark 11
3D Mark 11 is as impressive as the results we saw in 3D Mark Vantage. So far, so jaw-dropping.
We've split the Ice Storm test off from our main graph to hopefully make the differences in the Fire Strike tests more visible.
Speaking of Ice Storm the GTX780 gives us the highest score we've seen, even better than the Titan. In the most demanding tests the Titan edges ahead, albeit only by a handful of points, even in the extremely (ha) stressful Fire Strike Extreme test.
Alien vs Predator
In the standard 1080P resolution the GTX780 is an impressive performer, capable of besting all but the finest multi-card setups. Upping the resolution to the massive 2560x1440 doesn't impact performance as much as we'd expect, especially given the reduction in GDDR5 when compared to the Titan.
Batman Arkham City
To the surprise of absolutely nobody the GTX780 easily maxes out Arkham City, whether you're running at the standard 1920x1080 resolution or the bigger 2560x1440.
The outstanding Bioshock Infinite gives us our first strange result, with even the HD7870LE outperforming the GTX780. Whether the new beta drivers that enable the GTX780 have broken something is a possibility that can't be ruled out. Certainly this is the only result in our test that has the latest nVidia card anywhere but right at the sharp end.
Crysis 3 is very demanding, and the GTX780 makes absolute mincemeat of it. Even out-performing the Titan in the standard resolution and increasing the resolution doesn't make a noticeable impact in performance. When you can run the GTX780 in 2560x1440 and obtain a similar average frame-rate to a pair of HD7970s in Crossfire, then you know you have an immense card on your hands.
Far Cry 3
Demonstrating how far cards have come in a very short time, the GTX680 gave us 35FPS, the GTX Titan 46, and the GTX780 just shy of 50FPS. The higher resolution still just remains on the right side of 30FPS. This is one powerful card.
Resident Evil 6
As the first high-end card we've tested on Resident Evil 6, it's not a great surprise to find the GTX780 dominating the graph regardless of the resolution employed. Because this is a standardised benchmark it is one of the better ones to run on your own system to get a feel for how great the performance of the GTX780 is.
Another test, another massive win for the GTX780. 17FPS improvement over the GTX680 it replaces, and only a couple of frames shy of the immense GTX Titan, the GTX780 rocks hard. We would imagine that the halving of the GDDR5 would cause the Titan to extend its lead over the GTX780 in the 1440P test, and yet the GTX780 actually narrows the gap from 2.6 FPS to 1.2 FPS.
Whilst we wait for Last Light to make an appearance, the original Metro 2033 can still provide a stern test. Whatever was limiting the earlier nVidia cards was fixed with the GTX Titan and remains so with the GTX780. Amazing performance for a single card. The higher resolution causes a big performance hit, but it's still easily playable and 50% better than the GTX680.
The adventures of Wei-Shin have rarely been smoother than on the GTX780. It's a big improvement upon the GTX680, and only 3 frames behind the GTX Titan. Once again we see that the reduction in CUDA cores and GDDR5 doesn't make much of a difference at higher resolutions and, if anything, the gap between the two cards narrows.
Strange things are affoot with the latest episode in the saga of Lara Croft. Certainly the GTX780 performs well, but it isn't as dominating as we've seen previously. Indeed there is an odd combination of the game performing well on any card, and yet not being outstanding on any either.
If you needed any further proof of how amazing the GK110 GPU is, compare the scores in CatZilla with the ASUS Ares II. Tough to be anything other than impressed.
We often talk about how demanding Unigine Heaven is, and one of the elements that make it so useful as a benchmark is that it's reliable and guaranteed to make the most of any available hardware. It scales perfectly, even with hardware that didn't exist upon release. The GTX780 demolishes the benchmark, giving a score previously only available to either multiple GPU setups, or the excellent GTX Titan.
Whereas the GTX680 gave us only 53FPS average, the GTX780 brings a massive 80FPS average to the table, only 5 below that of the monstrous GTX Titan.
Unigine Heaven Hi-Res
No matter what test you lay before the GTX780 it comes up trumps. It's hard to do anything other than sit open-mouthed at the capabilities of the GK110.
Finally Unigine Valley, and although the base 1080P result with no anti-aliasing is actually a fair way off of the GTX Titan, once the detail level is increased the cards close up measurably.
Sometimes a review just writes itself. If you've skipped through our graphs and just want to know what we think then firstly, shame on you. Secondly, this is a GTX Titan with one less shader group and half the GDDR5 and a big price cut. Why you're still sitting reading and not rushing to snap one up is beyond us. If we didn't have to let you know what we thought, we'd be on the phone with credit card in hand.
In our introduction we mentioned how the specifications of the GTX780 are much closer to the range-topping Titan than we expected.
The GTX Titan had 2688 CUDA cores whereas there are 2304 on the GTX780. Both of which are a world ahead of the 1536 available with the GTX680. The immense increase from the GTX680 to the GTX Titan was part of the reason we expected the GTX780 to come in with something just under the 2000 mark. To find it's a single SMX beneath the GTX Titan was a big surprise. The second area to be reduced for cost reasons was the frankly whopping 6GB of GDDR5 on the GTX Titan has been trimmed down to a more sensible 3GB on the GTX780. However, again, still 1GB ahead of that available on the GTX680.
All of which would lead you to believe that the performance between the Titan and the GTX780 would grow wider as you piled on more and more anti-aliasing and upped the resolution to saturate the PCI Express 3.0 bandwidth and the cards capabilities. If anything the reverse is true with the GTX780 becoming more impressive the more stress you apply.
You might wonder why we're not, and throughout this review haven't, talked about how the GTX680 compares. Frankly, it doesn't. When the GTX Titan came along we were utterly blown away by it, both in price and performance terms. The GTX780 has been trimmed to enable the price to become at least considerable as a purchase for the average user, and yet the performance remains undiminished. We're talking a negligible amount of frames and benchmark points. Nothing you notice.
Not only is the GTX780 the fastest single GPU around (Titan notwithstanding) but it will give you an improvement in frame rate almost regardless of your current setup. It's outstanding. If the battle between the HD7970 and GTX680 was close, then this is a Monty Python sized foot crushing all beneath it and making them instantly seem old hat and out of date. There aren't many products that appear that make us almost want to applaud it, but the nVidia GTX780 is one such item of hardware and, even at this price, unquestionably worthy of our OC3D Gold Award. We want one. No scrub that, we want two. Brilliant.
Thanks to nVidia for supplying the GTX780 for review. Discuss your thoughts in the OC3D Forums.