Review: Nvidia regains throne, but at a price
Nvidia’s Kepler architecture has been around for a while. Kepler was officially launched in March 2012 and became known as the Geforce 600 series. The top of the line was the GK104-based Geforce GTX 680 card that stood its ground for quite some time. This was a 28nm chip that stayed with us for years and it’s on sale even today in GTX 760 / 770 based mainstream cards.
Then the world’s attention shifted to the GK110, a massive new chip that was announced at Computex 2012 and finally released in November 2012 as the Tesla K20 compute card. This one was based on a brand new, 7-billion transistor GK110 28nm core. It was and still is the biggest GPU even made.
The gaming world met this card in late February 2013 as it debuted as fastest graphics card ever, the Geforce GTX Titan. Titan has 6GB of GDDR5 memory, 2688 Shader processors, 224 texture mapping units and 48 ROPs or render output units. The card is clocked at 837MHz base clock and 876 MHz boost clock and until few weeks ago was the fastest kid on the block. The problem was the $999 price which was enough to burn a huge hole in most wallets.
In May Nvidia launched a cheaper version of the GK110 as the Geforce GTX 780 that came with 3GB of memory, 2304 Shaders 192 texture mapping units (TMUs) and 48 ROPs or Render output units – and it debuted at a much more attractive price of $649 price. AMD launched its now famous Never Settle bundles and fought this card with bang for buck, as its HD 7970 was doing fine, but still ending significantly slower than the huge GK110.
GK110 is made out of clusters and Titan has 14 clusters each having 192 Shader cores. The Geforce GTX 780 has 12 of these cores enabled resulting with 2304 Shader units and the new comer Geforce GTX 780 Ti comes with a record number of 2880 shades, which translates to 15 clusters enabled. You should see CK110 clusters as Borg hives.
The Geforce GTX 780 Ti was something that Nvidia was working on for a while and it decided to release it only when it had enough time to study the new AMD flagship, the $549 Radeon R9 290X based on the new Hawaii chip.
In most cases the Radeon R9 290X its Uber noisy mode ended up faster that the Geforce GTX 780, but also faster than the $999 Titan. Nvidia’s response was to slash the GTX 780 price by $150 and launch the Geforce GTX 780 Ti that will apparently be enough to fight the R9 290X. Nvidia insisted that it has a better cooler, that it can keep the temperature down, but we will get to that later in the review.
The GTX 780 Ti has 25 percent more cores than the original GTX 780 and it has the same size as any GK110 chip, 533 mm2. It needs 250W which translates to 0.47 W per mm2 and it optimally works at 83 Celsius, so says Nvidia. We will get back to this in the bench section.
Nvidia has GPU Boost 2.0 that ensures that the graphics card is always running at the highest possible clock and with a massive cooler it should be able to prevent significant fluctuations in operating frequencies.
Nvidia also added Shadowplay, its automatic game recorder that comes with Geforce Experience 1.7 and higher, Shield PC streaming as well as G-Sync readiness. These new features should help add a bit more appeal to the GK110. G-Sync can synchronize Geforce Kepler cards and your G-Sync capable monitors and will come later this year, with real availability in early 2014. This technology will eliminate frame stuttering and tearing due to a lack of synchronisation between your graphics card and monitor, but it requires a new G-Sync enabled monitor and works only on Kepler cards, GTX 780 Ti included.
Nvidia gameworks, powered by 300 hard working engineers, is working to make games better that result with many classy effects that found their place in modern games. A lot of times Nvidia engineers under Toni Tamasi SVP of content and technology and Asu Rege Vice President, Game Content and Technology, come up with new effects that game developers later implement in these cool games.
To name a few Splinter Cell Blacklist has DX11, tessellation, TXAA and HBAO+, Batmen Arkham Origins has GPU PhysX, DX 11, HBAO+, Tessellation, TXAA, Enhanced 4K, Call od Duty Ghost has DX11, GPU PhysX and tessellation, Watchdog has DX11, tessellation, TXAA and HBAO+ and enhanced 4k, Assassin's Creed Black Flag has DX11, Tessellation, TXAA and HBAO+, God Rays and Enhanced 4K and finally Witcher 3 Wild hunt supports GPU PhysX, DX11,tessalation, FXAA and HBAO+. Nvidia thinks that this is the way it's meant to be played and we cannot forget the fact that Battlefield 4 went to AMD.
Geforce GTX 780 Ti comes with free downloadable copies of Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag, Batman: Arkham Origins, and Splinter Cell Blacklist from participating retailers and e-tailers. You also get a voucher for $100 off the $299 Nvidia Tegra 4 based Shield gaming console, but the offer is valid only for two more weeks and expires on November 21st 2013.
The card itself looks very similar to the plain Geforce GTX 780, it has a similar cooler, in the dark it glows green like a Fukushima tuna and this can even be adjusted in the driver.
The GK110-425-B1 that powers the GTX 780 TI has 5 graphics processing clusters, 15 streaming multiprocessors, 2880 single precision CUDA cores (Shader units), 960 double precision CUDA cores, 240 Texture Units, 48 ROP units.
With all this its base clock is 875MHz and Boost clock or 928MHz, while the memory runs at 7000 MHz effective. The chip has 1536KB of L2 cache and 3072 MB of GDDR5 memory running on a 384 memory bus. The cards total memory bandwidth is 336GB/s, Texture filtering rate Bilinear is 210 Gigatexels/sec. As we said before the chip has 7.1 billion transistors in 28nm and the card has 2 dual link DVI ports, one HDMI port and one DisplayPort.
Of course this is a dual slot card, needs one 8-pin and one 6-pin power connectors and its TDP (thermal design power) is 250W. Nvidia recommends 600 watts PSU of good quality and you can imagine that if you want to plug two of these babies into your motherboard you would need even more. The 250W TDP is an average usage maximum power scenario but in case you use Furmark or some other benchmark that can get the card on its knees, it can even exceed this number and potentially kill this rather expensive card. The card’s thermal threshold is 95 degrees Celsius.
Before we move to test results, let’s also note that the Geforce GTX 780 Ti comes with Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag, Batman: Arkham Origins, and Splinter Cell Blacklist, $100 of Nvidia Shield and its suggested retail price is set at $699.