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Gainward GTX 780 Ti Phantom reviewed

by on06 December 2013

thumbrecommended08 75
Review: Cooler and faster

The GTX 780 Ti is Nvidia’s new flagship graphics card and we all know AIBs like to show off when it comes to flagship products. Gainward is no exception and its GTX 780 Ti Phantom card which comes with a factory overclock and custom Phantom cooler. Last week we shared our first thoughts with our readers and at that time we could not find the Phantom card listed in online shops. In the meantime Gainward’s marketing team went into action and now we can find the card listed in at least 50 shops. Gainward’s plain GTX 780 Ti, based on the reference design, is widely available for 585 euro, while the Phantom card usually costs 40 to 50 euro more.

Gainward decided to use the 980MHz for the base GPU clock, which is significantly higher than 875MHz reference clock. According to Gainward, this was enough to make the GTX 780 Ti Phantom one of the fastest single-GPU graphics card on the market as it ends up to 10% faster than the reference GTX 780 Ti. Off course we will take a closer look at this claim.


Before we move to test results let’s refresh our memory. Nvidia launched the GK110 in May as the Geforce GTX 780 that came with 2304 CUDA cores, 192 texture mapping units (TMUs), 48 render output units (ROPs) and 3GB of GDDR5 memory running on a 384-bit memory bus.

Specification wise the GTX 780 ended up with 50% more CUDA cores than its predecessor, the GTX 680, and this among some other things gives the GTX 780 card a significant performance boost, although the GK110 is based on the Kepler architecture of GTX 680 fame. The GK104 chip used in the GTX 680 has 1536 CUDA cores. The memory bandwidth got increased, too, thanks to the wider 384-bit bus. The GTX 780 has a 384-bit bus while the GTX 680 is limited to a 256-bit interface, but the memory speed on both cards is 6008MHz.The frame buffer was increased from 2048MB to 3072MB of GDDR5 memory.

Compared to GTX Titan ($999), the GTX 780 debuted at a more attractive price of $649. Nvidia’s response to AMD’s Hawaii was to slash the GTX 780 price by $150 and launch the Geforce GTX 780 Ti.

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. The suggested retail price for the Geforce GTX 780 Ti was set at $699. The GK110-425-B1 that powers the GTX 780 TI has 5 graphics processing clusters, 15 streaming multiprocessors, 2880 CUDA cores, 240 TMUs, 48 ROP units, and 3GB of GDDR5 memory running on a 384 memory bus. GTX 780 Ti card comes with faster memory 7000MHz effective, compared to the 6008MHz on the GTX 780.

Note that the Gainward GTX 780 Ti Phantom comes with a hefty factory overclock which raises the GPU clock by 104MHz, but the memory is still running on reference clocks, i.e. 7000MHz (effective GDDR5).

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Important new features announced alongside the GTX 780 Ti are ShadowPlay, an automatic game recorder that uses GPU for this purpose and it comes with Geforce Experience 1.7 and higher, and 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 synchronization 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. The Geforce GTX 780 Ti also features the same GPU Boost 2.0 technology used in the Geforce GTX Titan, with more advanced controls for auto-overclocking, fan control, and hardware monitoring.

Note that the Geforce GTX 780 Ti and GTX 780 Ti Phantom cards come with Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag, Batman: Arkham Origins, and Splinter Cell Blacklist.


The packaging is huge but has nice design. It features a carrying handle, along with a transparent window and a plenty of descriptions and specs for the discerning shopper.



In the box you’ll find:

A User Guide,
Quick Installation Guide,
Driver DVD,
A small note about PCIE 3 compatibility,
HDMI to DVI Dongle,
DVI to VGA Dongle,
1x 6-pin to 8-pin Power Adapter.


The Gainward GTX 780 Ti Phantom is based on a slightly altered GTX 780 Ti PCB design and it boasts a custom Phantom cooling on top. The Phantom is an impressive cooler with great performance. The new Phantom cooler has slightly a changed design compared to the previous generation used on GTX 680 cards. The most visible difference is that the fans can be easily removed, much like hard drives from a hot swap bay.


Previous generations of Geforce reference designs featured relatively noisy coolers, thus making non-reference cards with custom cooling a lot more appealing. However, the reference GTX 780 Ti cooler is pretty good, as it doesn’t compromise on noise over performance, at least not until you overclock the card. An overclocked GPU generates more heat and the reference cooler starts to get louder.

The Geforce GTX 780 Ti is a pretty impressive card even in its plain vanilla reference edition. The next picture shows the Gainward GTX 780 Ti which is just loosely based on the reference design.


Two 8-pin power connectors are necessary to power the card.


Gainward decided to use the baseplate to strengthen the PCB and provide better cooling for the memory chips and MOSFET. The card has 3GB of GDDR5 memory. All the memory modules at the front of the PCB are tucked away underneath the reinforcement plate.


The card uses an OnSemi NCP4208 voltage controller and the TDP for the reference card is 250W. The VRM features an eight phase PWM design for the core and two phases PWM design for the memory. Gainward also offers a workaround on the voltage limits.


The rear of the PCB features no backplate, which is not important for the performance but would make overall design visually appealing.


As far as video outs go, once again we are looking at the classic Gainward Quattro-port design, i.e. two dual link DVIs, HDMI (1.4a compatible) and DisplayPort out. Nvidia surround technology enables the Phantom card to drive up to three displays for triple display gaming. Nvidia included an HDMI sound device within the GPU, so there is no need to connect the card to your SPDIF out to get audio and video via HDMI.


As far as video outs go, once again we are looking at the classic Gainward Quattro-port design, i.e. two dual link DVIs, HDMI (1.4a compatible) and DisplayPort out. Nvidia surround technology enables the Phantom card to drive up to three displays for triple display gaming. Nvidia included an HDMI sound device within the GPU, so there is no need to connect the card to your SPDIF out to get audio and video via HDMI.

In order to keep the overclocked GPU cool, Gainward decided to use the Phantom cooler with a rather hefty heatsink. While Nvidia's reference GTX 780 Ti cooler is quite good, Gainward certainly has a lot of confidence in its own version, but who wouldn’t knowing that this is a massive 2.5-slot wide cooler. However the width of the GTX 780 Phantom card may be its main disadvantage when it comes to enthusiasts prone to building three-way or four-way SLI systems. 

The Phantom cooler is definitely impressive. We already had a chance to get acquainted with the new redesigned Phantom cooler. We saw it on Gainward’s GTX 780 Phantom GLH where it managed to provide good cooling performance with relatively little noise. The Phantom’s fans are hidden behind the heatsink so it may trick users into thinking that it’s a passive cooler. Still, if you look through the heatsink fins, you will the three fans. Note that the GTX 780/780Ti Phantom used three fans, but the GTX 680/670 Phantom used two fans. It seems that Gainward decided three fans were a better combination with the redesigned heatsink. After all, the TDP difference between the GTX 680 and GTX 780/780Ti is 55W, which might explain the decision.


Now for Gainward’s removable fan trick featured in current generation Phantom coolers. The fans can be removed without removing the heatsink or messing with the wiring. You just need to undo a single screw and pull the fan out of the heatsink.


This is possibly thanks to an integrated power connector inside the bay. You can’t fit the fan upside down as it uses a set of rails to guide it down to the connector. Three fans on a hot card with a huge heatsink area attract a lot of dust, so we really love this unique feature, as it makes cleaning the heatsink much easier.

Power Logic PLA8015S12HH fans have a maximum speed of 2729RPM (controlled via MSI Afterburner) or 3112RPM (controlled via ExperTool).


If you decide to take the fan off it will void the warranty on most cards. However, on the Phantom it won’t, and it makes maintenance a breeze. Removing the whole cooler from the card will be an easy task too, and could be done by removing four spring-loaded screws from the card’s back side, but this will void the warranty.


The loudness of the Power Logic fans depends on the efficiency of the heatsink. A well designed heatsink makes their life easier, so the decision to use three fans should result in more airflow at lower RPMs. Aside from the GPU, the fans are in charge of cooling other hot components on the PCB, and on a 250W+ card there are plenty of hot components.


The next pictures shows how cable routing was implemented.


All three fans share the same 4-pin power connector. Setting the RPM manually is easy using Gainward’s ExperTool or any other popular utility like MSI Afterburner or PrecisionX.


The new Phantom cooler employs a five-heatpipe system to transfer heat between the cooler base and the heatsink. The 8mm heatpipes are curved a bit more precisely than in earlier Phantom coolers, so they don’t protrude from the cooler. The welds are very are accurate and look impressive.  The GTX 670 Phantom did not feature a copper base, it was an all-aluminium design. That was probably one of the main reasons it did not end up quieter than the reference GTX 670 cooler. Gainward reverted to a copper base with the GTX 780/780Ti/770.



- Motherboard: Intel DZ87KL-75K
- CPU: Ivy Bridge Core i7 3770  (4.5GHz)
- CPU Cooler: Thermalright HR
- Memory: 8GB Corsair DDR3 2400MHz  
- Harddisk:   Corsair Neutron GTX 240GB
- Power Supply: CoolerMaster Silent Pro 1000W
- Case: CoolerMaster Cosmos II Ultra Tower
- Operating System: Win8.1 64-bit


- Nvidia 331-70
- AMD 13.11_beta9

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So, in order to keep noise in check while cooling the GTX 780 Ti with a 104MHz factory overclock Gainward developed an exceptional cooler. Let’s see how it performs in the real world. Nvidia’s GPU Boost 2.0 watch-dog ensures that the graphics card is always running at the highest possible clock and with a massive cooler it is able to prevent significant fluctuations in operating frequencies.

The card’s thermal threshold is 95 degrees Celsius but you do not have to worry with the GTX 780 Ti Phantom. Under load the GPU temperature can hit 84 degrees Celsius in some applications, but mostly we measured temperature under 82 degrees Celsius. The temperatures are similar what we got on a reference GTX 780 Ti card, but bear in mind that the Phantom ships with a 104MHz GPU overclock.

In terms of performance we have nothing to complain about. However, despite the factory overclock, the new Phantom cooler keeps the card quiet. The noise level, even under load, is acceptable for a living room setting. The fans were not loud even under load, and of course while idling the card is practically silent. In idle we measured 31 degrees Celsius.

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fan auto max temp

Once the game is started and the GPU starts heating up, there are no abrupt fan speed changes.

fan start

The GTX 780 has a TDP of 250W and thus it needs both a 6-pin and 8-pin power connector to keep the lights on, so to speak. Nvidia recommends 600 watt PSUs of good quality.

In terms of power efficiency, we can report that the GTX 780 Phantom GLH can draw slightly more juice than the reference GTX 780 Ti. This is quite normal for a factory overclocked card. Overall, performance-per-watt is still good. Recent Geforce cards tend to consume 10 to 15 watts less than competing Radeon cards in a multi-monitor scenario.

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The Gainward GTX 780 Ti Phantom works at a 980MHz base clock, while the reference GPU base clock is set at 876MHz. Nvidia's GPU Boost 2.0 takes the average GPU clock to 900MHz for the reference GPU and to 1046MHz for the Phantom card. The overclocking potential is good considering that this is a factory overclocked card. Using standard voltage and AUTO fan settings we managed to push the GPU 80MHz over the factory clocks. Memory overclocking is vital in any attempt to squeeze out more performance from a graphics card, so we are happy to report that memory also produced good results with a total 200MHz (effective 800MHz) overclock.

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With the launch of GTX 780 Ti Phantom, Gainward also released a new version of its ExperTool. ExperTool allows users to overclock Kepler based graphics, displaying sensor readouts, export BIOS settings, or perform simple fan RPM control. It looks much better than previous versions as well.

Clicking the Overclock G button opens up a new window, where users are free to set their OC parameters. Gainward also included the "EXPERTMode" feature for overclocking which provides some additional ways for tricking the new GTX 780 Ti Phantom. Adjusting GPU voltage is one of them.

EXPERTMode helped us gain 40MHz for a combined overclock of 120MHz, or 244MHz higher than the reference GTX 780 Ti clock of 876MHz. What’s more, we did not spend much time tinkering with the settings and we believe that it can go even faster.

Info key reveals some important information about the card.

Status Monitor is a welcome addition to any tool.


Previous generations of Geforce reference designs featured relatively noisy coolers, but this is no longer the case. There is a caveat though. Overclockers might need something a bit better. When overclocked, the reference GTX 780 Ti can be loud, much louder than the Phantom at the same clocks. Furthermore, the Phantom cooler also allows for more overclocking headroom and it really stands out as a top notch cooler.

The new triple-fan Phantom cooler design comes with a removable fan feature, where each fan body can be removed for cleaning in minutes, without voiding the warranty. The Gainward GTX 780 Ti Phantom will certainly be one of the more interesting custom GTX 780 Ti graphics cards on the market.

That’s where the GTX 780 Ti Phantom really shines. It is just as quiet as the reference cooler even with a nice 104MHz GPU overclock. Furthermore, it allows more overclocking headroom. You can use the special ExperTool version which enables overvoltaging. Our additional 140MHz overclock resulted in an additional performance gain of 9 percent.

The cooler is now more important than ever, due to Boost 2.0 throttling and dynamic thermal management. Had it not been for the Phantom cooler, we probably would see a performance boost of up to 10 percent from the factory overclock, but combined with our overclock we measured up to 19 percent better performance.

The Geforce GTX 780 Ti is the currently fastest single GPU graphics card from Nvidia. The Geforce Titan is now second fastest, but it is officially not part of the GTX 700 series. The Titan was basically a prestige compute card and it was overpriced when it launched. For gamers it no longer makes any sense and we suspect its days are numbered.

We can’t wrap up the review without mentioning the competition and in this case it is clear that AMD forced Nvidia to launch the GTX 780 Ti and slash pricing across the board. The 780 Ti is now available for €585, although the Phantom costs 40 to 50 more. It is still relatively pricey compared to the R9 290X, but it has a vastly superior cooler and we have yet to see any custom Hawaii cards.

The GTX 780 Ti Phantom has 3GB of GDDR5, while the Titan ships with 6GB. Unless you have some very specific requirements, 3GB should be more than enough for comfortable gaming. The Titan is not faster in 2560x1600 tests than the GTX 780 Ti Phantom.

Our pet peeves aside, Gainward has done an outstanding job. The new Phantom cooler impressed us both in terms of performance and low noise, while the overall performance of the GTX 780 Ti Phantom is exceptional. The Phantom has enough power to deal with any current titles and it probably won’t have much trouble with any new games expected to show up over the next couple of years.

Let’s also note that the Geforce GTX 780 Ti and GTX 780 Ti Phantom cards come with Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag, Batman: Arkham Origins, and Splinter Cell Blacklist.

fudz recommended ny


Last modified on 06 December 2013
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