SLI Scaling: Can Three GeForce GTX 760s Beat Two 780s?

Back when GeForce GTX 780 sold for $650, slinging a bunch of 760s together looked like a great deal. Now that the 780's down to $500, is there still value in going three-way SLI with GK104, or are you better served by a couple of GK110-based 780 cards?

Is it ever possible to get more performance and save money at the same time? Not long ago, we could easily buy three GeForce GTX 760 graphics cards for less money than a pair of 780s. And so we did. Though financial considerations were a large part of our decision, Nvidia's ability to minimize micro-stuttering through effective pacing was what gave me my original impetus. At some of the resolutions we test and in some of our game benchmarks, AMD still doesn't facilitate frame pacing in its driver.

More recently, though, AMD threw a wrench into the value aspect of our story. Pricing pressure from the Radeon R9 290X and 290 forced Nvidia to cut the GeForce GTX 780 down $150. Enthusiasts consequently watched competition tighten up as the GeForce GTX 770 dropped and a new flagship GeForce GTX 780 Ti was announced. Unfortunately for us, the company's 4 GB GeForce GTX 760 remains a $300 card.

At one time we were looking for more performance-per-dollar from three GeForce GTX 760s in SLI. Today, we’re only hoping that they're faster overall.

Performance becomes even more critical when we consider what we’re giving up. Those stock GeForce GTX 780s feature Nvidia's big aluminum cooler that generates less noise under load than a GeForce GTX 760 with its plastic shroud. Whether we compare two 760s to one 780 or three 760s to a pair of 780s, we’re always looking at one more moderately noisy GeForce GTX 760 to beat the performance of two GK110 GPUs.

Though a GeForce GTX 780 price drop appears to be Nvidia’s first response to AMD’s Radeon R9 290X, the firm wasn't standing still waiting for its competition to trump it. A quick look at the price of its newer GeForce GTX 780 Ti shows why the previous top gaming card is still a great basis for today’s comparison.

Nvidia GeForce 700-Series Specs
 Nvidia GeForce
GTX 780 Ti
Nvidia GeForce
GTX 780
Nvidia GeForce
GTX 760
Shaders288023041152
Texture Units24019296
Full Color ROPs484832
Graphics Clock MHz
(Boost)
875 (928)863 (900)980 (1033)
Texture Fillrate210 Gtex/s166 Gtex/s94.1 Gtex/s
Memory Clock1750 MHz1502 MHz1502 MHz
Memory Bus384-bit384-bit256-bit
Memory Bandwidth336 GB/s288 GB/s192 GB/s
Graphics RAM3 GB GDDR53 GB GDDR54 GB GDDR5
Die Size551 mm²551 mm²294 mm²
Transistors (Billion)7.17.13.54
Process Technology28 nm28 nm28 nm
Power Connectors6-pin+8-pin6-pin+8-pin2 x 6-pin
Maximum Power250 W250 W170 W
Price$700$500$300

If we stepped up to a pair of GeForce GTX 780 Ti cards, we also would have needed to use 760s in four-way SLI instead. Typically, that fourth card doesn't scale very well in games. Then again, estimates based on historic trends aren’t infallible, and any card maker confident that they can break the pattern is welcome to send hardware for a rematch. We do have the 780 Tis in the lab, ready to go.

Create a new thread in the US Reviews comments forum about this subject
This thread is closed for comments
36 comments
Comment from the forums
    Your comment
    Top Comments
  • iam2thecrowe
    there are some major fps drops in the sli configurations on bf3, wonder why? did that happen on the single monitor solution? and in other games? crap like that is why i switched my sli config out for a better single card.
    11
  • Other Comments
  • Zac Lloyd-Jones
    Very interesting article. Would have been great to have the GTX 770 SLI'd in there for comparison :).
    8
  • rolli59
    Agree with the conclusion totally since after the price drop on the GTX780 I stopped recommending dual GTX760 over the GTX780.
    7
  • Amdlova
    770 is the 680 with more hz... 760 is a new nvidia product is a 660ti with more muscle. 760 = 670 in power
    -13
  • iam2thecrowe
    there are some major fps drops in the sli configurations on bf3, wonder why? did that happen on the single monitor solution? and in other games? crap like that is why i switched my sli config out for a better single card.
    11
  • airplanegeek
    would've been interesting to see the 2GB cards in SLI also
    2
  • Crashman
    Anonymous said:
    there are some major fps drops in the sli configurations on bf3, wonder why? did that happen on the single monitor solution? and in other games? crap like that is why i switched my sli config out for a better single card.
    I checked and found 1 stuck frame on the GTX 780 SLI at 1920x1080. It lasted far less than a second and dropped FPS from 200 (capped) to 54.
    Anonymous said:
    would've been interesting to see the 2GB cards in SLI also
    Yes, but the problem is that it's hard to find six cards laying around (three of each), and we quit buying 2GB cards for 3-way SLI a couple years back when they started running out of memory at 2560x1600. It got worse in Surround mode.
    3
  • bystander
    I noticed in Tomb Raider that 780 SLI was broken, yet 760 SLI worked well. 780 SLI had worse scores than a single 780 using Surround setups, yet the 760 SLI worked with surround setups quite well. I wonder what is up with that.
    2
  • iam2thecrowe
    Anonymous said:
    I noticed in Tomb Raider that 780 SLI was broken, yet 760 SLI worked well. 780 SLI had worse scores than a single 780 using Surround setups, yet the 760 SLI worked with surround setups quite well. I wonder what is up with that.


    weird sh!t sometimes happens with multi-card setups. i have owned both crossfire and sli in the last couple years, and now i'm dead set on single card is the only way to go, only takes one game not to work properly to ruin your day. Multi card for me, is only for when the best card available isn't powerful enough for you, or maybe second best card as the best is often overpriced ridiculously.
    5
  • giovanni86
    Waiting for Maxwell. Prices on both sides need to come down. Best for single GPU's was $500 with dual gpu's being double the price, i miss old prices.
    0
  • Au_equus
    How about 2x 760 v 780 ti and 3x 780 v 2x 780 ti?
    http://www.ocaholic.ch/modules/smartsection/item.php?page=0&itemid=1172
    -1
  • aint2good
    Why is it that the graphs show 1 760 at 100% price, 2 at 200% price, and 3 at 400% price? Should 3 of them be 300% price?
    0
  • Crashman
    Anonymous said:
    Why is it that the graphs show 1 760 at 100% price, 2 at 200% price, and 3 at 400% price? Should 3 of them be 300% price?
    Thanks for pointing out that the last page charts were based on QUAD pricing and Tri performance! Fortunately, knocking the B out of FUBAR is my specialty :p
    0
  • redgarl
    I am sorry, but it is quite evident that what we are seeing here is a lack of support and bad quality drivers. 3 760 GTX result should have been more in the line of Tomb Raider results. Funny to see NVIDIA fanboys cry over ATI bad drivers, but at least a third AMD card generally ends in better framerate... unlike what we can conclude here.
    -2
  • RCguitarist
    Funny, my single MSI 660 only runs 5fps slower than the single 760 in all of those tests. I must have a freak of a good card.
    0
  • boytitan2
    Why no 770 I feel 4 x 3 gb of gpu ram is over kill and it is just a 30-40 buck price difference between the 770 2gb and 760 4gb. The 770 would have been a better buy.
    1
  • bucknutty
    Why not test this on COD Ghosts? Oh that's right, its been out for 6 weeks and it still does not work right with SLI. All the flickering sights and trees are making me nauseous.
    1
  • Crashman
    Anonymous said:
    Why not test this on COD Ghosts? Oh that's right, its been out for 6 weeks and it still does not work right with SLI. All the flickering sights and trees are making me nauseous.
    Funny, because the article was written about six weeks ago :) We had a flood of launch articles in November dalay a bunch of non-timed articles by 4-6 weeks.
    0
  • larsoncc
    This article is relevant to my interests! LOL
    0
  • husker
    I'm curious if SLI (or xfire) is ever really a good value when you consider things like game support, time invested, mental sanity, and so forth. I mean how much savings is that much aggravation worth? Just because I could save money by using old newspapers instead of toilet paper doesn't mean I should.
    2
  • bystander
    Anonymous said:
    I'm curious if SLI (or xfire) is ever really a good value when you consider things like game support, time invested, mental sanity, and so forth. I mean how much savings is that much aggravation worth? Just because I could save money by using old newspapers instead of toilet paper doesn't mean I should.


    In the case of two way SLI, there is rarely aggravation. It just works in almost every game. The ones it doesn't work in usually don't need SLI to get good performance and you just don't realize it isn't working.

    That said, a single card is a better way to go, IF you can get that performance from a single GPU. If you want more performance than a single GPU can give, then go with two.

    IMO, SLI should only be done with higher end GPU's, when you want more performance than a single card can give.
    0