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Nvidia GeForce GTX 780 Review: Titan’s Baby Brother Is Born

Nvidia GeForce GTX 780 Review: Titan’s Baby Brother Is Born
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At $1,000, GeForce GTX Titan only made sense for folks building small form factor PCs and multi-GPU powerhouses. Now there's another option with every bit of panache, a slightly de-tuned GPU, and a price tag $350 lower: meet Nvidia's GeForce GTX 780.

I get a kick out of looking back at what I wrote about certain pieces of high-end hardware. When Nvidia launched the GeForce GTX 680, AMD was still asking something like $550 for the Radeon HD 7970, and the GK104-based board kicked it right in the tail. It was faster, cooler, quieter, and smaller than AMD’s flagship. I recommended the 680 without hesitation. And until Nvidia launched its almost-as-fast GeForce GTX 670 for even less, the 680 was a great choice.

Today, 7970s are down to $400 or so. Meanwhile, the GTX 680s are selling for roughly $460. What a reversal, right? After some serious driver work, AMD’s Radeon HD 7970 is notably faster than the GeForce board and it costs less. You have to put up with more noise and higher power use, but the Tahiti-based card also gives you great compute horsepower to match its gaming alacrity. So long as you stay away from multi-GPU configurations, the Radeon HD 7970 is a smart buy.

The next step up is going to cost you a cool grand. Be it the GeForce GTX Titan, the GeForce GTX 690, or AMD’s Radeon HD 7990, single-card performance doesn’t get any better than a Radeon HD 7970 unless you spend twice as much. And that’s where AMD and Nvidia lose a lot of gamers otherwise down to drop big bucks on graphics. Stepping up from $500 to $1,000 is rough.

GK110 Finds A New Home In GeForce GTX 780

GeForce GTX 780 is Nvidia’s attempt to do a little something about that gaping maw of a price delta between GTX 680 and the crazy-expensive stuff. Given its name, you might think the 780 centers on a new piece of silicon. But it’s really a derivative of GeForce GTX Titan and the gargantuan GK110 GPU. 

Of course, the GK110 that Nvidia uses on GeForce GTX 780 is necessarily trimmed to keep it from showing up the potent Titan. We already know that a complete GK110 GPU plays host to 15 Streaming Multiprocessors, each with 192 CUDA cores and 16 texture units. GeForce GTX Titan pares the chip back to 14 SMXes, totaling 2,688 CUDA cores and 224 texture units. GeForce GTX 780 sees GK110 further cut down to 12 SMXes. The result is 2,304 CUDA cores and 192 texture units.

GK110 as it appears in GeForce GTX 780GK110 as it appears in GeForce GTX 780

Depending on the card you get, GeForce GTX 780’s 12 SMX blocks are either spread between four or five Graphics Processing Clusters. Composed of 7.1 billion transistors, GK110 is a massive chip. Manufacturing it isn’t easy. And along the way, different parts of it show up with defects. So, Nvidia can’t guarantee the exact configuration of each GeForce GTX 780’s GK110. It’ll only say that, across the GPU, 12 SMXes are enabled. 

Nvidia’s incisions are effective enough in dictating performance that tweaks to the board’s clock rates are very minor. GeForce GTX 780 bears an 863 MHz base frequency, just like Titan. But its rated GPU Boost clock rate is 900 MHz, whereas Titan is officially spec’ed at 876 MHz.

GK110 retains its complete render back-end, including six ROP partitions able to output eight 32-bit pixels per clock, adding up to what the company calls 48 ROP units. Further, a sextet of 64-bit memory interfaces yield the same 384-bit aggregate pathway. But whereas Nvidia armed GeForce GTX Titan with 6 GB of GDDR5 memory, GTX 780 sports 3 GB operating at 1,502 MHz. Do the math and you get the same 288.4 GB/s of peak bandwidth.

Where GeForce GTX 780 veers away from Titan is in compute potential. You’ll remember from Nvidia GeForce GTX Titan 6 GB: GK110 On A Gaming Card that Nvidia’s single-GPU flagship includes a special driver setting that scales back clock rate in favor of running the chip’s double-precision floating-point units at full-speed. This makes the GeForce GTX Titan a viable option for developers seeking more compute performance than Nvidia’s other GPUs can muster (making it competitive with AMD’s Tahiti, in fact). This time around, you still get 64 FP64 CUDA cores per SMX. But because that driver setting isn’t exposed, double-precision performance drops back to 1/24 of the FP32 rate. Expect floating-point performance to trail Radeon HD 7970 then, as FP64 throughput lags.


GeForce GTX Titan
GeForce GTX 690
GeForce GTX 780
GeForce GTX 680
Radeon HD 7970 GHz Ed.
Shaders2,688
2 x 1,536
2,304
1,536
2,048
Texture Units
224
2 x 128
192
128
128
Full Color ROPs
48
2 x 32
48
32
32
Graphics Clock
836 MHz
915 MHz
863 MHz
1,006 MHz
1,000 MHz
Texture Fillrate
187.5 Gtex/s
2 x 117.1 Gtex/s
165.7 Gtex/s
128.8 Gtex/s
134.4 Gtex/s
Memory Clock
1,502 MHZ
1,502 MHz
1,502 MHz
1,502 MHz
1,500 MHz
Memory Bus
384-bit
2 x 256-bit
384-bit
256-bit
384-bit
Memory Bandwidth288.4 GB/s
2 x 192.3 GB/s
288.4 GB/s
192.3 GB/s
288 GB/s
Graphics RAM
6 GB GDDR5
2 x 2 GB GDDR5
3 GB GDDR5
2 GB GDDR5
3 GB GDDR5
Die Size
551 mm22 x 294 mm2551 mm2294 mm2365 mm2
Transistors (Billion)
7.1
2 x 3.54
7.1
3.54
4.31
Process Technology
28 nm
28 nm
28 nm
28 nm
28 nm
Power Connectors
1 x 8-pin, 1 x 6-pin2 x 8-pin
1 x 8-pin, 1 x 6-pin2 x 6-pin
1 x 8-pin, 1 x 6-pin
Maximum Power
250 W
300 W
250 W195 W
250 W
Price (Street)
$1,000
$1,000
$650
$460
$450


Playing The Name Game

Perhaps you’re asking: Why call this card GeForce GTX 780 at all, then? It’s a derivative of Titan, based on the same Kepler architecture already prolific across the GeForce GTX 600 series. Nvidia did much the same thing with its 500 series, which built on the GeForce GTX 400’s Fermi architecture. “But the 500s were based on redesigned GPUs that improved performance, power, and, consequently, efficiency,” you rightly point out.

The most I could get from Nvidia was that it didn’t need to do this for the GeForce GTX 780, since the company only just started releasing desktop-oriented cards based on GK110. And there’s really not much room left in the 600 family to release newer, faster products. We’ll see how Nvidia fleshes out the performance and pricing of its GeForce GTX 700 line-up from here. But you can bet we’re going to expect notable performance improvements each step of the way to justify the naming. We also need continued (and compelling) competition from AMD to keep Nvidia’s pricing in check. Our best hope for that today is Radeon HD 7970.

Display 153 Comments.
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Top Comments
  • 31 Hide
    CrisisCauser , May 23, 2013 6:24 AM
    A good alternative to the Titan. $650 was the original GTX 280 price before AMD came knocking with the Radeon 4870. I wonder if AMD has another surprise in store.
  • 23 Hide
    iknowhowtofixit , May 23, 2013 7:13 AM
    This review has done a great job proving how well the HD7970 GHz edition performs as a single GPU solution. It beat the 680 in almost every benchmark on older silicon. I'm excited to see what AMD has in store with the HD9000 series.
  • 22 Hide
    EzioAs , May 23, 2013 6:50 AM
    In my opinion, this card and the Titan is actually a clever product release by Nvidia. Much like the GTX 680 and GTX 670, the Titan was released at higher price (like the GTX 680) while the slightly slower GTX 780 (the GTX670 for the GTX600 series case) is at a significantly lower price but performing quite close to it's higher-end brother. We all remember when the GTX 670 launched it makes the GTX680 looks bad because the GTX 670 was 80% of the price while maintaining around 90-95% of the performance.

    Of course, one could argue that as we get closer to higher-end products, the performance increase is always minimal and price to performance ratio starts to increase, however, for the past 3-4 years (or so I guess), never has it been that the 2nd highest-end GPU having such low performance difference with the highest-end GPU. It's usually significant enough that the highest end GPU (GTX x80) still has it's place.

    Tl;dr,

    The GTX Titan was released to make the GTX 780 look incredibly good, and people (especially on the internet), will spread the news fast enough claiming the $650 release price for the GTX 780 is good and reasonable, and people who didn't even bother reading reviews and benchmarks, will take their word and pay the premium for GTX 780.

    Nvidia is taking a different route to compete with AMD or one could say that they're not even trying to compete with AMD in terms of price/performance (at least for the high-end products).
Other Comments
  • 31 Hide
    CrisisCauser , May 23, 2013 6:24 AM
    A good alternative to the Titan. $650 was the original GTX 280 price before AMD came knocking with the Radeon 4870. I wonder if AMD has another surprise in store.
  • 3 Hide
    gigantor21 , May 23, 2013 6:26 AM
    GG Titan.
  • 5 Hide
    athulajp , May 23, 2013 6:26 AM
    It's definitely a more reasonable priced alternative to the titan, but it's still lacking in compute. Which might disappoint some but I don't think it'll bother most people. Definitely not bad bang for buck at that price range considering how performance scales with higher priced products, but it could've been better, $550-$600 seems like a more reasonable price for this.
  • 4 Hide
    hero1 , May 23, 2013 6:33 AM
    This is what I have been waiting for. Nice review and I like the multi gpu tests. Thanks. Time to search the stores. Woohoo!!
  • 22 Hide
    EzioAs , May 23, 2013 6:50 AM
    In my opinion, this card and the Titan is actually a clever product release by Nvidia. Much like the GTX 680 and GTX 670, the Titan was released at higher price (like the GTX 680) while the slightly slower GTX 780 (the GTX670 for the GTX600 series case) is at a significantly lower price but performing quite close to it's higher-end brother. We all remember when the GTX 670 launched it makes the GTX680 looks bad because the GTX 670 was 80% of the price while maintaining around 90-95% of the performance.

    Of course, one could argue that as we get closer to higher-end products, the performance increase is always minimal and price to performance ratio starts to increase, however, for the past 3-4 years (or so I guess), never has it been that the 2nd highest-end GPU having such low performance difference with the highest-end GPU. It's usually significant enough that the highest end GPU (GTX x80) still has it's place.

    Tl;dr,

    The GTX Titan was released to make the GTX 780 look incredibly good, and people (especially on the internet), will spread the news fast enough claiming the $650 release price for the GTX 780 is good and reasonable, and people who didn't even bother reading reviews and benchmarks, will take their word and pay the premium for GTX 780.

    Nvidia is taking a different route to compete with AMD or one could say that they're not even trying to compete with AMD in terms of price/performance (at least for the high-end products).
  • 12 Hide
    mouse24 , May 23, 2013 6:52 AM
    natocoTo much wasted silicon (just a failed high spec chip made last year, even the titan) and rebadged with all the failed sections turned off. I wanted to upgrade my gtx480 for a 780 but for the die size, the performance is to low unfortunately. It has certainly not hit the trifecta like the 680 did. Would you buy a V8 with 2 cylinders turned off even if it were cheaper? No, because it would not be as smooth as it was engineered to be, so using that analogy, No deal. customer lost till next year when they release a chip to the public that's all switched on, will never go down the turned off parts in chip route again.


    Thats apretty bad analogy. A gpu is still smooth even with some of the cores/vram/etc turned off, it doesn't increase latency/frametimes/etc.
  • 5 Hide
    godfather666 , May 23, 2013 6:59 AM
    "But, I’m going to wait a week before deciding what I’d spend my money on in the high-end graphics market. "

    I must've missed something. Why wait a week?
  • 14 Hide
    JamesSneed , May 23, 2013 7:04 AM
    Natoco, your comment was so clueless. It is likely every single CPU or GPU you have ever purchased has fused off parts. Even the $1000 extreme Intel cpu has a little bit fused off since its a 6 core CPU but using a 8 core Zeon as its starting point. Your comparison to a car is idiotic.
  • 16 Hide
    016ive , May 23, 2013 7:09 AM
    You will have to be an idiot to buy a Titan now that the 780 is here...Me, I could afford neither :) 
  • 23 Hide
    iknowhowtofixit , May 23, 2013 7:13 AM
    This review has done a great job proving how well the HD7970 GHz edition performs as a single GPU solution. It beat the 680 in almost every benchmark on older silicon. I'm excited to see what AMD has in store with the HD9000 series.
  • 4 Hide
    Sakkura , May 23, 2013 7:16 AM
    godfather666"But, I’m going to wait a week before deciding what I’d spend my money on in the high-end graphics market. "I must've missed something. Why wait a week?

    Probably to get the GTX 770 launch into the picture, and maybe price cuts from AMD.
  • -2 Hide
    EzioAs , May 23, 2013 7:18 AM
    Quote:
    This review has done a great job proving how well the HD7970 GHz edition performs is as a single GPU solution. Beat the 680 in almost every benchmark on older silicon. I'm excited to see what AMD has in store with the HD9000 series.


    That was my opinion after I read Anandtech's review. :) 
  • 1 Hide
    rmpumper , May 23, 2013 7:34 AM
    Techpowerup has the Gigabyte 780 OC review and it kicks Titan in the butt - the higher the res, the better 780 is than Titan.
  • -4 Hide
    sarinaide , May 23, 2013 7:37 AM
    Its about a year ago Kepler was introduced in a blaze of glory, less than a year and its been cast aside for a new generation well before its intended release date, around 8 months sooner than its expected release that toms mentioned was march, conversely Tahiti and Cape Verde was released in Nov 2011 and while Cape Verde is EOL and replaced by a faster and lightly powered Bonaire, Tahiti is still going strong. I am awaiting Toms benches on the new catalyst 13.5 drivers once out as I think we will see more gains from what is now archiac of an arch.

    Not all is right at nvidia and this is just desperate times for desperate measures stuff, we now await AMD's response and if they play it right and make the node jump it could end up being very ugly.
  • 0 Hide
    sephirothmk , May 23, 2013 7:39 AM
    Can shadowplay record more than 20 minutes?
  • 0 Hide
    kammak743 , May 23, 2013 7:48 AM
    What would be really awesome is if the GTX 790 was either a GK110 with nothing disabled or 2 GK110's with something disabled (although it would be amazing 2 full power GK110's)
    but i don't know why people are complaining about the price because nvidia had no good competition for it at the moment and when they do they will have to reduce it
  • -5 Hide
    sarinaide , May 23, 2013 7:48 AM
    Quote:
    sarinaideIts about a year ago Kepler was introduced in a blaze of glory, less than a year and its been cast aside for a new generation well before its intended release date, around 8 months sooner than its expected release that toms mentioned was march, conversely Tahiti and Cape Verde was released in Nov 2011 and while Cape Verde is EOL and replaced by a faster and lightly powered Bonaire, Tahiti is still going strong. I am awaiting Toms benches on the new catalyst 13.5 drivers once out as I think we will see more gains from what is now archiac of an arch.Not all is right at nvidia and this is just desperate times for desperate measures stuff, we now await AMD's response and if they play it right and make the node jump it could end up being very ugly.


    GK110 isn't a new anything. It's been around as long as the GTX 680 aka GK104 and is still part of the Kepler family. I think the new cards you're thinking of that are due sometime next year (maybe?) are the Maxwell family of cards.

    I still maintain that this is what the 680 should have been a year ago, but I've beaten that horse to death too many times so I'll shut up...


    No, if I meant Maxwell I would have said Maxwell. GTX 700 is GK110 but in the long and short Nvidia talked this up to be an almighty part yet we are only talking about 20% faster than the aging 7970. So now we wait for AMD's response which may still be some time yet.

  • 8 Hide
    cknobman , May 23, 2013 7:50 AM
    At $650 I am just not seeing it. In fact I dont even see this card putting any pressure on AMD to do something.

    I'd rather save $200+ and get a 7970GE. If Nvidia really wants to be aggressive they need to sell this for ~$550.
  • 4 Hide
    TheMadFapper , May 23, 2013 7:50 AM
    Exactly what happened between the 670 and 680, and exactly why I bought two 670s instead of spending another $120 on a 2-5% increase in performance.

    Granted, the price difference between this and Titan is ridiculously, making it a no-brainer purchase. Not for me though. Not upgrading from two 670s yet, hehe.
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