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

GeForce GTX 780: Another GK110-Based Card For Wealthy Gamers

GeForce GTX Titan is a lot like Intel’s Core i7-3970X—a ridiculously fast piece of hardware sitting atop of a stack of alternatives that make a lot more sense. The GeForce GTX 780 is akin to Core i7-3930K. It’s the option we’d recommend to more savvy power users. Almost every bit as fast, it costs a lot less and sacrifices very little of the flagship’s feature set (FP64 performance the biggest loss).

But we’d be remiss if we didn’t point out the more value-oriented offering able to satisfy a majority of enthusiasts: Radeon HD 7970 GHz Edition at $450. If you average the performance of our eight benchmarks and then calculate what you pay for every frame per second, AMD’s single-GPU flagship runs $8.38/FPS. The GeForce GTX 780 lands at $10.73/FPS. The Tahiti-based board also maintains a massive advantage in compute-oriented workloads. And it still includes Tomb Raider, BioShock, Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon, and Crysis 3. That’s a killer bundle. When performance per dollar is your only consideration in a high-end graphics card, AMD comes away looking pretty good.

Conversely, the GeForce GTX 780 is faster in absolute terms, even though you pay more for every drop of extra speed. It’s quieter than 7970, it uses less power, it includes a number of tuner-friendly tools, and Nvidia has a really cool feature in ShadowPlay (too bad it isn’t available to test yet). The 780 is a much better-looking board, too. But an asking price of $650 is only a relief to someone who was about a pay a grand for Titan. By all other accounts, that’s still a big flippin’ number.

This isn’t the generational jump you see when a company updates its architecture on a smaller process node and hits you with more speed at a familiar price point. GeForce GTX 780 is a derivative of existing technology that drops its shoulder and charges its way into a new segment. Is it worth more than GeForce GTX 680 or Radeon HD 7970 GHz Edition? Absolutely. But I would have rather seen the 780 at $550 or $600.

When it comes to multi-card configurations, there’s a lot more to laud. For the price of two GeForce GTX Titans, you could have three 780s. For $300 more than one Titan, you can get two 780s. If you’re gaming at 2560x1440 or 5760x1080, a couple of GK104- or GK110-based boards will help maintain playable frame rates using the most demanding detail settings. A couple of Radeon HD 7970s or a Radeon HD 7990 might turn out decent benchmark results, but their frame pacing issues are noticeable enough to earn a panel of gamers' disdain in A/B testing next to a GeForce GTX 690. Two GeForce GTX 780s are a winning combination, if you have the means.

The GeForce GTX 780 is a sexy piece of graphics hardware built on top of an impossibly-complex 7.1 billion-transistor GPU. It’s very fast, very quiet, and includes several other attractive features. But, I’m going to wait a week before deciding what I’d spend my money on in the high-end graphics market. You’d be wise to do the same…