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Nvidia GeForce GTX 780 Ti Review: GK110, Fully Unlocked

Test Setup And Benchmarks

We’re applying the same methodology used to test AMD’s Radeon R9 290: mainly, each graphics card is subjected to five minutes of gameplay before we fire up our benchmarks. What results is a more representative look at performance than simply running one test after another. Here’s a little secret: these are the same numbers run for that R9 290 launch—I simply added the GeForce GTX 780 Ti data to them.

Regarding the debate about variability and AMD’s Hawaii-based cards: like it or not, R9 290X operates at a range between 727 and 1000 MHz, and 290 runs between 662 and 947 MHz. Depending on the ambient environment you’re in (our lab is climate-controlled to 78 degrees, controlled by a Nest thermostat, but naturally ranges plus or minus a couple of degrees at a time), Radeon R9 290X will react. As it happens, our retail card tends to run at lower clock rates in a cool room. Increase the ambient to 78-80 degrees, and that’s when it drops clock rates more significantly compared to the board we got from AMD. Even if AMD hammers this issue out with a new driver, thermally-constrained workloads will still push Hawaii-based cards down under their peak performance levels.

Test Hardware
ProcessorsIntel Core i7-3970X (Sandy Bridge-E) 3.5 GHz Base Clock Rate, Overclocked to 4.3 GHz, LGA 2011, 15 MB Shared L3, Hyper-Threading enabled, Power-savings enabled
MotherboardMSI X79A-GD45 Plus (LGA 2011) X79 Express Chipset, BIOS 17.5
MemoryG.Skill 32 GB (8 x 4 GB) DDR3-2133, F3-17000CL9Q-16GBXM x2 @ 9-11-10-28 and 1.65 V
Hard DriveSamsung 840 Pro SSD 256 GB SATA 6Gb/s
GraphicsNvidia GeForce GTX 780 Ti 3 GB
AMD Radeon R9 290X 4 GB
AMD Radeon R9 290 4 GB
AMD Radeon R9 280X 3 GB
AMD Radeon HD 7990 6 GB
Nvidia GeForce GTX Titan 6 GB
Nvidia GeForce GTX 780 3 GB
Nvidia GeForce GTX 690 4 GB
Power SupplyCorsair AX860i 860 W
System Software And Drivers
Operating SystemWindows 8 Professional 64-bit
DirectXDirectX 11
Graphics DriverNvidia GeForce 331.70 Beta (GeForce GTX 780 Ti)
Nvidia GeForce 331.65 WHQL (All OtherNvidia cards)
AMD Catalyst 13.11 Beta 8 (Radeon R9 290)
AMD Catalyst 13.11 Beta 7 (All Other AMD cards)
Benchmarks And Settings
Battlefield 41920x1080, 2560x1440, and 3840x2160: Ultra Quality Preset, v-sync off, 100-second Tashgar playback. FCAT for 1920x1080 and 2560x1440; Fraps for 3840x2160
Arma III1920x1080, 2560x1440, and 3840x2160: Ultra Quality Preset, 8x FSAA, Anisotropic Filtering: Ultra, v-sync off, Infantry Showcase, 30-second playback, FCAT and Fraps
Metro: Last Light1920x1080, 2560x1440, and 3840x2160: Very High Quality Preset, 16x Anisotropic Filtering, Low Motion Blur, v-sync off, Built-In Benchmark, FCAT and Fraps
The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim1920x1080, 2560x1440, and 3840x2160: Ultra Quality Preset, FXAA Disabled, 25-second Custom Run-Through, FCAT and Fraps
BioShock Infinite1920x1080, 2560x1440, and 3840x2160: Very High Quality Preset, 75-second Opening Game Sequence, FCAT and Fraps
Crysis 31920x1080, 2560x1440, and 3840x2160: High System Spec, High Texture Resolution, MSAA Low (2X), 60-second Custom Run-Through, FCAT and Fraps
Tomb Raider1920x1080, 2560x1440, and 3840x2160: Ultimate Quality Preset, FXAA, 16x Anisotropic Filtering, TressFX Hair, 45-second Custom Run-Through, FCAT and Fraps
  • faster23rd
    My heart broke a little bit for AMD. Unless AMD's got something up their sleeve, it's up to the board manufacturers now to get the 290X in a better competitive stance than the 780 ti.
  • Lord_Kitty
    Can't wait for fanboy wars! Its going to be fun to watch.
  • tomc100
    At $700, AMD has nothing to worry about other than the minority of enthusiast who are willing to pay $200 more for the absolute fastest. Also, when games like Battlefield 4 uses mantle the performance gains will be eroded or wiped out.
  • expl0itfinder
    Keep up the competition. Performance per dollar is the name of the game, and the consumers are thriving in it right now.
  • alterecho
    I want to see cooler as efficient as the 780 ti, on the 290X, and the benchmarks be run again. Something tells me 290X will perform similar or greater than 780ti, in that situation.
  • ohim
    Price vs way too few more fps than the rival will say a lot no matter who gets the crown, but can`t wonder to imagine the look on the face of the guys who got Titans for only few months of "fps supremacy" at insane price tags :)
  • bjaminnyc
    2x R9 290's for $100 more will destroy the 780Ti. I don't really see where this logically fits in a competitively priced environment. Nice card, silly price point.
  • Innocent_Bystander-1312890
    "Hawaii-based boards delivering frame rates separated by double-digit percentages, the real point is that this behavior is designed into the Radeon R9 290X. "

    It could also come down to production variance between the chips. Seen in before in manufacturing and it's not pretty. Sounds like we're starting to hit the ceiling with these GPUs... Makes me wonder what architectural magic they'll come up with next.

  • bjaminnyc
    2x R9 290's for $100 more will destroy the 780Ti. I don't really see where this logically fits in a competitively priced environment. Nice card, silly price point.
  • Deus Gladiorum
    I'm going to build a rig for a friend and was planning on getting him the R9 290, but after the R9 290 review I'm quite hesitant. How can we know how the retail version of that card performs? Any chance you guys could pick one up and test it out? Furthermore, how can we know Nvidia isn't pulling the same trick: i.e. giving a press card that performs way above the retail version?