GeForce GTX Titan X Review: Can One GPU Handle 4K?


In many ways, the GeForce GTX Titan X conclusion writes itself. Priced at $1000, Nvidia’s new single-GPU flagship assumes a position previously occupied by the original Titan. That card’s GM200-powered successor is faster (by a lot), more feature-packed and equipped with twice the GDDR5 memory. Meanwhile, it costs the same, occupies an identical form factor and sports a similar power rating. Bonus points for being the only graphics card you can put in a mini-ITX form factor and get playable frame rates at 3840x2160 out the other end.

What about the competition?

AMD’s Radeon R9 290X launched almost 17 months ago at $550 and now sits in the $350 range. It’s a great board for 2560x1440 play, and two get the job done at 4K. But now you’re talking about a much hotter, much noisier combination requiring at least four expansion slots worth of space. Plus, you’re tied to the limitations of CrossFire. Want an example? How about the folks who bought Far Cry 4 and are getting a multi-GPU profile four months later? There’s an elegance to single-processor solutions, and it’s difficult to appreciate until you’re forced to deal with stuttering, noise or a slow update.

The Radeon R9 295X2 is a better-built way to achieve CrossFire with two Hawaii GPUs, and I was really impressed by it last year (particularly right after Nvidia announced Titan Z for $3000). You’ll find the 295X2 well under $1000 today, making it both faster and cheaper than GeForce GTX Titan X. But the water-cooled bruiser doesn’t quite play in the same space. It’s big and averages around 500W under load. If you’re able to overlook a comparative lack of grace, AMD’s Radeon R9 295X2 remains a more practical approach to 4K gaming in an ATX case than GeForce GTX Titan X. Continual price adjustments ensure it remains a force at the high-end.

And what of something new from AMD? We, like so many others who expected the company’s Hawaii successor last year, are still waiting for more information.

Nvidia’s SLI technology is not impervious to multi-GPU artifacts. It had its own issues under Far Cry 4, even. But if the idea of two GPUs in your 4K gaming rig doesn’t bother you, a pair of GeForce GTX 980s is also worth considering. They’ll be substantially faster for just a bit more money than the Titan.

As the owner of a mini-ITX-based gaming machine limited to 2560x1440, though, GeForce GTX Titan X is currently my only option for an upgrade to Ultra HD, even if it means dialing back quality a little bit to get smoother performance in certain titles. That distinction alone makes Nvidia’s GM200-powered flagship my unicorn, worthy of recommendation. Of course, somewhere on the other end of the spectrum is a wealthy Sheikh rocking room enough in his chassis for three or four Titan X cards. In his case, there is no combination of graphics hardware able to match the Titans in SLI.

By all measures this is a niche product, ideal for only certain PC gamers. But if you’re in its target demographic, GeForce GTX Titan X has no equal. Though the appeal is narrow, such high-end hardware earns our Tom’s Hardware Recommended award.