Update: Nvidia Titan X Pascal 12GB Review

Editor's Note: We've updated the article to include power, heat, and noise measurements on pages seven and eight, and we've made edits to our conclusion to reflect those measurements (see page 10).

You have a knack for trading the British Pound against the Japanese Yen. You have a killer hot sauce recipe, and it’s in distribution worldwide. You just made partner at your father-in-law’s firm. Whatever the case, you’re in that elite group that doesn’t really worry about money. You have the beach house, the Bentley, and the Bulgari. And now Nvidia has a graphics card for your gaming PC: the Titan X. It’s built on a new GP102 graphics processor featuring 3584 CUDA cores, backed by 12GB of GDDR5X memory on a 384-bit bus, and offered unapologetically at $1200.

Before a single benchmark was ever published, Nvidia received praise for launching a third Pascal-based GPU in as many months and criticism for upping the price of its flagship—an approach that burned Intel when it introduced Core i7-6950X at an unprecedented $1700+. Here’s the thing, though: the folks who buy the best of the best aren’t affected by a creeping luxury tax. And those who actually make money with their PCs merrily pay premiums for hardware able to accelerate their incomes.

All of that makes our time with the Titan X a little less awkward, we think. There’s no morning-after value consideration. You pay 70% more than the cost of a GeForce GTX 1080 for 40% more CUDA cores and a 50% memory bandwidth boost. We knew before even receiving a card that performance wouldn’t scale with cost. Still, we couldn’t wait to run the benchmarks. Does Titan X improve frame rates at 4K enough to satisfy the armchair quarterbacks quick to call 1080 insufficient for max-quality gaming? There’s only one way to find out.

GP102: It’s Like GP104, Except Bigger

With its GeForce GTX 1080, Nvidia introduced us to the GP104 (high-end Pascal) processor. In spirit, that GPU succeeded GM204 (high-end Maxwell), last seen at the heart of GeForce GTX 980. But because the Pascal architecture was timed to coincide with 16nm FinFET manufacturing and faster GDDR5X memory, the resulting GTX 1080 had no trouble putting down 30%+ higher average frame rates than GTX 980 Ti and Titan X, both powered by GM200 (ultra-high-end Maxwell). This made it easy to forget about the next step up, particularly since we knew that the 15.3-billion-transistor GP100 (ultra-high-end Pascal) was compute-oriented and probably not destined for the desktop.

Now, for the first time, we have a ‘tweener GPU of sorts, surrounded by Nvidia’s highest-end processor and GP104. This one is called GP102, and architecturally it’s similar to GP104, only bigger. Four Graphics Processing Clusters become six. In turn, 20 Streaming Multiprocessors become 30. And with 128 FP32 CUDA cores per SM, GP102 wields up to 3840 of the programmable building blocks. GP102 is incredibly complex, though (it’s composed of 12 billion transistors). As a means of improving yields, Nvidia disables two of the processor’s SMs for its Titan X, bringing the board’s CUDA core count down to 3584. And because each SM also hosts eight texture units, turning off two of them leaves 224 texture units enabled.

Titan X’s specification cites a 1417 MHz base clock, with typical GPU Boost frequencies in the 1531 MHz range. That gives the card an FP32 rate of 10.1+ TFLOPS, which is roughly 23% higher than GeForce GTX 1080.

No doubt, GP104 would have benefited from an even wider memory interface, particularly at 4K. But GP102’s greater shading/texturing potential definitely calls for a rebalancing of sorts. As such, the processor’s back-end grows to include 12 32-bit memory controllers, each bound to eight ROPs and 256KB of L2 (as with GP104), yielding a total of 96 ROPs and 3MB of shared cache. This results in a 384-bit aggregate path, which Nvidia populates with 12GB of the same 10 Gb/s GDDR5X found on GTX 1080.

The card’s theoretical memory bandwidth is 480 GB/s (versus 1080’s 320 GB/s—a 50% increase), though effective throughput should be higher after taking into consideration the Pascal architecture’s delta color compression improvements.

Why the continued use of GDDR5-derived technology when AMD showed us the many benefits of HBM more than a year ago? We can only imagine that during the GP102’s design phase, Nvidia wasn’t sure how the supply of HBM2 would shake out, and played it safe with a GDDR5X-based subsystem instead. GP100 remains the only GPU in its line-up with HBM2.

GPU
Titan X (GP102)
GeForce GTX 1080 (GP104)
Titan X (GM100)
SMs
28
20
24
CUDA Cores
3584
2560
3072
Base Clock
1417 MHz
1607 MHz
1000 MHz
GPU Boost Clock
1531 MHz
1733 MHz
1075 MHz
GFLOPs (Base Clock)
10,157
8228
6144
Texture Units
224
160
192
Texel Fill Rate
342.9 GT/s
277.3 GT/s
192 GT/s
Memory Data Rate
10 Gb/s
10 Gb/s
7 Gb/s
Memory Bandwidth
480 GB/s
320 GB/s
336.5 GB/s
ROPs
96
64
96
L2 Cache
3MB
2MB
3MB
TDP
250W
180W
250W
Transistors
12 billion
7.2 billion
8 billion
Die Size
471 mm²314 mm²601 mm²
Process Node
16nm
16nm
28nm

It’s interesting that Nvidia, apparently at the last minute, chose to distance Titan X from its GeForce family. The Titan X landing page on geforce.com calls this the ultimate graphics card. Not the ultimate gaming graphics card. Rather, “The Ultimate. Period.” Of course, given that we’re dealing with an up-sized GP104, Titan X should be good at gaming.

But the company’s decision to unveil Titan X at a Stanford-hosted AI meet-up goes to show it’s focusing on deep learning this time around. To that end, while FP16 and FP64 rates are dismally slow on GP104 (and by extension, on GP102), both processors support INT8 at 4:1, yielding 40.6 TOPS at Titan X’s base frequency.

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  • chuckydb
    Well, the thermal throttling was to be expected with such a useless cooler, but that should not be an issue. If you are spending this much on a gpu, you should water-cool it!!! Problem solved
  • Jeff Fx
    I might spend $1,200 on a Titan X, because between 4K gaming and VR I'll get a lot of use out of it, but they don't seem to be available at anything close to that price at this time.

    Any word when we can get these at $1,200 or less?

    I wish I was confident that we'd get good SLI support in VR, so I could just get a pair of 1080s, but I've had so many problems in the past with SLI in 3D, that getting the fastest single-card solution available seems like the best choice to me.
  • ingtar33
    $1200 for a gpu which temp throttles under load? THG, you guys raked AMD over the coals for this type of nonsense, and that was on a $500 card at the time.
  • Sakkura
    Interesting to see how the Titan X turned into an R9 Nano in your anechoic chamber. :D

    As for the Titan X, that cooler just isn't good enough. Not sure I agree that memory modules running 90 degrees C is "well below" the manufacturer's limit of 95 degrees C. What if your ambient temperature is 5 or 10 degrees higher?
  • hannibal
    No problem, the card will throtle down even more in those cases...
  • hotroderx
    Basically the cards just one giant cash grab... I am shocked toms isn't denouncing this card! I could just see if Intel rated a CPU at 6ghz for the first 10secs it was running. Then throttled it back to something more manageable! but for those 10 secs you had the worlds fastest retail CPU.
  • tamalero
    Does this means there will be a GP101 with all core enabled later on? as in TI version?
  • hannibal
    TitanX Ti... No, 1080ti is cut down version. Most full ships will go to professinal cards and maybe we will see TitanZ later...
  • blazorthon
    An extra $200 for a gimped cooler makes for a disappointing addition to the Titan cards.
  • Sakkura
    98197 said:
    Does this means there will be a GP101 with all core enabled later on? as in TI version?


    No. The same chip with all the cores enabled would still be the same chip. However, it does mean there could eventually be a new Titan card with a fully enabled GP102. The same way the original Titan was succeeded by the Titan Black.
  • filippi
    This was just the final step before the gpu we actually want to see...
  • xapoc
    If this was only $800..
  • Sammy10
    and 1200 dollars later , Nvidia did not find it in their heart to toss a hybrid cooler on tob that baby! CheapoVidia.
  • DeerSpotter
    I repeat, will it play crysis?
  • Sammy10
    2313579 said:
    I repeat, will it play crysis?


    For that you need the glorious Gtx 480
  • cub_fanatic
    Lol @ reviewing this card like it actually is a gaming GPU complete with several game results comparing it to $400-$450 cards like the Fury and GTX 1070. I wonder how many people actually buy Titan series cards with the sole purpose of playing video games. I wonder how that figure compares to the number of people who buy Titan cards for non-gaming applications. When the first Titan came out, it seemed like it was more of a budget Quadro instead of an ultra high end gaming part. Now, it feels like the Titan's sole purpose is to get a few hundred extra bucks out of the wallets of impatient high end gamers in between the release of the GTX x80 and the GTX x80ti cards. Once they sell enough of these Titans to those people then they'll release a GTX 1080ti that might have a few GB less VRAM, maybe less FP64 performance but the same CUDA cores and everything else and which games just as good as the Titan X for hundreds of dollars less. Once the 1080ti is out, nobody would see a reason to buy a Titan X if all you are doing is gaming. It is a pretty smart business move by Nvidia.
  • Sakkura
    983365 said:
    Once they sell enough of these Titans to those people then they'll release a GTX 1080ti that might have a few GB less VRAM, maybe less FP64 performance but the same CUDA cores and everything else and which games just as good as the Titan X for hundreds of dollars less. Once the 1080ti is out, nobody would see a reason to buy a Titan X if all you are doing is gaming. It is a pretty smart business move by Nvidia.


    The Titan X already has the FP64 performance nerfed into the ground. A lowly R9 280X would crush a Titan X in FP64 performance. On paper, even the old Radeon HD 5870 would beat the Titan X.
  • _MOJO_
    This new architecture, which definitely delivers, is so ludicrously expensive. I paid close to $600 for a GTX 580 a few years ago. That was a good investment in hind sight since I made half back several years later, but these prices are insane, especially considering the price to performance.

    $1200 to play 4K at 60 fps? My 4GB 980 still plays everything I want beautifully at 1440p. I just cannot wrap my mind around this yet- not at that premium price. I'll wait for more games coming out, the evolution of VR, and the prices on these cards dropping.
  • tps3443
    Save up your money.. Buy a graphics card when it is first released, and enjoy it! The GTX 980 had a life cycle of nearly 2 years before the GTX1080 was released. And the GTX980 is still fast for gaming! Especially once Overclocked!

    I love my Nvidia GTX1080 Founders Edition! I've adjusted the default fan profile a little, send some air flow it's way, from my case fans. Overclocked it to 2128/11,400 memory. And it is a screaming demon! And, I plan to use it for it least another 18 months.

    I can play 4K, and enjoy it, with a very smooth experience!

    The Titan X Pascal is great! It is 15-30% faster than a GTX1080. But, you've gotta pay to play! I could hardly afford my GTX1080. If I could afford a Titan P , I would buy it in a second!

    Bare in mind though, you can overclock a GTX1080 Founders Edition to roughly 20% more performance out of the box.

    Happy life, happy gaming, happy overclocking, this is what it's all about people!