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The GeForce GTX 770 Review: Calling In A Hit On Radeon HD 7970?

GeForce GTX 770: My New Favorite High-End Graphics Card

Nvidia’s GK104 GPU is not new. In fact, it’s pretty old to be driving a fresh high-end graphics card. The industrial design applied to GeForce GTX 770 isn’t new either. GeForce GTX 690, Titan, and 780 all looked very similar, and the latter two models appear identical. By all accounts, this has the makings of a pretty boring launch.

But as the engine at the heart of a gaming card, GK104 is quite good. And the board design used on GeForce GTX 770, 780, and Titan is unprecedentedly great. Unmatched by anything we’ve seen from Nvidia or AMD before, really. As a result, we end up with a 230 W card that’s fast, quiet, effective at exhausting its thermal energy, and…attractively priced?

Yeah. I was full-on ready for this thing to show up at $450 to do battle against Radeon HD 7970 GHz and replace GeForce GTX 680 as an improved version of the former-flagship. But Nvidia says it’s going to market at $400.

If you run an average of the single-card frame rates generated in this review, GeForce GTX 770 is a 52.4 FPS card. The Radeon HD 7970 GHz Edition lands at 53.8 FPS. These two are as close to even as you can get when it comes to gaming on one GPU. If that’s you, the choice is between 770’s $50 discount, quieter operation, great industrial design, and a pretty solid suite of tuning tools, and 7970 GHz Edition’s awesome game bundle. The Tahiti-based board’s compute performance is also notable, but if you think you’re going to make money mining for bitcoins at this point, we have a story coming up that should change your mind about that.

Enthusiasts ready to go big with multiple GPUs should be looking to Nvidia’s cards until AMD can sort out the issues with its frame pacing that we saw affect Battlefield 3, BioShock Infinite, Crysis 3, Far Cry 3, and Tomb Raider. Now you’re looking at two GeForce GTX 770s for $800, one 690 for $1,000, two 780s for $1,300 or two Titans for $2,000. The 770s are comparatively a great deal for enthusiasts gaming at 2560x1440. Need a little more muscle? You can add a third 770 and still spend less than two GeForce GTX 780s.

There’s also the issue of memory capacity to sort out. We didn’t have any trouble running out of steam on our 2 GB cards at 2560x1440. However, as you step up to 5760x1080 and higher, 3 and 4 GB models are more appropriate. Expect to pay somewhere around $50 more per GeForce GTX 770 4 GB. A pair still lands you at $900. And although we haven’t run tests with three 770s yet, if Nvidia’s historical scaling numbers apply here, you’re still better off with three GeForce GTX 770s for $50 more than two 780s.

GK104 might be an older GPU, but it’s still a potent piece of gaming hardware. Just ratchet up its clock rates, retrofit it with the best looking and performing graphics cooler we’ve ever seen, and knock its price back $50 from the GeForce GTX 680’s price point as of one week ago. AMD was sitting pretty with its Radeon HD 7970 GHz Edition at $450. But GeForce GTX 770 walked into the bar, turned over a table, and showed the same sort of aggression we saw when it launched GeForce GTX 650 Ti Boost under $200. And that’s why we’re bestowing Tom's Hardware's Smart Buy award on Nvidia's GeForce GTX 770. Although high-end graphics cards are still expensive, we’re happy to get more performance in a better-built package for $100 less than what we could buy a year ago in GeForce GTX 680.  

Chris Angelini
Chris Angelini is an Editor Emeritus at Tom's Hardware US. He edits hardware reviews and covers high-profile CPU and GPU launches.