Gigabyte Gets Its WindForce Cooler Right
We set off on a mission to strip the cooler off of a very high-end graphics card and replace it with something claimed to be even better. The rebellious project was a success, and we had lots of fun in the process.
That's not to say there's anything wrong with Nvidia's reference cooler. In fact, it remains a quiet, effective way to ensure heat is exhausted from your chassis. Gigabyte's solution blows all of that hot air around inside the case. As a result, be sure you have the right enclosure before spending the extra cash on the GHz Edition board. With that said, the reference cooler's thermal capacity isn't particularly special; it costs the GK110 GPU quite a bit of its potential performance.
Not so for Gigabyte’s WindForce 600 Watt cooler. It scores major points with its new fans and an improved cooler design. This is probably about as good as a two-slot thermal solution can get. Hopefully, the company uses it on some of its other cards as well.
Naturally, Gigabyte's WindForce 600 Watt cooler handles the GeForce GTX Titan Black's 250 W board power with ease, which is what we set out to test. So long as you own a well-cooled case, modifying Nvidia's reference design is wholly worthwhile. It'll give you a few pleasant hours of tinkering to start, and a more enjoyable gaming experience after that. The knowledge that you own something unique should help ameliorate the pain of buying such a high-end board (providing you can find it; we're still not seeing it for sale here in the U.S.).
This raises another question: is there a point to the GeForce GTX Titan Black to begin with, particularly in a gaming system? The only additional values come from unrestricted double-precision compute performance (which isn't relevant to a majority of desktop users) and 6 GB of graphics memory. At least at the resolutions and settings once GK110 can comfortably drive, this isn't really an advantage. It really takes a multi-GPU configuration to demonstrate the need for more than 3 GB.
Nvidia's Reference Cooler
Want to know more about how the engineers at Nvidia came up with the iconic windowed cooling solution we've seen on so many of the company's high-end graphics cards? Check out The Story Of How GeForce GTX 690 And Titan Came To Be.
We probably won’t see many Gigabyte GeForce GTX Titan Black GHz Edition graphics cards in the wild. The exorbitant price alone takes care of that. However, this story was worth writing, if only to demonstrate how much performance can be gained from Nvidia's GK110 GPU by matching it up to a better cooler.
The combination of Gigabyte's notable factory overclock and the improved cooler puts the modified GeForce GTX Titan Black GHz Edition’s performance on par with an even more aggressively overclocked Gigabyte GeForce GTX 780 Ti WindForce OC. That card only manages to achieve a slightly higher GPU Boost clock rate, despite its higher base frequency. It also runs hotter and louder than the modified Titan Black. The biggest difference is that you'll find the overclocked 780 Ti board selling for a lot less money.
More daring enthusiasts can use the included OC Guru software to increase the power target and core voltage above the stock settings. This allowed us to push the GPU Boost clock rate beyond 1300 MHz. That might seem a little risky though, given that we're talking about a $1000+ graphics card.
To the folks at Gigabyte: pay attention to what we were able to do with your cooler and apply that to other (more affordable) models as well. We're sure the enthusiast market will thank you.