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NVIDIA GeForce GTX TITAN; GK110’s Opening Act

Author: SKYMTL
Date: February 18, 2013
Product Name: GeForce GTX Titan
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This is a preview of the GTX TITAN and its many features. For our full review, visit HWC on Thursday February 21st @ 9AM EST

GK110 may be one of the worst-kept secrets of the last year. Gamers knew about it since Kepler was first announced and they’ve been gazing at it longingly ever since. A massively endowed Kepler core has existed for some time but enthusiasts have been fed a constant diet of more efficient, affordable solutions in the form of GK104 (GTX 680, GTX 670 and GTX 660 Ti) and GK106 (GTX 660 and GTX 650 Ti). But it was only a matter of time until NVIDIA adapted their GK110 for the gaming market and the end result is aptly named TITAN.

While NVIDIA’s Kepler-based GeForce 600-series lineup has been primarily based upon smaller cores, the large footprint GK110 equivalents have been exclusively used for Tesla products. For example, the GK110-based Tesla K20 lies at the heart of Oak Ridge’s chart-topping TITAN Supercomputer. That’s about to change with the GTX TITAN, the most powerful and most expensive single core enthusiast-level graphics card the world has ever seen.


By eschewing the standard nomenclature of the GeForce series, NVIDIA has set the GTX TITAN outside the tidy predefined box most graphics cards are usually placed in. The reasons for this decision are quite straightforward: TITAN is unlike any previous GPU. It features a heart destined for supercomputing applications with the soul of a gaming-grade graphics card, and is ultimately meant to create what NVIDIA calls “Gaming Supercomputers”. More importantly, by leveraging GK110’s relatively low power profile, these high end computers can now be created using smaller chassis.


In order to create a class-leading GPU, NVIDIA was able to leverage GK110’s TITANic compute specifications and apply them directly to a core that’s meant for high performance gaming. TITAN’s 2688 CUDA cores and 224 TMUs represent a 75% increase over the GK104 core, while the ROP count has been bumped up by 50%. Meanwhile, the card has received the same 6Gbps GDDR5 modules found in other high end NVIDIA cards but there’s now 6GB on tap which is paired up with a 386-bit memory interface, culminating in an impressive 288.5 GB/s of bandwidth.

With all of this raw performance on tap, one would expect the GTX TITAN to be outrageously power hungry and produce a ton of heat. Thankfully, that just isn’t the case. Since the GK110 core is engineered for HPC environments which demand high efficiency in order to maximize performance per square foot, the TITAN derivative remains surprisingly mild mannered. Naturally, TSMC’s 28nm manufacturing process and TITAN’s lower operating speeds help immensely in this department, and supposedly there’s some additional wizardry going on behind the scenes. NVIDIA is keeping details about this close to their chests, so let’s just say that a TDP of 250W is impressive and keep it at that.

In terms of availability and pricing, it’s a somewhat mixed bag. An SRP of $999 puts TITAN well beyond the reach of most gamers and enthusiasts, but this isn’t a limited edition card which will only have a production run of 1,000 (we’re looking at you ARES II) so availability should be similar to that of the GTX 690. Just don’t cross your fingers hoping that every retailer will receive stock. While EVGA and ASUS are both supporting this launch in North America, TITAN will likely only be offered through primary retail channels like Newegg, Amazon and NCIX.

Since this launch is happening at the tail end of the Chinese New Year, expect some slight delays in regards to retail availability. And we do mean slight since TITAN card should be available to purchase during the week of February 25th with some system builders potentially having cards sooner than that.


Some may be wondering where TITAN lies within NVIDIA’s current lineup since a $999 price is equal to that of a GTX 690, yet in terms of raw performance it will fall short of NVIDIA’s dual card solution. However, the allure of owning the fastest single card on the planet will appeal to many while others will appreciate the TITAN’s compatibility with triple and quad SLI.

This isn’t just about novelty either since there are several reasons why someone should be looking at TITAN rather than a GTX 690. In many ways, the two can’t even be compared due to their associated architectures. The GTX 690 will only live up to its maximum potential in games where SLI provides perfect scaling, and those situations are relatively rare. Meanwhile, the GTX TITAN doesn’t have to worry about pesky dual card profiles or SLI link latency getting in the way of performance. It will also consume significantly less power and output less heat than a GTX 690, allowing for adoption within smaller chassis.

NVIDIA envisions TITAN becoming the go-to solution for system builders who want to pack the maximum amount of performance into SFF cases or simply create the fastest system on the block. Its unique combination of no holds barred performance and relative efficiency makes for an adaptable graphics card for numerous situations from SFF cases to large gaming PCs.

Make no mistake about it though, the GeForce GTX TITAN is immensely expensive and will likely be the brunt of derision for some naysayers in the months ahead. It is architected to be the thoroughbred supercar of the graphics card industry so even though “value” will likely never enter into the equation, TITAN aims to be the pinnacle of modern GPU design.

For the time being, we aren’t allowed to talk about TITAN’s performance (wait for our full review at 9AM EST on February 21st) but there are still plenty of bases to cover in this article.
 
 
 

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