Is it better to buy a single powerful GPU or buy two less expensive cards and achieve similar performance? That is a question that gamers have been faced with years, but NVIDIA’s TITAN is doing a brilliant job of blurring those lines in today’s market. It is the first graphic card which has the capability to stand toe-to-toe against leading dual card setups without having to resort to interlinks between two distinct cores.
The GTX TITAN’s place at the forefront of NVIDIA’s lineup is undeniable, but from a raw framerate perspective it is routinely trounced by two HD 7970 GHz Editions or GTX 680s. Moving slightly further down market, the GTX 670 and HD 7950 Boost State can match or slightly exceed its performance when used in SLI or Crossfire, while also retailing for significantly less.
When taken at face value, this situation paints a dire picture for the GTX TITAN since it only manages to match blows with less expensive alternatives. Indeed, if you are looking to push a 120Hz monitor with v-sync enabled and don’t care about much else, the TITAN would be a poor choice. However, framerates are one very small slice of an all-encompassing gaming experience and dual card setups are beset with issues in several other areas.
Both SLI and Crossfire have matured over the years but that doesn’t mean they are completely stable solutions. For example, AMD’s Crossfire has Eyefinity issues in Assassin’s Creed III (no display on outside monitors) and Far Cry 3 (incorrectly displayed HUD) while SLI had the dubious honor of breaking Surround support in Hitman: Absolution and exhibited extremely poor performance in Dirt: Showdown. We didn’t experience any missing or broken game profiles but previous experiences point to that being an ongoing issue in newly released games. By the virtue of being a single core solution NVIDIA’s TITAN deftly avoids these pitfalls.
While the framerates of AMD’s high end Crossfire setups is nothing short of spectacular, that doesn’t necessarily translate into an acceptable gameplay experience. On the contrary, in nearly every title, the two HD 7970s or HD 7950s displayed atrocious frame time delivery which resulted in a distinct lack of fluidity and negatively impacted everything from shot accuracy to player immersion.
From time to time, the HD 7970 GHz Edition’s massive well of horsepower masks the effect quite well from prying eyes, but the HD 7950 Boost becomes nearly unplayable in some titles. Compare this with the TITAN’s relative tranquility both visually and in the frame rate charts and the difference between the two solutions couldn’t be greater, regardless of associated costs. Honestly though, if you don’t care about in-game stuttering, a pair of AMD’s HD 7950 Boost Edition cards is a fabulous solution that comes in at a fraction of the GTX TITAN’s cost despite their compatibility eccentricities.
Crossfire’s penchant for stutter is both frustrating and unavoidable but SLI doesn’t escape unscathed either. From objective and subjective standpoints, it is vastly superior to what AMD is offering but Dirt Showdown and Hitman: Absolution were anything but fluid while using two NVIDIA cards. If anything, this provides an interesting contrast between the raw power of dual GPU setups and the consistency provided by a single TITAN.
Anyone who can afford a TITAN likely isn’t looking at their electricity bill all that often, so its vast superiority in this field will go overlooked by most. However, the system’s noise levels have a significant impact upon in-game immersion and this is another area in which NVIDIA’s new flagship delivers. Unless the default fan speed profile is cast aside, it is quieter that most case fans and eschews the turbine-like effect of two HD 7970 GHz Editions.
The products playing in this market may have changed and the game titles may look better than ever, but it feels like we’ve been down this road already. Crossfire is still riddled with stuttering and various other bugs while SLI has its own set of teething problems. This unfortunate situation leaves the TITAN’s position in the market relatively unscathed since it can deliver consistently high performance with none of the dual card solutions’ excess drama. Is that actually worth potentially hundreds of dollars more than a competing SLI or Crossfire setup with lower priced GPUs? For a discerning gamer with enough cash, absolutely.
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