NVIDIA GeForce GTX 780 Review
The GeForce GTX 780 may be this yearís most unexpected graphics card. After AMD publically stated the HD 7970 GHz Edition would continue to be their fastest single GPU solution throughout 2013, many expected NVIDIA to maintain the status quo as well. The GTX 680 has continually been in a dominating position within the market while other 600-series cards are well placed to combat AMDís product stack. Maxwell, with its brand new architecture and a focus on dynamic parallelism is due to launch next year so it only made sense that valuable resources would be directed towards next generation parts. Well that hasnít happened and the new GTX 700-series is already upon us.
A number of well executed plans allowed for the transition from 600 to 700 series to happen so quickly. The yields of larger Kepler cores like GK110 and GK114 have gradually improved, leading to the possibility of higher end variations of numerous products. NVIDIA also ensured their smaller, more efficient cores were able to compete against AMDís flagship GPUs, virtually ensuring performance dominance once the larger ASICs were ready for prime time.
As one might expect, NVIDIA didnít have to reinvent the wheel in order to create the GTX 780. Theyíre simply using a GK110 core which was first used in TITAN while cutting back on a number of elements. Instead of 14 SMX modules, two have been disabled, resulting in 12 nodes and a total of 2304 CUDA cores and 192 Texture Units.
Naturally, this reduction cuts back on the GTX 780ís performance somewhat in comparison to TITAN but double precision processing has been significantly scaled back as well. Unlike the TITAN, its DP throughput ratio is akin to that of a GTX 680 or roughly 1/24th the speed of single precision. For budding GPGPU developers, stunted double precision abilities will be disappointing but gamers Ėthe market targeted by the GTX 780- wonít be impacted by this in any way.
The GTX 780 still retains many of the hallmarks which made TITAN such a dominant presence. Its six 64-bit memory controllers offer a 384-bit interface alongside 6 ROP partitions (for a total of 48 ROPs) and 1536KB of L2 cache. These all represent a significant improvement over the specifications of a GTX 680.
For the time being TITAN will remain front and center as NVIDIA's single GPU flagship, allowing the GTX 780 to replace the GTX 680. Expect the former GK114 frontrunner to gradually fade from the shelves as it makes way for other GTX 700-series cards. While we canít discuss the specifics, expect NVIDIA to quickly roll out the 700-series, battering AMD at every conceivable price point.
With a decisive edge in core count, memory size (up from 2GB to 3GB), bandwidth, ROPs and Texture Units, NVIDIA claims the GTX 780 performs roughly 40% faster than its predecessor. Due to the use of a massive GK110 core, this new card canít hit the same default Boost clocks as a GTX 680 but the raw specifications should more than make up for any potential shortfall. In addition, NVIDIA has equipped their latest creation with 3GB of GDDR5 memory, eliminating many of the GTX 680ís perceived bottlenecks at ultra high resolutions and extreme anti aliasing settings.
One of the more interesting aspects of the GTX 780 is its adherence to the 250W TDP specification from the GK110-equipped TITAN. Since TDP canít be directly equated with power consumption, this doesnít mean both cards will require the same amount of juice. Rather, due to the core similarity, the GTX 780 has the capability to produce as much heat as its bigger brother, even though two additional SMX modules have been disabled.
A number of other features are present here as well. GPU Boost 2.0 makes an encore appearance and ensures clock speeds, voltage and power always remain in harmony to ensure optimal performance. NVIDIA will also allow limited software-centric voltage modifications, though as with TITAN they likely wonít result in a significant amount of additional clock speed overhead.
Pricing is key to the GTX 780ís success and NVIDIA had some big expectations to live up to here. Their GTX 680 was released at a surprisingly low $499, causing instant headaches for AMDís HD 7970. However, unlike the situation a year or so ago, NVIDIAís GTX 780 finds itself in exclusive possession of a given performance segment. Other than some judicious price cuts, AMD canít respond either. The Tahiti architecture -regardless of optimizations realized through silicon respins- just canít be pushed any further due to its current thermal and power consumption limits. This means on paper, AMD doesnít have anything which can compete against the GTX 780 and wonít have a concerted response for at least the next six to seven months.
With these factors taken into account alongside the GTX 780ís potential performance, a price of $649 doesnít seem all that extreme. It perfectly demonstrates this new cardís position well above the outgoing GTX 680 and AMDís GHz Edition while ensuring the TITAN remains an exclusive niche product.
The GTX 780 isnít meant to be an upgrade path for GTX 680 users, though many enthusiasts will likely switch over anyways. Rather, it focuses on offering up a large framerate boost for the GTX 580 users who found a GTX 680 didnít provide enough performance to justify such a large investment. Current AMD users should also appreciate this new cardís efficiency, acoustics, smooth gaming experience and driver support considering the current Radeon lineupís rather spotty reputation in these key areas.
NVIDIAís timing seems to be impeccable. The GTX 780 is being released with a hard launch at a relatively competitive price and at a time when AMD would need to significantly revise their roadmap in order to deliver a timely response. And as we will see in this review, thereís a whole lot to like about the latest iteration of GK110.
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