With the R9 290X effectively taking the wind out of their enthusiast lineup, NVIDIA needed to answer back in a big way and that’s exactly what they’ve done. The GTX 780 Ti is quite simply the fastest single core graphics card on the planet and more importantly, it doesn’t require insane fan speeds or rampant power consumption to reach its full potential.
This launch may be entirely reactionary but it shows how NVIDIA has been biding their time, waiting for just the right moment to show off Kepler’s true potential with a fully-enabled GK110. AMD’s R9 290X and R9 290 shook the ultra high end market to its core. However NVIDIA seems to have shrugged off the competition by hard-launching an immensely powerful graphics card hot on the heels of AMD’s debut without losing a step.
Just how fast is the GTX 780 Ti? Try double-digit improvements over TITAN, just 9% slower than a GTX 690 and it’s in an altogether different league than the GTX 780. More importantly, power consumption hasn’t increased by all that much over the TITAN. This does cast the TITAN’s position in a less than positive light but we have to remember that particular SKU will be increasingly targeted towards CUDA developers rather than gamers. The GTX 780 Ti fits into NVIDIA’s GeForce lineup like a tailored suit and it couldn’t have come at a better time.
Overclocking wasn’t bad either (minus the limited voltage overhead) and we’re told that NVIDIA’s board partners will be able to push things even further with their custom designs. These premium boards will actually be available at or shortly after launch, giving them a several week head start on AMD’s similar, yet delayed board-partner initiatives.
Against AMD’s cards the GTX 780 Ti really flexes its substantial muscle. It thoroughly outclasses the R9 290X from a raw framerate perspective even though many of the games we are using can be considered “AMD friendly”. Even in Uber mode, the 290X was cleanly beaten in most games. We can’t consider the R9 290 a fitting competitor either since it targets a different segment, though it does remain very, very enticing from a price / performance perspective. Yes, we know the old refrain: these AMD cards will only get better as time goes on and custom versions will be much better. It’s too bad for Radeon users that those two statements are based upon hypotheticals and wistful thinking while the GTX 780 Ti is reality right now.
The real differentiator between AMD’s and NVIDIA’s high end cards boils down to usability. The R9 290X is loud and power hungry while the GTX 780 Ti performs better, uses less power and is noticeably quieter. Let’s put this into perspective. To achieve comparable results on a reference R9 290X, you’ll need to pump up the fan speed to obscenely high levels and pray that PowerTune doesn’t slap your overclock down to lower levels. Conversely, getting similar acoustical results as the GTX 780 Ti would push the R9 290X into such low framerates, it would likely be beaten by an even wider margin.
Another thing we should mention is consistency. NVIDIA has shown time and again their GeForce Boost algorithm is predictive enough that clocks will hardly ever go below the Base frequency. Meanwhile, Boost overhead has a nearly unlimited ceiling provided there’s enough voltage and power overhead to back it up. AMD’s R9 290 cards feature extreme clock speed swings in most applications and there doesn’t seem to be any minimum guaranteed core clock so there’s just no way to know how fast (so slow) your particular card will actually be.
The term value isn’t exactly a hallmark of the high end GPU market, particularly for NVIDIA cards but the GTX 780 Ti is actually quite competitive. This may actually be one of the first times we’ve thought of a $699 card as a good value (just don't mix up value with affordability) despite a sky-high price tag. Granted, if you can put up with the R9 290X’s insane noise profile when in Uber Mode, it can deliver a slightly better bang for buck ratio due to a price which is some $150 lower but among NVIDIA’s lineup the Ti is clearly superior in every respect.
Another benefit of buying the GTX 780 Ti right now is the game bundle NVIDIA is offering. Splinter Cell Blacklist may be a slightly older title but Assassins Creed IV Black Flag and Batman Arkham City are both triple-a games plus there’s a $100 coupon for SHIELD. Granted, the actual “value” of these additions is somewhat temporary and the $100 discount for SHIELD is pointless for anyone who doesn’t want NVIDIA’s portable gaming device but they still represent more than what AMD is offering right now.
The GTX 780 Ti is everything we expected and more. It is extremely fast, consumes less power than the R9 290X and remains whisper quiet regardless of how much load you put it under. That’s a noteworthy achievement for NVIDIA in the face of an odd push towards justifying overly loud acoustics in favor of performance. Currently, there isn’t a better card available for gamers who don’t want to buy a water block or custom heatsink to ensure optimal framerates.
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