The NVIDIA TITAN X 12GB Performance Review

Author: SKYMTL
Date: August 2, 2016
Product Name: TITAN X 12GB
Part Number: TITAN X
Warranty: 3 Years
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The Pascal-based TITAN X has finally arrived, a lot sooner than many may have expected but nonetheless ready to lead NVIDIA’s current lineup into the future. The way this card was launched via an off-the cuff announcement is unique, its specifications may leave you slack-jawed (as will the price!) and, based upon the GPU market’s current direction, the new TITAN X could very well reign supreme for a very long time indeed.

As with previous TITAN cards, this version of the TITAN X is meant to combine professional-oriented features with gaming performance that is sure to appeal to the top 1% of gamers. The professional side of that equation lies with the folks who are focusing on Deep Learning wherein the potential of a staggering 44 teraflops of 8-bit integer throughput will be money in the bank. Before the new TITAN X, they would have had to spend upwards $6000 or more on a Tesla P100 to get remotely close to that performance.

Gamers will likely lambaste the Pascal-based TITAN X’s $1200 price but it’s tough to complain when there’s obviously a market for these types of ultra high end products. Many will likely make their way into the hands of facilities focused on the aforementioned deep learning but plenty of others will be found in systems from the likes of Maingear, Falcon Northwest and other builders. As a matter of fact, many may prefer to go this route over two GTX 1080’s in SLI since they won’t have to worry about missing profiles or day-one support issues; the raw performance of TITAN X will help them power through nearly every scenario.

One of the other oddities of the TITAN X is the manner in which it will be sold: board partners simply won’t have access to this card, at least not initially. Instead, it will be offered exclusively through GeForce.com’s storefront and through those aforementioned boutique system builders. The Americas (including Canada) and the EU will have access to it on August 2nd while other regions will have sales open sometime in the future. That could complicate things for returns outside of the continental USA but NVIDIA is already well-versed when it comes to potential international RMAs.

In terms of raw specifications the 16nm GP102 core beating at the new TITAN X’s heart is a pretty beastly thing with 28 Streaming Multiprocessors accounting for 3584 cores and 22 Texture Units spread across 12 billion transistors. For those keeping track at home, that’s a good 40% more cores and TMUs than NVIDIA’s previous flagship card, the GTX 1080. However, that 40% may not translate into a direct performance increase since in order to keep TDP within a reasonable window (that being 250W) the TITAN X clock speeds are a bit lower than its little brother, clocking in with Base / Boost frequencies of 1417MHz and 1531MHz respectively.

Moving onto the memory and here we have a feature which is obviously meant for professional scenarios: 12GB of GDDR5X operating across a 384-bit memory interface at 10Gbps. The resulting bandwidth of about 480GB/s is nothing short of titanic (see what I did there? ;) ) but its real-world benefits for gaming scenarios will likely be quite limited. This is because even at 4K today’s games struggle to require more than 4GB and even the most memory-hungry applications seem to stop seeing performance benefits above 6GB. In that case, the TITAN X could unofficially be considered the first true “5K capable” graphics card.

With all of this taken into account alongside the potential 25% to 30% improvements over the GTX 1080, I’ll once again have to raise up the specter of NVIDIA’s pricing structure for the TITAN X. It costs 70% more but that’s actually less than buying two GTX 1080 Founders Edition cards. Yeah, I understand that is likely cold comfort and still bloody expensive regardless of how green-colored your glasses may be. However, the TITAN X does offer a unique set of features and performance throughput for those who are willing to pay that premium regardless of whether they’re on the Deep Learning side of the equation or simply a gamer who wants the best available right now.

The GP102 itself is a pretty interesting creation since, even though it is all-powerful within the TITAN X, it actually isn’t fully enabled this time around. In order to increase yields (and “increase” is a relative term since there won’t be many TITAN X’s to begin with) a pair of SMs have been disabled. If NVIDIA ever does get around to launching GP102 in its fullest form, it would be a 3840 core, 256 texture unit monster. However, with a distinct lack of competition on the horizon, we have to wonder if GP102 will ever see the light of day outside of the professional Quadro market.

Other than its black-colored heatsink shroud, the new TITAN X’s looks aren’t all that much different from the GTX 1080 or GTX 1070. Despite being a much more exclusive solution, it actually utilizes the exact same cooler a significantly lower priced options. That’s something which may not sit all that well with anyone who was looking for a more bespoke solution but as the saying goes: if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

Considering this is a card with a 250W TDP the 8+6 pin power input layout shouldn’t come as any surprise. What is interesting though is that even though NVIDIA has been extremely careful about discussing the TITAN X’s deep learning focus, the heatsink shroud still has an LED-lit GeForce GTX emblazoned on it. This really does point towards some odd component recycling going on but I still think this is one of the best looking reference designs ever made.

The card’s underside is completely covered with a backplate which once again uses the GeForce GTX TITAN X moniker even though NVIDIA has chosen to officially market it as simply the “TITAN X”.

I/O connections are par for the course as well with three DisplayPort 1.3 outputs a single HDMI 2.0 connector and finally a legacy DVI.

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