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NVIDIA GeForce GTX Titan X Review

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Category: Video Cards
Price: $999
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NVIDIA GeForce GTX Titan X Introduction:

Just a scant eight months ago NVIDIA dropped the GTX 980 on the world. In its own right it turned out to be one hell of a video card that was priced competitively and delivered outstanding performance and power efficiency. However, the GTX 780 Ti was still a significant force to be reckoned with, and in the end there was not enough of a performance improvement over the GTX 980 to make the switch. The juice not worth the squeeze per se.

Now when compared to the GTX 780 or GTX Titan and the R9 290X you could make the case on both the performance and efficiency points. Since that time we have looked at more than a few of the Maxwell lineup from the upper to the entry level, and found that when push comes to shove the architecture scales well, both up and down, to fit each price/performance niche. I orignially thought the GTX 980 was the pinnacle card, but now it looks like there was a bit more left in the tank and we now get the full implementation of NVIDIA's Maxwell architecture in the GTX Titan X.

This new card, releasing today, features a single GM200 Maxwell core rather than using a pair of cores like the GTX Titan Z. As such we should see pricing move into the more competitive range, although this is not a card for those looking for a bargain. The top end cards are never a value proposition, but are for the gamer who does not compromise on their system builds and puts the best of everything into that upper end build.

Basic specs on the GTX Titan X include 3072 CUDA cores running at 1000MHz with a Turbo Boost clock of 1075MHz, and 12GB of GDDR5 7Gbps rated memory running through a 384-bit bus. Packed into a familiar package and sporting an all-black cover and PCB, the GTX Titan X has everything to push gaming performance to the next level. Let's see just what it can do.

NVIDIA GeForce GTX Titan X Closer Look:

NVIDIA's Maxwell architecture is not a new entity with unknown potential at this point, but a proven commodity that delivers both performance per watt improvements while bumping up the delivered FPS that gamers all crave. NVIDIA has used roughly the same architectural arrangement since Fermi debuted in 2010. From Fermi to Kepler and now Maxwell, we see huge improvements in both efficiency and performance.

Looking at the Maxwell GM200 core architecture used in the GTX Titan X we get the "Full Monty" this time around. A total of six graphics processing clusters, each with its own raster engine. Each GPC has a total of four Maxwell Streaming Multiprocessors units, each with a Polymorph engine, 128 CUDA cores, and eight texture units. A 384-bit bus consisting of six 64-bit memory controllers are used to manage the massive 12GB of Hynix 7000MHz rated GDDR5. Each memory controller comes equipped with 16 ROPs and 512KB of L2 cache. When you do the math you get 3072 CUDA cores, a unified shared 3072KB of L2 cache, 96 ROPs, and 192 texture units. Built using NVIDIA's mature 28nm process, this full implementation of the Maxwell architecture features eight billion transistors compared to the 5.2 billion under the lid on the GTX 980.

Built for not only efficiency but performance as well, NVIDIA's Maxwell architecture has delivered on both counts as the core has been scaled to fit lower performance envelopes. The GTX Titan X seems a little detuned with a base core clock speed of 1000MHz with a Turbo Boost 2.0 clock speed of 1075MHz. The memory speed is unchanged from the GTX 980 at 1750MHz or a data rate of 7Gbps, but this time it runs through a 384-bit bus and memory capacity triples to 12GB.

To tweak memory bandwidth NVIDIA has some additional tech up its sleeves that improves the memory compression techniques to reduce the memory bandwidth needs. By using the new third generation lossless Delta Color compression algorithms, you see a benefit as data is written to and from the GDDR5 memory at up to an 8:1 ratio depending on the size of the pixel block being written. This results in Maxwell needing 25% less bytes of data than a comparable Kepler core to deliver the same bandwidth.

 

The first look at the card shows that NVIDIA moved away from the natural aluminum cover used on the upper end Kepler and Maxwell cards, and decided that a card this bad ass needed to go all black. Visually the GTX Titan X looks much like the GTX 980 and shares the same dimensions with it from the front, at least. The clear polycarbonate window is still a fixture on the cover of the card and is an interesting feature to this day. A blower style fan is controlled dynamically by the card to maintain both a low noise signature and manage the thermal load of the card.

On the back side of the card are 12 Hynix GDDR5 memory ICs that, when coupled with the additional 12 on the front side of the card, you get to the 12GB of memory on the GTX Titan X. Right behind the GM200 core are three HiC Caps to manage the current flow to the eight billion transistors under the lid of the IHS.

From a size perspective the GTX Titan X is 10.5 inches in length and uses a two-slot cooling solution. You will need a motherboard with a 16x PCIe slot to use this card with PCIe 3.0 preferred, but the card is backwards compatible. Across the top of the card is the GeForce GTX logo that lights up a bright green to let the world know which brand of video card you are running in your gaming PC. Modders can change the coloring with custom cut lexan, but thats for the hardcore modders to play with. Green works good for me.

What's missing on the back side of the GTX Titan is the cover used on the GTX 980 that was designed with a cut out that helped improve airflow to the card when used in 2, 3 or 4-Way SLI configurations. By not including the cover on the GTX Titan X the spacing between cards is improved at the expense of the aesthetics. I'll take function over form any day.

 

 

 

The I/O section of the card consists of three full size DisplayPort 1.2 ports, a single HDMI 2.0 port, and a single Dual-Link DVI port. By including an HDMI 2.0 port resolutions up to 4K are supported natively with a refresh rate of 60Hz. The maximum resolution supported by the DisplayPort connections is boosted to 5120x3200 at 60Hz. There are a total of five ports and seven links onboard that allow the end user to use any four of the connections simultaneously.

The use of the trio of DisplayPort connections with G-SYNC ready monitors, such as the ASUS ROG Swift PG278Q, allows you to take advantage of NVIDIA's G-SYNC technology to eliminate the screen tearing and lag associated with running with V-sync on or off with refresh rates of up to 144Hz. The I/O panel has a new grill that visually looks better and is more functional, allowing the thermal load to be dumped out the back of the chassis, and keeping the GTX Titan X cool and quiet. At the back end of the card an opening allows air to be pulled into the fan through a small heat sink used to help cool the 6+2 phase VRM circuit at the back end of the PCB. This design is basically unchanged since the release of the GTX 770. While change is good, sometimes you can ruin a good thing. NVIDIA has not.

 

 

NVIDIA uses the combination of a 6-pin and 8-pin PCIe power connections to supply the card with up to 300 watts of power. More than the 250 watt board power design and more than the 275 watt potential when overclocking and running up against the 110% power limit imposed on the card. Introduced with the release of the GTX 780 Ti was a power balancing technology that ensures that no one rail is overloaded by monitoring the load and balancing it across all three inputs.

With a 250W TDP, NVIDIA recommends just a 600 watt power supply to feed your system and the GTX Titan X. The efficiency improvements of the Maxwell GPU design pay dividends in this arena. A 600 watt power supply will not be nearly enough if you choose to step up and run this card in 2, 3 or 4-Way SLI configurations. The two bridge connections allow you to connect up to four cards in a multi GPU SLI configuration in a motherboard that supports the use of up to four cards, such as the Rampage V Extreme from ASUS.

 

 

Stripping the black aluminum cover off of the GTX Titan X, we get down into the bowels of the card and how it is put together. What you see at first is a reference design that has not changed much, if at all, since 2012. The cover ducts the airflow intake from the fan and sends it through a vapor chamber-based heat sink package that dumps the stated 250W TDP load out through the back of the chassis. An aluminum heat sink is used to cover and cool the 6+2 phase power system as well as serve to keep the PCB from flexing. By using this design NVIDIA can keep the components cooler to deliver the high end gaming performance this card is capable of delivering for the long term. Surrounding the GM200 GPU are 12 GDDR5 memory modules that make up half the 12GB of 7Gbps memory allocated on the GTX Titan X.

 

 

With a suggested performance increase of up to 33% higher than the GTX 980, the GTX Titan X has its work cut out for it. Sporting that kind of improvement means that this card could instantly become the highest performing single GPU card on the video card market.




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