NVIDIA GeForce GTX 780 Ti Reviewccokeman - November 7, 2013
Category: Video Cards
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NVIDIA GeForce GTX 780 Ti Introduction:
Here we go again in the video card wars! AMD just released its best shot across the bow of the best NVIDIA had to offer with the R9 290X. AMD showed their hand with back-to-back launches that hit at the right price points and now we have the retort from NVIDIA in the form of the GTX 780 Ti. Billed as the fastest GPU on the planet, it comes fully equipped to take the best from AMD and move that performance bar a couple notches higher. We saw that the NVIDIA GTX 780 proved that it had the NVIDIA GTX Titan DNA strapped in and functioning perfectly as it delivered performance results very close to that of its faster sibling. Adding in another SMX brings another 192 CUDA cores on line for 2880 single precision cores and 960 double precision cores, a boost by 48 to 240 texture units and we should see some nice increases in FPS over the GTX 780. Another trick up its sleeve is the increase in the memory bandwidth by using memory ICs with a 7000MHz effective data rate similar to what was used on the NVIDIA GTX 770. Boost up the clock to further improve the performance and it sounds like we have a beast of a card right out of the gate.
Pure graphics horsepower is great to have but NVIDIA is bringing more of its ecosystem to light with the addition of Shadowplay, a recording tool that can record up to the last 20 minutes of your gaming session at 1080p while running at 60 FPS. All without the normal FPS hit you see with other solutions thanks to the built in H.264 encoder on the Kepler core. Coupled with GeForce Experience the ecosystem pool of projects keeps adding more and more value to the brand. Priced at $699 the GTX 780 Ti is filling the spot previously occupied by the GTX 780 in the NVIDIA product stack. The question we have is how much better than the R9 290X is it really going to be?
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 780 Ti Closer Look:
Let's start out with a quick look at the Kepler core used to effect on the GTX 780 Ti. Built on a 28nm core sporting 7.1 billion transistors packed into a 533mm2 sized die. The larger die means a less dense core with more surface area to shed the thermal load generated by the core. Specifications on the Kepler revision used on the GTX 780 Ti include five graphics processing clusters, 15 streaming multi processors, 2880 single precision CUDA cores, 960 double precision cores, 240 texture units, and 48 ROPs with 1.5Mb of shared L2 cache. Where we see a difference over the core count of the GTX 780 is in the single precision CUDA cores getting a boost of 576 SP CUDA cores and 48 texture units. Base clock speeds see a boost as well with a stock speed of 875MHz and GPU Boost 2.0 clock of at least 928MHz although this varies depending on the game and power/thermal settings. The memory subsystem is improved as well with the inclusion of 7000MHz data rate GDDR5 still running through the same 384bit bus seen on the GTX 780 and GTX Titan.
Visually the GTX 780 Ti would be difficult if not impossible to distinguish from its siblings if not for the designation being engraved in the industrial looking aluminum shroud. As far as looks go the card is still as visually stunning as when we looked at the first images of the GTX 690 and then Titan. The industrial rugged aluminum shell, the clear poly carbonate window that shows off the vapor chamber based cooling solution and the GeForce logo that lights up in NVIDIA green on the top side of the card all scream high end. In reality that's where the card resides and has a heft to it you don't often see. The GTX 780 Ti shares its dimensions with the rest of the cards that use this design and comes in at 10.5 inches in length and takes up the space of a pair of slots in the chassis.
Connectivity options are unchanged from the GTX Titan and GTX 780 and include a pair of Dual-Link DVI 1, a single HDMI, and a single DisplayPort 1.2 port that support up to four monitors in a 3+1 surround configuration. Up to 4K resolutions are supported with instant recognition and setup of 4K tiled monitors with the latest GeForce drivers. The robust cooling solution discharges the thermal load outside the chassis allowing for use in smaller form factor PCs. The back end of the card features an air intake that features a fin array over the VRM circuits on the inbound side of the card that helps in two ways. It allows cooler air to feed the VRM circuit while also providing an improved air flow path for the centrifugal fan when used in an SLI configuration. In essence you can get better card-to-card temperatures without either suffering from reduced airflow intake.
On top of the PCB we have the power connection points at the back end of the card. A single 6-pin and single 8-pin PCIe power connection coupled with the 75W from the 16x PCIe slot provide up to 300W of power — 50W above the GTX 780 Ti's TDP of 250W so there is some capacity for overvolting and overclocking. With this card NVIDIA introduces a new power management strategy called Power Balancing to ensure no single supply source is overloaded. By load balancing the power source the expectation is a higher maximum overclock — something realized in my testing. A pair of SLI bridge connections are at the front end of the PCB allowing support for up to four cards if your motherboard supports it, although a three-card SLI solution should cover everything currently out on the market. The recommended power supply for use with a GTX 780 Ti is 600 watts based on the 250W TDP.
NVIDIA uses a very robust vapor chamber cooling solution that effectively deals with the heat generated by the large core. This design uses a large vapor chamber and aluminum fin array on the core and VRM circuit. Both of these are interconnected with a large aluminum plate that serves to both guard the PCB with added structural rigidity along with cooling for the memory IC's. Taken as a whole it is an effective solution to the problem of keeping the core card cool. While both AMD and NVIDIA both use a centrifugal fan design NVIDIA has continued development of new and improved fan management algorithms that provide the airflow needed for the card while not pounding on the eardrums.
Launched with the GTX 780 was a new tool that NVIDIA had been working on to allow gamers to take advantage of the hard work NVIDIA does on the back end to provide the best possible gaming experience, hence the name of the tool called GeForce Experience. Now fully live, this tool is multifaceted as it helps keep your drivers up to date so you have the latest releases for the newest games, provides system information, and most importantly it provides a resource to tweak the settings for each game based on the GeForce hardware you own. Say you get tired of testing and tweaking the visual quality settings trying to find that good balance between FPS performance and visual quality. No problem. Open up GeForce Experience, choose your game from a list, and you see the optimized settings. You can choose to change them on your own or just hit the optimize button and then sit back and enjoy the highest FPS performance/visual quality settings your hardware can use. New for the GTX 780 Ti launch is the introduction of ShadowPlay a game recording solution that takes advantage of the H.264 encoder built into the Kepler architecture so that when compared to a software-only solution you get very little performance hit. You can record up to the last 20 minutes of your game play time to show off your skills or greatest fails.
All the extras are nice but the question of the day is: does the GTX 780 Ti have the horsepower to hand the best AMD has to offer in a head-to-head contest? Let's find out.