Review: NVIDIA GeForce GTX 780 Ti

[[Page 1 – Introduction]]

 

The GPU wars have been heating up recently. Hot on the heels of AMD’s Radeon R9 290X announcement, NVIDIA has pulled a rabbit out of its hat in the form of an update to its flagship product, the GTX 780. The new GTX 780 Ti will now take over the helm, in the hopes of putting a dent in its competitor’s shiny new R9 armour. The R9 290X has proven itself worthy of the performance crown, if online reviews are anything to go by (MAX-IT has not yet had the privilege to test one of them). But in any case, consumers will no doubt be very happy to see these ongoing wars between the GPU makers; it will only lead to better performance for games and lower prices.

Back to the GTX 780 Ti, the Titanium or Ti moniker was previously used only on the mid-range x50 and x60 cards. The x90 is reserved for dual-GPU boards, so I suppose a x80 Ti is a valid naming alternative. The new GTX 780 Ti now boasts 25% more cores than its predecessor, at 2,880 and is clocked at 875MHz with GPU Boost 2.0 bringing that up to 928MHz. Its memory speeds also get an additional 1Gb/sec boost to 7Gb/sec. Bear in mind these numbers are for the reference card and there’s no doubt that NVIDIA’s partners will be putting out overclocked variants.

To sum up NVIDIA’s current top-end offerings in a single table:

GeForce Table

As is evident from the table, the GTX 780 Ti has definitely given NVIDIA a boost in terms of expected performance. However, it also seems to have made the Titan a much less attractive proposition. With more cores, faster memory, faster clocks and not to mention a much, much lower price, the new GPU looks very tempting indeed. Having said that, it is quite usual for the principal to drop their prices once a new product comes out of their production lines. Therefore, we could expect a cheaper Titan, or perhaps a new iteration may be on the cards?

Speaking of falling prices, the new price point for the older GTX 780 (at least for the reference design) has now fallen to 500 bucks, and thereby pushing down the GTX 770 to just US$329. That would push it very close to the RM1k price point, possibly making the GTX770 the new mid-range king. As it is, I do find the graphics card segment to be slightly convoluted, with the many different SKUs and clock/memory speeds being offered by the different OEMs.  And I’m not even going to mention the mobile GPUs for notebooks, which can be really confusing, especially for consumers.

So before we get more confused, let’s take a closer look at the card.

 

[[Page 2 – The card & testbed setup]]

 

GTX 780 Ti_1

In terms of appearance, nothing much has changed. the reference card still uses the same cooler and external shell as the older GTX 780. The brightly lit GeForce GTX is still there, but 3rd party vendors would no doubt have their own designs. For those who absolutely need to know, the card measures 10.5 inches, which is the same as the GTX 780 and 770. This card needs both a four and six-pin PCI-E power connector as it will gobble up 250watts of power under maximum load.

GTX 780 Ti_2

Like its predecessors, it has two DL-DVI (dual-link), one HDMI and one Displayport 1.2 connectors. Of course, it takes the space of two slots to accommodate the large heatsink and fan assembly.

GTX 780 Ti_3

Running GPU-Z gives us a bit more information on the GeForce GTX 780 Ti:

GPU-Z

Moving on to our testbed, we currently use the following hardware:

Testbed

We would like to thank our sponsors for providing MAX-IT with the components for our testbed. A special thanks goes out to Intel, Kingston and Western Digital.

[[Benchmarks – Synthetics]]

To start off, we ran some synthetic benchmarks to gauge the card’s performance. The usual tests are Futuremark’s 3DMark 11 and 3DMark Vantage.

Chart 3DMark 11

It is pretty evident from the start that the GTX 780 Ti has a slight lead over the Titan, although it’s not by much when we compare the Extreme profiles. However, it’s obvious that it is quite a bit faster than the plain Jane GTX 780, around 11% faster in the Performance settings.

Chart 3DMark Vantage

In 3DMark Vantage, the extra cores and faster memory of the GTX 780 Ti is once again to thank for the better numbers. Again, the magnitude isn’t that much (looking at graphs can be quite misleading, we know). To put in perspective, the GTX 780 Ti is 2.5% faster than the Titan, 10.2%  for the GTX 780 and 25.7% faster than the GTX 770, which is roughly equal to the older GTX 680.

Chart - Heaven 4.0

The Heaven 4.0 benchmark from Unigine tests the GPU’s tessellation capabilities and this really taxes the card and pushes it to the brink. Our power supply unit started humming and wheezing when we ran this benchmark so maybe it’s time to replace that 800 watt box, which is small by today’s standards. Anyway, the benchmark shows the 780 Ti being the clear winner here.

That’s all we have for synthetic benchmarks. Now we move on to some games!

[[Benchmarks – Game Performance]]

Editor’s note: Now, before I proceed, I would like to apologise for the fact that the games we use to benchmark graphics cards are getting a bit old. I know most readers and gamers would like to know how the latest GPUs perform on the latest games, not something that is a year old, or even older. However, as we do not keep the graphics cards we test (most of the time), we will not be able to provide scores for older cards, so that is a major downside to updating our benchmarking suites. We value our readers’ feedback on this, so do let us know what games you want use to run benchmarks.

Chart - Batman

Batman: Arkham City shows that the lead enjoyed by the GTX 780 Ti extends to games, although we only noticed an improvement of 2-3 frames per second. We used average FPS because the minimum and maximum frame rates can vary a lot and aren’t reliable when used as a gauge. Actually, all the current crop of GTX cards run this game pretty well, even at the highest settings. That may also mean that Batman: Arkham City doesn’t scale very well to better hardware.

Chart - Metro 2033Again, Metro 2033 shows the better performance of the newly-released card, although it isn’t very much. We will be updating this benchmark to the latest instalment of the game, which is Metro: Last Light.

Chart - RE5

Okay, Resident Evil 5 is even older, but it does scale to newer hardware, which you can see from the graph above. Unfortunately, we didn’t manage to test the Titan with this game so that explains the NA* there.

Chart - Crysis Warhead

The GTX 780 Ti is nearly 20 frames per second faster than the GTX 780, which represents a whopping 30% increase in framerates. This of course may be moot, if you have a 60Hz monitor and turn on V-Sync. However, what’s interesting here is the fact that those of us who like playing FPS (First Person Shooters, not frames per second) games can now use a 120Hz monitor to get even better visual quality, although some games may require toning down the effects to get the framerates past 120Hz.

What is clear from all the benchmarks above is the fact that the GTX 780 Ti is at least 10%-20% faster than the GTX 780 in probably every aspect of performance. However, that lead is less when we pit it against the Titan. Then again, do not forget that the Titan is a more expensive (and more compact) card; the latter fact still makes it the only card suitable for those who like SFF (small form factor) systems. If you have a normal desktop and are looking for an upgrade from the 600 series of GTX cards, this new baby should most definitely be on your shortlist.

[[Closing Thoughts]]

During the process of benchmarking the GTX 780 Ti, I noticed that the card is VERY quiet. In fact, I could not hear the whirring of the cooling fan above the ambient noise (most of which comes from the air conditioning unit in the office). The temperature hit a very toasty 83 degrees Celcius when Unigine Heaven 4.0 was running. You can definitely feel the heat coming from the vent at the rear. Also, do take note that our testbed is an open platform (i.e. we do not have a casing for it) so if you were to put this card into a normal mid-tower case, expect another 4-5 degrees of heat, which may not be too good for the card.

NVIDIA has definitely pulled a fast one on its rivals with the GTX 780 Ti. AMD had expected to claim the GPU crown for at least a few months, but with the release of this spoilsport, it looks like the GPU crown isn’t going anywhere, at least for now.

NVIDIA had prepared a presentation deck for journalists and it is very clear that the aim of the GTX 780 Ti was to take the thunder away from the Radeon R9 290X. The slides were full of comparisons between both cards. I’ll post some screenshots of the slides below and hope that NVIDIA won’t kill me for doing so. Do keep in mind that these numbers and charts are from NVIDIA, the result of their internal testing, so as they like to say, your mileage may vary.

Deck_1

Deck_2

Deck_3

Click to enlarge

In closing, I would just like to mention the fact that this card came out of nowhere but I’m glad that NVIDIA chose to release it at this time. As I have said earlier, competition in the GPU arena is good for end-users and being an avid gamer myself, there’s never been a better time to plonk down some hard-earned cash to buy a new graphics card. So it’s really a no brainer for me to give the GeForce GTX 780 Ti an award – in this case, I believe the MAX Choice would be more than deserved.

Having said that however, I would also like to put on record my delight (and dismay at the same time) concerning the fact that game developers have been working very closely with GPU makers, namely NVIDIA and AMD. You might think that that’s a good thing, but that’s not always the case. If you’re into Battlefield 4 (which I am), an NVIDIA card may not be the best option currently. Those using AMD Radeons seem to be getting better performance. On the flip side, if you like Planetside 2 (which I also happen to love), NVIDIA’s cards work a ton better than AMD’s! So unless you have two different gaming rigs, each with a different card from either vendor, it’s a real dilemma. I know that it’s a marketing thing, but I wish that gamers wouldn’t have to make a choice like that.

P/S: NVIDIA is running a promotion for the GTX 780 Ti. Those who purchase a GTX 780 Ti, 780 or 770 will receive a copy of Batman: Arkham Origins, Splinter Cell: Blacklist AND Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag PLUS US$100 off their SHIELD portable gaming system. Those who buy a GTX 760 or 660 will receive Splinter Cell: Blacklist and Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag plus US$50 off a SHIELD purchase.