Nvidia GeForce GTX 780 Review: Titan’s Baby Brother Is Born

At £800, GeForce GTX Titan only made sense for folks building small form factor PCs and multi-GPU powerhouses. Now there's another option with every bit of panache, a slightly de-tuned GPU, and a price tag £250 lower: meet Nvidia's GeForce GTX 780.

I get a kick out of looking back at what I wrote about certain pieces of high-end hardware. When Nvidia launched the GeForce GTX 680, AMD was still asking something like £450 for the Radeon HD 7970, and the GK104-based board kicked it right in the tail. It was faster, cooler, quieter, and smaller than AMD’s flagship. I recommended the 680 without hesitation. And until Nvidia launched its almost-as-fast GeForce GTX 670 for even less, the 680 was a great choice.

Today, 7970s are down to £300 or so. Meanwhile, the GTX 680s are selling for roughly £400. What a reversal, right? After some serious driver work, AMD’s Radeon HD 7970 is notably faster than the GeForce board and it costs less. You have to put up with more noise and higher power use, but the Tahiti-based card also gives you great compute horsepower to match its gaming alacrity. So long as you stay away from multi-GPU configurations, the Radeon HD 7970 is a smart buy.

The next step up is going to cost you about £800. Be it the GeForce GTX Titan, the GeForce GTX 690, or AMD’s Radeon HD 7990, single-card performance doesn’t get any better than a Radeon HD 7970 unless you spend twice as much. And that’s where AMD and Nvidia lose a lot of gamers otherwise down to drop big bucks on graphics. Stepping up from £400 to £800 is rough.

GK110 Finds A New Home In GeForce GTX 780

GeForce GTX 780 is Nvidia’s attempt to do a little something about that gaping maw of a price delta between GTX 680 and the crazy-expensive stuff. Given its name, you might think the 780 centers on a new piece of silicon. But it’s really a derivative of GeForce GTX Titan and the gargantuan GK110 GPU. 

Of course, the GK110 that Nvidia uses on GeForce GTX 780 is necessarily trimmed to keep it from showing up the potent Titan. We already know that a complete GK110 GPU plays host to 15 Streaming Multiprocessors, each with 192 CUDA cores and 16 texture units. GeForce GTX Titan pares the chip back to 14 SMXes, totaling 2,688 CUDA cores and 224 texture units. GeForce GTX 780 sees GK110 further cut down to 12 SMXes. The result is 2,304 CUDA cores and 192 texture units.

Depending on the card you get, GeForce GTX 780’s 12 SMX blocks are either spread between four or five Graphics Processing Clusters. Composed of 7.1 billion transistors, GK110 is a massive chip. Manufacturing it isn’t easy. And along the way, different parts of it show up with defects. So, Nvidia can’t guarantee the exact configuration of each GeForce GTX 780’s GK110. It’ll only say that, across the GPU, 12 SMXes are enabled. 

Nvidia’s incisions are effective enough in dictating performance that tweaks to the board’s clock rates are very minor. GeForce GTX 780 bears an 863 MHz base frequency, just like Titan. But its rated GPU Boost clock rate is 900 MHz, whereas Titan is officially spec’ed at 876 MHz.

GK110 retains its complete render back-end, including six ROP partitions able to output eight 32-bit pixels per clock, adding up to what the company calls 48 ROP units. Further, a sextet of 64-bit memory interfaces yield the same 384-bit aggregate pathway. But whereas Nvidia armed GeForce GTX Titan with 6 GB of GDDR5 memory, GTX 780 sports 3 GB operating at 1,502 MHz. Do the math and you get the same 288.4 GB/s of peak bandwidth.

Where GeForce GTX 780 veers away from Titan is in compute potential. You’ll remember from Nvidia GeForce GTX Titan 6 GB: GK110 On A Gaming Card that Nvidia’s single-GPU flagship includes a special driver setting that scales back clock rate in favor of running the chip’s double-precision floating-point units at full-speed. This makes the GeForce GTX Titan a viable option for developers seeking more compute performance than Nvidia’s other GPUs can muster (making it competitive with AMD’s Tahiti, in fact). This time around, you still get 64 FP64 CUDA cores per SMX. But because that driver setting isn’t exposed, double-precision performance drops back to 1/24 of the FP32 rate. Expect floating-point performance to trail Radeon HD 7970 then, as FP64 throughput lags.


GeForce GTX Titan
GeForce GTX 690
GeForce GTX 780
GeForce GTX 680
Radeon HD 7970 GHz Ed.
Shaders2,688
2 x 1,536
2,304
1,536
2,048
Texture Units
224
2 x 128
192
128
128
Full Color ROPs
48
2 x 32
48
32
32
Graphics Clock
836 MHz
915 MHz
863 MHz
1,006 MHz
1,000 MHz
Texture Fillrate
187.5 Gtex/s
2 x 117.1 Gtex/s
165.7 Gtex/s
128.8 Gtex/s
134.4 Gtex/s
Memory Clock
1,502 MHZ
1,502 MHz
1,502 MHz
1,502 MHz
1,500 MHz
Memory Bus
384-bit
2 x 256-bit
384-bit
256-bit
384-bit
Memory Bandwidth288.4 GB/s
2 x 192.3 GB/s
288.4 GB/s
192.3 GB/s
288 GB/s
Graphics RAM
6 GB GDDR5
2 x 2 GB GDDR5
3 GB GDDR5
2 GB GDDR5
3 GB GDDR5
Die Size
551 mm22 x 294 mm2551 mm2294 mm2365 mm2
Transistors (Billion)
7.1
2 x 3.54
7.1
3.54
4.31
Process Technology
28 nm
28 nm
28 nm
28 nm
28 nm
Power Connectors
1 x 8-pin, 1 x 6-pin2 x 8-pin
1 x 8-pin, 1 x 6-pin2 x 6-pin
1 x 8-pin, 1 x 6-pin
Maximum Power
250 W
300 W
250 W195 W
250 W
Price (Street)
~£800
~£800
£550
£380
£350


Playing The Name Game

Perhaps you’re asking: Why call this card GeForce GTX 780 at all, then? It’s a derivative of Titan, based on the same Kepler architecture already prolific across the GeForce GTX 600 series. Nvidia did much the same thing with its 500 series, which built on the GeForce GTX 400’s Fermi architecture. “But the 500s were based on redesigned GPUs that improved performance, power, and, consequently, efficiency,” you rightly point out.

The most I could get from Nvidia was that it didn’t need to do this for the GeForce GTX 780, since the company only just started releasing desktop-oriented cards based on GK110. And there’s really not much room left in the 600 family to release newer, faster products. We’ll see how Nvidia fleshes out the performance and pricing of its GeForce GTX 700 line-up from here. But you can bet we’re going to expect notable performance improvements each step of the way to justify the naming. We also need continued (and compelling) competition from AMD to keep Nvidia’s pricing in check. Our best hope for that today is Radeon HD 7970.

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  • Ranth
    I pity those who bought titan... Nvidia kinda scrwed them over...
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  • jurge92
    So now we wait to see the GTX 770 results...
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  • mactronix
    A very nice product with some very good features. I to await this tech to find its way into lower end hardware.
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  • Pailin
    heh, those Titan boys knew what they were getting into - it was clearly not billed as the successor to the 680 + was aimed at the business end of the market.
    The 780 makes some nice moves over the 680, but too small a benefit over the 7970 - especially if there is any interesting in compute applications - here even the 580 can beat out the 780 LOL
    My money is waiting for the 9970 ~_^
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  • Marcopolo123
    Cool
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  • Andrew Billington
    I have 3 x watercooled gtx680 cards @ 1254mhz these have got to be as good or better than 2 x gtx780 cards, I think I will wait until the next gen cards when I will get a bigger increase. what do you guys think? would like some feedback. I hope they will bring the prices down a bit im happy to pay £450 per card but its getting a bit silly with the prices NVidia are now asking.
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  • HEXiT
    your not the only 1 thinking theres prices are a joke.
    there aint enough games out there that would push these cards today and there still wont be that many in 3 years if the console specs are anything to go buy.
    i was honna splash out an on 780 just befor titan was announced. as i expected it to land at £450 but this is a joke and a bad 1.
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  • genz
    Anonymous said:
    your not the only 1 thinking theres prices are a joke.
    there aint enough games out there that would push these cards today and there still wont be that many in 3 years if the console specs are anything to go buy.
    i was honna splash out an on 780 just befor titan was announced. as i expected it to land at £450 but this is a joke and a bad 1.


    You obviously don't know much about the PC.

    Windows will sweat when our next gen Console games hit it, you need 1.5x the power on a PC because of all the stuff going on in the background that simply doesn't happen on Consoles. not to mention the fact that you can multiply the resolution, AA + AF and texture quality and that PC will probably be the new target platform
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  • genz
    One more thing....

    At £800, GeForce GTX Titan only made sense for folks building small form factor PCs and multi-GPU powerhouses.

    wut? The biggest GPU in the world doesnt make sense unless you want a SFF PC? What about GPU compute?
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  • acer0169
    You've got to remember that getting one (or more) of these cards is not for casual to serious gamers running a 24" or 30" monitor. You could get it just for the sake of it, but even a couple of 280's in SLI would run 1080p games without an issue. (I'm still running two 260s and have no complaints apart from the DX10 limitation).
    If you're getting a Titan, 780 or an SLI setup with them, it's aimed at those who are gaming with 3x 30" monitors or 4K TV screens. Let's face it, if you're happy to spend £2000+ on graphics cards then you're going to be running a pretty awesome monitor setup.
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  • Hayate Kirino
    great card
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  • low246
    ::HELP! PLEASE READ::
    I have been looking at those laptops. Which one is the best?? And is good enough to play: Call of Duty, Battlefield 3, League of Legends and Minecraft??

    1) ASUS K56CB-XO167H |Intel Core i7| |8GB Ram | | 750GB Harddisk| |2.0 GHz| |GeForce GT 740M|

    2) Acer Aspire v3-571g-5323 |Intel Core i5| |16GB Ram|
    |1000GB Harddisk| |2.6 GHz| |GeForce GT 730M|
    More about : asus k56cb acer aspire 571g
    0
  • low246
    PLEASE READ :D
    I have been looking at those laptops. Which one is the best?? And is good enough to play: Call of Duty, Battlefield 3, League of Legends and Minecraft??

    1) ASUS K56CB-XO167H |Intel Core i7| |8GB Ram | | 750GB Harddisk| |2.0 GHz| |GeForce GT 740M|

    2) Acer Aspire v3-571g-5323 |Intel Core i5| |16GB Ram|
    |1000GB Harddisk| |2.6 GHz| |GeForce GT 730M|
    More about : asus k56cb acer aspire 571g
    0
  • low246
    I have been looking at those laptops. Which one is the best?? And is good enough to play: Call of Duty, Battlefield 3, League of Legends and Minecraft??

    1) ASUS K56CB-XO167H |Intel Core i7| |8GB Ram | | 750GB Harddisk| |2.0 GHz| |GeForce GT 740M|

    2) Acer Aspire v3-571g-5323 |Intel Core i5| |16GB Ram|
    |1000GB Harddisk| |2.6 GHz| |GeForce GT 730M|
    More about : asus k56cb acer aspire 571g
    0