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Jacked-Up: EVGA GeForce GTX 780 SC with ACX Cooling
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Date: May 28, 2013
Section:Graphics/Sound
Author: Marco Chiappetta
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Introductions and Specifications

We’re only a few days removed from the launch of the new GeForce GTX 780 and one of NVIDIA’s key add-in board partners is already set to release a custom version of the card with higher clock speeds and enhanced cooling. The EVGA GeForce GTX 780 SuperClocked Edition with ACX cooling we’ll be showing you here today, takes what’s already a killer graphics card and tweaks it in a number of ways, to not only improve gaming and thermal performance, but to do so quietly, and with potentially better reliability as well.

ACX is an acronym for "Active Cooling Extreme." It is EVGA's latest custom air-cooling solution targeted at the high-performance market. It’s debuting with EVGA's GeForce GTX 780 SC, but we suspect it’ll be offered on some future products as well. Regardless, the EVGA GeForce GTX 780 SC with ACX cooling is here now and believe us when we say, you’ll want to see what this card can do on the pages ahead. For now, let’s get some specs out of the way and then we’ll dig into the good stuff.


The EVGA GeForce GTX 780 SC with ACX Cooling

EVGA GeForce GTX 780 SC with ACX cooling
Specifications & Features

Graphics Processing Clusters 4 or 5
Streaming Multiprocessors 12
CUDA Cores (single precision) 2304
CUDA Cores (double precision) --
Texture Units 192
ROP Units 48
Base Clock 941 MHz
Boost Clock 993 MHz
Memory Clock (Data rate) 6008 MHz
L2 Cache Size 1536K
Total Video Memory 3072MB GDDR5
Memory Interface 384-bit
Total Memory Bandwidth 288.4 GB/s
Texture Filtering Rate (Bilinear) 180.6 GigaTexels/sec
Fabrication Process 28 nm
Transistor Count 7.1 Billion
Connectors

2 x Dual-Link DVI
1 x HDMI
1 x DisplayPort

Form Factor Dual Slot
Power Connectors One 8-pin and one 6-pin
Recommended Power Supply 600 Watts
Thermal Design Power (TDP) 250 Watts
Thermal Threshold 95°C
Currently Selling:   $659 on Amazon


EVGA GeForce GTX 780 SC with ACX Cooling's Accessory Bundle 

Before we get up close and personal with the EVGA GeForce GTX 780 SC with ACX cooling, we want to show you some of the goodies EVGA bundles with the card. Included with the EVGA GeForce GTX 780 SC with ACX cooling, we found a rather cool “Game of Pwns” poster, some large “Enthusiast Built” decals, various documentation, a drive / utility CD, and a few adapters—two dual-6-pin to single 8-pin adapters and a VGA-to-DVI adapter. Unfortunately, there were no games to speak off, but EVGA wasn’t exactly chintzy with their bundle either.
 

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EVGA GeForce GTX 780 with ACX

The EVGA GeForce GTX 780 SuperClocked with ACX cooling’s main differentiator is obviously its custom heatsink and fan assembly.

The dual-fan Active Cooling Extreme, or ACX, cooler features a large heatsink array, with 40% additional fin volume over reference designs. If you look close, you’ll notice that there are actually two heatsinks, one that sits right atop the GPU and another just to the right, and that the heatsinks are linked to the baseplate by multiple thick heatpipes. There is an additional heatplate mounted to the PCB as well, which adds strength and helps keep the PCB flat.

The fans used on the ACX cooler also got some special treatment. According to EVGA the fan blade design offers superior strength than standard fans and the dual-ball bearings offer increased longevity over more common sleeve bearings.

All told, EVGA claims the ACX cooler outperforms reference coolers, while reducing weight and thickness, and it should be quieter and last longer too. With the GTX 780 and its GPU Boost 2.0 feature, however, the card will ramp up to whatever target temperature is specified in the driver, by dynamically boosting and adjusting the GPU frequency and voltage as necessary based on the workload. That means the ACX cooler may not necessarily always offer lower temperatures than a reference cooler, but it should allow the card to remain at max boost for longer periods, which should ultimately increase overall performance.

As for the card itself, we think she’s a real looker. The EVGA GeForce GTX 780 SuperClocked with ACX cooling is a dual-slot card, but it is slightly thinner than the reference model. As the “SuperClocked” in the name suggests, this card is factory overclocked as well. Whereas reference GeForce GTX 780 cards sport 863MHz / 900 MHz GPU base and boost clocks, respectively, the EVGA GeForce GTX 780 SuperClocked with ACX cooling come in at 941 MHz (base) / 993 MHz (boost). All of the other specifications, including the 3GB of GDDR5 memory clocked at an effective 6008 MHz, remains unchanged from the reference model.

As evidenced by the pair of SLI edge connectors at the top of the card, the EVGA GeForce GTX 780 SC with ACX supports up to 3-Way SLI, and because the TDP of the card is only 250 watts, single 8-pin and 6-pin supplemental PCI Express power feeds are all that are required to power it.

 

Outputs consist of a pair of dual-link DVI outputs, a full-sized DisplayPort output, and an HDMI connector. The EVGA GeForce GTX 780 SC with ACX has more than enough muscle to push multiple displays simultaneously, and as such, it supports NVIDIA's 3D Vision Surround technology, as well other proprietary NVIDA technologies like 3DVision, PhyX, and the like.

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Test System and Unigine Heaven v4.0

How We Configured Our Test Systems: We tested the graphics cards in this article on an Asus P9X79 Deluxe motherboard powered by a Core i7-3960X six-core processor and 16GB of G.SKILL DDR3-1866 RAM. The first thing we did when configuring the test system was enter the system UEFI and set all values to their "high performance" default settings and disable any integrated peripherals that wouldn't be put to use. The memory's X.M.P. profile was enabled to ensure better-than-stock performance and the hard drive was then formatted and Windows 7 Ultimate x64 was installed. When the installation was complete, we fully updated the OS and installed the latest DirectX redist along with all of the drivers, games, and benchmark tools necessary to complete our tests.

HotHardware's Test System
Intel Core i7 Powered

Hardware Used:
Intel Core i7-3960X
(3.3GHz, Six-Core)
Asus P9X79 Deluxe
(Intel X79 Express)

Radeon HD 7990
Radeon HD 7970 GHz Edition x 2
GeForce GTX 680 x 2
GeForce GTX 690
GeForce GTX Titan x 2
GeForce GTX 780 x 2
EVGA GeForce GTX 780 SC w/ ACX 

16GB GSKILL DDR3-1866
Western Digital Raptor 150GB
Integrated Audio
Integrated Network

Relevant Software:
Windows 7 Ultimate x64
DirectX April 2011 Redist
AMD Catalyst v13.5B
NVIDIA GeForce Drivers v314.09/v320.14

Benchmarks Used:

Unigine Heaven v4
3DMark "Fire Strike"
Batman: Arkham City
Hitman: Absolution
Alien vs. Predator
Metro 2033
Sleeping Dogs
Crysis 3
FRAPS + FCAT

Unigine Heaven v4.0 Benchmark
Pseudo-DirectX 11 Gaming


Unigine Heaven v4.0

Unigine's Heaven Benchmark v4.0 is built around the Unigine game engine. Unigine is a cross-platform, real-time 3D engine, with support for DirectX 9, DirectX 10, DirectX 11 and OpenGL. The Heaven benchmark--when run in DX11 mode--also makes comprehensive use of tessellation technology and advanced SSAO (screen-space ambient occlusion). It also features volumetric cumulonimbus clouds generated by a physically accurate algorithm and a dynamic sky with light scattering.

The EVGA GeForce GTX 780 SuperClocked with ACX cooling put up the best score of all the single-GPU powered cards in the Unigine Heaven benchmark, outpacing even the mighty GeForce GTX Titan. The EVGA card's higher clocks help it to overcome its shader core deficiency versus the Titan and also allow it to easily pull ahead of the stock GeForce GTX 780.

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3DMark Fire Strike Test

Futuremark 3DMark11
Synthetic DirectX Gaming


Futuremark 3DMark Fire Strike

Fire Strike has two benchmark modes: Normal mode runs in 1920x1080, while Extreme mode targets 2560x1440. GPU target frame buffer utilization for normal mode is 1GB and the benchmark uses tessellation, ambient occlusion, volume illumination, and a medium-quality depth of field filter. The more taxing Extreme mode targets 1.5GB of frame buffer memory and increases detail levels across the board. Extreme mode is explicitly designed for CrossFire / SLI systems. GT 1 focuses on geometry and illumination, with over 100 shadow casting spot lights, 140 non-shadow casting point lights, and 3.9 million vertices calculated for tessellation per frame. Only 80 million pixels are processed per frame. GT2 emphasizes particles and GPU simulations. Tessellation volume is reduced to 2.6 million vertices, but the number of pixels processed per frame rises to 170 million.


EVGA GeForce GTX 780 SuperClocked w/ ACX 3DMark Details

3DMark Fire Strike tells essentially the same story as Unigine Heaven on the previous page. The EVGA GeForce GTX 780 SuperClocked with ACX cooling is the fastest single-GPU powered card of the bunch, only the dual-GPU powered (and more expensive) Radeon HD 7990 and GeForce GTX 690 put up higher scores.
 

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Alien vs. Predator Performance

Alien vs. Predator
DirectX 11 Gaming Performance


Alien vs. Predator

The Alien vs. Predator benchmark makes use of the advanced Tessellation, screen space ambient occlusion, and high-quality shadow features available with DirectX 11. In addition to enabling all of the aforementioned DirectX 11-related features offered by this benchmark, we also switched on 4X anti-aliasing along with 16X anisotropic filtering to more heavily tax the graphics cards being tested.

We saw more of the same in the Alien vs. Predator benchmark. Once again, the EVGA GeForce GTX 780 SuperClocked card with ACX cooling was the fastest single-GPU powered card of the bunch.
 

Although there are some obvious performance differences, none of the single-GPU configurations we tested suffered from any major frame pacing issues. The EVGA GeForce GTX 780 SuperClocked with ACX cooling was the fastest across the board, but all of the single GPU cards we tested with FCAT delivered frames consistently in this game.
 

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Metro 2033 Performance

Metro 2033
DirecX11 Gaming Performance


Metro 2033

Metro 2033 is your basic post-apocalyptic first person shooter game with a few rather unconventional twists. Unlike most FPS titles, there is no health meter to measure your level of ailment; rather, you’re left to deal with life, or lack thereof, more akin to the real world with blood spatter on your visor and your heart rate and respiration level as indicators. The game is loosely based on a novel by Russian Author Dmitry Glukhovsky. Metro 2003 boasts some of the best 3D visuals on the PC platform and includes a DX11 rendering mode that makes use of advanced depth of field effects and character model tessellation for increased realism. This title also supports NVIDIA PhysX technology for impressive in-game physics effects. We tested the game at resolutions of 1920x1200 and 2560x1600 with adaptive anti-aliasing and in-game image quality options set to their High Quality mode, with DOF effects disabled.

The Metro 2033 benchmark doesn't tell us anything new. To this point the EVGA GeForce GTX 780 SuperClocked with ACX cooling has been the fastest single-GPU power card in the group. And the same hold true in Metro 2033. The EVGA GeForce GTX 780 SuperClocked with ACX cooling even manages to pull ahead of the dual-GPU powered Radeon HD 7990 at the lower resolution, but the 7990 come roaring back once things are cranked up to 2560x1600.

All of the cards we tested had some issues with high latency frames in the Metro 2033 benchmark, but save for some larger-than-usual spikes with the Radeon HD 7970, there's not much to talk about here. Once again though, the EVGA GeForce GTX 780 SuperClocked with ACX cooling leads the single-GPU powered pack across the board here.
 

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Batman: Arkham City Performance

Batman: Arkham City
DirectX Gaming Performance


Batman: Arkham City

Batman: Arkham City is a sequel to 2009’s Game of the Year-winning Batman: Arkham Asylum. This recently released sequel, however, lives up to and even surpasses the original in many ways. The story takes place 18 months after the original game. Quincy Sharp, the onetime administrator of Arkham Asylum, has become mayor and convinced Gotham to create "Arkham City" by walling off the worst, most crime-ridden areas of the city and turning the area into a giant open-air prison. The game has DirectX 9 and 11 rendering paths, with support for tessellation, multi-view soft shadows, and ambient occlusion. We tested in DX11 mode at various resolutions with all in-game graphical options set to their maximum values.

The performance trend we've seen up to this point continued in the Batman: Arkham City benchmark. Once again, the EVGA GeForce GTX 780 SuperClocked with ACX cooling outran all of the single-GPU powered cards--only the GeForce GTX 690 was faster.


Don't mind the huge spikes in the plot above, they are part of a scene transition and result in some ultra-long frame times. Other than that, there's not much to see here, other than the EVGA GeForce GTX 780 SuperClocked with ACX cooling delivering the most consistently higher frame times versus the other single-GPU powered cards.
 

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Sleeping Dogs Performance

Sleeping Dogs
DX11 Gaming Performance


Sleeping Dogs

Sleeping Dogs is an open-world game in which you play the role of Wei Shen, an undercover cop trying to take down the Triads from the inside. In the game, you have to fight your way up in the organization and take part in various criminal activities without blowing your cover. We tested Sleeping Dogs at two resolutions, with all in-game graphical options set to their maximum values with FXAA enabled.

The Sleeping Dogs benchmark confirms what we've seen all along--the EVGA GeForce GTX 780 SuperClocked with ACX cooling is one heck of a fast graphics card. In this game, only the dual-GPU powered Radeon HD 7990 and GeForce GTX 690 cards posted higher frame rates.


Save for a large spike with the Radeon HD 7970, all of the single-GPU powered cards we tested with FCAT consistently delivered frames in Sleeping Dogs.
 

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Hitman: Absolution Performance

Hitman: Absolution
DirectX 11 Gaming Performance


Hitman: Absolution

Hitman: Absolution follows Agent 47, a cold-blooded assassin, who takes on his most dangerous contract to date. Betrayed by those he once trusted - and now hunted by the police - he suddenly finds himself at the center of a dark conspiracy and must embark on a personal journey through a corrupt and twisted world. We tested the game at multiple resolutions, with all in-game options set to their maximum values and global illumination and 4X anti-aliasing enabled.

The EVGA GeForce GTX 780 SC with ACX cooling continued to chug along in the Hitman Absolution benchmark, though in this game the stock GeForce GTX Titan was able to overtake the EVGA card at the higher resolution.

We saw a couple of big spikes in frame latency in this game using FCAT with the Radeon HD 7970 and the EVGA card, but otherwise all of the cards pumped out frames very smoothly in this game.
 

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Crysis 3 Performance

Crysis 3
DirectX 11 Gaming Performance


Crysis 3

Crysis 3, which is powered by Crytek’s proprietary CryENGINE 3 technology, is the third installment in this popular franchise. Crysis 3 is the sequel to 2011’s Crysis 2 and follows Prophet as he returns to New York a few years after the events of Crysis 2. Like previous games in the franchise, Crysis 3 has impressive visuals that can tax even the most powerful PCs when cranked up to their maximum values. We tested this game at various resolutions with all in-game graphics options set to Very High, with 4X MSAA and 16X anisotropic filtering enabled and motion blur set to high.

The EVGA GeForce GTX 780 SC with ACX cooling continued to rock the benchmarks on our Crysis 3 tests, besting every other single-GPU powered card, including the GeForce GTX Titan, at both resolutions.
 

All of the cards exhibited a major spike or two in frame latency at around the same point in Crysis 3, but generally all of the cards smoothly delivered frames to the screen according to out FCAT data. Once again, the EVGA card consistently delivered frames with the lowest latencies.
 

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Overclocking the EVGA GTX 780 with ACX

We spent a little time overclocking the EVGA GeForce GTX 780 SC with ACX cooling to see what kind of additional frequency headroom it had left under its hood. For these tests, we used the latest edition of EVGA's Precision X GPU tweaking utility, which is designed to work with the newest GeForces.

Overclocking a Kepler-based GeForce GTX series graphics card requires a bit more tweaking then previous-gen products, due to all of the new options available and the complexities associated with GPU Boost 2.0. Sometimes, you’ll find that increasing a particular voltage or frequency may appear to function properly, when in fact performance decreases due to errors or throttling. You may also find that the actual GPU Boost clock may travel above or below the designated offset value when the power and/or temperature targets are also increased.


EVGA's Precision X Tweaking Utility Running On The EVGA GeForce GTX 780 SC with ACX

We did a few things when experimenting with overclocked speeds on the EVGA GTX 780. First we tried the most basic option available--we simply changed the temperature target from the default 80'C and increased it to 90'C to see what kind of impact it would have on performance. Then, to push things much further, we increased the power and temperature targets to 106% and 94'C, respectively, and also increased the GPU and Memory clock offsets and ran a few tests.

Overclocking The EVGA GeForce GTX 780 SC
Tweakin' The GPU

Ultimately we were able to take our EVGA GeForce GTX 780 SC with ACX cooling up to a 1228MHz GPU clock with 6328MHz (effective) memory. With the card overclocked, it showed a marked improvement in performance in both games we tested, increasing its lead over the Titan and inching closer to the GeForce GTX 690.
 

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Power Consumption, Noise, Temps
Before bringing this article to a close, we'd like to cover a few final data points--namely, power consumption, temperatures, and noise. Throughout all of our benchmarking and testing, we monitored acoustics and tracked how much power our test system was consuming using a power meter. Our goal was to give you an idea of how much power each configuration used while idling and also while under a heavy workload. Please keep in mind that we were testing total system power consumption at the outlet here, not just the power being drawn by the graphics cards alone.

Total System Power Consumption
Tested at the Outlet

Despite its higher clocks and the inclusion of an additional cooling fan, the EVGA GeForce GTX 780 SC with ACX cooling consumed only slightly more power than the stock GeForce GTX 780.

This temperature chart is basically pointless because the GTX 780 with GPU Boost 2.0 will ramp up to its target temperature and stay there under load, but the EVGA GeForce GTX 780 SC with ACX cooling did offer a nice and low idle temperature.

More importantly, the EVGA GeForce GTX 780 SC with ACX cooling is extremely quiet. At no point did the cooler on this card ramp up to speeds that we'd consider remotely noisy. EVGA's ACX cooler is excellent in terms of its acoustic properties.
 

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Our Summary and Conclusion

Performance Summary: The EVGA GeForce GTX 780 SC with ACX cooling is the highest performing single-GPU powered graphics card we have tested to date. Although its GK110 GPU has fewer active CUDA cores and texture units than a GeForce GTX Titan, the EVGA GeForce GTX 780 SC with ACX cooling's higher clocks allowed it to overtake the Titan's performance more often than not. The EVGA GeForce GTX 780 SC with ACX cooling also clearly outpaced the Radeon HD 7970 GHz Edition. Only the dual-GPU powered (and more expensive) GeForce GTX 690 and Radeon HD 7990 were able to put up higher frame rates than the EVGA GeForce GTX 780 SC with ACX cooling.


The EVGA GeForce GTX 780 SC with ACX Cooling

As we mentioned in the conclusion of our launch article from last week, we really like the GeForce GTX 780. It's pricey, no doubt about it, but for $350 less than a GeForce GTX Titan, you can have a card that's almost as fast and offers virtually the same feature set to gamers. The EVGA GeForce GTX 780 SC with ACX cooling, however, takes everything good about the GeForce GTX 780 and enhances it with a custom cooler that not only performs very well, but is quiet and looks great too. Although we can't say for certain without some long-terms testing, the dual-ball bearing fans used on the ACX cooler should also last longer than models with sleeve bearings too. The EVGA GeForce GTX 780 SC with ACX cooling is also nicely overclockable and includes some fun stuff in its accessory bundle. Perhaps best of all, the additional performance offered by the EVGA GeForce GTX 780 SC with ACX cooling only marginally increases its price. This card can be had for $659--only $10 more than a reference model. We have yet to review any other custom GeForce GTX 780 cards from NVIDIA's other key AIB partners, but as it stands today, the EVGA GeForce GTX 780 SC with ACX cooling is the card we'd buy if we had the funds for a high-end GPU at this price point.

  • Extreme Performance
  • Quiet Cooling
  • Overclockable
  • Expensive
  • No GeForce GTX LED



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