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NVIDIA GeForce GTX 780 Ti: Taking GK110 To The Max
Date: Nov 07, 2013
Author: Marco Chiappetta
Introduction and Specifications

Today’s launch of the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 780 Ti is somewhat satisfying to us on a couple of levels. First off, there are few things as exciting as a new, high-end GPU launch. We love checking out the latest and greatest processors, motherboards, and SSDs as much as the next geek, but there’s something inherently exciting about graphics that really gets our juices flowing. The second reason is a bit more egotistical.

While out at AMD’s tech days in Hawaii, a number of folks were chit-chatting about recent developments and some of our peers felt compelled to mention how “terrified” NVIDIA was of AMD's Hawaii GPU, that AMD caught NVIDIA off guard, and that they wouldn’t have any real answer until well into 2014. We sat back and listened to all the chatter and wondered how these things could be said with such conviction. Quite frankly, it just didn’t make any sense to us. NVIDIA’s had the GK110 GPU that powers the GeForce GTX Titan, 780, and now the 780 Ti done for ages, and prior to today, the GPU’s full capabilities hadn’t been available on a consumer GPU. Remember, the GK110 used on the GTX Titan has one of its SMXes disabled.

Anyway, to think NVIDIA didn’t have something up their virtual sleeve seemed outlandish to us, and wouldn’t you know it, a couple of weeks removed from AMD’s launch and what do we have? A new flagship from NVIDIA that’s ready for action. Take a look...

Feast Your Eyes On The GeForce GTX 780 Ti

NVIDIA GeForce GTX 780 Ti
Specifications & Features

Graphics Processing Clusters 5
Streaming Multiprocessors 15
CUDA Cores (single precision) 2880
CUDA Cores (double precision) 960
Texture Units 240
ROP Units 48
Base Clock 875 MHz
Boost Clock 928 MHz
Memory Clock (Data rate) 7000 MHz
L2 Cache Size 1536K
Total Video Memory 3072MB GDDR5
Memory Interface 384-bit
Total Memory Bandwidth 336 GB/s
Texture Filtering Rate (Bilinear) 210 GigaTexels/sec
Fabrication Process 28 nm
Transistor Count 7.1 Billion

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
Price  $699 MSRP: Find on Amazon when available

The NVIDIA GeForce GTX 780 Ti’s specification tell a big part of the story. The card shares the same 3GB frame buffer of the original GeForce GTX 780, but it is clocked at a much higher speed. The Ti’s GK110 GPU also has all of its functional blocks enabled. If we had to boil things down to a single sentence, the GeForce GTX 780 Ti is a GeForce GTX 780 with faster memory, but with a GPU more powerful than the GTX Titan’s.

The GeForce GTX 780 Ti, Front and Back

The GeForce GTX 780 Ti full-featured GK100 GPU has a base clock of 875MHz and a Boost clock of 928MHz. Unlike the GK110 on the Titan, however, all of the GPU’s SMs (Streaming Multiprocessors) are enabled on the GTX 780 Ti, which brings the card’s CUDA core count to 2880, up from Titan’s 2688. The number of active texture units also increases from 224 on Titan to 240 on the GeForce GTX 780 Ti.

The GeForce GTX 780 Ti’s 3GB frame buffer—half the size of Titan’s 6GB--is clocked at a blisteringly fast 7000MHz (effective GDDR5 data rate) and the memory links to the GPU via a wide 384-bit interface. At those clocks, the GeForce GTX 780 Ti offers up a peak textured fillrate of 210 GTexels/s and 336 GB/s of memory bandwidth, which should place the GeForce GTX 780 Ti among the fastest single-GPU powered graphics cards available today.

Like the GeForce GTX Titan, the GeForce GTX 780 Ti is outfitted with a frame made of aluminum to add rigidity. And the card has a metal fan housing as well. The GeForce logo along the top edge of the card lights up like the Titan’s too, and the brightness can be controlled via software as well.

The actual cooling hardware on the GTX 780 Ti consists of a large vapor chamber with a densely packed, nickel-plated aluminum finstack, and a large, rear-mounted barrel-type fan with user-adjustable fan curves. Like the GeForce GTX Titan, the GTX 780 Ti also uses low-profile components on about the front 65% of the PCB around the GPU, and the card’s cooler has a flat, ducted baseplate for unobstructed airflow, which minimizes turbulence and helps quiet down and better cool the card.

The GeForce GTX 780 Ti's GPU, PCB and Outputs

There is a window cut into the fan shroud that shows off the finstack (under a sheet of Lexan), and due to the fan configuration, virtually all of the heat produced by the card is exhausted from a system. Cards with centrally mounted axial-type fans, expel some of the heated air from the system, but dump the rest back into the case.

As evidenced by the pair of SLI edge connectors at the top of the card, the GeForce GTX 780 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 the GTX 780 Ti. We should note, however, the that the 780 Ti now offers a new power balancing feature that allows to card to direct power from whichever feeds have headroom, when under load. The card receives power from three sources—the two supplemental PCIe feeds and the PCIe slot itself. Should one become overloaded when overclocking, available power can be utilized from one of the other feeds, if it’s available.

Outputs consist of a pair of dual-link DVI outputs, a full-sized DisplayPort output, and an HDMI connector. The GeForce GTX 780 should have more than enough muscle to push multiple displays simultaneously, and as such, it supports NVIDIA's 3D Vision Surround technology as well. Like the other members of the GeForce GTX 700 series, the 780 Ti is ready for NVIDIA’s G-Sync technology too.

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 R9 290X
Radeon R9 290
Radeon R9 280X
GeForce GTX Titan
GeForce GTX 760
GeForce GTX 770
GeForce GTX 780
GeForce GTX 780 Ti

Western Digital Raptor 150GB
Integrated Audio
Integrated Network

Relevant Software:
Windows 7 Ultimate x64
DirectX April 2011 Redist
AMD Catalyst v13.11b1/b8
NVIDIA GeForce Drivers v331.40/331.70

Benchmarks Used:
Unigine Heaven v4
3DMark "Fire Strike"
Bioshock Infinite
Hitman: Absolution
Alien vs. Predator
Metro Last Light
Sleeping Dogs
Crysis 3

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 GeForce GTX 780 Ti dominated all comers in the Unigine Heaven benchmark. In fact, it was the first single-GPU powered card we have seem break the 1000 point barrier in this test.

3DMark Fire Strike Test

Futuremark 3DMark Fire Strike
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. And 80 million pixels are processed per frame. GT2 emphasizes particles and GPU simulations. Tessellation volume is reduced to 2.6 million vertices and the number of pixels processed per frame rises to 170 million.

The GeForce GTX 780 Ti also took the pole position in the 3DMark Fire Strike benchmark. The card's increased clocks, additional cores, and ultra fast memory propelled it past the GTX Titan and allowed it to overtake the Radeon R9 290X as well. The detla separating the 780 Ti and 290X is relatively small, but the 780 Ti pulled off the victory here nonetheless.

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.

The GeForce GTX 780 Ti put up numbers about 10% higher than the GTX Titan in the AvP benchmark, but the Radeon R9 290X was still able to hold onto a slight lead. The 290X's margin of victory was only about 2.7%, however, and would hardly be perceptible during gameplay.

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According to FCAT, all of the cards offered relatively consistent frame pacing in this game as well. As you'd expect, the highest performing cards offer the lowest frame times overall, but the peaks and valleys are similar across the board.

Metro Last Light Performance

Metro Last Light
DirecX11 Gaming Performance

Metro Last Light

Metro Last Light is your typical 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. Metro Last Light 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 its in-game image quality options set to their High Quality mode, with DOF effects disabled.

The GeForce GTX 780 Ti took the top spot in our Metro Last Light tests as well. At the lower resolution, the GTX 780 Ti and Radeon R9 290X (with the 290X in Uber mode) put up the same frame rate, but NVIDIA's new flagship came out on top at 2560x1600.

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FCAT also showed the GeForce GTX 780 Ti to deliver frames more consistently than the Radeons. While the GeForce GTX 780 Ti did exhibit a couple of spikes above the 50ms mark, the Radeons suffered from far more, with some spikes approaching 70ms.

Bioshock Infinite Performance

Bioshock Infinite
DirectX Gaming Performance

Bioshock Infinite

BioShock Infinite is clear game-of-the-year material. The floating city of Columbia is one of the most evocative, intense, and gorgeous environments we've ever seen in a PC game -- but how much you like it may depend on what sort of visual wizardry you prefer. BioShock Infinite is built on Unreal Engine 3, and while it pushes that framework's capabilities into the stratosphere, there's a clear difference between BioShock Infinite and, say, Crysis 3. BioShock Infinite emphasizes light, color and motion, and while the characters look more exaggerated and cartoon-like than some other games, they still look great. We tested the game at various resolutions with its DX11 code path with DOF effects enabled.

The original GeForce GTX 780 was already faster than the Radeon R9 290X in Bioshock Infinite; the GeForce GTX 780 Ti simply extends that lead, and puts the card at the top of the heap.

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The GeForce GTX 780 Ti was also far more consistent outputting frames to the screen than any of the Radeons. Whereas the Radeon R9 290X exhibited significant variations in the middle of the run, the GeForce GTX 780 Ti did not.

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.

Once again, the GeForce GTX 780 Ti is able to overtake the Radeon R9 290X in the Sleeping Dogs benchmark, to claim a spot at the top of the charts. At the lower resolution, the GTX 780 Ti's frame rate landed right in between the 290X's Uber and Quiet modes, but at the higher resolution the GeForce GTX 780 Ti led the pack.

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Frame times, however, were more consistent on the Radeons in this game, especially at the end of the benchmark run where the GeForce exhibited some clear variation. Note that even the highest of the spikes in the plot above is barely over the 30ms mark.

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.

Hitman Absolution performed best on the Radeon R9 290X. Disregard the 1920x1200 results, because the game behaved erratically on a couple of cards (namely the Ti and Titan). The 2560x1600 results, however, show the 290X with an approximate 11% lead over the GeForce GTX 780 Ti.

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Aside from a couple of spikes, there's nothing extraordinary to report in our FCAT results in this game. Onward we go to Crysis 3.

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 GeForce GTX 780 Ti had no trouble besting every other card we tested in Crysis 3. At both resolutions, NVIDIA's new flagship outran the GTX Titan and Radeon R9 290X.

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FCAT recorded some major frame time spikes at the very beginning of the run, and the GeForces suffered from a couple more at about the 30% mark, but frame delivery was exceptionally smooth for the remainder of the run on all of the cards we tested.

CrossFire vs. SLI: AvP and Hitman

We also had the privilege of pairing up a couple of GeForce GTX 780 Ti cards to test in an SLI configuration. For these tests, we’ve compared the GeForce GTX 780 Ti SLI setup to a pair of original GeForce GTX 780s and a pair of Radeon R9 290X cards running in CrossFire mode. We’ve got frame rates, scaling percentages, and FCAT results from AvP and Hitman up first...

The Radeon R9 290X CrossFire configuration no only offered up higher frame rates at both resolutions, but doubling-up the cards showed better scaling as well.

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Technically speaking, frame times were also more consistent on the Radeons in this game, though the variations on the GeForce cards were very, very small. The highest spike on the plot was right around 20ms, and typical variations were only a couple of milliseconds at worst.

Hitman Absolution also scaled better on the Radeons when doubling-up on the cards. And frame rates were higher on the Radeons too.

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The Radeon’s frame times, however, were far more variable in this game than the GeForce’s. All of the configurations we tested offered up frame times that were consistently below the 22ms mark, but the variations between frames on the Radeons were much larger.

CrossFire vs. SLI: Sleeping Dogs & Bioshock

Next up we have some SLI and CrossFire testing with Sleeping Dogs and Bioshock Infinite.

All of the configurations scaled by roughly the same percentage, though the Radeon R9 290X slightly better scaling and already slightly higher frame rates, put it into the lead at 1920x1200. At 2560x1600,h however, the GeForce GTX 780 Ti put up the higher score in this game.

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All of the dual-GPU configurations also behaved similarly in Sleeping Dogs according to our FCAT data. Nothing too exciting to see here.

Bioshock Infinite was all about the GeForce GTX 780 Ti. NVIDIA’s flagship didn’t offer the best scaling in this game, but its already high frame rates were obviously pushed even higher and it maintained its lead throughout.

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The GeForce cards also delivered frames far more consistently than the Radeons. Not only did the 290X CrossFire setup suffer from a handful of very long frame times, but there were significantly drops throughout the test as well.

4K Resolution Testing

We also ran a handful of tests on the GeForce GTX 780, GTX 780 Ti, and Radeon R9 290 and 290X using a tiled 4K display with a native resolution of 3840x2160. Unfortunately, for these tests, we could not record frame times using our FCAT tools. We’ve been fighting with the setup for weeks, trying to get captures working using the HDMI inputs on the screen, but have been unsuccessful in our attempts. We are still trying though, and are hoping to include FCAT results at 4K in the future. For now, we only have minimum and average frame rates to share.

For these tests, we cranked the quality down a notch in a quartet of games. In AvP, we lowered the anti-aliasing to 2X, from the 4X we use in our standard tests. In Hitman and Sleeping Dogs, we lowered the AA level to 2X as well, in addition to reducing in-game image quality options to their high-quality settings. We simply increased the resolution in Bioshock, however.

Although the Radeon R9 290X outpaced the original GeForce GTX 780 in all of the games we tested at 4K, the new GeForce GTX 780 Ti's beefier GPU and ultra fast memory allow it to take the lead in half of the tests.

Power Consumption and Noise

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

The GeForce GTX 780 Ti’s power consumption numbers fell in somewhere between the original GeForce GTX 780 and the GeForce GTX Titan. It did, however, use less power than the Radeon R9 290X.

Since it used less power, and NVIDIA has put in such considerable work on their cooler designs, it should also come as no surprise that the GeForce GTX 780 Ti is also much quieter than the Radeon R9 290X. Though fan speeds on the card do spin up to audible levels under load, under no regular circumstances would be consider the GeForce GTX 780 Ti loud. It did product somewhat more noise than the original GeForce GTX 780, but we’d definitely consider the 780 Ti quiet, considering the ultra-high-end nature of the card.

Our Summary and Conclusion

Performance Summary: The GeForce GTX 780 Ti's performance was excellent across the board. Its beefier GPU and higher memory clock allowed it to overtake the mighty GeForce GTX Titan and original GeForce GTX 780. And in the majority of our tests, the GeForce GTX 780 Ti was also able to outpace the Radeon R9 290X. The GeForce GTX 780 Ti also split with the R9 290X when tested at a 4K resolution, the GeForce offered more consistent frame times than CrossFired Radeons when running in a dual-GPU SLI configuration, and they ran cooler and quieter too.

The GeForce GTX 780 Ti -  $699 MSRP: Find it on Amazon when available

Well, that didn't take long now did it? Roughly two weeks after AMD released the Radeon R9 290X and captured the single-GPU performance crown, NVIDIA has rained on AMD's parade and released a new flagship of their own, that's not only outperforms the 290X overall, but it does so at lower temps, with less noise, and with lower power consumption. GeForce GTX 780 Ti / 780 / and 770 buyers will also receive a free copy of Batman: Arkham Origins, Splinter Cell: Blacklist and Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag, plus $100 off a purchase of a SHIELD portable gaming device. Couple all that with the inconsistency and throttling issues coming to light with AMD's latest parts and it's game-set-match NVIDIA, right? Well. Maybe. But not quite.

While the GeForce GTX 780 Ti is quieter and faster than the Radeon R9 290X overall, it's arriving at $699, a price roughly 20% higher than the Radeon's. That's justifiable in light of the card's performance, bundle, and other desirable characteristics, but the game may change when AMD's partners ready custom versions of the 290X with higher clocks, and quieter, more capable coolers, and the Radeons' larger 4GB frame buffer may pay dividends as 4K monitors become more prevalent--time will tell.

For now though, NVIDIA has done it again. The GeForce GTX 780 Ti is the highest performing, single-GPU powered graphics card we have tested to date.

  • Great Performance
  • Relatively Quiet
  • Ready for G-Sync
  • Produces Slightly More Noise Than Original 780
  • 20% Higher Price than 290X

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