Why NVIDIA launched the GeForce GTX Titan when it already has the GeForce GTX 690 dual-GPU card covering the same exact $999 price-point is a question best answered in the realm of multi-GPU. If you haven't read our GTX Titan review
covering the product from a single-card perspective already, please do so to get a hold of detailed specifications, features, and performance numbers in comparison to a wider selection of graphics cards.
Current GPU technology only allows you to combine up to four GPUs, which is why you can only pair up two dual-GPU graphics cards: each physical card comes with two GPUs onboard, and you're effectively making four GPUs work in tandem. NVIDIA's $999 GeForce GTX 690 may be a wonderful graphics card that scales near-perfectly in terms of performance, but in the end, you can only pair two of them up. AMD allowed its AIB partners to develop dual-GPU cards on their own by using pairs of HD 7970 GHz Edition chips and some of them have managed to dethrone the GTX 690.
This is perhaps where the GTX Titan steps in. Priced at the same $999, it is a single-GPU graphics card based on NVIDIA's GK110 silicon, and you can combine up to four of them, which absolves the GTX Titan of the need to match up to the GTX 690 in terms of single-card performance.
In today's GeForce GTX Titan review, we are testing how well GeForce GTX Titan 2-way (2 cards) and 3-way (3 cards) SLI configurations fare against GTX 690 Quad SLI (2 cards, 4 GPUs), GTX 680 2-way and 3-way SLI, and AMD Radeon HD 7970 GHz Edition 2-way and 3-way CrossFireX configurations. Performance numbers of each of the contenders' single-card configurations are also tossed in.
The Intel Core i7 "Ivy Bridge" test-bed we normally use for our graphics card reviews won't do justice to 3-way configurations, so we set up a new Intel Core i7 "Sandy Bridge-E" test-bed running an Intel X79 chipset motherboard, which gives each of the three cards a PCI-Express x16 connection of its own. All other data-points in this review were measured on the same test bed.
Benchmark scores in other reviews are only comparable when this exact same configuration is used.
|Test System - VGA Rev. 26
||Intel Core i7-3820 @ 4.3 GHz
(Sandy Bridge-E, 10 MB Cache)
||2x 4096 MB Corsair Vengeance PC3-12800 DDR3
@ 1600 MHz 9-9-9-24
||WD Caviar Blue WD5000AAKS 500 GB
||Antec HCP-1200 1200W
||Windows 7 64-bit Service Pack 1
||NVIDIA: 310.70 WHQL
ATI: Catalyst 13.1 WHQL
GTX Titan: 314.09 Beta
LG Flatron W3000H 30" 2560x1600
3x Hanns.G HL225DBB 21.5" 1920x1080
- All video card results were obtained on this exact system with exactly the same configuration.
- All games were set to their highest quality setting unless indicated otherwise.
- AA and AF are applied via in-game settings, not via the driver's control panel.
Each benchmark was tested at the following settings and resolutions:
- 1920 x 1200, 4x Anti-aliasing. Typical widescreen resolution for large displays (22" - 26"). Very good looking driver graphics settings.
- 2560 x 1600, 4x Anti-aliasing. Highest possible resolution for commonly available displays (30"). Very good looking driver graphics settings.
- 5760 x 1080, 4x Anti-aliasing. Typical high-end gaming multi-monitor resolution. Very good looking driver graphics settings.
, released in 2012 for the PC, is a highly successful third-person horror shooter that revolves around the adventures of novelist Alan Wake who has to battle the "darkness" that takes over living and dead things. Alan's signature flashlight is used to strip the forces of darkness of their protection, which makes them vulnerable to conventional weapons.
The engine of Alan Wake
uses DirectX 9, but features complex lighting effects that make it quite a demanding title. We benchmarked with the highest settings possible.
Assassin's Creed 3
Assassin's Creed III
, published in 2012, sees series protagonist Desmond Miles relive the memories of his 18th century ancestor Ratonhnhaké:ton (aka. Connor), giving you an experience many of the series' fans craved for: that of an assassins in colonial America during the American Revolution.
Based on a rehashed AnvilNext game engine that uses Havok CPU physics, Assassin's Creed III
is the most graphics-intensive member of the franchise, depicting North American landscapes in great detail.
Batman: Arkham City
is back on the LCD screen with Batman: Arkham City
, a sequel to Batman: Arkham Asylum
by Rocksteady Games and WB. It was released on the PC platform in November of 2011. Batman is imprisoned in Arkham City, an infamous district of the DC Universe that contains the scum of Gotham, most of whom Batman helped put in there. In order to get out, he must go through scores of baddies. He also encounters many of the iconic super villains along the way and is not entirely alone in his endeavour.
Batman: Arkham City
uses the same Unreal Engine by Epic as Batman: Arkham Asylum
, but it has, thanks to the engine's modularity, been overhauled and equipped with the latest technologies, including a graphics engine that takes advantage of DirectX 11.
Arguably one of the most anticipated online shooters of recent times, Battlefield 3
is the latest addition to some of the most engaging online multiplayer shooter franchises. It combines infantry combat with mechanized warfare and includes transport vehicles, armored personnel carriers, main battle tanks, attack helicopters, and combat aircraft; pretty much everything that goes into today's battlefields. Its infantry combat is coupled with role-playing elements, which makes the experience all the more engaging. It also has a single-player campaign that adds a few gigabytes to its installer.
Behind all this is a spanking new game engine by EA-DICE called Frostbite 2. It makes use of every possible feature DirectX 11 has to offer, including hardware tessellation and new lighting effects, to deliver some of the most captivating visuals gamers have ever had access to. Not playing this game on the PC is a grave injustice to what's in store. Faster PCs are rewarded with better visuals.
is the successor to the famous first-person shooting game that doesn't take itself seriously. You get to pick from one of several characters that have unique abilities to make short shrift of the game's futuristic enemies. Set on the planet of Pandora, you have to help the local population wage intense battles against Handsome Jack of the evil Hyperion Corporation to discover a vault full of advanced future tech.
The game uses a heavily modified version of Epic's Unreal Engine 3, which is still running in DirectX 9 mode, but it does offer plenty of appealing visual effects.
Call of Duty: Black Ops 2
Call of Duty: Black Ops 2
is 2012's annual dose of the franchise that refreshingly places our gun-wielding protagonists in a near-future setting where military arsenal has become a little too smart for our comfort, and has fallen into the wrong hands. Black Ops 2 is a Treyarch development, and does, as such, beat Infinity Ward's productions in visual detail. It uses a new game engine that has been optimized for the capabilities of DirectX 11 hardware, which means it stresses such hardware properly.
After the tremendous success of Far Cry
, the German game studio Crytek released their shooter Crysis
in 2007. The game was by far the most hyped and anticipated game in 2007, and forums were full of "Can my system run Crysis?" threads because of its high hardware requirements. Just like in Far Cry
, the plot evolves on a small island with a thick and richly detailed jungle world. A lot of attention has been given to small details like accurate physics. When you, for example, fire on a tree trunk, it will shatter and the tree will fall over and leave a stump behind, and enemies in a car can be stopped by shooting the tire of the car. The game graphics are, even for today, top notch, yet the game still runs well on most computers.
takes the player into an alien-infested New York City. The game adds a tactical options mode that allows for several ways to attack a heavily infested enemy location. The new Nanosuit 2.0 that the player uses offers more freedom in ability use. Multiple abilities can, for example, be used at the same time. To better accommodate a given play-style, weapons can be customized with silencers, laser sights, or even a sniping scope.
For rendering, Crytek's CryEngine 3 is used. It comes with reduced system requirements compared to the first Crysis
game. Since Crysis 2
is a multi-platform game with major development focus on the console, the graphics on launch day were only DirectX 9. DirectX 11 functionality was added later in a patch. We used the DX11 version and the high-res texture pack for our benchmarking.
Blizzard's Diablo 3
is the latest release in one of the most popular action RPG series of all time. You, the hero, will experience epic adventures on your journey to defeat Diablo, the master of Hell. Diablo 3
set the record for the fastest-selling PC game by selling over 3.5 million copies on the first day of its release. It was also the most pre-ordered game on Amazon.
Blizzard's DirectX 9 engine provides the player with an isometric view on the action. The game has been tuned to run well on most computer systems, which lets as many players as possible experience the game. We tested Diablo 3
running at the highest image-quality settings available.
Far Cry 3
In a nutshell, Far Cry 3
is everything gamers missed in Far Cry 2
(after Crytek was tossed out of the franchise by Ubisoft) and even Crysis 2
(in which Crytek swaps the tropical paradise setting for grim, apocalyptic New York).
Ubisoft got quite a few things right about the tropical paradise in Far Cry 3
. You play the survivor of a perfect island holiday gone wrong as you and a group of friends are captured by a group of local terrorists. The DirectX 11-optimized version of the Dunia Engine recreates jungles, beaches, and the ocean in stunning detail if your hardware can keep up.
is an official implementation of the Formula One 2012 circus with accurate teams, drivers, and cars. Two highlights of the game are its extensive realism options and its detailed weather effects. You pick a driver and get to race over several races - constantly improving your skill to impress the big teams for a contract with them, which would mean driving for the world championship with a faster car.
The game is based on an improved Ego 2.0 engine Codemasters uses with all of their recent racing titles, and it features the latest in DirectX 11 technology. We used the highest details setting available for our testing.
sees our stealthy, classy, and barcode-laced baldie Agent 47 swing back into action, only this time he's on the wrong side of the line with his former handlers.
The game uses a rehashed version of Square Enix's Glacier 2 engine that supports DirectX 11 and is able to render large crowds of people without much overhead.
Max Payne 3
Max is back! The long anticipated third release in the Max Payne
series is the first game developed by Rockstar, which took the title over from Remedy Entertainment. In this first-person shooter, using an over-the-shoulder camera view, you battle the bad guys using game-changing features like Bullet Time or Last Stand. The maps have scenic locations which take the player to places like New York, Sao Paulo, and Panama.
The Max Payne 3
game engine uses DirectX 11 with tessellation and very detailed textures. We tested the game with details set to the maximum possible.
is a first-person shooter that is set in a post-apocalyptic Moscow - inside the metro system as the name suggests. You will fight mutants or other humans who want to take away your shelter. The game has many gameplay elements similar to STALKER
; the engine also has similar features. This is because two STALKER
engine programmers left GSC Game World and started their own company to make Metro 2033
The engine has support for all the latest eye-candy, like DirectX 11 and tessellation. Unfortunately, it leaves a less than satisfactory impression, which makes it a candidate that surpasses Crysis
for highest hardware requirements. We tested the game in DirectX 11 mode with details set to "Very High".
is a GTA-style crime/action adventure developed by Square Enix. You are Wei Shen, an undercover police officer who is infiltrating the Hong Kong triads. The game's unique combat system gives you significant freedom over your movement, the actions you take, and your counter-attacks - individual body parts can also be targeted.
A custom in-house engine was developed to provide DirectX 11 graphics through a deferred renderer. This makes complex characters and graphical effects required for a realistic view of the beautiful city of Hong Kong possible. We tested Sleeping Dogs at its highest settings, but disabled super-sampling.
, released in July 2010, is a sequel to Blizzard's award-winning strategy game StarCraft
. In the 26th century, three species, the Terrans, Protoss, and Zerg, are at war. The campaign takes you through many missions on different planets where you have to face various enemy factions or, sometimes, several of them at once. StarCraft II
features a similar number of units - some of them new - as the original game. Due to the massive success of the first game, Blizzard chose to focus a large aspect of the game on multiplayer combat through Battle.net. The campaign serves as a good introduction to units and concepts, but the real action is in competitive multiplayer combat.
The StarCraft II
engine only supports DirectX 9, but several patches have improved rendering quality and available options considerably. We tested the game using a recorded 1 vs. 1 multiplayer replay in the late-game phase. Please note that StarCraft II
is very CPU limited on high-end cards, especially on lower resolutions, so you may not see much scaling between some cards. StarCraft II
does not support multi-monitor gaming because it would provide an unfair advantage in competitive multiplayer as a larger portion of the map would be visible.
The Elder Scrolls: Skyrim
This isn't just a game, but a masterpiece. TES: Skyrim
is a very large sandbox game that rejects the quality-quantity inverse proportionality. By genre, TES: Skyrim
is a role-playing game. It combines some of the best elements of older titles in the franchise with some new sandbox elements to churn out an extremely engaging and addictive game. It makes use of Bethesda's Creation Engine which isn't visually intensive in that it doesn't use taxing graphics features; instead, the game's presentation itself, with large open worlds, ends up taxing your hardware. Faster GPUs result in smoother gameplay with most eye-candy turned on.
World of Warcraft: Mists of Pandaria
World of Warcraft is the most successful massively multiplayer online game in the world, with far over 12 million monthly subscribers. The game is centered around the epic battle between the Horde and Alliance factions and many other races that get involved in a long and complex story line. Even though it has been released in 2004, Blizzard has always added incremental improvements to the graphics, especially with every new expansion. One key success of World of Warcraft is that it will run on a large number of slower systems while also delivering a decent graphics experience on high-end systems. We tested the game in DirectX 11 mode with details set to "Ultra".
3DMark 11 is the very latest benchmark test from the house of Futuremark, which has given out some of the most comprehensive benchmark applications for PC enthusiasts and gamers. 3DMark 11, as the name might suggest, makes use of the Microsoft DirectX 11 API and puts every feature of it to use, creating astonishingly realistic visuals. In the process, it evaluates DirectX 11-compliant GPUs and lets gamers know what to expect from upcoming games that make use of the API in terms of visual realism. The tessellation and depth-of-field tests are of particular interest here. 3DMark 11 has no proper support for multi-monitor configurations.
The graphs on this page show a combined performance summary of all tests and resolutions from previous pages. Each graph shows the tested card as 100% and all other cards' performance as relative to it.
Performance per Dollar
If you are looking for the best bang per buck, you will love this graph. We looked up the current USD price of each card on the popular online shop Newegg and used that value and all relative performance numbers to calculate the Performance-per-Dollar index.
These numbers are based on the performance summary with all the games included.
Value and Conclusion
A single GeForce GTX Titan costs $1000. You do the math on what 2-way and 3-way configurations cost - not to mention the need for at least an Intel Core i7 "Sandy Bridge-E" platform that won't bottleneck three graphics cards.
At our recent meeting with NVIDIA, where news of GeForce GTX Titan launch was broken to us, we knew the card was going to be a rare commodity, and not every publication will have cards to review. What surprised us was NVIDIA's keenness to have us test 3-way SLI performance, for which we feel both flattered and grateful.
Since the GTX Titan and GTX 690 are priced the same, we began this review by stating that the very fact that you can combine more than two GeForce GTX Titan graphics cards in SLI configurations absolves the need for a single GTX Titan to outperform a single GTX 690. It has always been a case of diminishing returns when you combine over two GPUs in SLI or CrossFire. The GTX 690 may have stunned us with its near-perfect scaling over a single GTX 680, but it, much to the benefit of the GTX Titan, loses out big time in Quad SLI (2 cards, 4 GPUs). Not only is a 2-way SLI setup of GTX Titans faster than GTX 690 Quad SLI, but it also leaves room for you to expand to 3-way and 4-way configurations. To be fair to GTX 690 Quad SLI, there do exist games, such as Battlefield 3, that make use of the four GPUs effectively. If you happen to regularly play these games, you're probably better off with GTX 690 Quad SLI. However, the bottom line is that if you have $1000 to spend on a single graphics card, the GTX 690 could be a slightly better buy, but if you have $2000, a pair of GTX Titans should be your first choice, hands down.
GTX Titan 3-way SLI is a completely different beast. Sure, it ends up being the fastest setup in our review, but at "great" cost. Performance up-scaling between 2-way and 3-way SLI is close to non-existent in certain games in which scaling between single and 2-way SLI looks just fine. On average, you only get a 12 percent performance increase for spending an additional $1000. Then again, there are a few games that show signs of truly benefitting from the contraption, so NVIDIA looks to be onto something; it just needs to work on tweaking its SLI profiles a little more.
Looking at other contenders for a moment, you'll find that you simply don't need a GTX 680 2-way SLI when you can just buy a GTX 690 that runs quieter and saves an expansion slot because the price-performance ratio of a 3-way GTX 680 configuration is bad. AMD's HD 7970 GHz Edition CrossFire setup has its moments, but flunks far too many tests due to poor multi-GPU driver optimizations by AMD.
You probably won't need three GTX Titans to max your games out at 2560x1600, as two cards handle the task just fine. It's only with triple-monitor 5760x1080 setups where the 3-way SLI setup gives you a performance cushion that ensures frame-rates don't drop below a playable threshold. The reason NVIDIA had the audacity to price the GTX Titan at $1000 is because you can combine up to four of them (which you can't with the GTX 690) and end up with the fastest pixel-crunching machines. A 2-card GTX Titan should have you set for a long time. The 3-way setup, however, didn't impress us as much, but it holds a lot of promise if coupled with the right SLI profiles.