Value and Conclusion
|9.0||NVIDIA's new GTX Titan shows the full potential of the Kepler architecture. Being based on NVIDIA's flagship GK110 silicon, it delivers outstanding single-GPU performance, easily claiming the title of "world's fastest GPU." Compared to the GTX 680, we see a real-life performance improvement of 30% at 2560x1600, or 23% when averaged over all resolutions. Why the focus on 2560x1600? You really should not bother using Titan on anything lower. NVIDIA has a solid lineup for full-HD gaming and below. Even a single GTX 680 can deliver very cozy framerates at 2560x1600, so Titan really only makes sense for the most demanding of gamers. The HD 7970 GHz Edition, which AMD recently declared "best GPU for enthusiast gamers," is far behind Titan in all regards, but it's half of the Titan's price. The real-life performance difference is about 25%. What positively surprised me is that, unlike other Kepler GPUs, the GK110 does not lose any performance at 2560x1600 (when compared to AMD cards).|
NVIDIA's dual-GPU flagship GTX 690 is still roughly 20% faster than the Titan though. While it suffers from the requirement to have proper game-specific SLI profiles for optimum scaling, NVIDIA has done a very good job here in the past, and out of the 19 games in our test suite, SLI only fails in F1 2012. Compare that to 6 out of 19 failed titles with AMD CrossFire. Looking at F1 2012, we can clearly see the benefits of having a single, powerful GPU. In that specific test, looking at 5760x1080 surround gaming, the GTX Titan makes short shrift of any other card by delivering over 50% higher frame rates - crucial for aspiring race drivers playing on three screens.
Visually, the GTX Titan is a nerd's wet dream come true. It uses the same industrial design as the GTX 690, with a unibody heatsink of magnesium alloy and nicely shaped curves. The Plexiglas window definitely adds to the experience and looks so much better than a random sticker. Holding the card in your hands really conveys the feel of a premium high-quality product. What I find really disappointing though is that NVIDIA did not install a backplate onto the card. While handling the cards, I always worried I might break something. A backplate would have alleviated those fears and added to the design. For its price, NVIDIA should have really included a backplate.
NVIDIA did not only focus on performance and design, but also on power/heat/noise. They introduced a new "GPU Boost 2.0" algorithm that takes into account temperature and power draw to find ideal clock speeds that provide maximum performance without compromising on power and heat. The GTX Titan is, as a result, the quietest enthusiast-class graphics card you can buy at this time - but clearly not inaudible or super quiet. While under heavy load, the fan noise difference is, compared to the Radeon HD 7970 GHz, like day and night. When the GHz Edition has to sound like a leaf blower to keep the card cool at its massive clocks and voltages, the Titan just plays it smart and dials back boost clock and voltage at the cost of a bit of performance, but for a whole lot less noise. Our Boost Clock 2.0 testing suggests that this equates to roughly 2.5% real-life performance, which is not insignificant and, in my opinion, well worth the reduced acoustic footprint. We previously reviewed the dual-GPU ASUS ARES II which is a tiny bit quieter under load, but it has to use a bulky and expensive watercooling solution to achieve that. During desktop work, the Titan really is whisper quiet, delivering an excellent low-noise experience while always keeping massive GPU power at its fingertips should you need it.
Power consumption of the GTX Titan in non-gaming states is fantastic; better than any enthusiast-class card we've seen before. It is actually lower than the majority of cards on the market today. This further supports the GTX Titan's ability to be an everyday graphics card that is ready for serious gaming. During gaming, power consumption is extremely reasonable too. While it won't beat the performance per watt of lower-end cards like the GTX 650 and HD 7750, it is certainly more efficient than the GTX 690 and GTX 680, and easily surpasses the HD 7970 GHz Edition in that metric. The GTX Titan uses slightly less power than the HD 7970 GHz Edition while being well over 20% faster. This efficiency is the fundamental reason for the low noise levels of the Titan, because less power consumed equals less heat produced, which creates less work for the cooling assembly.
Overclocking worked quite well on our samples (we checked OC potential for each one separately). It looks like you can expect clocks of around 1000 MHz (before boost), which is roughly a 20% increase. Memory overclocking worked well too and reached the clock speeds we typically expect of high-quality GDDR5 memory chips. Real-life performance gained after our overclocking session was around 20%, which means that overclocking scales well and isn't bottlenecked anywhere. We also tried the new overvoltage feature of Boost 2.0, but I have to say that with such a limited voltage range, there is really no point in opening that can of worms just to gain 10 or 20 MHz GPU. NVIDIA has stated that board partners can enable additional voltage options in their board designs, but the board partners we have talked to so far don't seem very excited about doing so.
With Titan, NVIDIA introduced a new overclocking feature called display overclocking, which lets you adjust the monitor's refresh rate beyond the typical "60 Hz". In our testing, we saw mixed results that were dependent on the monitor used. One of our monitors did well and could handle up to 75 Hz, which does improve perceived smoothness in gaming. Other monitors were not so lucky and only managed around 65 Hz, which yielded no subjective difference. Display Overclocking seems perfectly safe, since the monitor will just go black and show an "out of range" message, so it's certainly worth experimenting with.
Now the bad news. The GeForce GTX Titan is expensive, really expensive. It comes at the same $1000 that currently gets you a GeForce GTX 690. As mentioned before, the GTX 690 delivers more performance than the Titan for the same amount of money, but relies on multi-GPU technology to do so. Titan does better in terms of power and noise, but asking such a massive price premium for it just seems unreasonable to me. Performance per dollar considered, the Titan is the worst choice you can make, but that can be said about various sports cars, yet any car will get you from A to B. With the GeForce GTX 680 and HD 7970 GHz Edition being available at around $450, I find it extremely hard to justify spending more than twice that amount of money for around 30% more performance. A more reasonable price for the GTX Titan would be between $600 and $700, but it looks like NVIDIA doesn't feel like they have to sell a ton of these cards. The GTX Titan is clearly positioned as a premium product, and like the GTX 690, I expect it to remain at a premium price point for as long as there is no real competition.
Super high-end cards like the GTX Titan typically sell a relatively low volume, which makes the GTX Titan a relatively minor product in terms of NVIDIA's sales revenue. However, having the single fastest GPU helps marketing even $200 mainstream products, yet I somehow feel the $1000 price-tag might hurt the brand more than help it. People could despise NVIDIA for pricing the card so prohibitively with such an obnoxiously high price, even if those same people would still not buy the card at, say, $700. Sure, the statement "NVIDIA has the fastest single GPU" holds true, but "NVIDIA has the most overpriced single-GPU card in 25 years of VGA history" is also equally true.
If you took a peek further down (I know you did), you saw that this card received our Editor's Choice award. To be honest, I've been going back and forth between Editor's Choice, Recommended, or even no award at all. I personally see Recommended as an award for products that barely missed Editor's Choice, but putting the "Recommended" stamp on the Titan with its high price doesn't seem right either. So should I give no award at all? That would be unfair as well. The GTX Titan is a fantastic graphics card, and I'm sure everybody would love to have one as long as they don't have to pay for it. Everything except for the price is great and denying the Titan any award just because its pricing is too high wouldn't do the product any justice. Personally, I would not buy the GTX Titan, and I'm not much of a gamer anymore, but if I were, I would certainly enjoy using the card, which kind of makes this card an "Editor's Choice".
If all you can think of now is the high price: Congratulations, you have realized that the Titan is not for you, and you shouldn't buy one. There are plenty of other choices that will deliver a great gaming performance at more sensible price points. The Titan is for those that really could care less if they spend $500, $1000, or $2000 on a graphics card.
If you are a mere mortal, but are willing to part with one of your kidneys, we also have a SLI and Tri-SLI review of the GTX Titan where we compare its performance against a 3x GTX 680, 2x GTX 690, and 3x HD 7970 GHz Edition configuration.