- EVGA's GTX 780 SC with ACX Cooler is available online for $659.
- Overclocked out of the box
- Large performance increase over reference
- Faster than GTX Titan
- Good overclocking potential
- Quiet during gaming
- Low power consumption
- Extremely quiet in idle
- Native full-size HDMI and DisplayPort
- Up to four active outputs
- Support for CUDA and PhysX
- High price
- Reference design cooler looks more appealing
- Memory not overclocked
- No backplate
- No Metro: Last Light coupon included
NVIDIA's first GTX 700 Series graphics card introduces the new lineup with impressive results. Built on the same GK110 graphics processor as the GeForce GTX Titan, it represents the best GPU technology NVIDIA has to offer at this time. Compared to the GTX Titan, the differences are relatively slim as NVIDIA disabled another streaming multiprocessor (SMX), which reduces the CUDA core count from 2688 to 2304. Also, the GTX 780 comes with 3 GB GDDR5 memory whereas the GTX Titan has 6 GB, and that's pretty much where the differences end.
When looking at the performance of the EVGA GTX 780 SC, we see performance that exceeds the GeForce GTX Titan by 3%. Compared to the GTX 780 reference design, the improvement is 9% on average and 13%(!) at 2560x1600. AMD's fastest single-GPU card, the HD 7970 GHz, is 24% slower—no danger at all. While AMD wants to put the HD 7990 on the performance throne, our own review shows that it is just not competitive enough, and also too expensive with $1049.
So what did EVGA do to make their card so fast—faster than the much more expensive GTX Titan? First of all, they increased the GPU clocks by more than 100 MHz (130 MHz higher than Titan). Unfortunately, memory clock is unchanged, which would have been an easy extra boost. Our manual overclocking confirms that there would be plenty of headroom for that. Now, the secret sauce seem to be the operating temperatures. NVIDIA designed their Boost 2.0 algorithm with temperatures in mind: if the card goes beyond 80°C, Boost 2.0 will reduce clocks to ensure the card stays at around that temperature target. EVGA realized this and designed a cooler that ensures the card will never reach 80°C, which keeps the additional throttling from taking effect. Just having a good cooler is not enough, you also need to find the right fan speed settings. It's easy to stay below 80°C with a fan that sounds like a leaf blower, but EVGA picked decent fan settings that are just as quiet as the reference cooler without falling into the 80°C performance hole.
EVGA's cooler is also one of the better-looking custom designs, but I do not think it can compete with NVIDIA's reference design cooler visually, which is without a doubt the best-looking one in the industry. EVGA was wise to choose matte colors and metal highlights to keep the cooler from looking plasticky. In terms of cooling performance, the ACX cooler is definitely a step forward: It improves temperatures while keeping noise levels in check. EVGA also highlights that it uses ball bearings while most other VGA card fans use sleeve bearings. On paper, ball bearings have a longer lifespan, but I seriously doubt there is a significant difference for a product that will only be used for a few years tops. Technically, ball bearings are noisier than sleeve bearings, but this doesn't seem to be an issue on EVGA's cooler. I do wish the card came with a backplate. Granted, unlike the GTX Titan, which has memory chips on the backside, the GTX 780 has nothing to cool, but a backplate would have certainly helped with the visual appearance of the card.
Power consumption in absolute numbers is slightly increased, but not enough to make any difference outside of the lab. What is interesting, though, is that even with increased performance delivered, power consumption does not go up accordingly. So, when looking at performance per watt, the EVGA GTX 780 SC ends up with quite a lead on the reference design, especially at 2560x1600, where it competes with the most efficient boards.
Not long ago, people were shocked by GTX Titan's massive $1000 pricing, and the GTX 780 isn't cheap either. NVIDIA's MSRP is $649, and EVGA's GTX 780 SC w/ ACX cooler is available online for $659, a very reasonable $10 premium. While it's not EVGA's fault, the general price of the GTX 780 is definitely too high when looking at the delivered performance. The card should, even after looking at its performance, be around $550. So it's overpriced, we kinda all knew that, but will NVIDIA get away with it? Absolutely. Many people bought the GTX Titan after the outcry on GTX Titan pricing but are extremely happy with the card. Countless forum reports are testament to that. These same people will now be sad as many fought with their wives/GFs/moms to buy a GTX Titan, because the GTX 780 offers pretty much the same performance at a lower price.
If you can't afford the GTX 780, don't worry about it. The GTX 770 will be launching soon, and GeForce GTX 600 cards are still strong. It's not like the GTX 700 introduces features that you absolutely must have to be able to play the latest games. Most gamers will even have a great time with a $200 GTX 660 that can play all titles just fine at full HD. But you now have options that cost less than 1000 USD if you want more.