Review: Nvidia GeForce GTX Titan. Just wow.

Graphics Card Review: Nvidia GeForce GTX Titan

Our score: 4/5
Reviewed: February 28, 2013 9:16 AM
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Published: February 28, 2013 9:16 AM
Updated: October 13, 2014 2:37 PM
By Régis Jehl
Translated by: Hugh Ehreth
Nvidia is billing its new GeForce GTX Titan as just that: a titan. Titanic both in price (it costs roughly £820) and in quality (it has an excellent build, choice materials and, of course, killer specs), does it really merit such a whopping price tag? Does it really blow the competition out of the water? Let's have a look...

Nvidia GeForce GTX Titan: The Specs

The Titan uses a GK110 GPU. The GK110 is based on Kepler architecture, just like the GK104 and GK106 that equipped the 600 series, except this one's a little different... Used until now only in pro models (such as the Tesla K20/K20X), on the Titan the GK110 has no fewer than 2,688 CUDA cores, which is 75% more than the GeForce GTX 680 (1,536 cores).
Nvidia GeForce GTX Titan 1s
The memory bus has also been upped from the 256 bits used on the mid-range and high-end GeForce 600's to 384 bits here. And with 24 memory chips on the printed circuit board, that makes no less than 6 GB of GDDR5 RAM clocked at 1,502 MHz.

GPU Boost 2.0: Multiple Frequency Levels

The GeForce GTX Titan features GPU Boost 2.0, the new version of the mechanism introduced on the GTX 680. GPU Boost is a technique that permits the card to reach higher speeds based on a certain number of criteria. In GPU Boost 1.0, Nvidia gave the base rate, the minimum frequency attainable with GPU Boost activated, and promised higher frequencies (although they never said how high exactly).

To keep the frequencies in check, GPU Boost 1.0 defined a maximum amount of power consumption beyond which the speeds would be blocked. GPU Boost 2.0, on the other hand, surveys the GPU's temperature, which, according to Nvidia, increases the potential frequencies. In other words, the system increases the clock rate while making sure the chip doesn't exceed 80° C (176° F). To boost the frequency even further, you can set the limit to up to 95 ° C (203° F).

Nvidia GeForce GTX Titan - GPU Boost 2.0 Nvidia GeForce GTX Titan - overvoltaging
Left: according to Nvidia, by limiting the GPU's temperature, GPU Boost 2.0 raises the clock rate higher than GPU Boost 1.0, which limited the GPU's power consumption.
Right: with GPU Boost
the maximum clock rate is higher (the bins are higher) and the GPU reaches the maximum clock speed more frequently. In red, the rates reached when you overvoltage the card.

A third, higher frequency can be reached by overvoltaging the GPU, which you do by selecting an option in the software utility. This option won't be available in all versions, as Nvidia's partners can choose to include it or not (in theory, overvoltaging may reduce the card's lifespan—when it is available and you select it, you see a warning message).

The advantage with this system is that it automatically boosts the speed depending on the environment. The disadvantage is that it has the same drawbacks we described in our review of the GeForce GTX 680: not all Titans will offer the same performance. Nvidia is aware of this and advises users to test the card in a cool environment. What's more, Nvidia told us that while all the Titans can reach the same voltage limit, the resulting clock rate will still vary from one card to another.

Nvidia GeForce GTX Titan - EVGA Precision X
All the GPU Boost and overclocking options are found in the software utility, Evga Precision X

The base rate is 837 MHz, with a minimum GPU Boost rate of 876 MHz. On the models we tested, more often than not the frequency was at 993 MHz under normal use (temperature target at 80° C) and 1,032 MHz with overvoltaging (95° C).

Size & Noise4/5


At 27.7 cm long, the Titan is just a hair shy of the dual-GPU GeForce GTX 690, which is 28 cm long. The high-end cooling system consists of an extra-wide aluminium radiator and a turbine-style fan at the end of the card.

Nvidia GeForce GTX Titan -  3s

In 'normal' mode, this cooling system gets a breezy five stars, and with the options upped it gets four stars. Respectively, we picked up 42 dB(A) and 46.5 dB(A) while running games, which is excellent. Compare this to the AMD Radeon HD 7970 GHz Edition, which produces 56.1 dB(A), and the GTX 680, which produces 47.3 dB(A), in the same conditions. At rest we detected 32.4 dB(A), making the fan, for all intents and purposes, inaudible.

Nvidia GeForce GTX Titan -  2s

Power Use3/5


Naturally, the considerable increase in processing cores has its effect on the card's power consumption. From 280 W in video games in normal mode (for the entire machine), the consumption jumps to 315 W when you choose the advanced options. These are similar figures to the Radeon HD 7970 GHz Edition and slightly higher than the GTX 680 (240 W / 250 W), but much lower than the GTX 690, which goes all the way up to... 649 W.
 
When at rest, our test machine pulled a mere 50.3 W from the socket, which is just lower than the GeForce 600's. Unfortunately, Nvidia still hasn't provided a function to turn the card almost completely off when the screen's on standby. AMD's Radeons have a system that does this and turns the fan off, saving an extra 10 W or so.

Performance in Games4/5


Of course, for an ultra-high-end video card like the Titan, the real name of the game is gaming performance. Coming as no surprise, the Titan outperforms the Radeon HD 7970 GE by an average of about 22% on the games we used. It also outperforms the GTX 680 by 30% and falls just 4% short of the GTX 690.

Nvidia GeForce GTX Titan - performance
Average performance.

Since we were doing this review anyway, we decided to test out four more recent games: Crysis 3, Hitman: Absolution, Sleeping Dogs and Far Cry 3. We ran each one in 1920 x 1200 resolution with the quality settings on max.

Nvidia GeForce GTX Titan - games
 

As you can see here, the performance is a little different than earlier: we measured a 24% average difference between the Titan and the Radeon HD 7970 GE and 45% difference with the GTX 680. By selecting the advanced GPU Boost options we gained an average of 5% in performance.

The Verdict

What to say about the GeForce GTX Titan? It's incredible. Just look at the raw performance results: it's a super fast video card, the fastest single-GPU card on the market, and it runs in near-silence. Plus, it's simply a well-built object with quality materials, the kind we'd like to see more of. The biggest real downside is that this little gem is destined to spend its days in the niche market because of its colossal price (around £820, ahem). It even costs more than the GeForce GTX 690, a dual-GPU card that's faster and just as well built, that costs as low as £780 as we write this.

Nvidia has assured us that both cards will coexist on the market, even though now that the Titan is out we don't really see the point in keeping the 690 around, given that it consumes more power and relies on the speed at which Nvidia decides to release optimised dual-GPU profiles for every game.
4/5 Nvidia GeForce GTX Titan DigitalVersus 2013-02-28 10:16:00

Pros

  • Top-notch gaming performance
  • Runs in near-silence
  • Exemplary materials and build
  • Nvidia's extra features: Adaptive V-Sync, PhysX, TXAA, CUDA, 3D Vision, etc.

Cons

  • High power consumption

Conclusion

This graphics card is titanic, in every sense of the term: super high performance, low noise levels and quality manufacturing. It's practically a luxury product, all the way down to the price.

OUR SCORE 4/5
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