NVIDIA GeForce GTX TITAN Video Card Review

NVIDIA is launching a TITAN today, literally, the new GeForce GTX TITAN video card is here, and we have a lot to talk about. We test single-GPU and 2-way SLI today, with more to follow later. We will find out if this TITAN of a video card really is worth it, and just who this video card is designed for. Be prepared to face the fastest single-GPU video card.


Today, the veil lifts and we are finally able to reveal to you our full evaluation of NVIDIA's new GeForce GTX TITAN. You may have heard of TITAN already, and that is because it has already been officially announced as of February 19th, 2013. NVIDIA's official announcement on the GeForce GTX TITAN is in this link, and a website dedicated to information about the GeForce GTX TITAN also exists in this link. Typically we don't see information about NVIDIA's new GPUs released until the same day of full performance hardware evaluation, but this time NVIDIA is playing it a bit different, in several ways.

The GeForce GTX TITAN, first of all, is not NVIDIA's next generation of GPUs as we would expect follows the GeForce 600 series into the 700 series. Instead, GeForce GTX TITAN sits apart from the GTX 600 series, but is very much based on the Kepler architecture. The fact that this video card doesn't have a model number, but relies solely on the one word "TITAN" branding, indicates how NVIDIA wants you to think about this new video card. It is its own entity, and the purpose of this video card is to be the fastest single-GPU video card for gaming.

The GeForce GTX TITAN is also not inexpensive, the MSRP on this video card is going to be no less than $999. If you recall, that is the exact same price on the dual-GPU GeForce GTX 690. Why is it so expensive, and why does it reach the price of the GTX 690? The answer to that is a bit complicated and we have to expand upon the reasoning for this video cards purpose, and the fact it doesn't have a model number and wishes to be known as TITAN. It will not infringe upon the GeForce GTX 690. Ultimately, you all will determine the value that this video card holds for do it yourself builders.

TITAN Is a System Integrators Best Friend

Let's make one thing clear from the start. GeForce GTX TITAN will be a retail video card. You will find it in stores, and at online stores. While it is not a limited product, it will not have wide spread availability like you would expect from GTX 680 model cards and down. TITAN will follow the same availability scheme as GeForce GTX 690 cards. Expect it to follow in those footsteps in terms of availability.

The GeForce GTX TITAN was built to be the world’s current fastest single-GPU video card, marketed for system integrators at its heart. It is in custom high end systems that system builders design and build for gamers that these video cards are meant to appease. System integrators like Digital Storm for example. To emphasize this importance, our 3-way GeForce GTX TITAN video cards came in the form of a custom built Digital Storm system retailing for $7,292.

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As you can see from the pictures, the system sent to us is a heavily customized Digital Storm HailStorm II. It contains an ASUS Rampage IV Extreme X79 motherboard, Intel Core i7 Extreme Edition 3970X CPU overclocked, 16GB of Corsair Dominator Platinum DDR3 1866MHz, 1200W Corsair Pro PSU, with an extreme cooling Digital Storm Custom Dual 420mm configuration, and three GeForce GTX TITAN's in 3-Way SLI. This machine has phenomenal gaming performance.

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While the GeForce GTX TITAN is obviously built for high-end systems like that, it was also built with another type of computer in mind; the small form factor custom systems. System integrators, and NVIDIA, wanted people with small form factor computers to also benefit from high-end graphics performance in games. Up until now, the GeForce GTX 690 has been the video card of choice. However, there are some drawbacks to using a GeForce GTX 690. Firstly, it contains two GPUs, so there is complexity involving heat and power in small form factor PCs. Second, as with any dual-GPU configuration, you have to deal with all the quirks of multi-GPU gaming.

System integrators wanted something they could put in small form factor PCs that delivered more performance than a GTX 680, but ran more efficient than a GTX 690. NVIDIA answered their call with the GeForce GTX TITAN. It is more power efficient, produces less heat and noise, and is able to provide a lot more performance over a GTX 680 for single-GPU gaming performance like nothing we've seen before.

What is GeForce GTX TITAN Exactly

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Pay attention to that last slide, about Crysis 3 performance, we are going to come back to that slide later in this evaluation.

NVIDIA GeForce GTX TITAN, known as silicon GPU model "GK110," was born out of NVIDIA's Tesla K20X Kepler GPU accelerator GPGPU for servers. Its pedigree comes from NVIDIA's high-end Tesla line. The Tesla K20X was not meant to be a consumer level graphics card. Tesla K20X's are used in supercomputers around the world for GPGPU applications. Thus, NVIDIA is calling the GeForce GTX TITAN, built from the DNA of this GPU, as a Supercomputer in your gaming machine creating the world's first gaming Supercomputers. That is a bold statement to make, so we will have to see if it holds up.

The GeForce GTX TITAN uses a 28nm Kepler architecture GPU with 7.1 billion transistors delivering 4,500 gigaflops. This is accomplished by having a total of 14 SMX units equaling 2,688 CUDA cores on board. For comparison, the GeForce GTX 680 has 1,536. That is a 75% increase in the amount of CUDA Cores. With that many CUDA cores, something had to be sacrificed, and that was clock speed. The Base Clock runs at 837MHz with the Boost Clock at 876MHz. However, with the new version of GPU Boost on board, you should see much higher frequencies than that in real-world gaming in most situations. For comparison, GTX 680 runs at 1006MHz Base Clock and 1058MHz Boost Clock, but we always saw these run higher than 1100MHz in gaming.

NVIDIA didn't stop there, the memory capacity and bandwidth has greatly been improved as well. There is 6GB of GDDR5 on board, as the standard configuration. This is a massive 200% improvement in VRAM capacity versus the 2GB on GeForce GTX 680. This bests the 3GB of VRAM on AMD Radeon HD 7970 and 7950. In addition to that, NVIDIA has put that RAM on a 384-bit memory bus versus the 256-bit memory bus on GeForce GTX 680. The RAM is still clocked at 6GHz, so on a 384-bit memory bus that is 288GB/sec of memory bandwidth versus 192GB/sec on GTX 680.

The TDP of the video card is right at 250W, and it requires only one 8-pin and one 6-pin power connector. It supports PCI Express 3.0 and has 2x DL-DVI, HDMI and DisplayPort. It supports up to 3-way SLI.

Make no mistake, the GeForce GTX TITAN is an overclocking enthusiasts dream, and NVIDIA wants you to overclock it. Straight from the reviewers guide NVIDIA lays it out like this:

A 6-phase power supply with overvoltaging capability is responsible for supplying TITAN’s GK110 GPU with power. An additional 2-phase power supply is dedicated for the board’s GDDR5 memory. This 6+2 phase design supplies TITAN with the power it needs, even when the board is overclocked. And with the higher degree of user control that GPU Boost 2.0 provides آ– including overvoltaging آ– enthusiasts are encouraged to overclock and tweak their GeForce GTX TITAN cards to their liking. Thanks to its robust board design and cooling, we’ve seen TITAN boards with reference cooling hit speeds in excess of 1.1GHz in our own testing.

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GPU Boost 2.0 - The GeForce GTX TITAN supports the next version of GPU Boost, called GPU Boost 2.0. GPU Boost 2.0 adds some more control over the operation of the video card and should deliver higher overall GPU Boost clock speeds in real-world gaming compared to previous GPU Boost. GPU Boost 1.0, for comparisons sake, utilized available power, dynamically clocking the video card up to the power target. In addition to this, GPU Boost 2.0 also utilizes available temperature headroom to give you higher clocks still. It ramps up the clock speeds to the power target, and now also to the temperature target, potentially allowing for even greater GPU Boost clock speeds.

GPU Boost 2.0 also benefits from increases max voltages that it is able to set. What's more, you get to control the temperature target for the GPU. GeForce GTX TITAN allows for OverVoltage Unlocking, granted you accept a risk of damage click through. This means Vrel can be exceeded up to Vmax. All of this will make more sense as we start to overclock it. We will also talk more about this, and test it further in a follow-up.

GeForce GTX TITAN Pictures

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The GeForce GTX TITAN measures 10.5" in length, which is half an inch shorter than a GeForce GTX 690. The "GeForce GTX" atop the video card lights up. Uniquely, there is a tool that you can edit the LEDs so that these actually provide useful information. You can program the LEDs so that they light up brighter on higher GPU usage, and dimmer on less GPU usage. This way, you can easily gauge by sight how much your GPU is working. We cannot find any fault with the design, you have to give it to NVIDIA for an eloquent and eye pleasing design that screams of robustness and strength.

There are two dual-link DVI ports, HDMI and DisplayPort. This video card does support NV Surround from one video card. There is 3-way SLI support and one 8-pin and one 6-pin power connector are required. The minimum power supply required is 600W. SLI is easy to setup with a bridge connector and appropriate connectors for your displays. Inside the software we only had to setup NV Surround displays and we were going in seconds.