MSI GeForce GTX 770 Lightning Video Card Review

NVIDIA debuts the "new" GeForce GTX 770 today. The GeForce GTX 770 is poised to provide refreshed performance, for a surprising price. We evaluate a retail MSI GeForce GTX 770 Lightning flagship video card from MSI with specifications that will make any enthusiast smile. The $399 price point just got a kick in the pants.


One week ago exactly, NVIDIA unveiled its GeForce GTX 780 video card. With that launch we discovered what the GeForce GTX 700 series itself is all about. The GeForce GTX 700 series is a simple product refresh based on the familiar Kepler architecture found in the GeForce GTX 600 series and Titan video cards. The GeForce GTX 700 series is not a new architecture. You will have to wait until 2014 for that.

Though it is a refresh, there are two key elements that have been upgraded in the series to provide a better experience. Number one, GPU Boost 2.0 has been introduced into the GeForce GTX TITAN, GeForce GTX 780, and GeForce GTX 770. GPU Boost 2.0 changes the way the frequencies work. Instead of keeping the frequency in a certain window based on power primarily, now the real-time frequency is based on temperature. That temperature target has been set at 80c on the GeForce GTX TITAN, GTX 780, and GTX 770. Cooler temperatures yield higher real-time frequencies in-games.

Temperature is now a very important factor to pushing performance on GTX TITAN, GTX 780, and GTX 770. To help with this, NVIDIA has also improved the cooling solution, pulling from the TITAN design and applying it to the GeForce GTX 780 and GeForce GTX 770. The reference cards of the 780 and 770 share the TITAN heatsink and fan design. The fan itself has been upgraded to switch speeds more smoothly, making for a more silent operation.

We've evaluated the TITAN, and we've evaluated the GeForce GTX 780. The GeForce GTX 780 is a $649 video card that pulls from the same design as the GeForce GTX TITAN. Think of GTX 780 as TITAN scaled down. This allowed NVIDIA to provide 2,304 CUDA cores boosting to 900MHz, 3GB of RAM on a 384-bit memory bus providing 288GB/s of bandwidth, all at a TDP of 250W. We were very pleased with its performance, coming within 10-15% of GeForce GTX TITAN performance. Simple overclocking allowed us to exceed GTX TITAN performance, for a much cheaper price than TITAN. This resulted in us giving the video card a Gold award.

NVIDIA GeForce GTX 770 Pricing

Today, NVIDIA is releasing another video card, the GeForce GTX 770. Here is the real important part about the GeForce GTX 770, that is its price. The MSRP on the GTX 770 will be $399. Let's make a little comparison, the GeForce GTX 680 retailed for MSRP $499 at its launch. The GeForce GTX 670 retailed for $399 MSRP at its launch. The GeForce GTX 780 is $649.

When you look at the specifications below you are going to realize that the new GeForce GTX 770 is simply a faster GeForce GTX 680. However, if we compare by price, the GTX 680 debuted at $499, and this new GTX 770 is debuting at $399, which is the same price the GeForce GTX 670 debuted at.

One can look at it this way, you are getting GTX 680 performance (or slightly better), now for $100 less (same place the GTX 670 used to sit) with GPU Boost 2.0 and better cooling. Or, you can think of it this way, the $399 price point just got an upgrade in performance from the level of GTX 670 to now the level of faster than GTX 680 performance. Either way, it is a good move.

NVIDIA GeForce GTX 770 Specifications

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The new GeForce GTX 770 is based on the same GK104 chip as the GeForce GTX 680 and GeForce GTX 670. It is a 28nm chip with 3,540 million transistors. It contains 8 SMX units equaling 1,536 CUDA cores with a base clock frequency of 1046MHz and a boost clock frequency of 1085MHz. There are 32 ROPs and 128 TMUs on board. You can get the GTX 770 in a 2GB or 4GB configuration with 256-bit memory at 7GHz equaling 224GB/s of bandwidth. The TDP of the GeForce GTX 770 is 230W. Let's break this down.

What we are looking at are the same specifications as a GeForce GTX 680 save for the clock speed and memory frequency. A GeForce GTX 680 has a base clock of 1006MHz and a boost clock of 1058MHz. Therefore, the GTX 770 has a 40MHz higher base clock and a 27MHz higher boost clock. This isn't much, and if that is truly what the GPU operates at in-game, then it would not make any gameplay performance difference at all. However, thanks to GPU Boost 2.0 the real-world frequencies on the GTX 770 could be better than what the GTX 680 were able to boost too. We will see.

On the memory side of things, the GeForce GTX 770 got a more substantial upgrade. The GeForce GTX 770 is set to run at 7GHz memory frequency by default. This faster memory, on the 256-bit memory bus, give us 32GB/s more memory bandwidth to play with on the 770 than the 680. It brings us up from 192GB/s on the GTX 680 to 224GB/s on the GTX 770.

That is it. Those are the important specification differences between the GTX 680 and GTX 770. As we said, it is a GTX 680 refresh, but debuting at a lower price.

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GTX 770 "Reference" Cards

Editor's Note: As we mentioned in the recent GTX 780 review, reference design cards will be short-lived. Approximately only 10,000 units were to be sold worldwide over a period of about a month. With the GTX 770, you will find little if any reference design cards for sale in normal retail channels. NVIDIA's AIC partners are ready and queued up to sell their own designs, as you might guess from it being so closely based on the GTX 680. So if you are planning on finding a GTX 770 with a "TITAN cooler," which will likely be a feat in itself, I would not count on paying MSRP for it.