NVIDIA GTX TITAN Video Card Review

Well, the day is finally here…part two! Today is the day we can show you what this beast can do. But first, if you haven’t already, do go read our introduction to TITAN to get a grasp on how TITAN is used and overclocked.

Just because it’s so pretty (I mean, really, it’s a great looking GPU), here are a couple quick photos before we get to testing.

NVIDIA GeForce GTX TITAN

NVIDIA GeForce GTX TITAN

NVIDIA GTX TITAN

NVIDIA GeForce GTX TITAN

TITAN

TITAN

Of course, like AMD, NVIDIA also supplies their own benchmarks graphed for our viewing pleasure. As we mentioned, the small form factor is a big deal with TITAN. It’s more powerful than a GTX 680 and quieter to boot.

TITAN: SFF Champion

TITAN: SFF Champion

The other graph we have for you is graphed relatively, not with actual FPS. They compared 3-way SLI TITANs with two GTX 690′s in quad-SLI. Not many games scale well with that fourth GPU and these results bear that out. As a side note, the GTX 690 does out perform TITAN in most cases when it comes to raw FPS. They freely admit that, hence a part of the reason TITAN is an alternative to the GTX 690 rather than a replacement.

Surround Gaming - SLI TITAN vs. GTX 690

Surround Gaming – SLI TITAN vs. GTX 690

So we’ve established that TITAN looks great and you’ve already seen the features it includes. Now you’ve seen a little bit of what you can expect from NVIDIA’s slides. It’s time to put this beast on a test bed and see what it can do.

Test Setup

Like all our GPU reviews, our test bed consists of an Ivy Bridge based system with an i7 3770K and RAM running at a reasonable DDR3-1866.

CPU i7 3770K @ 4.0 GHz
MB ASUS Maximus V Extreme
RAM G.Skill TridentX DDR3-2600 @ 1866MHz 9-9-9-24
GPUs ASUS GTX 670 DirectCU II TOP
MSI GTX 680 Lightning
HIS HD 7970 X Turbo *
2 x AMD HD 7970′s in CrossfireX**
ASUS ARES II
NVIDIA GTX TITAN
OS Windows 7 Professional x64

*Note the HD 7970 X Turbo was the only GPU tested with AMD’s new driver with our GPU test setup. It is a HD 7970 with strong stock clocks, operating at 1180 MHz Boost and 1500 MHz on the memory.
**The HD 7970s in CrossfireX were a HIS HD 7970 X Turbo and a HIS HD 7970 IceQ X2 GHz Edition, both operating at 1180 MHz on the core and 1500 MHz on the memory, which is the stock clocks for the X Turbo.

Here’s that installed photo again with the nice green glow.

GTX TITAN Installed

GTX TITAN Installed

Before we start in with the results, we’ll have a look at overclocking the TITAN.

Overclocking

Like all GTX 6xx parts before it, the TITAN has a six percent buffer on the power target. Immediately below that is the temp target slider (which is at 80° C at stock). In between is the prioritization selector. Note these are the overclocked settings. As you can see, the 24/7 stable overclock settled in at a solid +129 MHz on the GPU and a much more than expected + 450 MHz on the memory (actual as measured in GPUz is +225 MHz).

PrecisionX Overclocked

PrecisionX Overclocked

That overclock couldn’t come without a bit of voltage increase. I hinted at it before, but didn’t specify the extent you can overvolt TITAN. It’s not much. The stock voltage on this card is 1162 mV (1.162 V). It can be increased up to 38 mV for a final high limit of 1200 mV (1.2 V). It would be better if there were more voltage to play with of course, but if that would lead to a lot of dead GPUs (and I don’t know if it would), you can’t fault them for preventing that. There’s not a lot of voltage headroom, but some is absolutely better than none!

Voltage Control

Voltage Control

We’re giving away a little bit of info about the performance by showing you these screenshots, but what’s an overclock without stability testing?

3DMark 11 - 24/7 Overclock

3DMark 11 – 24/7 Overclock

3DMark Firestrike - 24/7 Overclock

3DMark Firestrike – 24/7 Overclock

Yes, those numbers are real and with one GPU.

NVIDIA Boost 2.0

As mentioned in the initial article, the 876 MHz stock boost clock was quite conservative. When run for short periods and a moderate distance from the temp target (at stock that’s 80 °C), it was boosting to 1006 MHz consistently. If you adjusted the fan profile to keep it away from 80 °C, it would probably stay there indefinitely.

The stock fan profile favors silence, so the card lets itself get right to the 80 °C mark. You can see that almost half way through the Heaven line. I took note of the temperature when it dipped like that and it was 77 °C, which is the point where it starts to throttle frequency to maintain the temperature target.

Stock Boost in 3DMark 11 and Heaven

Stock Boost in 3DMark 11 and Heaven

Now things get interesting. What you should first know is that I did adjust the fan profile to be more aggressive after overclocking. The GPU never topped 65 °C during this run, and the temp target was set at 90 °C.

Overclocked Boost Monitoring

Overclocked Boost Monitoring

The good part is that TITAN is capable of 1100 MHz numbers, pretty consistently. The bad news is that it doesn’t hold above it for very long. Temperature was not a problem here, so there are other factors at play with boost clock. While it behaved exactly as predicted at stock, things were a bit more unpredictable when overclocked.

Temperature and Power Consumption

As mentioned, the stock fan profile built into the TITAN BIOS favors silence over keeping temperatures low. It is designed to keep the card at 80 °C and that’s precisely what it does.

Temperature Comparison

Temperature Comparison

Don’t take this graph as an indication of how well the TITAN’s cooler performs though. At its maximum stable overclock with its maximum voltage, the temperature didn’t break 65 °C.

As impressive as the cool temperatures the GPU runs is the cooler itself. Blower style coolers aren’t known for silence, but NVIDIA did a very good job on this cooler. As blower coolers go, this is the quietest one I’ve heard. Or not heard, as it were. The most audible sound is air. Just, air. It’s not as quiet as some large-fanned, heatpipe coolers we’ve reviewed, but for a blower, its acoustics are impressive.

TITAN was made to be powerful, but also to have a reasonable level of power consumption. While it does draw significantly more than the Matrix HD 7970 (which is clocked at 1100 MHz), it also out-performs it.

Power Consumption Comparison

Power Consumption Comparison

Ok, enough about measuring the card, let’s put it to use!

Performance Results

All video cards we test are tested per our Video Card Testing Procedure. Long story short – benchmarks are run at their default settings and games are tested at 1080p with all settings turned to max.

Synthetic Benchmarks

3DMark03 has favored AMD throughout the current generation of AMD vs. NVIDIA, but the TITAN brings NVIDIA right back into contention when you overclock it, taking out the single 7970 in our lineup and getting close to the ARES II, though the higher clocked 7970 pair doesn’t waver.

3DMark03

3DMark03

In our only DirectX 10 test, TITAN shows its power. Vantage is strongly CPU dependent, but if you get a big enough disparity in graphics score, it can still show a solid difference. That’s precisely what it does here.

3DMark Vantage

3DMark Vantage

TITAN looks good in 3DMark 11, taking out the HD 7970 by a fair margin and even makes a respectable showing when compared to the dual 7970 options.

3DMark 11

3DMark 11

More of the same in Heaven. TITAN is tearing up the single GPU competition.

HWBot Heaven Extreme

HWBot Heaven Extreme

Take note: these 3DMark Fire Strike comparison numbers are not from the hardware comparison list above. This is an independent graph from our testing for the 3DMark launch, so just take note what’s being compared.

3DMark Firestrike

3DMark Firestrike

Well, TITAN is certainly a benchmarking beast. Let’s see what happens when you game with it.

Game Testing

We’re off to a good start with AvP. It’s not leaps and bounds above the HD 7970, but does win out.

Aliens vs. Predator DirectX 11 Benchmark

Aliens vs. Predator DirectX 11 Benchmark

Batman: AC is just the opposite. It didn’t scale all that well in CrossfireX, but absolutely takes advantage of TITAN’s powerful GPU. Overclocked, it actually beat the CFX 7970s in this game.

Batman: Arkham City

Batman: Arkham City

BF3 brings us back to reality a bit. Still quite healthy gains over the single HD 7970.

Battlefield 3

Battlefield 3

Civilization V certainly likes TITAN. Most modern GPUs (GTX 680 & HD 7970) don’t show much of a difference, but the processing capability of TITAN makes a huge difference in Civilization V.

Civilization V

Civilization V

Dirt 3 is another strong one, with TITAN performing much closer to the dual HD 7970 offerings than the other single-GPU cards.

Dirt 3

Dirt 3

Metro 2033 was equally impressive. TITAN is definitely in a class of its own.

Metro 2033

Metro 2033

While we don’t have a database of cards benched with Farcry 3 and Crysis 3, I’m sure you’re all anxious to know how it performs. Time was slim after our benching / gaming suite, but I popped off a few Fraps runs for you.

Game Settings FPS
Farcry 3 1080p, 8x MSAA, Everything Maxxed 65.3
Farcry 3 5760×1080, 8x MSAA, Everything Maxxed 25.0
Farcry 3 5760×1080, 2x MSAA, Everything Maxxed 37.6
Crysis 3 1080p, 8x MSAA, Everything Maxxed 37.1
Crysis 3 1080p, FXAA, Evereything Maxxed 68.0
Crysis 3 5760×1080, 8x MSAA, Everything Maxxed 14.0
Crysis 3 5760×1080, 2x MSAA, Everything Maxxed 20.7
Crysis 3 5760×1080, FXAA, Everything Maxxed 22.0

But can it play Crysis 3? Yes. Not with all the eye candy up across three monitors, but it can indeed play at what felt like a very smooth 37 FPS on 1080p with everything turned up as far as it would go. (Note the Crysis 3 results were taken very quickly and I have not fleshed out testing for that game yet; it was acquired about an hour before finishing this review and testing time was very slim.)

NVIDIA Surround Testing

TITAN shows its strength with one monitor. At 1080p, TITAN shows it can out-game any card on the  market right now and even get close to the dual GPU monster ARES II. What happens when you plug three monitors into it? Note the competition in this graph is a little different than that above. It was tested only with GPUs that have been in my hands. I’m the only one of our reviewers fortunate enough to have a tri-monitor setup for extreme resolution testing.

ASUS GTX 670 DirectCU II TOP
ASUS Matrix HD 7970 Platinum
ASUS ARES II
NVIDIA GTX TITAN
Surround / Eyefinity Testing

Surround / Eyefinity Testing

The disparity isn’t quite as strong as with a lower resolutions. The ARES II’s dual GPUs really show their strength when it comes to multi-monitor testing. While TITAN is impressive in its own right, showing an obvious difference between itself and the highly clocked Matrix HD 7970, there just isn’t any substitute for having two powerful GPUs processing all those pixels.

Pushing the Limits

Now let’s push on the TITAN with a 4.9 GHz 3770K underneath it. Vantage & Heaven Xtreme were both the most difficult to pass, with no gain on the GPU above the +129 MHz 24/7 overclock. The memory did show it had some more life left in it, cranking up to +550 MHz for all the benchmarks you see here. Both of these are by far personal bests for these respective benches on a single GPU.

3DMark Vantage - 46890

3DMark Vantage – 46890

HWbot Heaven - 3416.781

HWbot Heaven – 3416.781

TITAN showed it had some extra MHz left for us in 3DMark 11 and 3DMark Fire Strike; 5 MHz to be precise, completing both of these at +144 MHz.

3DMark 11 - 14623

3DMark 11 – 14623

3DMark Firestrike - 10242

3DMark Firestrike – 10242

Four benchmarks, all with impressive results, which are all by far personal bests for single GPU benching.

Final Thoughts & Conclusion

Let’s get one thing out of the way first: the NVIDIA GeForce GTX TITAN is indeed the most powerful GPU in the world. As a single GPU card, it leaves all other single-GPU cards in the dust. It also benchmarks like crazy. I didn’t optimize anything for those runs you see. Everything but the overclocks were at default (i.e. detail settings, etc.), so even at those clocks, there are more points to be had. I’ve got a strong feeling that k|ngp|n will be putting an EPower board on some of these and making us all drool.

But…  There’s always a but, isn’t there? This card is a cool grand. One. Thousand. Dollars. It is not what anyone with any bit of sense would call a good deal. As you can see in our testing above, two HD 7970s do a good job of beating it in most situations. Assuming the games you play scale decently with Crossfire HD 7970s  (for around $800, mid-range), you’ll save a good chunk of money by going that route. Or you could spend the same amount on a GTX 690 or two GTX 680′s and have better performance.

NVIDIA isn’t claiming the TITAN will beat those combinations in raw performance. However, two GPUs (or a single GPU on one PCB, the much more expensive ARES II notwithstanding) aren’t always what one would consider silent. They also draw a whole other GPU’s worth of additional power. The TITAN is very quiet. It is also extremely efficient relative to the power it puts out. The TITAN, in this reviewer’s humble opinion, is a very good, $800 GPU. It just has a $200 premium tacked on for being the most powerful GPU in the world.

Let’s not forget the double precision computing performance, the most powerful yet in a consumer part. Not only is this the strongest GPU for gaming, it’s also the least expensive GPU with powerful double precision computing capabilities. It’s not a full on Tesla powerhouse with ECC and some other more specialized features. Enabling DP also drops the frequency to stay within the TDP. There probably aren’t a whole lot of people that will take advantage of this feature, but it may just broaden the market for those that will, with a more reasonably priced option, relatively speaking.

While TITAN’s price may give plenty of people pause, NVIDIA certainly thinks it will sell at a kilobuck. Without a doubt, TITAN does live up to the billing as the world’s most powerful GPU. It runs cool, quiet and efficiently to boot and even overclocks well. For those reasons, it is worthy of being Overclockers Approved.

Overclockers_clear_approved

Jeremy Vaughan (hokiealumnus)

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Discussion
  1. Hard mods, too much risk for me, (and not a LN bencher). But very interesting to read.

    the bios they have listed there, get an error message in keplar bios tweaker 1.25 while opening it, will make me stay away from that one, and it is mostly not readable...except the power limits increase..and there are tons of edits on bioses that dont give errors for that.
    "Official" engineering BIOS and volt-mods: http://hwbot.org/forum/showthread.php?p=233463#post233463 . Note the warning about the weak VRM and disclaimer about no responsibility. That applies for us too. :)
    Remember, high temps with the default fan profile are by design. It is a very cool running gpu if you make only moderate adjustments to the fan profile via software.
    Thanks rge, for giving us the info on this throttle issue, sure hope that gets fixed.

    That,the high temps and price, kinda puts me off on this card, maybe future cards will look at these issues and have them running better.
    Temps arent the issue on titans, the issue is the immature buggy bios of these cards and resulting over aggressive power throttling. 17 bios mods and flashes later (most edits of naennons bios which is only one where cards follow bios power limits) and Im 1200 mhz rock stable, no throttling with 1.2 vcore, in any 3dmark benchmark or modern game so far.

    now that 20+ hrs of bios modding/testing to learn how this buggy bios works...and throttling resolved (thanks to naennons supplying bios that everyone can edit to their needs)....im able to test different volts and see if I can have 1200 core at lower vcore. Or if I will do 24/7 at 1150....havent even touched mem yet, burned out on bios flashing/testing.

    nvidia is supposedly working on a fix...but what a pita it has been. Mine on stock SC bios, despite on EK wb/backplate with gpu temps never above 35C, throttled so badly on any benchmark like fire strike, it was going near stock. On very light 20% load, it was up near 1200mhz...at stock...screwy... now way was I exceeding the bios specified power limits on my stock bios, they were just being ignored. In fact my stock bios specifies core boost of 1254 limit...not that my gpu gave a flip about anything else my bios specified either, until flashing to naennons, at least the card follows the set power limits with his.

    I just wanted a single gpu for my 27 inch monitor, no sli.....I like the card, well now that mine is an ok ocer and no longer throttling, but these bioses are still immature, and still dealing with bugs...like have to use precision X (software) to tell the card to follow the bios :rolleyes:.

    ended up with 2 possible solutions, but to avoid long post, im opt33 here

    Based on Hokie's review, he got a much better gpu throttling wise than mine, as did many reviewers, as did some others win the throttling/leaky gpu lottery.... though many got the throttling disease like mine...or very leaky ones like mine. Looking at Hokie's review, his stock fire strike run was 8754. That is about where my stock run was, and my OCed one was barely higher...because mine throttled horribly down to near stock with normal benchmarks like fire strike...for which this gpu should not throttle. Granted if exceeding 300W hard limit, like running furmark, all cards would throttle to stock, but normal gaming far cry 3, my card throttled horribly.

    Bottom line, if buying a titan, either win the lottery for throttling, wait for nividia to fix/improve the problem as they said they would, or play mod/flash the bios.

    here is my pic with non-throttling bios in fire strike, 3dmark11 (attached precision graph showing steady 1228 core under load), so with less buggy bios, can hold rock steady 1228 core, +280mhz, 1.2vcore, and since card has a hard limit of 300W, im not above it. Using exact same power limits as my original bios specified (though my bios was ignored b/c bugged) except with naennons working bios, I would not throttle until 1150, but I raised the soft power limits only 30W from my stock bios (from 250 to 280) and now not throttling even at 1228.
    7970 isn't a justifiable upgrade over a 580, and for 24/7 rigs I usually try to avoid upgrading a generation at a time, and waiting to upgrade 2 generations...usually encourage others to do the same. I'd be spending less in the short run and more in the long run. Two would be okay, but at that point I'd be better off with either 7990 or Titan. I like the sound of Crysis being playable on triple monitor, also like the sound of slimmed down Titan. $800 would be pretty good, that'd already be more or less equal to GTX670 SLi.

    680 and Titan have a justifiably large gap in price. Titan is more comparable to 690, and personally, from what I'm reading, I would likely prefer a Titan to a 690 as well.
    How big of a hit is AF? Last I understood its not appreciable.. you can crank that to 16x I have to imagine... assuming what I remember is right about the barely above negligible performance hit it (used to?)...
    Gautam
    I am strongly considering Titan for my daily driver, and I'd like to see if any of you guys can talk me out of it.

    I'm using a Korean 27" and my GTX580 is growing long in the tooth. The additional headache that I've just run into is that I got a new TV and want to connect it to my computer which already has two monitors. A pleasant surprise- single GTX5xx's can't run any more than 2 displays period, so either I need to get another GTX580, or I need to upgrade. I'm also toying with the idea of getting two more 27 inchers and doing the 3 monitor surround thing.

    I don't like SLi, and I don't feel like spending money on something as dated as a 580, so it'll have to be something new. GTX680 is okay, but it likely won't give the bump in performance that I'm looking for.

    Looks like GTX670 SLi is a popular choice for high res setups, but it's not particularly cheap in itself, only a couple hundred bucks cheaper than a single Titan really, and even two of them together will have less vram than a single Titan. Plus, watercooling is a must for me, and once I add in the price of another waterblock, it'll likely end up being a wash. Did I mention that I don't like SLi?

    Titan seems to be everything I want. Huge amount of vram, huge enough power from a single GPU that I won't feel obligated to add a second. Though, even for someone like me who is no stranger to the priciest of pricey computer hardware, a grand on a single GPU does make me do a double take.

    What I really would like to do is just get one and forget about it for the next 3 years or so. It's what I did with GTX580 and Gulftown, which I'm still running. Titan/Haswell should be a major enough upgrade that I won't have to worry about messing with it for a long time to come. That makes the price easier to swallow as well.


    If you dislike SLI / CrossFire and want the best single GPU solution you can get, bar none and irrespective of budget, Titan is your bag G.

    I think the 7970 is best bang-for-buck, trading blows for out-of-the-box performance, but once you overclock it, the NVIDIA lineup is left in the dust since they have no appreciable voltage control for additional overclocking headroom. So if you're looking to spend less than $400, 7970. Like ED said though, it will be long in the tooth three years from now, especially considering it's over a year old already.

    If you don't necessarily care about budget and just want the best single GPU there is, Titan for sure.

    Both will require image quality and MSAA compromises with three monitors, obviously 7970 more so than Titan. That's just a LOT of pixels for one GPU to handle, regardless of which one you're talking about.

    --------------

    Speaking of, a little update for you guys - I've arrived at the perfectly playable Crysis 3 settings for triple monitors on Titan:

    FXAA, "High" detail settings, "Medium" motion blur and 4x AF. That nets a happily playable, no slow-down 48FPS.
    I am in the same spot you are... (27" 2560x1440). I had a 680 and ran things swimmingly maxed out, though I was hitting the 2GB vram. That said, 7970 with 3GB is the way to go IMO.

    Though, in 3 years, the 7970 will be long in the tooth I fear...

    I got a 690 in a lucky happenstance (traded my 680 + CX430 PSU for it and built this guy's PC). I dont like it only because of the 2GB limit.

    I think a 7990 is in order here personally... though then again, you dont like SLI and Im assuming CFx either?

    Titan for you, in that case, IMO. BUt I would rock 7990... Its what Im going to try to do personally.
    I am strongly considering Titan for my daily driver, and I'd like to see if any of you guys can talk me out of it.

    I'm using a Korean 27" and my GTX580 is growing long in the tooth. The additional headache that I've just run into is that I got a new TV and want to connect it to my computer which already has two monitors. A pleasant surprise- single GTX5xx's can't run any more than 2 displays period, so either I need to get another GTX580, or I need to upgrade. I'm also toying with the idea of getting two more 27 inchers and doing the 3 monitor surround thing.

    I don't like SLi, and I don't feel like spending money on something as dated as a 580, so it'll have to be something new. GTX680 is okay, but it likely won't give the bump in performance that I'm looking for.

    Looks like GTX670 SLi is a popular choice for high res setups, but it's not particularly cheap in itself, only a couple hundred bucks cheaper than a single Titan really, and even two of them together will have less vram than a single Titan. Plus, watercooling is a must for me, and once I add in the price of another waterblock, it'll likely end up being a wash. Did I mention that I don't like SLi?

    Titan seems to be everything I want. Huge amount of vram, huge enough power from a single GPU that I won't feel obligated to add a second. Though, even for someone like me who is no stranger to the priciest of pricey computer hardware, a grand on a single GPU does make me do a double take.

    What I really would like to do is just get one and forget about it for the next 3 years or so. It's what I did with GTX580 and Gulftown, which I'm still running. Titan/Haswell should be a major enough upgrade that I won't have to worry about messing with it for a long time to come. That makes the price easier to swallow as well.