The graphics card market has experienced some amazing turns lately even though AMD and Nvidia haven't made serious architectural changes in 2013. Most recent GPUs have been rebadges, while a handful are just extensions of previous-gen technology, including the flagships from both camps. The R9 290X's Hawaii XT core boosted the performance of the HD 7970's Tahiti XT core around 38% with a memory bus that's 33% wider, while the GTX Titan is powered by a version of the GTX 680's GPU, except it's 90% bigger!
Having traded performance blows, both companies are tightening their pricing with the $400 R9 290 forcing the GTX 780 down to $500 from $650, further invalidating the GTX Titan, which is effectively history after the announcement of the GTX 780 Ti that we'll be testing today.
Nvidia's latest offering packs 7% more CUDA cores and 17% increased bandwidth for $700 -- 30% less than the Titan, which is still $1,000 new in case you want one for your museum. It may only be a tuned GTX 780, but we expect Nvidia's new Ti card to be the fastest single-GPU offering around.
As if it wasn't already fast enough, Gigabyte has armed its GTX 780 Ti with a massive air cooler that can handle 450W of heat, allowing the company to ship its variant of Nvidia's newcomer with a 17% overclock.
The company has also been working on other overclocked GTX 780s, including a "GHz Edition" (not official Nvidia nomenclature) that features the same 450W cooler, allowing a core clock of 1.02GHz or 18% higher than the standard version of the card. We're here, of course, to see how these fit into today's crowded but nonetheless interesting and heated enthusiast lineup.
Gigabyte GeForce GTX 780 Ti and 780 GHz Edition in Detail
The GTX 780 GHz Edition and GTX 780 Ti OC are similar enough that we decided to cover them together. The GTX 780 reference board measures 26.7cm long while Gigabyte's cards are slightly longer with their upgraded cooler stretching 29cm (their boards are still 26.7cm long). The display outputs remain standard including two dual-link DVIs, one HDMI and one DisplayPort connector.
With 2304 CUDA cores, the GTX 780 launched with 50% more cores and 50% more memory than the GTX 680. Six 64-bit memory controllers make up a 384-bit wide bus and Nvidia's specification pairs the GPU with GDDR5 memory clocked at 6008Mhz, which provides up to 288.4GB/sec of peak bandwidth.
The 2304 CUDA cores in its 12 SMX units are clocked at 863MHz by default, though using Boost 2.0 they can be clocked up to 902MHz in certain scenarios. Nvidia's second-gen GPU Boost technology works in the background, dynamically adjusting the GPU's clock speed based on operating conditions.
This is where Gigabyte has made the biggest changes, increasing the GTX 780 GHz Edition's base clock to 1019MHz, while the boost clock exceeds 1GHz at 1071MHz. This 18% overclock should be enough to deliver Titan-like performance, while the GTX 780 Ti and Gigabyte's OC model take things even further.
The reference GTX 780 Ti boasts 2880 CUDA cores, 25% more than the GTX 780, bringing the SMX unit count up to 15 with each clocked at 875MHz (928MHz via boost). Nvidia upgraded the Ti's with the 7GHz GDDR5 memory you'll find on the GTX 770, allowing for a bandwidth of 336.4GB/s using the 384-bit bus.
Gigabyte has significantly increased the clock speed of its GTX 780 Ti OC card, hitting a base of 1020MHz with a 1085MHz boost clock. The company doesn't seem to have touched the memory frequency, but that makes sense since it's already running at 7GHz. It did add a massive triple fan cooler, however.
The GTX 780 GHz Edition and GTX 780 Ti OC maintain their overclocked frequencies via the WindForce 3X's trio of 75mm fans as well as Gigabyte's exclusive "Triangle Cool" technology, which uses a series of fins and triangular clip modules to better direct airflow over the heatsink.
Two 8mm and four 6mm copper heatpipes cool the memory chips and power phase. The heatsink is wrapped in an aluminum shroud that looks nicer than the old plastic one as well as an aluminum back plate for extra protection. All told, Gigabyte says its design cools 20% better than Nvidia's reference.
The GHz Edition's external power configuration has also been upgraded from the standard GTX 780 with two 8-pin PCIe power connectors while the GTX 780 Ti OC has the standard 6-pin/8-pin configuration. Both have a TDP of 250W, 28% greater than the GTX 680 so Nvidia recommends a 600W power supply.