It’s safe to say that Nvidia is really competing with itself at this point in time. The current GeForce GTX 680 is pretty much even in performance to AMD’s Radeon HD 7970 GHz Edition, but much quieter and uses less power. The GeForce Titan outperforms AMD’s single-GPU flagship by a wide margin, but costs a cool grand, so it’s out of reach of most users.
Enter the GeForce GTX 780. At first blush, it seems like a “Baby Titan”, but that would be inaccurate. Let’s look at the base specs, compared to both the Titan and the GTX 680.
|Feature||GTX 680||GTX 780||GTX Titan|
|Memory Type||GDDR5 (6gbps)||GDDR5 (7gpbs)||GDDR5 (6gpbs)|
|Transistors||3.5 billion||7.1 billion||7.1 billion|
|Core Clock Speed (ref)||1006 MHz||863 MHz||836 MHz|
|Boost Clock||1058 MHz||900 MHz||876 MHz|
|Noise Under Load (ref)||46 dBA||43 dBA||46 dBA|
Given that the GTX 780 uses the same GPU chip as the GTX Titan, but with roughly 15% fewer shader cores and half the memory, the GTX 780 offers about 80% of the gaming performance of a Titan, as we’ll see shortly. Take a look at that memory speed, too: 7000 MHz (effective), or 1gpbs faster throughput than the Titan or GTX 680. There’s no lack of memory bandwidth with the GTX 780. However, Nvidia told us that the GTX 780 would only have about a quarter of the double precision floating point performance of Titan. In other words, the GTX 780 will be a great gaming card, but won’t come close to Titan for high end GPU compute.
Digging a little deeper into the features of the GTX 780 card itself, Nvidia’s made some interesting design decisions in the reference design. The cooling subsystem is tweaked from Titan to run even quieter. Nvidia accomplished this by managing fan speeds to run closer to a steady state, rather than ramping the fan speeds up and down rapidly.
The GTX 780 will cost substantially less than a Titan, at about $649 for reference grade cards, but that's nearly $200 more than a 2GB GTX 680. However, 4GB GTX 680s still cost nearly $600, so the price differential between a GTX 780 and GTX 680 4GB card isn’t as large, while new new card offers quite a bit more performance. Still, $649 is a pretty steep price for a video card, and it’s partly a result of AMD’s inability to compete on single GPU performance. The lack of competition puts Nvidia in the enviable position of being able to set higher prices than they might have if competition had been stiffer. I included a GTX 680 4GB card for comparison, but it’s likely that performance differences with a 2GB card will be minor.
With this sobering thought in mind, let’s take a look at performance.