NVIDIA GeForce GTX 780 - Affordable GK110

When NVIDIA introduced the GeForce GTX Titan back in February, they unleashed a video card that quickly became recognized as the fastest single-GPU on the desktop market. The GeForce GTX Titan uses the GK110 'Kepler' GPU along with 6GB of GDDR5 memory to show gamers how current game titles are meant to be played. No doubt the GeForce GTX Titan runs circles around the competition, but it also costs $999 and that is out of reach for most mainstream and enthusiast gamers. Shortly after the NVIDIA GeForce GTX Titan was released we began hearing rumors of a less costly card with fewer stream processors and less memory to help fill the huge price gap between the GeForce GTX 680 at $449 and the GTX Titan at $999. The rumor mill was calling that card the GeForce GTX Titan LE, but it appears that was wrong. NVIDIA had other plans and introduced the GeForce GTX 780 last week, which is the first GeForce 700 series graphics card to be released!

titan-gtx780

If you take a look at the image above and compare the GeForce GTX Titan (top) to the GeForce GTX 780 (bottom) you should be able to figure out where this is all headed. The NVIDIA GeForce GTX 780 might be the first video card to be released in the GeForce GTX 700 series, but it's not really ground breaking. It's basically a GeForce GTX Titan with some things on the GK110 GPU disabled and half the memory. The best part about the new NVIDIA GeForce GTX 780 is that it comes with a suggested retail price of $649. That makes it 35% less than the cost of a GeForce GTX Titan. The question is what did they disable?

 

  GTX Titan GTX 780 GTX 680
GPU GK110 GK110 GK104
Streaming Multiprocessors 14 12 8
Stream Processors 2688 2304 1536
Texture Units 224 192 128
ROPs 48 48 32
Core Clock 837MHz 863MHz 1006MHz
Boost Clock 876MHz 902MHz 1058MHz
Memory Amount 6144MB GDDR5 3072MB GDDR5 2048MB GDDR5
Memory Clock 6008MMHz 6008MHz 6008Hz
Memory Bus Width 384-bit 384-bit 256-bit
Memory Bandwidth 288.4 GB/s 288.4 GB/s 192.26 GB/s
TDP 250W 250W 195W
Suggested Power Supply 600W 600W 550W
Transistor Count 7.1B 7.1B 3.54B
Manufacturing Process TSMC 28nm TSMC 28nm TSMC 28nm
Street Price
$999 $649 $449

Here is a quick chart that breaks down the key specifications for you along for those that like to see everything in a table. The GeForce GTX 780 has base clock of 863MHz and a Boost click of 902MHz, which is higher than the clocks on a Titan, but notice that it has fewer stream processors (CUDA Cores). The GeForce GTX 780 has two SMs (Streaming Multiprocessors) disabled, which means it has 2304 CUDA cores versus 2688 on Titan. The number of texture units also decreases from 224 on Titan to 192 on the GeForce GTX 780.

NVIDIA reduced the memory down to just 3GB on the GTX 780, but notice that the clock speed is still 6008MHz (effective) and connected with a 384-bit memory interface.  This means the memory bandwidth is is still 288.4 GB/s and the peak texture fill rate is 165.7 GTexels/s. The reduction of memory might be of a concern to some gamers, so we'll be addressing those concerns by benchmarking the GeForce GTX Titan, GTX 780, GTX 680 and GTX 580 at 5760x1080, 2560x1600 and 1920x1080. This wide range of resolutions should cover the frame buffer performance questions that many have. We believe that Ultra HD resolutions are where gaming is headed, so we will be headed in that direction with our high-end GPU reviews.

 

NVIDIA_GeForce_GTX_780-Front

The NVIDIA GeForce GTX 780 video card shares the same general PCB design and the identical GPU cooler. The GeForce GTX 780 looks sharp thanks to a silver aluminum casing for the cover and a clear polycarbonate window that allows you to see the vapor chamber and dual-slot heatsink used on the card.

NVIDIA_GeForce_GTX_780-Top

The GeForce GTX logo on the edge of the board is also LED backlit just like the one on the GeForce GTX 690 and Titan. NVIDIA suggests a 600W or greater power supply for the GTX 780 and you'll need both an 8-pin and a 6-pin PCIe power connector for proper operation.

NVIDIA_GeForce_GTX_780-Back

The back of the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 780 doesn't have a backplate and you can't see any of the GDDR5 memory ICs that make up the cards 3GB frame buffer.

samsung GDDR5 ICs

NVIDIA is using Samsung K4G20325FD-FC03 GDDR5 memory chips on the GeForce GTX 780.

NVIDIA GeForce GTX Titan Video Card Bracket

Display outputs include two dual-link DVIs, one HDMI and one DisplayPort 1.2 connector. This video card easily supports 4K resolution monitors and supports up to four monitors concurrently. Keep in mind that the GeForce GTX 580 supported just two monitors, so NVIDIA has really been improving their monitor support and display connectivity options over the past couple years.

Now that we have the basics covered, let's take a quick look at the test setup and move along to the game benchmarks!

Test System

Before we look at the numbers, let's take a brief look at the test system that was used. All testing was done using a fresh install of Windows 7 Ultimate 64-bit and benchmarks were completed on the desktop with no other software programs running.

Video Cards & Drivers used for testing:

Intel X79/LGA2011 Platform

NVIDIA Test Setup

Test System Settings

The Intel X79 platform that we used to test the all of the video cards was running the ASUS P9X79 Deluxe motherboard with BIOS 0305 that came out on 12/25/2012. The Corsair Vengeance 16GB 1866MHz quad channel memory kit was set to 1866MHz with 1.5v and 9-10-9-27 1T memory timings. The OCZ Vertex 3 240GB SSD was run with firmware version 2.25.

 

The Intel X79 Test Platform

 

Component

 

Brand/Model

 

Live Pricing

 

Processor

 

Intel Core i7-3960X

 

Motherboard

ASUS P9X79 Deluxe

 

Memory

16GB Corsair 1866MHz

 

Video Card

 

Various

 

Solid-State Drive

 

OCZ Vertex 3 240GB

 

Cooling

 

Intel RTS2011LC

 

Power Supply

Corsair AX1200

 

Operating System

 

Windows 7 Ultimate 64-bit

 

NVIDIA GeForce GTX 780 GPU-Z Information:

gtx780-gpuz

gtx780-idle

 

Battlefield 3

Battlefield 3 Screenshot

Battlefield 3 (BF3) is a first-person shooter video game developed by EA Digital Illusions CE and published by Electronic Arts. The game was released in North America on October 25, 2011 and in Europe on October 28, 2011. It does not support versions of Windows prior to Windows Vista as the game only supports DirectX 10 and 11. It is a direct sequel to 2005's Battlefield 2, and the eleventh installment in the Battlefield franchise. The game sold 5 million copies in its first week of release and the PC download is exclusive to EA's Origin platform, through which PC users also authenticate when connecting to the game.

Battlefield 3 Screenshot

Battlefield 3 debuts the new Frostbite 2 engine. This updated Frostbite engine can realistically portray the destruction of buildings and scenery to a greater extent than previous versions. Unlike previous iterations, the new version can also support dense urban areas. Battlefield 3 uses a new type of character animation technology called ANT. ANT technology is used in EA Sports games, such as FIFA, but for Battlefield 3 is adapted to create a more realistic soldier, with the ability to transition into cover and turn the head before the body.

bf3

Benchmark Results: The NVIDIA GeForce GTX 780 looks like it is going to perform really well as it is just 3GPS behind the GeForce GTX Titan at 2560x1600! On our 3-panel NVIDIA Surround setup there is a 4 FPS difference between the GTX Titan and GTX 780. The NVIDIA GeForce GTX 580 doesn't support a 3-panel NVIDIA surround setup, so that is why there will not be any 5760x1080 results for any of the game titles. We wanted to include NVIDIA GeForce GTX 580 results though as there are many GeForce 5 series owners out there! As you can see there is a very big difference in performance between the GeForce GTX 580 and the GeForce GTX 780, so the original GeForce GTX 580 owners might be tempted to upgrade now!

Bioshock Infinite

BioShock Infinite is a first-person shooter video game developed by Irrational Games, and published by 2K Games. BioShock Infinite is the third installment in the BioShock series, and though it is not part of the storyline of previous BioShock games, it does feature similar gameplay concepts and themes. BioShock Infinite uses a Modified Unreal Engine 3 game engine and was released worldwide on March 26, 2013.

Bioshock Infinite

We tested BioShock Infinite with the Ultra game settings.

bioshock

Benchmark Results: The NVIDIA GeForce GTX Titan and GeForce GTX 780 were fairly close in performance, but at 2560x1600 the GTX780 was ~8% slower and then at 5760x1080 it was ~13% slower. The NVIDIA GeForce GTX 780 was found to be twice as fast as the ASUS GeForce GTX 580 at 2560x1600, so if you have a GeForce GTX 580 in your system with an Ultra HD monitor or NVIDIA Surround setup there are clear performance gains to be had!

Far Cry 3

Farcry3 Game Screenshot

Far Cry 3 is an open world first-person shooter video game developed by Ubisoft Montreal and published by Ubisoft for Microsoft Windows, Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. It is the sequel to 2008's Far Cry 2. The game was released on December 4th, 2012 for North America. Far Cry 3 is set on a tropical island found somewhere at the intersection of the Indian and Pacific Oceans.[11] After a vacation goes awry, player character Jason Brody has to save his kidnapped friends and escape from the islands and their unhinged inhabitants.

FarCry 3 Quality Settings

FarCry 3 Video Quality

Far Cry 3 uses the Dunia Engine 2 game engine with Havok physics. The graphics are excellent and the game really pushes the limits of what one can expect from mainstream graphics cards. We set game title to 8x MSAA Anti-Aliasing and ultra quality settings. 

farcry3

Benchmark Results: The NVIDIA GeForce GTX 780 was found to be 2FPS slower than the GeForce GTX Titan at both 2560x1600 and 5760x1080 in Far Cry 3. Not a huge performance difference there, but there is nearly a 10FPS difference between the GTX780 and GTX680 at 2560x1600!

Hitman: Absolution

Hitman: Absolution is an action-adventure stealth DirecX 11 video game developed by IO Interactive and published by Square Enix. It is the fifth entry in the Hitman game series, and runs on IO Interactive's proprietary Glacier 2 game engine. This game title uses the Glacier 2 game engine and was released on November 20th, 2012.

hitmanabsolution_550.

We benchmarked Hitman: Absolution with Ultra Settings.

 hitman-benchmark

Benchmark Results: The NVIDIA GeForce GTX Titan and GeForce GTX 780 were fairly close in performance, but at 2560x1600 the GTX780 was ~8% slower and then at 5760x1080 it was ~13% slower. The NVIDIA GeForce GTX 780 was found to be twice as fast as the ASUS GeForce GTX 580 at 2560x1600, so if you have a GeForce GTX 580 in your system with an Ultra HD monitor or NVIDIA Surround setup there are clear performance gains to be had!

Metro Last Light

Metro: Last Light is a first-person shooter video game developed by Ukrainian studio 4A Games and published by Deep Silver. The game is set in a post-apocalyptic world and features action-oriented gameplay with a combination of survival horror elements. It uses the 4A Game engine and was released in May 2013.

Metro: Last Light

Metro Last Light was benchmarked with Ultra settings

metro-ll

Benchmark Results: The NVIDIA GeForce GTX Titan and GeForce GTX 780 are again very in performance as you can see in the benchmark results for Metro: Last Light. At 2560x1600 the GTX780 was ~4% slower than the titan and then at 5760x1080 the performance gap widened to being ~9% slower. The NVIDIA GeForce GTX 780 was found to be nearly twice as fast as a GeForce GTX 580 at 2560x1600. 

Tomb Raider

Tomb Raider

On March 5th, 2013 Square Enix released Tomb Raider, billed as a reboot of the franchise. In Tomb Raider, the player is confronted with a much younger Lara Croft who is shipwrecked and finds herself stranded on a mysterious island rife with danger, both natural and human. In contrast to the earlier games Croft is portrayed as vulnerable, acting out of necessity, desperation and sheer survival rather than for a greater cause or personal gain.

Tomb Raider Settings

The game has been built on Crystal Dynamics's game engine called the "Crystal Engine" and the graphics look fantastic. AMD and Crystal Dyanmic's worked on a new technology called TressFX Hair, which AMD describes as “the world’s first in-game implementation of a real-time, per-strand hair physics system” for this game title. We set the image quality to ultimate for benchmarking, but we disabled TressFX Hair under the advanced tab to be fair to NVIDIA graphics cards that don't support the feature.

Tomb Raider Benchmark Results

Benchmark Results: In Tom Raider we found the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 780 being twice as fast as the GeForce GTX 580 and nearly 50% faster than the GeForce GTX 680 at 2560x1600! The NVIDIA GeForce GTX Titan was 8% faster than the GeForce GTX 780 at 2560x1600. 

3DMark 2013

3Dmark Fire Strike Benchmark Results - For high performance gaming PCs

Use Fire Strike to test the performance of dedicated gaming PCs, or use the Fire Strike Extreme preset for high-end systems with multiple GPUs. Fire Strike uses a multi-threaded DirectX 11 engine to test DirectX 11 hardware.

3DMark Fire Strike

 

Fire Strike Benchmark Results:

firestrike

 

Benchmark Results: 3DMark Fire Strike benchmark has the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 780 coming in at 8700 3DMarks. This makes it 7% slower than the GeForce GTX Titan and 34% faster than the GeForce GTX 680.

Fire Strike Extreme:

firestrike-extreme

Benchmark Results: 3DMark Fire Strike Extreme benchmark found the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 780 having an overall score of 4413 3DMarks. This makes it 8% slower than the GeForce GTX Titan and 38% faster than the GeForce GTX 680.

Catzilla

Catzilla is a relatively new benchmark that is made the Polish demoscene group Plasticis. something we are using for that reasonis being produced in collaboration with Polish post production company, Plastige. Plastige is the company that worked on Witcher 2 Enhanced Edition and some of the developers there were behind the PlayStation Network game Datura. The benchmark uses a parallel graphics engine that takes advantage of multi-core CPUs. This isn't a benchmark being made in some kids basement and it doesn't appear to be bought off by any companies yet, so it should be a good benchmark to use.

catzilla-benchmark

While this benchmark is in beta phases, we still have found that Catzilla is a good cross-API benchmark. You also can't go wrong with a benchmark that has a giant animated cat nuke cities with its laser eyes as you do. You can watch a video of the benchmark in action below.

We purchased Catzilla Advanced and ran the full Catzilla benchmark at 2560x1440.  This 1440p benchmark is designed for high-end computers, which is perfect as that is where these video cards are going to end up!

catzilla

Benchmark Results: The NVIDIA GeForce GTX 780 was found to be 11% slower than the GeForce GTX Titan and 29% faster than the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 680 in Catzilla!

Temperature & Noise Testing

Temperature & Noise Testing

Temperatures are important to enthusiasts and gamers, so we took a bit of time and did some temperature testing on the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 780 video card.

NVIDIA GeForce GTX 780 Idle Temperature:

gtx780-idle

The NVIDIA GeForce GTX 780 video card had an idle temperature of 31.0C in a room that was 22.0C (72F). Not bad for a graphics card that features over 7 billion transistors!

NVIDIA GeForce GTX 780 Gaming Temperature:

gtx780-gaming

When playing Far Cry 3 and Battlefield 3 for about 30 minutes each, we hit 80C and didn't manage to go over that threshold since that is what the cards default temperature limit is. Notice the fan speed went from 1140RPM at idle to 2060RPM when gaming. You really can't hear the card with it in your system at idle, but when you start gaming you can hear the fan a bit. Notice that the GeForce GTX 780 is hitting 1006MHz on the core clock when gaming.

temp-testing

When it comes to temperature testing the NVIDIA GeForce GTX Titan and GTX 780 have temperature targets of 80C. That means when these cards reach this temperature they will reduce the clock frequencies and voltages for the temperature to level off. The idle temperatures of the GeForce GTX 780 are slightly better than that of the GeForce GTX Titan.

Sound Testing

We recently upgraded our sound meter to an Extech sound level meter with ±1.5dB accuracy that meets Type 2 standards. This meter ranges from 35dB to 90dB on the low measurement range, which is perfect for us as our test room usually averages around 36dB. We measure the sound level two inches above the corner of the motherboard with 'A' frequency weighting. The microphone wind cover is used to make sure no wind is blowing across the microphone, which would seriously throw off the data.

noise

When it comes to noise levels the NVIDIA GeForce GTX Titan and GTX 780 were found to be very quiet and shouldn't be heard over the case fans found in most systems! NVIDIA GPU Boost 2.0 and the adaptive temperature controller found on both the Titan and GTX 780 are simply awesome and give gamers a great experience during gameplay.

Power Consumption

NVIDIA_GeForce_GTX_780-Top

For testing power consumption, we took our test system and plugged it into a Kill-A-Watt power meter. For idle numbers, we allowed the system to idle on the desktop for 15 minutes and took the reading. For load numbers we ran three games at 1920x1080 and averaged the peak results seen on the power meter.

power-consumption

Power Consumption Results: The NVIDIA GeForce GTX 780 is basically a GeForce GTX Titan with half the memory and fewer enabled CUDA cores, so it shouldn't come as a big shock that it uses less power at load. The difference isn't significant, but it is measurable. Just because NVIDIA has disabled cores in the GK110 'Kepler' GPU doesn't mean that they are no longer powered, so that is one of the reasons that the power draw is so similar. 

NVIDIA GeForce GTX 780 Overclocking

We installed the EVGA Precision X 4.2.0 software utility to see how the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 780 3GB video card could overclocked!

evga-precisionx

EVGA Precision X v4.2.0 includes a few new features that are unique to this card. Not only can you adjust the power target, GPU and Memory clock offsets within a certain range, but you can now also adjust the temperature target.  By default the power and temp targets are linked together, but you can unlink them and adjust them independently.

gtx780-oc

In case you forgot.  The NVIDIA GeForce GTX 780 has a base clock of 863MHz with a boost clock of 902MHz! We often saw the GeForce GTX 780 hitting 1006MHz though in game titles as there was enough overhead to run that high. To see how much higher we could get we increased the power target to 105% and set the GPU clock offset to +175MHz and the mem clock offset to +125MHz.  We found this overclock to be rock solid and we saw the GeForce GTX 780 running at 1176MHz on the core and 1566MHz memory (6464MHz effective). This is not a bad overclock and we were very happy with the performance gains it gave us.

firestrike-oc

For example in 3DMark Fire Strike we saw performance go from 8700 to 9823 by overclocking the GeForce GTX 780.  This is a performance gain of 13% and enough extra power to outperform a stock GeForce GTX Titan! So, can you overclock an NVIDIA GeForce GTX 780 to perform as fast or slightly faster than a GeForce GTX Titan? Yes, if you are willing to sacrifice some power efficiency!

Conclusion

When we first learned of the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 780 video card we were a bit disappointed to see that was basically a GeForce Titan with half the memory and a toned-down GK110 'Kepler' GPU. We aren't big fans of re-branding like that, but we dove head first into this review with a positive attitude. We were also very interested to see what happens when you take away half the Titan's frame buffer and 14% of the GPU's stream processors.

The performance decrease that we expected to see from Titan was present, but not nearly as bad as we expected. For example in Metro: Last Light at 5760x1080 the GTX 780 was just 9% slower than the Titan. At 2560x1600 and 1920x1080 screen resolutions that performance gap narrowed to just 4-6 percent, which is on the borderline of being significant. Our testing in Battlefield 3, Bioshock Infinite, Far Cry 3, Hitman: Absolution and Tomb Raider all showed similar results. Just for fun we also benchmarked the old NVIDIA GeForce GTX 580 video card that came out in November 2010 and found that the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 780 nearly doubles the performance of that card. If you happen to have one of those cards and are looking for a significant performance jump before you update, you finally have a good option and it no longer costs $999.

titan-gtx780

When it comes to pricing the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 780 can be picked up online for $649.99 shipped. This is still a pretty penny, but keep in mind this is a high-end gaming graphics card aimed at those gaming above 1920x1080. Sure, you can use this card for 1920x1080 gaming, but that is like doing the speed limit on a highway with a super car. NVIDIA is designing these high-end cards for Ultra HD gaming, so think 2560x1600 or 5760x1080 with an NVIDIA Surround setup. This card would also be well suited for 4K gaming for those that can afford a 4K display setup!

At the end of the day the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 780 is going to make those that were on the fence about buying a GeForce GTX Titan very happy. You now have a card that has similar performance and the same appearance and software features (GPU Boost 2.0 and Display Overclocking) for 35% less cash. For those that are looking to spend under $500, you'll have to wait a bit longer as the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 770 likely won't be too far behind.

 
Editors Choice Award

Legit Bottom Line: The NVIDIA GeForce GTX 780 fills in the performance gap between the GeForce GTX 680 and GeForce GTX Titan, but does not bring any new technologies or features to the table that weren't already available on the GeForce GTX Titan.