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NVIDIA GeForce GTX TITAN 6GB Performance Review

SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
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Dirt: Showdown (DX11)

Dirt: Showdown (DX11)


<iframe width="560" height="315" src="http://www.youtube.com/embed/IFeuOhk14h0?rel=0" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>​

Among racing games, Dirt: Showdown is somewhat unique since it deals with demolition-derby type racing where the player is actually rewarded for wrecking other cars. It is also one of the many titles which falls under the Gaming Evolved umbrella so the development team has worked hard with AMD to implement DX11 features. In this case, we set up a custom 1-lap circuit using the in-game benchmark tool within the Nevada level.


2560x1600



At 2560x1600, Dirt Showdown’s performance obviously favors AMD cards since the GeForce products are literally cut off at the knees. According to NVIDIA they’ve been unable to crack the AMD-centric optimizations built into this game engine and the result is a distinct advantage for the HD 7970 GHz Edition. However, with that being said, we’re still seeing completely playable framerates from every card.


5760x1080



With the game engine supposedly favoring AMD’s solutions, it’s no surprise to see the GHz Edition competing at a nearly impossible level. Once again, the TITAN puts up a good fight against the GTX 690 but losing to a graphics card that’s priced at just $475 certainly doesn’t look good for a $1000 product.
 

SKYMTL

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Far Cry 3 (DX11)

Far Cry 3 (DX11)


<iframe width="560" height="315" src="http://www.youtube.com/embed/mGvwWHzn6qY?rel=0" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>​

One of the best looking games in recent memory, Far Cry 3 has the capability to bring even the fastest systems to their knees. Its use of nearly the entire repertoire of DX11’s tricks may come at a high cost but with the proper GPU, the visuals will be absolutely stunning.

To benchmark Far Cry 3, we used a typical run-through which includes several in-game environments such as a jungle, in-vehicle and in-town areas.



2560x1600



Here the TITAN shows its capabilities by providing some incredible performance for a single GPU graphics card. It strides the path between NVIDIA’s GTX 680 and GTX 690 but doesn’t actually come close to beating its $999 predecessor. The delta between the two cards hovers around 35% which may make the TITAN’s price a bit harder to swallow.


5760x1080



Unfortunately for the 6GB TITAN, the GTX 690 once again surges ahead, though this time by about 20% despite the frame buffer discrepancy. However, no matter which way you look at it, this new card is in another league when compared against other single GPU cards.
 

SKYMTL

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Hitman Absolution (DX11)

Hitman Absolution (DX11)


<iframe width="560" height="315" src="http://www.youtube.com/embed/8UXx0gbkUl0?rel=0" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>​

Hitman is arguably one of the most popular FPS (first person “sneaking”) franchises around and this time around Agent 47 goes rogue so mayhem soon follows. Our benchmark sequence is taken from the beginning of the Terminus level which is one of the most graphically-intensive areas of the entire game. It features an environment virtually bathed in rain and puddles making for numerous reflections and complicated lighting effects.


2560x1600



Once again average framerates only tell a very small section of the story. Even though the GTX 690 may look faster than NVIDIA TITAN, it doesn’t provide a comparable gaming experience since several times its framerates dip into much lower territories. AMD’s HD 7970 GHz Edition is able to hang on quite well here too since NVIDIA hasn’t quite been able to roll out optimizations for Absolution.


5760x1080



In this test, the TITAN reigns supreme with excellent performance results against the GTX 690 while the GTX 680 failed to run the test due to graphics corruption (according to NVIDIA, this will be fixed in their March driver revision). TITAN’s advantage over the HD 7970 GHz shrinks to a miniscule amount, once again proving that AMD’s Gaming Evolved program seems to be paying off.
 

SKYMTL

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Max Payne 3 (DX11)

Max Payne 3 (DX11)


<iframe width="560" height="315" src="http://www.youtube.com/embed/ZdiYTGHhG-k?rel=0" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>​

When Rockstar released Max Payne 3, it quickly became known as a resource hog and that isn’t surprising considering its top-shelf graphics quality. This benchmark sequence is taken from Chapter 2, Scene 14 and includes a run-through of a rooftop level featuring expansive views. Due to its random nature, combat is kept to a minimum so as to not overly impact the final result.


2560x1600



In this game TITAN seems to stake out its own playing field, equidistant between the GTX 690 and GTX 680. Its performance never comes close to either but seeing these kinds of framerates from a single GPU card is nonetheless impressive.


5760x1080



Unfortunately for the TITAN, AMD’s GHz Edition is once again able to close the gap considerably. However, in comparison against the GTX 690, this new card is able to offer a much more consistent gaming experience.
 

SKYMTL

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Messages
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Frame Time Testing (2560x1600)

Frame Time Testing (2560x1600)


Please note that our complete frame time testing methodology can be found HERE. For the purposes of this section, any frame time above 40ms (ie: 25FPS or below) should be considered too slow to maintain a fluid in-game experience.


All of the cards in this benchmark provide adequately smooth performance with the TITAN in the lead. AMD’s HD 7970 puts in a respectable showing as well since the time its spends above the 40ms mark is minimal while the GXT 690 also puts in some great numbers despite using a pair of GPUs.


Once again the GTX TITAN is able to deliver the “smoothest” experience on paper but you’d be hard pressed to find a real-life difference between it and the GTX 690. The HD 7970 GHz Edition on the other hand also delivers consistent performance, though there are two areas where the game itself simply overwhelms its architecture’s capabilities.


In Dirt Showdown, the GTX 690 begins to show the faintest inclination to induce microstutter though it very rarely makes its way past the 40ms mark. On the other hand, the GeForce TITAN and HD 7970 GHz Edition provide excellent results. If anything, this shows that despite performing almost equally in this game’s framerate testing, the TITAN and GTX 690 are miles apart when it comes to delivering fluidity.


Considering Far Cry 3 is a Gaming Evolved title, AMD has an embarrassing problem here. The HD 7970 GHz was actually borderline unplayable with frequent frame hitching despite delivering average framerates of over 34 FPS. On the other hand, the two NVIDIA cards provided a perfectly smooth experience.


Hitman Absolution once again shows AMD delivering extremely inconsistent performance and the GTX 690 isn’t much better. Despite the dual GPU’s abilities to remain well under 30ms most of the time, certain sections of the game let to off the chart fame times, resulting in a near stoppage of gameplay. The only truly “smooth” experience can be accredited to the GTX TITAN which barely budged above the 17ms mark.


Since this game was operating at quite high framerates, frame times don’t appear to be an issue with any of these cards.
 
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SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
Staff member
Joined
Feb 26, 2007
Messages
12,861
Location
Montreal
Frame Time Testing (5760x1080)

Frame Time Testing (5760x1080)


Please note that our complete frame time testing methodology can be found HERE. For the purposes of this section, any frame time above 40ms (ie: 25FPS or below) should be considered too slow to maintain a fluid in-game experience.


The GeForce TITAN seems to be getting a bit bent out of sorts but we’re likely looking at immature drivers playing a role here. It never exhibited a huge amount of actual stutter but for whatever reason, frame times increased dramatically at certain parts of the benchmark sequence. Luckily, it only spends a few milliseconds above the 40ms mark.


At multi monitor resolutions, Crysis 3 is a tough nut to crack. Once again the TITAN is able to deliver relatively fluid frame times but there are a few instances where things creep above the 40ms mark.


Back within the 2560x1600 frame time testing, we mentioned the GTX 690 was perilously close to stuttering levels and it looks like the higher resolution pushed it over the edge. Under no circumstance would we recommend the dual GPU setup for Dirt Showdown. However, the GTX TITAN is able to pull in the slack and delivers some great results despite being pressured by AMD’s HD 7970 GHz Edition.


AMD’s owes in Far Cry 3 continue here with a thoroughly unplayable experience. On the other hand, both NVIDIA GPUs look quite good, the TITAN being far out front with its minor frame time deviations.


The GeForce Titan is simply untouchable in this game. It its exhibit any telltale frame time deviation while the other two solutions tend to have frame times which are all over the place.


The final test here is Max Payne which shows the GTX 690 struggling at some points while the almighty TITAN retains a smooth frame time curve. Even the HD 7970 GHz Edition joins in by sticking to low deviations throughout the benchmark sequence.
 

SKYMTL

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Temperature & Acoustics / Power Consumption

Temperature Analysis


For all temperature testing, the cards were placed on an open test bench with a single 120mm 1200RPM fan placed ~8” away from the heatsink. The ambient temperature was kept at a constant 22°C (+/- 0.5°C). If the ambient temperatures rose above 23°C at any time throughout the test, all benchmarking was stopped..

For Idle tests, we let the system idle at the Windows 7 desktop for 15 minutes and recorded the peak temperature.



The results here shouldn’t be all that surprising since the GTX TITAN will do anything within its power to keep its core temperature at 80°C. As such, the results above don’t really go above that point.


Acoustical Testing


What you see below are the baseline idle dB(A) results attained for a relatively quiet open-case system (specs are in the Methodology section) sans GPU along with the attained results for each individual card in idle and load scenarios. The meter we use has been calibrated and is placed at seated ear-level exactly 12” away from the GPU’s fan. For the load scenarios, a loop of Unigine Valley is used in order to generate a constant load on the GPU(s) over the course of 15 minutes.


Ironically, even though temperatures remained constant throughout our testing, the GTX TITAN’s fan never ramped up to high levels. It seems like the GPU’s relative efficiency versus the 7.1 billion transistors working at its heart allows the well designed heatsink to easily whisked away TITAN’s core.


System Power Consumption


For this test we hooked up our power supply to a UPM power meter that will log the power consumption of the whole system twice every second. In order to stress the GPU as much as possible we used 15 minutes of Unigine Valley running on a loop while letting the card sit at a stable Windows desktop for 15 minutes to determine the peak idle power consumption.

Please note that after extensive testing, we have found that simply plugging in a power meter to a wall outlet or UPS will NOT give you accurate power consumption numbers due to slight changes in the input voltage. Thus we use a Tripp-Lite 1800W line conditioner between the 120V outlet and the power meter.


Many worried that GK110 would be a power hungry monster and it definitely had that potential. However, NVIDIA optimized clock speeds, cut a few cores and played around with voltages and as a result, kept power consumption to manageable levels. As such, TITAN requires about 60W less than the GTX 690 and only 19W more than AMD HD 7970 GHz Edition.
 

SKYMTL

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Overclocking Results

Overclocking Results


Overclocking the GTX TITAN is actually quite straightforward since NVIDIA’s board partners have supplied some excellent tools in order to help you get the most out of your $1000 purchase. We’ve already discussed the addition of voltage and GPU Boost 2.0’s expanded feature set ad nauseam but now it’s time to put those lessons to good use.

Actually pushing TITAN to the limit boils down to a simple formula: maximize the Power Target, ensure temperatures are kept below the Temperature Target, increase voltage (the limits of which will be governed by individual board partners) while remaining within safe limits and gradually increase the GPU and Memory Offsets. To accomplish our overclocks, the fan was set to 60% which still didn’t exhibit all that much noise but resulted in temperatures which were conducive to overclocking.


In our testing, NVIDIA’s GK110 core had no issue hitting a Boost Clock of 1162MHz but hit right into the Power Limit, despite it being set at 106%. Memory was also ready to overclock and hit a speed of 6676MHz. As you can see in the quick benchmarks below, this led to a performance increase of about 15%.


 
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SKYMTL

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Conclusion

Conclusion


So here we are at the end of another ultra high end graphics card review and this one’s been a long time in coming. The GeForce GTX TITAN and by association NVIDIA’s GK110 has been the focus of rumors and rampant speculation since Kepler was introduced. Now that it’s finally here, reactions are bound to be mixed due to a stratospheric price and the mere presence of GTX 690s in the channel. However, what at first looks like a mixed bag of tricks actually works in a variety of different ways to deliver a gaming experience like no other.

In order to approach TITAN with an open mind, you have to remember its unique place within an evolving PC gaming market. This isn’t a mass-market product like the GK106 and to a lesser extent NVIDIA’s GK104 variants, nor is it a limited edition card which won’t be available in two months’ time. Rather, the $1000 entry cost puts the GeForce TITAN firmly into the realm of exclusivity and is for people who can afford to pay through the nose for performance. This is an aspirational item like a Ferrari or Lamborghini and isn’t marketed to the people who buy Fords, Chevys and Kias.


But is the cost justified? That depends on the way you look at the GPU performance world. From a framerate perspective, TITAN just can’t muster the raw horsepower necessary to compete blow for blow against a GTX 690 despite its parallel pricing strategy. It fares even worse when you compare its price / framerate ratio against the GTX 680 and HD 7970 GHz Edition which both retail for about 50% less but end up 36% and 24% behind respectively. Indeed, like any supercar, the TITAN is a poor value when viewed through certain color glasses.

If the GTX TITAN’s price is exclusively associated with raw frame rates, it seems like NVIDIA may have completely misjudged its positioning somewhere along the line. $1000 for a product that simply strides in the vast open space between the GTX 680 and GTX 690 yet is priced identically to the latter seems absolutely preposterous at first glance. But it isn’t. NVIDIA’s strategy here is spot-on and there are two reason for that: frame times and consistency.


When it comes to a consistent gameplay experience, the TITAN is head, shoulders and knees above its compatriots. The low standard deviation shown between frame times is a fraction of what other solutions offer, which in turn leads to significantly smoother onscreen performance. For example, the GTX 690 exhibits many of the issues normally associated with dual GPU cards like minor stuttering and outright frame hesitation, a situation the TITAN deftly avoids by virtue of being a single core solution. Gamers won’t have to wait for the latest SLI profile for optimal new game support either. So while the GTX 690 may outclass the TITAN in terms of raw framerate production, the GK110 clearly holds the edge this key area.

Even though it is a single GPU solution, AMD’s HD 7970 GHz just isn’t in the same league as the GeForce TITAN. Its comparative frame times border on abysmal and no amount of overclocking will improve that fact. Had AMD addressed the stuttering in key games like Far Cry 3 and Hitman Absolution (both of which are Gaming Evolved titles I may add) we could be having a very different conversation right now, especially considering the GHz Edition’s strong framerates.

Are there things about the GTX TITAN that could be improved? Sure. The Power Limit still sticks its nose into overclocking far too often, an astronomical price of $1000 will drive many enthusiasts away and then there's the looming threat from AMD. If AMD continues to sink untold millions into their Gaming Evolved program, we may see more situations like Dirt Showdown which allow Radeon cards to pull significantly ahead of higher priced GeForce offerings. For now it feels like NVIDIA is falling behind in the key area of developer partnerships and that could prove to be a thorny issue in the years to come.

Ironically, even though its GK110 core packs an astounding 7.1 billion transistors, the TITAN’s relative efficiency and small acoustical footprint are also front and center. Our sample barely consumed more power than a HD 7970 GHz yet returned substantially better performance and maintained unbelievably low fan volumes.

Voltage tuning and GPU Boost 2.0’s focus on a Temperature Target rather than Power Limits also add some value to this equation and take a small step towards justifying the TITAN’s associated costs. But seriously, at $1000 one expects everything but the kitchen sink.

TITAN is a card built for people who want a top-tier solution but aren’t willing to compromise on in-game performance consistency. At this point in time and likely well into the future it is the best solution available for high performance, consistent, stutter-free gaming. Is that worth the cost of entry? It certainly should be.

 
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