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NVIDIA GTX TITAN vs. SLI & Crossfire

SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
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13,264
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TITAN vs. SLI Frame Time Testing (2560x1600)

TITAN vs. SLI 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.







While SLI doesn’t exhibit the same widespread issues as Crossfire, it certainly doesn’t provide a completely flawless experience. Crysis 3 and Hitman: Absolution exhibit frequent and jarring “pauses” of 70ms or more and while these issues aren’t show-stoppers, they can easily break your concentration. Dirt: Showdown on the other hand continues to be a thorn in NVIDIA’s side.

Once again, the TITAN is able to remain head and shoulders over the GTX 680 SLI and GTX 670 SLI setups. It exhibits excellent all-round performance in these tests, without any of SLI’s drama.
 

SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
Staff member
Joined
Feb 26, 2007
Messages
13,264
Location
Montreal
TITAN vs Crossfire Frame Time Testing (5760x1080)

TITAN vs Crossfire 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.







Testing the TITAN against Crossfire in 5760x1080 leads to nearly identical results as in lower resolutions but AMD’s frame time issues are simply enhanced. Hitman: Absolution and Far Cry 3 are simply unplayable with the HD 7970 Ghz Edition and HD 7950 Boost due to consistent, massive stuttering.

Due to its single chip design, NVIDIA’s latest card is able to remain well ahead here and when actually playing the games, the differences between these setups are painfully obvious.
 

SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
Staff member
Joined
Feb 26, 2007
Messages
13,264
Location
Montreal
TITAN vs SLI Frame Time Testing (5760x1080)

TITAN vs SLI 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.







Since high resolution gaming typically equates lower framerates, frame times are negatively impacted as well. With that being said, SLI once again exhibits some problems in some titles while the TITAN remains quite docile throughout. There is a small hiccup in for the TITAN in Assassin's Creed III but that is mostly due to a lack of rendering resources rather than a push towards stuttering.
 

SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
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Joined
Feb 26, 2007
Messages
13,264
Location
Montreal
Temperatures & 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.




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.


One of the major benefits of TITAN over dual card solutions is its acoustical profile. While the GTX 680 SLI and GTX 670 SLI remain relatively quiet, the TITAN will never be heard over the sound of case fans. On the other hand, AMD’s cards are horribly loud with the GHz Editions putting out so much noise that you’ll likely need to wear headphones to retain a shred of sanity.


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.


Much like its acoustical profile, the HD 7970 GHz Edition’s power consumption is simply out of control when compared against the other dual card configurations in this test. Although it still consumes a significant amount of power, NVIDIA’s GTX TITAN is the most frugal of this bunch by a long shot.
 
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SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
Staff member
Joined
Feb 26, 2007
Messages
13,264
Location
Montreal
Conclusion

Conclusion


Is it better to buy a single powerful GPU or buy two less expensive cards and achieve similar performance? That is a question that gamers have been faced with years, but NVIDIA’s TITAN is doing a brilliant job of blurring those lines in today’s market. It is the first graphic card which has the capability to stand toe-to-toe against leading dual card setups without having to resort to interlinks between two distinct cores.

The GTX TITAN’s place at the forefront of NVIDIA’s lineup is undeniable, but from a raw framerate perspective it is routinely trounced by two HD 7970 GHz Editions or GTX 680s. Moving slightly further down market, the GTX 670 and HD 7950 Boost State can match or slightly exceed its performance when used in SLI or Crossfire, while also retailing for significantly less.


When taken at face value, this situation paints a dire picture for the GTX TITAN since it only manages to match blows with less expensive alternatives. Indeed, if you are looking to push a 120Hz monitor with v-sync enabled and don’t care about much else, the TITAN would be a poor choice. However, framerates are one very small slice of an all-encompassing gaming experience and dual card setups are beset with issues in several other areas.

Both SLI and Crossfire have matured over the years but that doesn’t mean they are completely stable solutions. For example, AMD’s Crossfire has Eyefinity issues in Assassin’s Creed III (no display on outside monitors) and Far Cry 3 (incorrectly displayed HUD) while SLI had the dubious honor of breaking Surround support in Hitman: Absolution and exhibited extremely poor performance in Dirt: Showdown. We didn’t experience any missing or broken game profiles but previous experiences point to that being an ongoing issue in newly released games. By the virtue of being a single core solution NVIDIA’s TITAN deftly avoids these pitfalls.


While the framerates of AMD’s high end Crossfire setups is nothing short of spectacular, that doesn’t necessarily translate into an acceptable gameplay experience. On the contrary, in nearly every title, the two HD 7970s or HD 7950s displayed atrocious frame time delivery which resulted in a distinct lack of fluidity and negatively impacted everything from shot accuracy to player immersion.

From time to time, the HD 7970 GHz Edition’s massive well of horsepower masks the effect quite well from prying eyes, but the HD 7950 Boost becomes nearly unplayable in some titles. Compare this with the TITAN’s relative tranquility both visually and in the frame rate charts and the difference between the two solutions couldn’t be greater, regardless of associated costs. Honestly though, if you don’t care about in-game stuttering, a pair of AMD’s HD 7950 Boost Edition cards is a fabulous solution that comes in at a fraction of the GTX TITAN’s cost despite their compatibility eccentricities.

Crossfire’s penchant for stutter is both frustrating and unavoidable but SLI doesn’t escape unscathed either. From objective and subjective standpoints, it is vastly superior to what AMD is offering but Dirt Showdown and Hitman: Absolution were anything but fluid while using two NVIDIA cards. If anything, this provides an interesting contrast between the raw power of dual GPU setups and the consistency provided by a single TITAN.

Anyone who can afford a TITAN likely isn’t looking at their electricity bill all that often, so its vast superiority in this field will go overlooked by most. However, the system’s noise levels have a significant impact upon in-game immersion and this is another area in which NVIDIA’s new flagship delivers. Unless the default fan speed profile is cast aside, it is quieter that most case fans and eschews the turbine-like effect of two HD 7970 GHz Editions.

The products playing in this market may have changed and the game titles may look better than ever, but it feels like we’ve been down this road already. Crossfire is still riddled with stuttering and various other bugs while SLI has its own set of teething problems. This unfortunate situation leaves the TITAN’s position in the market relatively unscathed since it can deliver consistently high performance with none of the dual card solutions’ excess drama. Is that actually worth potentially hundreds of dollars more than a competing SLI or Crossfire setup with lower priced GPUs? For a discerning gamer with enough cash, absolutely.
 
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