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PNY GeForce GTX 780 OC 3GB Review

SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
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Joined
Feb 26, 2007
Messages
12,857
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Montreal
When PNY approached me to review their GTX 780 a few weeks ago, I had the same thought many of you likely had: what’s so special about a year-old GPU that has since been surpassed by the GTX 780 Ti? The answer to that is pretty straightforward. While the GTX 780 may not be grabbing any headlines these days, it resides in a pricing segment right between NVIDIA’s flagship parts and the slightly more affordable GTX 770. This means from a price / performance standpoint, particularly against AMD’s current crop of GPUs, it is still a big deal and represents a solid investment.

PNY is very much hell-bent on relaunching their GeForce lineup after a brief hiatus and that means aggressive positioning in two key areas: warranty coverage and cost. With a price of just $510, their GTX 780 OC has one of the lowest costs of any custom-built GTX 780 currently available and it’s backed up by a lifetime warranty that none of the competition comes close to matching. At first glance this combination may not be enough to convince gamers to ignore the offerings from the likes of ASUS, EVGA and other industry big-wigs but the PNY OC brings a whole lot more to the table than just affordability and backend support.


The GTX 780 OC lies within PNY’s long-running XLR8 lineup which means it receives an out-of-box overclock. What I wasn’t expecting was how far they were able to push this card considering its price. On paper at least, it is the fastest GTX 780 we’ve tested to date, even outstripping the specifications for MSI’s GTX 780 Lightning and EVGA’s GTX 780 Classified. While the Lightning has been officially EOL’d, the Classified is still available but carries a $50 premium over PNY’s offering.

Much of the GTX 780 OC XLR8’s capabilities come from careful binning of parts by PNY. Both the memory modules and cores are put through a stringent classification process with only the best making it onto the OC SKU while the rest are cascaded downwards to reference-based cards. This means PNY’s offering is one of the only GTX 780’s on the market to offer pre-overclocked GDDR5, in this case hitting the 6.2Gbps mark.


With a trio of dust-proof fans and a relatively sleek black and yellow shroud, the GTX 780 OC looks a lot like the GTX 770 OC2 4GB reviewed last week but using an expanded heatsink design. You may notice that PNY has uses a pair of 75mm fans as well as a single 80mm unit. Basically, the two outside-positioned fans have a higher static pressure envelope to push though the dense fin arrays while the center one focuses its airflow towards PWM components and over the exposed heatpipes.

That layout is the main contributor to this card’s somewhat extreme length of 11 7/8”, which won’t have problems fitting in most modern ATX cases but some mATX setups may have issues accepting it.


There’s a perfectly good reason behind PNY’s sizing madness: every available inch of that 12” is taken up by a massive heatsink. It uses a quartet of 6mm heatpipes and a low-slung fin array which uses horizontal space for heat dissipation rather than the vertical affair on a card like PowerColor’s excellent R9 290X PCS+. This design does exhaust a ton of hot air into an enclosure’s confines so I’d recommend upgrading your case’s cooling to avoid boosting the temperatures of adjacent components.

PNY has also added a full-coverage heatspreader which covers some of the VRM components and all of the memory modules. This wraps around onto the card’s side to minimize PCB bowing.


On a connectivity front, there’s really not much different going on here with a 6+8 pin power input layout and the usual rear panel connectors which are natively compatible with 4K displays and NVIDIA’s Surround.


The GTX 780 OC uses a custom PCB from PNY but its components haven’t been drastically upgraded. There is a 6+2 phase PWM which is an improvement over NVIDIA’s reference design and enhanced capacity directly behind the core but otherwise, there aren’t any fancy marketing points to go over here. Maybe that’s a good thing since it points towards a focus on substance over meaningless technical terms.
 
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SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
Staff member
Joined
Feb 26, 2007
Messages
12,857
Location
Montreal
Assassin’s Creed III / Crysis 3

Assassin’s Creed III (DX11)


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The third iteration of the Assassin’s Creed franchise is the first to make extensive use of DX11 graphics technology. In this benchmark sequence, we proceed through a run-through of the Boston area which features plenty of NPCs, distant views and high levels of detail.


2560 x 1440




Crysis 3 (DX11)


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Simply put, Crysis 3 is one of the best looking PC games of all time and it demands a heavy system investment before even trying to enable higher detail settings. Our benchmark sequence for this one replicates a typical gameplay condition within the New York dome and consists of a run-through interspersed with a few explosions for good measure Due to the hefty system resource needs of this game, post-process FXAA was used in the place of MSAA.


2560 x 1440


 

SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
Staff member
Joined
Feb 26, 2007
Messages
12,857
Location
Montreal
Dirt: Showdown / Far Cry 3

Dirt: Showdown (DX11)


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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.


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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.



2560 x 1440


 

SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
Staff member
Joined
Feb 26, 2007
Messages
12,857
Location
Montreal
Hitman Absolution / Max Payne 3

Hitman Absolution (DX11)


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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.


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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.


2560 x 1440


 

SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
Staff member
Joined
Feb 26, 2007
Messages
12,857
Location
Montreal
Metro: Last Light / Tomb Raider

Metro: Last Light (DX11)


<iframe width="640" height="360" src="http://www.youtube.com/embed/40Rip9szroU" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>​

The latest iteration of the Metro franchise once again sets high water marks for graphics fidelity and making use of advanced DX11 features. In this benchmark, we use the Torchling level which represents a scene you’ll be intimately familiar with after playing this game: a murky sewer underground.


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Tomb Raider (DX11)


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

Tomb Raider is one of the most iconic brands in PC gaming and this iteration brings Lara Croft back in DX11 glory. This happens to not only be one of the most popular games around but it is also one of the best looking by using the entire bag of DX11 tricks to properly deliver an atmospheric gaming experience.

In this run-through we use a section of the Shanty Town level. While it may not represent the caves, tunnels and tombs of many other levels, it is one of the most demanding sequences in Tomb Raider.


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SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
Staff member
Joined
Feb 26, 2007
Messages
12,857
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.



The temperatures displayed by PNY’s GTX 780 OC are nothing short of incredible. With one of the highest overclocks we’ve seen to date, achieving such low temperatures speaks volumes about how well PNY’s heatsink is designed.


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.


Unfortunately, the acoustics numbers really don’t display how quiet the heatsink’s fans really are. Subjectively, the GTX 780 OC has one of the quietest heatsinks around but our sample produced a slight, nearly inaudible coil vibration. The decibel meter picked this up and as a result, the readings were higher than they would otherwise be.

It’s highly doubtful that you’d ever hear the low noise coming from the chokes and coils above case fans. In addition, there’s no reason to worry about longevity since this reaction is perfectly normal for high end cards. Luckily there wasn’t any high frequency whining which is very distracting.


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.

 

SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
Staff member
Joined
Feb 26, 2007
Messages
12,857
Location
Montreal
Overclocking Results

Overclocking Results


There’s a small issue with overclocking the PNY GTX 780 OC: it’s operating near NVIDIA’s Boost limiter straight out of the box. With such low temperatures, TDP or the distance to thermal throttling certainly isn’t an issue but voltage is. EVGA and MSI found a way around this with their Classified and Lightning respectively by allowing an enthusiast to “unlock” their voltage boundaries via software and hardware solutions. PNY offers no such work-around on their cards simply because they don’t want to run afoul of NVIDIA’s Green Light warranty program.

With these restrictions in place, we used EVGA’s Precision to try and squeeze a bit more out of this card. Luckily, because of the excellent heatsink and highly binned memory modules, there’s a bit more left in the tank. We achieved a constant core speed of 1213MHz while the GDDR5 hit its error-correction mode at 6976MHz. That gave us a bit more performance but certainly nothing astounding.


 
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SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
Staff member
Joined
Feb 26, 2007
Messages
12,857
Location
Montreal
Conclusion

Conclusion


PNY’s reentry into the competitive high end graphics card market may not have been accompanied by outrageous marketing but so far, their results speak for themselves. The GTX 780 OC may not have terms like “Super Alloy Power” or “Military Class” or some long PR department generated name attached to it but it overcomes the competition by a significant margin. That’s saying something considering the cards we put PNY’s newcomer against are among the best available.

The GTX 780 certainly isn’t at the forefront of press’ minds these days since the R9 290 series and GTX 780 Ti are both newer and their reviews tend to generate more views. They’re also significantly more expensive in their current forms, particularly with the R9 290X / R9 290’s ongoing inflated pricing structure. However, I consider the GTX 780 to have that near-perfect combination of price and performance which has been epitomized by the PNY GTX 780. It quite literally supplies 90% of a GTX 780 Ti’s framerates while costing about $200 less.

To put this into perspective, let’s look at some component upgrades that can be found for $200. For the difference in cost between this card and a GTX 780 Ti, you can jump from an i5 4670K to a 4770K AND buy a 16GB memory kit instead of making due with a meager 8GB. Or just put that $200 towards some of the amazing games being released later this year.

Other than raw performance and an excellent price, there are some noticeable tertiary benefits realized by PNY’s engineers. The GTX 780 OC boasts some of the lowest temperatures we’ve ever seen from a high end NVIDIA card while maintaining a relatively quiet acoustical profile and there’s still some overclocking headroom left in the tank. Unfortunately, these aspects are somewhat tempered by a lack of “unlocked” overclocking capabilities like EVGA’s Classified and there’s a bit of PWM “groaning” that added a few decibels to the acoustic results. As was already stated; it’s highly unlikely anyone would hear it but our decibel meter certainly picked it up.

While gamers might like looking at the ultra high framerates being achieved by NVIDIA’s flagship GTX 780 Ti, the PNY GTX 780 is likely the one they’ll run out and buy. There’s good reason for this. It is affordable (compared to higher end cards that is), it can easily provide GTX TITAN-matching performance and boasts a rare lifetime warranty. If there is one card I would recommend you buy for 1440P gaming, it would be this one.


 
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