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PNY GTX 770 OC2 4GB Review

SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
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Joined
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Montreal
It may come as a surprise but with the GTX 770 4GB OC2, PNY is gunning for the big leagues and aims to compete against the likes of EVGA, ASUS, MSI and Gigabyte. After a period of silence when they primarily focused on the high margin Quadro cards, PNY is finally putting some serious money back into their XLR8 gaming brand, launching a number of high end and pretty appealing GPUs.

The GTX 770 4GB OC2 may not jump out as being radically different from the countless competitors that have come before it but there is one major differentiating factor: its warranty. This isn’t something we normally focus on review simply because warranties have become pretty generic these days with two or three years of coverage being the de facto standard. EVGA, XFX and Zotac have largely done away with their lifetime warranties while other companies that championed the long-term coverage flag (like BFG) have been consigned to the dustbin of history. PNY is doing things differently by backing up their XLR8 brand with a full lifetime warranty (for the original purchaser) free of charge provided the card is registered on their website. This should be a breath of fresh air for anyone who puts emphasis on protecting their investment.


Speaking of investments, at $440 this particular OC2 Edition is one of the most expensive GTX 770s available on the market and there’s good reason for that. It combines epic core clock speeds with 4GB of GDDR5 memory into a card that’s been heavily upgraded and doesn’t look anything like a reference design.

Those clock speeds are particularly impressive since, when averaged out, they narrowly beat out MSI’s class-leading Lightning. This has been accomplished through the judicious use of higher core voltage alongside an impressively endowed heatsink which allows the GTX 770 OC2 remain within NVIDIA’s Boost limitations while still offering more performance that its immediate competition. If PNY was hoping to get our attention, this is certainly a great start.


With a dual slot heatsink and a pair of 80mm cooling fans, there really isn’t much to differentiate PNY’s 10 ¾” long GTX 770 4GB OC2 from the competition. Some will appreciate the understated nature of the predominantly black design but what we care about is under that shroud.

The heatsink is a multi-stage affair that utilizes five large heatpipes and a low-slung fin array that makes use of every millimeter of available vertical space. It really is a feat of engineering which takes the best features of competing designs and melds them into a cohesive cooler.


PNY has also used a completely custom PCB for this card which contains an all-digital 6+3 phase PWM design that can provide up to 300W of power. Its layout is unlike any we have seen with the core components pushed off to one side, making place for a vastly expanded VRM layout. Truth be told, it looks like PNY is using the PCB from an NVIDIA Quadro rather than a mass market GeForce design.


Flipping the card over shows us a radically different design as we mentioned above while the heatsink overhands the PCB’s edge by about ¾”. Additional memory modules are housed here as well with 2GB of memory being housed on this side. PNY hasn’t added a backplate since the memory modules will dissipate heat quicker when left untouched within the case’s air circulation zone.


While the GTX 770 4GB OC2’s backplate is pure reference design, the power inputs are straight out of Fermi generation Quadro and Tesla cards. They consist of a stacked 6+8 pin design which is used to maximize PWM space. This layout does may power connector installation a bit of a hassle but that shouldn’t be too much of a problem unless you’re switching out graphics cards every few weeks.
 
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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)


<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.


2560 x 1440





Far Cry 3 (DX11)


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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.


2560 x 1440





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.


2560 x 1440




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.


2560 x 1440


 

SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
Staff member
Joined
Feb 26, 2007
Messages
12,857
Location
Montreal
Going the Distance with 4GB and 4K

Going the Distance with 4GB and 4K


As we transition to a while new testing suite and methodology, 4K will increasingly become an integral part of how higher end GPUs are evaluated. While supporting monitors are still horribly expensive, putting them well outside the affordability spectrum for most gamers, costs are coming down.

PNY has designed this particular card with 4K in mind but we have seen this time and again; additional memory rarely makes a difference since the core architecture becomes a bottleneck well before games need access to higher memory allotments. The OC2 4GB wants to be an exception to this rule since it utilizes a powerful enough base architecture and substantially increased clock speeds, both of which are supposed to allow for less bottlenecking to allow the 4GB time to shine.





The end result of PNY’s tweaking is more than evident. 4GB and an overclocked GTX 770 core allows for substantially better performance than the reference card and. The difference here is more pronounced that PNY’s higher clock speeds can account for; proving that in some instances, 4GB on a GTX 770 is worthwhile when core frequencies are high enough. But as we can see from the Tomb Raider results, some games just don’t require all that memory, even at 4K resolutions.

It is also important to note that several upcoming games are being designed to take advantage of the 3GB+ framebuffers available on higher end AMD and NVIDIA cards. This could lead to the GTX 770 4GB becoming a bit more future proofed than the reference design.
 

SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
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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.



We were expecting some great things from PNY’s heatsink design and it certainly didn’t disappoint. From a company known for their reference-based Quadros, these results are quite impressive when you consider the frequencies the GTX 770’s core is operating at in this instance. At just 74°C, things stay well below NVIDIA’s thermal throttling point of 81°C while still leaving room for some overclocking.


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.


Truth be told, the low temperatures are only part of this equation since they are achieved with acoustics that are among the lowest we’ve ever encountered on a high end card. It seems like PNY has this custom heatsink design down to a precise science, equaling or pulling ahead of more entrenched competitors like ASUS, MSI and GIGABYTE.


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.


With higher clock speeds and double the memory, it shouldn’t come as any surprise that PNY’s GTX 770 OC2 4GB consumes substantially more power than a reference card.
 

SKYMTL

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

Overclocking Results


PNY is one of the few tier-one NVIDIA board partners without their own overclocking software. This is a bit unfortunate since it means you’ll need to use one of their competitors’ applications and that amounts to “free” advertising. Nonetheless, using MSI’s AfterBurner, we hoped to stretch the GTX 770 OC2 4GB’s legs.

One of the main issues with overclocking this card is how PNY was able to hit such high out-of-box frequencies: increase default voltage. As such, the OC2 rides very close to NVIDIA’s voltage limiter straight away without very much overhead. Without trickery like the technology found in EVGA’s “unlocked” Classified series, this means things are a bit constrained on the overclocking front but not to the extent some would expect. The reason for this boils down to the laws of diminishing returns in extreme situations where the engine clocks play a secondary role to the number of CUDA cores, texture units and whatnot. So, you can only get so much more real-world performance from core and memory overclocking.

So what does this mean for PNY’s results here? With maxed out voltage and Power Limits, we achieved a constant clock speed of 1308MHz on the core while the memory easily hit 7844MHz. When combined, these had a positive but relatively unnoticeable performance increase in every game.


 

SKYMTL

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

Conclusion


PNY may no longer be a household name among PC gamers but with their GTX 770 OC2 4GB, the XLR8 lineup has received a much-needed boost of adrenalin. This card is not only able to deliver blistering framerates in every situation from 1080P to 4K but also has the advantage of being one of the few NVIDIA GPUs to include a lifetime warranty. This potent one-two combination could vault PNY back into the consciousness of the very market they’re trying to re-target.

From a performance standpoint, the OC2 4GB is one of the fastest GTX 770s we’ve tested to date. It comes close to drawing even with a GTX 780 and, in some rare instances runs neck and neck with NVIDIA’s higher end card. Even its doubled memory comes in handy since the GK104 core has ample back-end grunt to provide playable framerates at 4K, a resolution where the reference 2GB card chokes. This expanded memory will also come in handy for next gen DX11 games which, if the likes of Thief and the upcoming Watch Dogs are any indication, will require at least 2GB and will prefer 3GB or more when playing at 1440P. A bit of future-proofing is always a good thing when spending this kind of money on an upgrade and there’s still some overclocking headroom to spare.

We typically thumb our collective noses at cards with larger memory allotments simply because their graphics engine can’t usually take advantage of the additional framebuffer size. The GTX 770 on the other hand can return noticeably better results when paired up with 4GB provided you’ve got the money for a 4K screen.

Much of the OC2’s performance potential is derived from its awesome heatsink which kept temperatures well below throttle limits while also returning spectacular acoustical results. We’d hazard to say that PNY’s design can easily meet or even surpass the coolers offered by ASUS, MSI and Gigabyte. Granted, its layout makes getting to those stacked power inputs a bit tough but very few gamers will change their card out often enough for this to become a make or break misstep.

There will be some debate over this card’s pricing which, at $440 is within $60 of some custom GTX 780 SKUs. When things like in-game framerates, warranty length and other aspects are taken into account, the GTX 770 OC2 4GB still provides an excellent value proposition, especially if you’re interested in its higher memory allotment. It may not have a “GTX 780” moniker but, in our eyes, PNY has created a GPU that’s a fitting GK110 competitor without an ultra-high asking price.

At this point in time PNY is very much a dark horse among GeForce board partners but that hasn’t stopped them from creating a highly appealing product. The OC2 is everything we could possibly want in a sub-$450 graphics card; it is silent, provides surprisingly high framerates and has the benefit of additional memory. Meanwhile, the lifetime warranty is simply the icing on the cake and allows this card to handily nose ahead of the competition in our books.

 
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