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PNY GTX 780 & GTX 780 Ti Customized OC Review

SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
Staff member
Joined
Feb 26, 2007
Messages
12,841
Location
Montreal
After years of being satisfied with championing NVIDIA’s Quadro, PNY is on a mission to enhance their positioning within the gaming GPU market. While cards like the XLR8 series have gone a long way towards legitimizing their current stance, they’re looking beyond being just an afterthought for enthusiasts. The new Customized Series is meant as a large step towards providing the market with something unique while still adhering to PNY’s fundamental principles of excellent customer support and rigorous product testing.

So what makes the Customized all that different? From a specifications standpoint (more on this below) not all that much but where these cards depart from the ordinary is their design. They’re more streamlined and boast a backplate, both of which are elements some buyers are looking for when they put together a build with a large case window. Most importantly, they have a new internal heatsink design and are more affordable than PNY’s highest-end SKU; the Ultimate OC.

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Starting off with the GTX 780 XLR8 Customized OC (yes, these PNY product designations are getting more confusing as time goes on), we have a card whose specifications aren’t all that much better than the reference design. However, through the use of a well implemented cooling solution it can hit speeds in excess of those achieved by ASUS’ DirectCU II OC edition. Unlike the XLR8 OC, its memory frequencies haven’t budged but that’s to be expected since the Custom series is meant to bridge the gap between PNY’s reference cards and their higher clocked versions.

The real selling point of this card is its price. At just $530, it isn’t all that much more expensive than NVIDIA’s reference design and it comes backed up by PNY’s lifetime warranty and highly regarded customer support.

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The GTX 780 Ti XLR8 Customized Series OC runs in parallel with their standard XLR8 and will likely replace it within retail channels. Both the core and memory frequencies are identical, as is the maximum achievable out-of-box Boost speed so there really won’t be all that much to distinguish this GTX 780 Ti from its progenitor other than PNY’s strides in cooling and card design.

Like the GTX 780 Custom OC, pricing will be quite aggressive with the GTX 780 Ti version going for about $730 USD before rebates and significantly less when you factor in all the ongoing promotions. Naturally, this card will also come with PNY’s industry leading lifetime warranty.

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Both the GTX 780 Ti and GTX 780 Custom Series share the exact same exterior design and even internal component layout so for the purposes of this quick overview, we’ll address them together.

PNY has distinguished this series with a full aluminum heatsink shroud construction which not only helps dissipate head but it also helps with structural rigidity since it’s bolted directly to the card’s PCB. It is further separated from other cards in PNY’s lineup by the inclusion of a pair of 80mm fans with white LED lighting.

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The aluminum shroud has also been bent back over itself which not only creates a clean rear profile but also helps direct airflow back over components instead of the air being driven against your enclosure’s natural air movement. Even though this addition does make the Custom Series slightly longer than the reference card, it is still about 11 ½” long so there won’t be any fitment issues in most enclosures.

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Below that awesome looking aluminum exterior is a heatsink that’s been equipped with five large heatpipes and a slim yet extensive fin array. There’s also a custom 8-phase all digital PWM which is cooled with a secondary forged aluminum heatsink for cooler temperatures.

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These are some of the first PNY cards to receive a secondary backplate but in this case all it does is create some extra heat dissipation for top-mounted components. Plus, it looks pretty good too.

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The only difference between the GTX 780 and GTX 780 Ti is the input power connectors with the higher end Ti using a pair of 8-pins while the 780 gets an 8+6 pin combo. Meanwhile, the backplates receive reference treatment with two DVI’s, a DisplayPort and a lone HDMI output.
 

SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
Staff member
Joined
Feb 26, 2007
Messages
12,841
Location
Montreal
Test System & Setup

Main Test System

Processor: Intel i7 4930K @ 4.7GHz
Memory: G.Skill Trident 16GB @ 2133MHz 10-10-12-29-1T
Motherboard: ASUS P9X79-E WS
Cooling: NH-U14S
SSD: 2x Kingston HyperX 3K 480GB
Power Supply: Corsair AX1200
Monitor: Dell 2412M (1440P) / ASUS PQ321Q (4K)
OS: Windows 8.1 Professional


Drivers:
AMD 14.7 Beta
NVIDIA 340.43 Beta


*Notes:

- All games tested have been patched to their latest version

- The OS has had all the latest hotfixes and updates installed

- All scores you see are the averages after 2 benchmark runs

All IQ settings were adjusted in-game and all GPU control panels were set to use application settings


The Methodology of Frame Testing, Distilled


How do you benchmark an onscreen experience? That question has plagued graphics card evaluations for years. While framerates give an accurate measurement of raw performance , there’s a lot more going on behind the scenes which a basic frames per second measurement by FRAPS or a similar application just can’t show. A good example of this is how “stuttering” can occur but may not be picked up by typical min/max/average benchmarking.

Before we go on, a basic explanation of FRAPS’ frames per second benchmarking method is important. FRAPS determines FPS rates by simply logging and averaging out how many frames are rendered within a single second. The average framerate measurement is taken by dividing the total number of rendered frames by the length of the benchmark being run. For example, if a 60 second sequence is used and the GPU renders 4,000 frames over the course of that time, the average result will be 66.67FPS. The minimum and maximum values meanwhile are simply two data points representing single second intervals which took the longest and shortest amount of time to render. Combining these values together gives an accurate, albeit very narrow snapshot of graphics subsystem performance and it isn’t quite representative of what you’ll actually see on the screen.

FCAT on the other hand has the capability to log onscreen average framerates for each second of a benchmark sequence, resulting in the “FPS over time” graphs. It does this by simply logging the reported framerate result once per second. However, in real world applications, a single second is actually a long period of time, meaning the human eye can pick up on onscreen deviations much quicker than this method can actually report them. So what can actually happens within each second of time? A whole lot since each second of gameplay time can consist of dozens or even hundreds (if your graphics card is fast enough) of frames. This brings us to frame time testing and where the Frame Time Analysis Tool gets factored into this equation.

Frame times simply represent the length of time (in milliseconds) it takes the graphics card to render and display each individual frame. Measuring the interval between frames allows for a detailed millisecond by millisecond evaluation of frame times rather than averaging things out over a full second. The larger the amount of time, the longer each frame takes to render. This detailed reporting just isn’t possible with standard benchmark methods.

We are now using FCAT for ALL benchmark results, other than 4K.
 

SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
Staff member
Joined
Feb 26, 2007
Messages
12,841
Location
Montreal
Clock Stability & Thermal Imaging

Clock Stability & Thermal Imaging


While NVIDIA cards don’t typically have any problems maintaining their advertised clock speeds, it’s conceivable that if a heatsink allows temperature to get too high throttling may occur. PNY doesn’t necessarily market their heatsink as being vastly superior to those offered by the competition so it should be interesting to see how theirs stacks up as temperatures increase.

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The GTX 780 Customized achieves excellent results here with a constant operating temperature of 72°C and absolutely no inkling to go higher than that. The GTX 780 Ti on the other hand produces significantly more heat but PNY hasn’t modified the fan speeds so heat tends to build up a bit more. 76°C is still well below NVIDIA’s throttling threshold so there really isn’t any risk of seeing lower performance due to these slightly higher temperatures.

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While the GTX 780 Customized is able to attain a continual frequency of 1045MHz, the GTX 780 Ti seems to cut back just a bit when it realizes it’s running a bit higher than spec. It started at a strong 1110MHz but then dialed back to 1097MHz. That’s not a huge discrepancy and we certainly didn’t see any lower speeds but this behavior is nonetheless odd considering the GTX 780’s performance here and the lack of any thermal limitations.

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The result of constant clock speeds and temperatures for both cards is stable performance across all applications, even after hours of testing.

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Left: GTX 780 / Right: GTX 780 Ti

Thermal imaging shows us everything the last results did: the GTX 780 runs cooler than the GTX 780 Ti, but not by all that much. The heatsink temperatures remain well within acceptable limits on both cards without all that much variance despite the relatively large performance difference.

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Left: GTX 780 / Right: GTX 780 Ti

Around back we can see that PNY’s backplate does an admirable job of keeping things cool but the area directly behind the GPU core is still allowed to get bit hotter but that’s to be expected.
 

SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
Staff member
Joined
Feb 26, 2007
Messages
12,841
Location
Montreal
Acoustical Testing / System Power Consumption

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, Hitman Absolution is used in order to generate a constant load on the GPU(s) over the course of 15 minutes.

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As with all of PNY’s newer cards, the Customized Series is extremely quiet and certainly won’t be heard over the hum of typical case fans. One thing to mention is the comparative results between the two cards; their fans are obviously operating at about the same speeds. This is likely what least to the GTX 780 Ti’s higher temperatures.


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.

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Power consumption for both cards is higher than reference but that was of course to be expected.
 

SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
Staff member
Joined
Feb 26, 2007
Messages
12,841
Location
Montreal
Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag / Battlefield 4

Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag


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The fourth 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 Havana area which features plenty of NPCs, distant views and high levels of detail.


2560 x 1440

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Battlefield 4


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Amidst its teething problems since its release, BF4 has been a bone of contention among gamers. In this sequence, we use the Singapore level which combines three of the game’s major elements: a decayed urban environment, a water-inundated city and finally a forested area. We chose not to include multiplayer results simply due to their randomness injecting results that make apples to apples comparisons impossible.

2560 x 1440

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SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
Staff member
Joined
Feb 26, 2007
Messages
12,841
Location
Montreal
Call of Duty: Ghosts / Far Cry 3

Call of Duty: Ghosts


<iframe width="640" height="360" src="//www.youtube.com/embed/gzIdSAktyf4?rel=0" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>​

The latest Call of Duty game may have been ridiculed for its lackluster gameplay but it remains one of the best-looking games out there. Unfortunately due to mid-level loads, getting a “clean” runthrough without random slowdowns is nearly impossible, even with a dual SSD system like ours. Hence why you should ignore any massive framerate dips as they are anomalies of poor loading optimizations. For this benchmark we used the first sequence of the 5th Chapter entitled Homecoming as every event is scripted so runthroughs will be nearly identical.

2560 x 1440

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Far Cry 3


<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

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SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
Staff member
Joined
Feb 26, 2007
Messages
12,841
Location
Montreal
Hitman Absolution / Metro: Last Light

Hitman Absolution


<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.


2560 x 1440

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Metro: Last Light


<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

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SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
Staff member
Joined
Feb 26, 2007
Messages
12,841
Location
Montreal
Thief / Tomb Raider

Thief


<iframe width="640" height="360" src="//www.youtube.com/embed/p-a-8mr00rY?rel=0" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>​

When it was released, Thief was arguably one of the most anticipated games around. From a graphics standpoint, it is something of a tour de force. Not only does it look great but the engine combines several advanced lighting and shading techniques that are among the best we’ve seen. One of the most demanding sections is actually within the first level where you must scale rooftops amidst a thunder storm. The rain and lightning flashes add to the graphics load, though the lightning flashes occur randomly so you will likely see interspersed dips in the charts below due to this.


2560 x 1440

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Tomb Raider


<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

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SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
Staff member
Joined
Feb 26, 2007
Messages
12,841
Location
Montreal
Overclocking Results

Overclocking Results


We'll keep this short and sweet this time around. Both of these cards are held back by NVIDIA's power and voltage limits but nonetheless achieved reasonable frequencies. Due to a hard cap on voltages, the clock speeds were directly in line with other GTX 780's and GTX 780 Ti's so don't expect anything different.

To attain the results below, we used EVGA's Precision since PNY doesn't currently have self-branded overclocking software. In addition, both the Power Limit and Voltage Limit were pushed to their maximums (which isn't all that much).

The GTX 780 Ti XLR8 Customized OC hit 1162MHz / 7800MHz on the core and memory respectively while the GTX 780 version went to 1120MHz / 6684MHz


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SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
Staff member
Joined
Feb 26, 2007
Messages
12,841
Location
Montreal
Conclusion

Conclusion


PNY may be one of the dark horses in NVIDIA’s board partner lineup but that hasn’t stopped them from producing some impressive GeForce GPUs. While the Customized Series may not have the massive in-your-face marketing efforts of ASUS, EVGA and Gigabyte’s latest creations and they they’re extremely capable cards which perform well and boast excellent temperature and acoustical properties.

We are relatively late in the Kepler architecture’s lifecycle which means nearly every manufacturer has already shown their hands in the custom GTX 780 / GTX 780 Ti market. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing since buyers have plenty of options to choose from but it also leads to the Customized Series fighting an uphill battle for simple brand recognition. PNY has somewhat alleviated any undue competitive pressure by pairing these cards up with a lifetime warranty (upon registration), which makes them unique in today’s GPU landscape. Granted, most enthusiasts don’t keep their cards running for more than a couple of years but there’s a definite value attached to the knowledge that you’ll have longstanding peace of mind from one of the more diversified NVIDIA partners around.

Neither of these cards offer all that much in the way of noticeable on-screen performance over their respective reference designs but on paper at least there are some improvements. The GTX 780 Ti XLR8 Customized OC (yes, it’s a mouthful) did provide a not-so-insignificant uplift across the board and really shone in the minimum framerate category. Meanwhile the GTX 780 XLR8 Customized OC did post good numbers but percentage-wise it couldn’t provide the improvements offered by its bigger and more expensive sibling. Considering both command premium money, their places near the top of our charts shouldn’t come as any surprise.

Once again PNY has proven to be quite capable in designing excellent cooling solutions. Both achieved extremely low acoustical footprints with the GTX 780 also hitting respectably low temperatures as well. The GTX 780 Ti on the other hand was allowed to stray a bit higher towards the 77°C mark but was still easily able to avoid any throttling. If you want even lower temperatures, increasing the fan speeds by about 20% will easily achieve sub-70°C figures while still maintaining a nearly inaudible amount of fan noise.

As you might have already guessed, we really can’t speak much to the overclocking of the Customized Series simply because they’re held back by NVIDIA’s ever-resent power and voltage limiters. Nonetheless it’s still possible to achieve frequencies high enough for some real onscreen framerate improvements.

The GTX 780 Ti Customized and GTX 780 Customized are simply excellent graphics cards. Their prices are competitive, they perform well, frequency stability is sport on and the addition of PNY’s lifetime warranty will surely make some gamers sit up and take notice. They also look absolutely stunning, though that opinion can differ quite a bit from one person to another. The only real concern we have is that PNY may find it challenging to truly differentiate the Customized Series from their competition. However, if given a chance, these cards have the chops to run right alongside everything at a comparable price point.

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