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NVIDIA GeForce GTX 780 3GB Graphics Card Review - GK110 Mini

Author: Ryan Shrout
Manufacturer: NVIDIA

Performance, Pricing and Availability and Conclusions

 

Performance

The performance of the new NVIDIA GeForce GTX 780 graphics card is somewhat mixed in my view.  In some cases the GK110 GPU with 2,304 CUDA cores is able to stand out from the Radeon HD 7970 GHz that currently sits on the "not ridiculously priced" graphics card throne and in other cases, it doesn't.  Even if we take away the 1920x1080 resolution from our analysis, since no one buying a $650 graphics card should be thinking about buying it if they are only using a single 1080p display, there are some cases where you have to question the performance gaps.  At 2560x1600, the GTX 780 is 15% faster in Battlefield 3, 22% faster in Crysis 3, 2% faster in DiRT 3, 18% faster in Far Cry 3, 23% faster in Skyrim and about 1% faster in Sleeping Dogs.  Even at 5760x1080, the performance advantage never gets past 21%.  For a $220 up charge, that might not seem like huge performance increases. 

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Multi-GPU performance has a totally different set of issues thanks to AMD's continued conflicts with frame times, frame metering or the lack there of in any publicly available driver.  Nothing has changed since we reviewed the Radeon HD 7990 last month and what we said then still is true:

With our early testing of the Catalyst prototype driver showing positive results though, there is yet hope for CrossFire to be fixed in this generation, at least for single monitor users!  But until that driver is perfected, is bug free and is presented to buyers as a made-for-primetime solution, I just cannot recommend an investment this large on the Radeon HD 7990 (or HD 7970 CrossFire).

Interestingly, there is more and more frame time variance creeping up into the results with the GTX 780 and the GTX Titan.  This is due to the surge in CPU bottlenecks that occur when you add more and more GPU horsepower to the system.  NVIDIA's frame metering technology can really only alleviate the issue when the GPU is the primary bottleneck, so when the other components cause the problem NVIDIA is mostly helpless.  AMD's setup seems to have the other problem - when the GPU is the primary bottleneck CrossFire just can't get out of its own way. 

In many ways, the GTX 780 is being positioned as a "flagship" device much like the GeForce GTX 690/GTX Titan and the Radeon HD 7990.  NVIDIA seems to say "sure it is expensive, but aren't you worth it?"  Appealing to enthusiasts' pride is definitely effective and will likely temp quite a few GeForce fans and people that want the best card they can get that is NOT $1000. 

Pricing and Availability

So, you've seen our performance summary above, how does that mix with the pricing data we gave you on the second page of my review?

If you want talk in terms of percentages, the GTX 780 will run you 44% more than the Radeon HD 7970 GHz Edition and 47% more than the GTX 680.  None of the single card performance results show us a difference in frame rate and gaming experience that quite match up to that so what are we left with? NVIDIA does have better acoustics, they do have better thermals and power consumption, the cards look better (but that is a personal choice) and I do believe that the software stack NVIDIA has is better.  From drivers, to multi-GPU support to the new GeForce Experience software, NVIDIA is definitely continuing to invest in PC gaming even if its not on the bundle side.

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SPEAKING OF!  It looks like the Metro: Last Light bundle will go into effect with the launch of the GTX 780 as well, so that's good news for PC gamers that haven't picked that up yet will NOT be offered with the GTX 780, which is about the worst thing I can think of for NVIDIA right now.  However, as of eight days ago the Radeon HD 7970 GHz Edition will come with four games: Crysis 3, Bioshock Infinite, Tomb Raider and Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon.  That's a pretty dramatic difference.  If you already own those titles, or honestly don't care, then you can write off.  If you are upgrading precisely so you can play games like that, then it will doubt have an impact on your decision. 

I know that many readers will be irate at NVIDIA for dropping this card at the $650 price point rather than $500; surely we "know" that this was always going to be the GTX 780 and be priced at $500 but NVIDIA's greed is getting the way right?  Maybe, and I will admit that it is disappointing to see graphics card value (performance per dollar) stretch OUT rather than IN.  The current market more or less can justify the $650 mark but that doesn't mean we don't want to see NVIDIA pushing the market forward instead.

 

Closing Thoughts

This is a tough review for me.  The NVIDIA GeForce GTX 780 isn't the fastest single GPU graphics card on the planet, the GTX Titan is.  It isn't the best value in terms of frames per dollar either, that belongs to the Radeon HD 7970 GHz Edition.  Instead the GTX 780 sits firmly in between being the best value option and the "best" option so I find it hard to decide who should actually buy it.  With a $650 price tag, it doesn't quite hit the "ludicrous" rate of the GTX Titan, GTX 690 and the HD 7990 but the price hike from the GTX 680 and the HD 7970 is not insignificant. 

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For users considering not just a single graphics card but SLI and CrossFire, I think that technology turns the tables firmly in NVIDIA's direction.  SLI and its ability to frame meter, in a way that creates much smoother animation and frame rates, in comparison to what we currently see with GPU-bound games on CrossFire setups, are the deal closer here.  Though AMD and I are currently in the "agree to disagree" stage of discussions, I firmly believe that its current drivers do a disservice to the community of enthusiasts that were told CrossFire was improving real-world gaming performance. 

NVIDIA's new GeForce GTX 780 is a much harder sell than any previous GeForce launch even though it isn't a bad card in any way.  Is it faster than the GTX 680?  Yes.  Is it faster than the HD 7970?  Yup.  Is it less expensive than the GTX Titan?  Indeed.  Those answers, alone, will sell lots of them; but, it can't win the performance per dollar argument that even enthusiasts pay attention to. 

May 23, 2013 | 06:18 AM - Posted by noble118

Yay for Mini-Titan! looking forward to live stream!

May 27, 2013 | 02:33 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

My golly AMD crossfire is still so screwed up AMD cheats so badly who can trust such a scamming con artist no wonder they need to bundle 3 or 4 games with their videocards to even sell a few of them.
Worse yet poor and blind AMD fanboys invade nearly every forum spewing an endless stream of lies and whining about nVidia prices when they can't even buy a midrange AMD gpu, which explains why they go insane squealing about prices.
Get a freakin paper route or mow a few lawns AMD crybabies.
No AMD gpu's are not good they are total crap compared to nVidia and nVidia's massive software advantages and newly integrated game settings and upcoming streaming video to the handheld and PhysXand stable drivers and frame rate target and FXAA and far superior SLI and you name it.
When you still get the AMD corner mouse cursor bug and GSOD's a unique AMD only sad crash I've had to put up with far too many times, WHY is the question.
I've had to waste about 20 days of my life helping idiots who bought AMD cards get the stupid things installed and running half crapped then they revert to turdville and the AMD fanboys squeals they didn't do a thing to destroy stability.
OMG I hate them so much.
I should sue AMD for wasting human lives.

May 27, 2013 | 06:56 PM - Posted by AParsh (not verified)

I think it's odd you are complaining about ranting AMD fan boys but then you go off and become a ranting Nvidia fanboy.
I'm not a fanboy of either - i'm only loyal to the almighty Dollar (or dollar/performance ratio).

That being said, your argument about how bad AMD is seems like you did not read the article. The HD7970 Ghz edition is still the best bang for the buck for a single video card (no crossfire or SLI) and also includes 4 AAA title games. That's worth a lot to most people that can't afford $1000+ of video cards.

June 21, 2013 | 01:41 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

the 7970 doesn't even run half the games properly

September 25, 2013 | 10:18 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

How do you have the energy to type out all that hate? I've been a loyal nvidia user for three cards, but couldn't pass up a 7950 for $229 CAN. I was worried I'd regret it, but it's posting some serious numbers. Overclocked it scored 3360 on the 3dmark11 and averaged 42fps on unengine Heaven. That betters the 670 and almost the 680. Considering those cards are going for $300+ I'd say I got a good deal.

You don't have to pick one chip for life. You just have to try and find the best deal out there for what you're willing to spend. I won this round with AMD, maybe next time I'll go back to Nvidia, who knows?

You need to calm the fuck down and just buy what you want and stop shitting on whatever is competing with what you bought. Life is too short to be so angry.

May 23, 2013 | 07:18 AM - Posted by Humanitarian

If I just bought a Titan I'd be pissed!

May 23, 2013 | 02:00 PM - Posted by djGrrr

Honestly, if that was the case, then you would have bought the Titan for the wrong reasons.

May 24, 2013 | 07:18 PM - Posted by NijaFetus (not verified)

Why the Titan is way more powerful, and dollar per dollar gets more bang for the buck!

May 23, 2013 | 08:05 AM - Posted by MarkT (not verified)

I don't like the price but it feels like they are forced @650 because the titan is 1000 and next years 880 will be more powerful then the titan, which will still cost $1000. I think the ball is in AMDs court right now and I think Nvidia won't budge on price on anything unless AMD steps up big time.

May 27, 2013 | 06:58 PM - Posted by AParsh (not verified)

You are exactly right. And this is exactly what happened in the past with AMD's video cards. There was a gap between the GTX 580 and GTX 680 when AMD had the HD6970 (or for those smart people, the unlocked HD6950) and for a while AMD's prices were way too high because Nvidia had nothing to offer.

May 23, 2013 | 08:07 AM - Posted by VikingVR

I was really ticked when the Titan was released as I had just bought a factory OC GTX 680 4GB. I would have sunk that money into the Titan instead. But... it's a good thing I didn't sink my $ into a Titan. With the federal furlough going on until the end of the year, I'm having to do some belt tightening. Hopefully with the new fiscal year everything will be back to normal. I'll probably wait until November and unload my GTX 680 for about 30%-40% off of what I paid for it and re-invest my money into a factory OC GTX 780. Thank you for the news release, I knew it was coming but its nice to see the performance numbers as well! Great job on the review!

May 23, 2013 | 08:44 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Good review guys. Looking forward to your review video!

May 23, 2013 | 09:05 AM - Posted by KittenMasher (not verified)

I'm confused about which drivers you were using for what. According to your test system page its 320.18, but you make continuous references that the data from the not-780 cards is being done using older drivers.

If that is the case you should specify which cards are using which drivers, for clarity if nothing else (were they just 320.14?).

Really, I just keep looking at the FC3 graph were the 780 is being shown outperforming the TITAN and going "wtf?".

May 23, 2013 | 09:13 AM - Posted by Ryan Shrout

In FC3, that's correct - and only because this latest beta driver we were given has special improvements for that game.  We didn't have a chance to test Titan or 680 before publication.

May 23, 2013 | 10:19 AM - Posted by Justin W (not verified)

Great review. Can we expect some Tri-SLI numbers from you guys?

May 23, 2013 | 02:36 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Only about 3 hrs. until we se Ryan !

May 23, 2013 | 02:38 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

It`s getting to the point that we may need the GPU`s to be in a separate box with a dedicated power supply/fans , eh ?

May 23, 2013 | 05:38 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Nvidiaaaaaa.. What is with these outrageous prices. Now when the Maxwell comes out i guess we should be expecting prices in 2K range.. Im losing my grip with Nvidia being a nvidia's graphics card owner..Sigh AMD I wonder what will be on your side of things in the coming years.

May 24, 2013 | 08:18 AM - Posted by Mac (not verified)

So I'm looking at Skyrim sGPU and on the frametime graph I'm seeing those nasty spikes on the geforces that look like going of the charts, and then I look at the percentile charts which don't seem to reflect these spikes. I would think those are the sort of spikes that are noticable hitches during gameplay, no? Are the percentile charts averaging out the spikes or what? Am I missing something? wouldn't be the first time lol

May 24, 2013 | 06:50 PM - Posted by nobody special (not verified)

It would be nice if you'd add a bar graph chart for ease of reading. I skipped to the end after the first benchmark just to see the conclusion. You need min fps at least in a chart (or min+avg), as I couldn't care less about max which affects nothing for my game. It takes seconds to look at bar graphs, it takes minutes and is frustrating with a bunch of lines. I'm not saying remove those (maybe some like them), but you need a chart I can quickly see who had the best min/avg.

The current way you show the benchmarks is basically a big mess IMHO. I'm not talking about frametimes here, you clearly need lines for that to show. I'm talking the actual fps charts, those need to be done in bar graphs like most other sites do. They are very quick to read and get a quick picture of who is leading X game. You lose hits from people like me every review. Sure I can decipher all the lines, but I don't have 10 minutes to do it for each chart. Instead I read the first page, the temps/noise page and the conclusion page. The charts are all just a PITA to me :(

Don't get me wrong, I love the site, and when I have time I come back at some point (usually) to read more. It's just easier to go elsewhere even if I don't really want to.

May 26, 2013 | 03:43 PM - Posted by bystander (not verified)

I don't think you understand the graphics for FPS, which are pretty easy to see. It doesn't show a number, but a chart of where the FPS was at each point in the 60 second benchmark. If you look at the lowest point in the graph, that is the minimum, if you look at the highest point, that is the maximum. This method gives you a clearer picture of what actually is taking place. Especially with minimums. In the bar graph charts, you don't know if the minimum is a small drop at the load of a game, or if the game gets near that point often. This method makes it clear.

May 25, 2013 | 08:15 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Can you please tell me the exact settings used in your heaven benchmark.

The extreme does not match up with results I've seen if thats 1920x1080 w/ 8xAA

May 26, 2013 | 09:31 PM - Posted by joe (not verified)

I just ordered the 780 and im kind of geeking out waiting for it. Lol just kidding my question is everyone says this card is not good for a single 1920x1080 monitor but what about people like me who have the asus 144hz monitor and want to play games at 120fps or play games in 3d? Wouldnt this card be perfect for that?

May 28, 2013 | 01:20 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Yeah I am with you, currently ordering a 780 but debating whether to get a high res monitor with 60fps or a 1080p with 120, its the last thing I need to complete my build.

May 28, 2013 | 03:49 AM - Posted by Trey Long (not verified)

Is it faster than all but Titan? Yes. Does it overclock well? Yes, easily going beyond Titan in many games, according to Hardocp. Does it use less power than 7970GE? Is it quieter? Yes. Is it 35% less than Titan? Yes.

Should it be 60 dollars less? Yes, and it will be soon. DO most high end buyers give a %@$#$% about 60 bucks? I doubt it.

June 1, 2013 | 07:20 PM - Posted by Sauntache

I don't think you use a particularly good benchmark run for Skyrim. It takes place primarily in Whiterun, which is more CPU bound in my experience. A better choice for GPU benchmarking would be the forest areas either around Riften or, preferably, Falkreath. These are the most GPU bound areas of the game.

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