Gigabyte GeForce GTX 780 Ti review

Gigabyte GeForce GTX 780 Ti

While nVidia likely felt that its GTX Titan and 780 graphics cards must have had the high end of the market sewn up last year, a doughty challenger from AMD appeared, the R9 290X. It has since put paid to that idea, establishing itself as the top single-GPU card. (See also Group test: what's the best graphics card?)

In the spirit of a classic tennis match, nVidia has responded with a new powerful volley – the GeForce GTX 780 Ti. In fairness, this card is going to cost a considerable amount extra – at least for the first few months of its existence. The AMD Radeon R9 290X hovers around the £400 mark, whereas this version of the 780 Ti will set you back a hefty £560. So can the 780 Ti produce sufficient performance advantages to justify its tag?

Essentially, the GTX Titan, 780 and 780 Ti are all built around the same GK110 chip. But where the 780 only has 12 of the 15 Streaming Multiprocessors (or SMXes) activated, the 780 Ti has all 15 of them turned on.

Interestingly, this means that the nVidia Titan, despite costing £200-£250 more, has a number of inferior figures compared to the 780 Ti. So while the Ti gets the maximum complement of 240 texture units and 2880 stream processors, the Titan is stuck with just 224 and 2688 respectively. The standard 780, with just twelve fifteenths of the complement, has only 192 texture units and 2304 stream processors.

In truth, this isn't as crazy as it may seem. The Titan was always about its stunning compute capabilities, making it a viable prosumer alternative to the extortionately priced high-end Quadro/Tesla products.

The Titan retains that lead in compute power, with both the 780 and 780 Ti severely hobbled in this area. For gamers, though, hardware-accelerated graphics computing isn't really an issue, so it makes sense to create a gaming-specific card, the 780 Ti, where compute capabilities are toned down, and everything else is turned to full.

Looked purely in terms of clock rates, the 780 Ti is relatively unimpressive. Its standard core clock of 875 MHz (928 MHz with Boost) beats the figures of both the Titan and 780 (the latter came with an 863 MHz clock and a Boost of 876 MHz). However, it lags far behind the GTX 770, for instance, which in its Asus version, offers 1058 MHz, with a Boost to 1110 MHz.

Luckily, the 780 Ti is about far more than simple clock rates. Indeed, the 240 texture units allows it to slaughter the GTX 770, offering a texture fill rate of 222.8 GT/sec against the 142.1 GT/sec of the 770. The standard 780 is also left some way behind, with a figure of 168.2GT/sec.

So even on basic factory settings, the 780 Ti is superior to all competitors. This, though, is a cleverly designed Gigabyte version, and comes with a vastly improved clock rate of 1020 MHz, with a Boost to 1085 MHz. That means it increases that 222.8 GT/sec rate to a stunning 260.4 GT/sec. The R9 290X, by the way, has a figure of just 176 GT/sec – better than the standard 780, but no match for the Ti.

The R9 290X isn't as far behind on memory speed. The 780 Ti's 1750 MHz memory clock works out as a sizzling 7 GHz. That places it ahead of the 6 GHz of the Titan and standard 780, and right up with the industry-leading 7 GHz of the GTX 770.

The 290X, stuck on just 5GHz, may seem behind the curve. However, whereas the 290X's memory interface is a wide 512-bit version, the 780 Ti, 780 and Titan all use a more modest 384-bit version. This means that the R9 290X sets a strong standard with a memory bandwidth of 320 GB/sec, despite its modest memory clock. The Titan and standard 780 achieve just 288 GB/sec.

However, the 780 Ti proves itself the best again, with that fast 7 GHz memory clock making up for the narrower interface. Its resulting bandwidth score of 336 GB/sec is fantastic. The R9 290X does pack slightly more memory – 4 GB to the 780 Ti's 3 GB – but we feel that 3 GB will be more than enough for the next few years.

Gigabyte GeForce GTX 780 Ti: Performance

The 780 Ti is very much the single-GPU champ when it comes to game frame rates. In Crysis 3, for example, it polled 53 and 33.1 fps at resolutions of 1900 x 1200 and 2560 x 1600 respectively. That compares very favourably to the previous leader, the R9 290X, with 49.5 and 29.6 fps. The standard 780 is even further back, on 48.4 and 28.7 fps.

In Stalker: Call of Pripyat, the 780 Ti was once again commanding, with figures of 128.3 and 96.1 fps blasting the 290X's 122.2/90.9 fps. The 780 is left trailing in their wake, on 114.3/82.2fps.

In Bioshock Infinite, we decided to up the resolution ante even more. At 2560 x 1600, the 780 Ti produced 64.9 fps, vanquishing its rivals with the 290X on 60 fps and the 780 back on 55 fps. Moving into 4K territory, at a resolution of 3840 x 2160 pixels, the 780 Ti was again superior, tallying 39.6 fps to the 290X's 36.7 fps.

Given the extra firepower, we were surprised to find the 780 Ti only drawing an extra 16-19 watt in typical testing when compared to the standard 780. This is an extremely well-designed card, and Gigabyte has given it the deluxe treatment, adding an elaborate cooling system that generates barely any noise. The AMD cards have given us a few concerns in terms of increased noise, but there were no such problems with this immaculately conceived 780 Ti.

Gigabyte GeForce GTX 780 Ti: Specs

  • nVidia GeForce GTX 780 Ti
  • 3 GB GDDR5
  • 1020 MHz core clock (boost to 1080 MHz)
  • 1750 MHz memory clock (7 GHz DDR effective)
  • 384-bit memory interface
  • 2880 stream processors
  • 240 texture units
  • 48 ROP Units
  • PCI-E interface
  • DirectX 11.1
  • 2 x DVI, 1 x HDMI, 1 x DisplayPort
  • 1 x 8-pin and 1 x 6-pin PSU connector needed
  • 3-year warrant
  • nVidia GeForce GTX 780 Ti
  • 3 GB GDDR5
  • 1020 MHz core clock (boost to 1080 MHz)
  • 1750 MHz memory clock (7 GHz DDR effective)
  • 384-bit memory interface
  • 2880 stream processors
  • 240 texture units
  • 48 ROP Units
  • PCI-E interface
  • DirectX 11.1
  • 2 x DVI, 1 x HDMI, 1 x DisplayPort
  • 1 x 8-pin and 1 x 6-pin PSU connector needed
  • 3-year warrant

OUR VERDICT

In many respects, the nVidia GeForce GTX 780 Ti is the best out there. It's got the best specifications and produces astounding frame rates in real-world gaming. It's also relatively quiet next to the 290X. Having said all that, we'd still recommend the 290X to most users. That's because there's a £160 price gap which, in our opinion, isn't quite bridged by the Ti's superiority. For the time being it remains just that bit too expensive to take the recommendation as best value high-end card. However, if money is no object, this is the best single-GPU gaming card out there. And when the price falls so that the difference between this and the 290X drops to two figures, the 780 Ti will almost undoubtedly become the top high-performance deal on the market.