Deciding what is a fair price for a graphics card is never an easy task. To many users, £150 would seem a high price to pay just to play a few games. Serious gamers, though, wouldn't even consider a card that cost less than twice that figure. See Group test: what's the best graphics card?
If you're in this latter category, you're likely to be strongly drawn to the GTX 770, a card that retails for around £340 and that offers some serious firepower. It may not be quite as stunning as the GTX 780, but then that card will set you back almost twice as much. See all PC Components and Upgrades reviews.
Going on the name, you'd be forgiven for thinking that the GTX 770 was the natural successor to the GTX 670. As ever with graphics card naming systems, though, this would have you drawing the wrong conclusions. Visit Nvidia GeForce GTX 670 review.
The 670 was a cut-down GTX 680, with both cards using the same GK104 processor. The 670, though, was partly disabled. In the GTX 770, on the other hand, the same GK104 processor has all its units turned on.
That means you get exactly the same 1536 steam processors and 128 texture units, for example, as on the GTX 680. The relevant figures in the case of the 670 were 1344 stream processors and 112 texture units - in both cases, an eighth less than those the 680/770. The 770 also shares the 680's 256-bit memory interface - the 670, in contrast, was 192-bit.
In essence the GTX 770 follows in the footsteps of the 680. Where it offers something new is with the clock rates. Whereas that 680 had a core clock of 1006MHz with a boost of 1058MHz, the 770 stretches these figures to 1046MHz and 1085MHz respectively. These differences of 40MHz and 27MHz seem fairly substantial. In truth, they're more a pleasing extra nibble in speed rather than a great bite, with the 770's texture fill rate of 138.9GT/s proving only slightly higher than the 680's figure of 135.4GT/s.
In fairness, we could compliment nVidia for making the GTX 770 a chip that hasn't been partly disabled. The 670 has 16 fewer texture units, and that difference really shows, with the unclocked 670 struggling to a miserable figure of 109.8GTps.
The really radical move on the GTX 770 comes with the memory clock. A figure here of 1.75GHz amounts to an effective 7GHz (or 7010MHz, to be precise) on GDDR5 (the RAM effectively quadruples the memory clock figure), whereas the 680 was only using 1502MHz (6,008MHz or 6GHz DDR effective). It's worth drawing attention to this, as nVidia really has pushed the GDDR5 memory to its very limits - even the heavyweight GTX Titan and 780 chips only go to 1.5/6GHz, which tells us how impressive it is to see 7GHz on the 770.
The 256-bit memory interface combines with the 7GHz figure to give us a memory bandwidth of 224GB/s, rather higher than the 192.3GB/s of the 680s, and a mile ahead of the 670's figure of 144.2GB/s.
When we reviewed the 680 in our July 2012 issue, we commented that 2GB of memory might seem a little inadequate in the future. Well, we're over a year on now, and our version of the 770 was still coming with 2GB. There will be a 4GB version, but no supplies were available at the time of writing, and it seems likely that 2GB will remian the standard-issue configuration.
Will 770 users lose out by having only 2GB? Well, while few of the 2012 cards went beyond this amount, it's notable that the trend is changing. Both the nVidia Titan and the GTX 780 will have at least 3GB. The ATI Radeon HD 7970 has had 3GB for over a year, even though that product currently retails for £60 or so less than today's card.
The GTX 770 isn't cheap, and we find it hard to believe future £360+ cards will come with less than 3GB on board.
In today's gaming world, you can get by very happily with 2GB. However, that situation could be changing 12-18 months from now. If you want to buy a card that's going to remain fresh for some time to come, particularly if you think you'll be wanting to push to higher resolutions, it might be worth waiting around for 4GB.
nVidia GeForce GTX 770 review: Performance
In terms of benchmark figures, the GTX 770 isn't as fast as the 780, but it is noticeably faster than the 680.
In Crysis 3, the 770 scored 42.5 and 23.9 fps at resolutions of 1920 x 1080 and 2560 x 1440 respectively. The 780, with scores of 48.4 and 28.7 fps, was 5-6 fps faster. The GTX 680, on 39.1 and 20.3 fps, fell around 3 fps behind.
In Bioshock Infinite Rage, the gap between the 770 (73.4 and 45.2 fps) and the 780 (89.5/55.0 fps) widened, to 10-16 fps. The gap to the slower GTX 680 (65.5 and 39.7 fps) increased, though.
In Stalker: Call of Pripyat, the gap between the 770 (102.0 and 74.3 fps) and the 680 (86.4/62.1 fps) became a rather large 12-16 fps. The 780 (114.3/82.2) picked up an 8-12 fps lead over the 770.
The GTX 770 is certainly a better choice than the 680. And while it's not as fast as the 780, the price difference between the two is such that the nVidia GeForce GTX 770 is better value.
nVidia GeForce GTX 770 review: Power consumption
The graphics chips of the previous year have tended to be fairly good at saving power. The GTX 70, though, takes a rather different tack.
Given that it uses essentially the same technology as on many previous GPUs, but makes its main advances through higher clock speeds, it's perhaps unsurprising that this card will use a lot of power.
The 680 and 670 have TDP figures of 195 watt and 170 watt respectively. The 770, though, is specified to draw a rather heady 230 watt.
In practice, we found the card to sometimes be taking almost 45 watt higher than the 680. Fairly clearly, then, nVidia is trying to get more out of the chip by pushing it to the very edge.
Happily, this doesn't result in excessive noise levels, and the 770 was actually over 2 dB quieter than the 680. The 780 was barely a decibel more, so nVidia has done a very good job at getting sound levels down for its latest chips.