Performance, Pricing and Availability and Conclusions



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 1920×1080 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 2560×1600, 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 5760×1080, the performance advantage never gets past 21%.  For a $220 up charge, that might not seem like huge performance increases. 

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.

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. 

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. 

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