GTX 780 Ti and GTX 680 Comparison, Pricing and Closing Thoughts

One of NVIDIA's marketing points for the GTX 980 Ti is that it would make a great upgrade point for users of previous generation flagship GPUs. I thought it might be a test to see if that was true, so I pulled out a GeForce GTX 780 Ti and a GeForce GTX 680 reference card and compared them to the GTX 980 Ti. I just tested 2560×1440 in Battlefield 4, Metro: Last Light and Grand Theft Auto V to get an idea of just how much performance has changed over the years.

GTX 980 Ti, Average FPS Comparisons
  GTX 780 Ti GTX 680
BF4, 2560×1440 +40% +105%
Metro: LL, 2560×1440 +27% +97%
GTA V, 2560×1440 +33% +100%

In this quick comparison with three games at 2560×1440, the GTX 980 Ti offers a 27-40% increase over the GTX 780 Ti card released in November of 2013 but essentially doubles the performance of the GeForce GTX 680 released in March of 2012.

Pricing and Bundle Debates

While it is hard to call any PC component that comes with a price tag of $650 a value, I know that many enthusiasts will see the new GeForce GTX 980 Ti in that light. I know when I shared the price with our own staff the immediate reaction was one of surprise; surprise that NVIDIA would undercut their own Titan X by $350 while basically matching performance identically to that halo product. As it stands now, here is the entirety of NVIDIA's GeForce product stack:

If you are just joining us, those prices account for a $50 price drop on the GTX 980 that is going into effect today. As far as bundles go, in the US at least, the new GTX 980 Ti will come with a free copy of the new Batman: Arkham Knight game, but drops the inclusion of The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt.

If there is one thing that is obvious from our benchmarking and this pricing layout is that the GTX 980 Ti is the better choice between it and the Titan X for 99.99% of the gamers in the world. In fact, the only benefit to 12GB of memory rather than 6GB will likely be for compute applications with really big data sets; otherwise you'd be crazy to shell out for the $999 Titan X rather than the $649 GeForce GTX 980 Ti for gaming purposes. Seriously, don't do it.

Let's add the AMD cards back into the mix:

In terms of price, the AMD Radeon R9 295X2 looks pretty compelling. For a little bit under the price of the GTX 980 Ti you can get a card that in many cases outperforms the GeForce offering and has more memory to boot! Of course, the difficulty with that statement is that 295X2 uses a pair of Hawaii GPUs on a single PCB and thus you get all the difficulties of multi-GPU configurations ALL THE TIME even with a single graphics card in your system. In a few of those benchmarks on the previous pages, including the new Grand Theft Auto V, even though average frame rates might have been higher than the new GTX 980 Ti, things like frame variance and stutter popped their heads up to bring down the overall experience. This kind of thing can affect SLI configurations as well, but as a rule of thumb AMD tends to be a bit behind in multi-GPU driver implementations, day one drivers for new releases, etc.

The Radeon R9 290X is clearly a much lower priced card, coming in more than $300 under the price of the 980 Ti and $150 less than the GTX 980. Very few people have tried to deny that AMD wins the performance per dollar battle with NVIDIA, and the R9 290X proves that. In most of our tests the highest end single GPU card runs 40-50% slower than the GTX 980 Ti and sits at basically half the price. It's clear at this point that AMD needs to get Fiji out the door soon to remain competitive and to put some pressure on NVIDIA for the high end space.

Closing Thoughts

The GeForce GTX 980 Ti is an amazing graphics card. Even though the technology is absolutely something we have seen before with the GTX Titan X, the fact that you can get identical performacne for $350 less is a great thing for PC gamers and enthusiasts looking for top end performance. In reality, this is the video card that should have been released back in March; the Titan brand of cards always make a big splash but without double precision performance to make it unique for CUDA developers, these "next step down cards" are the best options.  It's the case here today with the GTX 980 Ti and was true with the GTX 780 Ti as well.  

NVIDIA does help itself out with yields bins while lowering its own costs by fielding a GPU with 2816 CUDA cores rather than 3072 by disabling a pair of SM units.  But gamers get the added benefit of slightly higher Boost clock speeds on the GTX 980 Ti than on the Titan X resulting in matched performance overall with a considerably lower price. For gamers looking to tackle 4K resolutions or just to max out the image quality settings at 2560×1440, the GTX 980 Ti looks to be the perfect solution.

And now the questions begin: how can AMD respond? We already know that they are planning to release Fiji this summer utilizing the new High Bandwidth Memory technology we talked about earlier in May. If this will give AMD enough of an advantage that it can topple the likes of NVIDIA's GM200 GPU and Maxwell architecture have yet to be seen. 

For now, the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980 Ti becomes the best graphics card for PC gamers planning for 4K, VR or the most demanding PC titles due out in 2015.

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