Nvidia has been kicking a lot of goals recently. It released the GTX 980, the world's most powerful single-GPU graphics card in November last year, and did the same with its laptop chips. Now there's a new king of desktop graphics, the Titan X — and this is one really really ridiculously powerful card.
What Is It?
- Base Clock: 1000MHz
- Boost Clock: 1075MHz
- Memory Clock: 7.0Gbps
- Memory: 12GB GDDR5
- Power: 250W, 8pin + 6pin
Nvidia's US$999 GeForce GTX Titan X is the 2015 descendant of the original Titan, a top-of-the-line graphics card for gamers and professionals sold only via Nvidia — that is to say, a card not repackaged and sold through add-in board partners like ASUS, MSI, Gigabyte or EVGA. It is undoubtedly the most powerful card that the American technology company has ever produced.
Despite what seems like a relatively unspectacular base and boost clock of 1GHz and 1075MHz respectively, the Titan X is all about efficiency (like the GTX 980) — about getting more done in every clock cycle. It consumes only 250 Watts of power, the same as the previous Titan, but is a full 50 per cent more powerful. Instead of 6GB of VRAM as the 980 and Titan have onboard, the Titan X doubles that with 12GB. That's massive.
Compared to the GTX 980 that it (very roughly) shares its Maxwell 2 processor architecture with, though, the Titan X wipes the floor with it. 3072 general purpose CUDA cores versus 2048, 192 texture units versus 128, 96 render pipelines versus 64, 384-bit memory bus width versus 256; everything except its outright clock speed is roughly 50 per cent more powerful. It's also Nvidia's physically largest ever GPU, with 8 billion transistors across 601mm2 of silicon.
Interestingly, Nvidia has positioned the GTX Titan X as its first luxury graphics card. It's accordingly expensive, obviously, but to that end it's also amazingly well constructed. It's a weighty card, full of tightly-packed heatsink with a blower-style exhaust fan, but it's the speckled satin black painted metal shroud that just looks awesome. If you have this graphics card, you have to show it off — a case with a side window is a must.
What's It Good At?
Oh boy. When it comes to gaming, the GTX Titan X is a beast. It's massively powerful, and it almost feels like a waste to play anything but the most recent and graphically demanding titles on it. A quick bout of Left 4 Dead 2 or Counter-Strike: Global Offensive really doesn't stress the Titan X even at those titles' highest settings even at 4K. Far Cry 4 is a breeze at 1080p or 1440p, but at 4K starts to test the Titan X's strength. Battlefield 4, Crysis 3, Star Citizen, Elite: Dangerous — these are the titles you should be playing.
Nvidia GeForce GTX Titan X: Average Frame Rates
Far Cry 4 (Ultra): 1080P: 99FPS 1440P: 78FPS 2160P: 42FPS Battlefield 4 (Ultra): 1080P: 108FPS 1440P: 59FPS 2160P: 59FPS Crysis 3 (Very High): 1080P: 112FPS 1440P: 60FPS 2160P: 46FPS Metro: Last Light (Very High): 1080P: 71FPS 1440P: 50FPS 2160P: 40FPS Tomb Raider (Ultimate + TressFX): 1080P: 192FPS 1440P: 111FPS 2160P: 99FPS
For the most part, a single Nvidia GeForce GTX Titan X will maintain smooth, playable frame rates at 4K resolution on Ultra quality settings on even the most punishing games out today. From a single card. That's pretty damn impressive, right? Drop quality down to High or Medium, depending on the title, and you'll rack up that 60FPS-plus holy grail of gaming — but even that's not always mandatory. For the investment you're making, you're getting one hell of a piece of silicon.
To that end, you really have to have a Ultra HD monitor to make best use of Nvidia's Titan X. I tested it on a LG 40UB800T and a Philips BDM4065UC — I'd recommend both of these for anyone looking for cheap big-screen Ultra HD gaming, although the Philips is better because it supports 4K at 60Hz with full colours. 1080p and 1440p really don't stress the Titan X and it's a bit wasted here.
But what's fascinating about the Titan X is that it doesn't struggle to get the performance levels it achieves. It doesn't produce an ungodly amount of heat, like previous generation Nvidia and AMD cards alike (anything high-end and older like the GTX 690, or even newer AMD Radeons like the R9 290X), and the 250 Watt TDP of the Titan X is as little as half of other competing cards like the AMD R9 295X2.
What's It Not Good At?
This goes without saying, but the Titan X is expensive. It's a US$999 graphics card; the cheapest I've seen it for in Australia has been a full $1499. That's a lot of money, and that necessarily restricts the market of the card to a relatively small number of people. It's worth saving your pennies for, obviously, but has understandably diminishing returns compared to a GTX 980 or GTX 970 which might be half or one third of the price.
What might be the biggest competitor to the GTX Titan X, then, is a dual-card SLI or CrossFire setup like two GTX 980s or GTX 970s, or two AMD Radeon R290Xs — as long as you have the power supply, dual-GPU motherboard and case space to support such an endeavour, at least. You can get theoretically better performance from two cards, or from a dual-GPU single card setup like the equally expensive and equally hard-to-get-to-grips with R9 295X2.
It's also worth noting that AMD is mere weeks or months off launching a brand new graphics chipset and range of competitor cards to Nvidia's top-of-the-line units; from the whispers I've been hearing these should be much, much improved from previous R9 2XX chips. If you wait awhile, you'll find yourself spoiled with more choice and probably a lot more price competition. Of course, this is true of basically any piece of electronics hardware anywhere at any given time ever.
For most of the people reading Gizmodo, this is a bit of a moot point, but the Titan X doesn't have the double-point precision performance levels of the original Titan. Trade-offs at the GPU level have been made to maximise gaming performance instead of FP64; these are calculations that are important for scientific research, stock market trading and so on. It isn't targeted as much at developers and non-gaming computer professionals as the previous model. If you're a gamer, ignore this entirely — it's basically a positive for you guys.
Should You Buy It?
The Titan X is the top single-GPU graphics card of today — there's no doubt whatsoever about that. It's hugely powerful, and to that end it can push out 60fps smooth performance at Ultra HD resolutions, as long as you have an appropriately expensive monitor or TV to flatter it. This is the card to buy if you want to play 4K; 1080p or 1440p is a doddle, obviously. Despite the power, it's actually reasonably lightweight in terms of its power and heat performance.
There are more powerful single-card solutions out there, like AMD's Radeon R9 295X2, and there is no doubt in my mind that you'd get better performance out of a SLI GeForce GTX 980 setup. But neither of those potential systems is as easy and seamless to get running as the Titan X, and also have much higher power and chassis space requirements.
Nvidia is definitely going for a more luxe feel with the Titan X, in everything from board and heatsink and fan design to the simple sleek black packaging (which, incidentally, means no free games or added extras). It has delivered in spades, though — in a world where gaming hardware is commoditised the Titan X definitely stands out and feels special.
It's an expensive card, definitely, but any wizened gamer knows that you have to pay to play. The Titan X is a pricey piece of computing hardware, but in the scheme of a 4K gaming system it's probably not even the most expensive part. It's also future-proofing of the highest order, in an age of transition from Full to Ultra HD. What I'm saying is that there a bunch of ways to justify the Nvidia GeForce GTX Titan X's existence, so pick your favourite and go out and buy one.