GeForce GTX 770 Review: Adding Value to High-End GFX?S

Having taken the covers off the GeForce GTX 780 a week ago, Nvidia is ready to release their next part in the GeForce 700 series. Giving us our first look at the GeForce GTX 770 is Gainward, with their special Phantom edition card featuring an upgraded cooling solution, factory overclocking, and 8-phase PWM.

But let's put things into further context. The GTX 780 that debuted last week was based on the same Kepler GK110 architecture used by the GTX Titan. Nvidia priced the GTX 780 at $650, making it 35% cheaper than the GTX Titan but also 40% more than the GTX 680. In terms of performance, the GTX 780 was only 10 - 15% slower than the Titan, so it added value to an otherwise very exclusive price point, however when compared to the GTX 680 the numbers were less impressive as the GTX 780 was just 24% faster.

GeForce GTX 770 Review: Adding Value to High-End GFX?S

Therefore the GeForce GTX 780 is an attractive option for those wanting Titan-levels of performance at a more moderate price, but in the overall scope of things, the 780 was hardly exciting news for the vast majority of gamers as it remains a very expensive affair and the release did nothing to drive down prices of previous generation cards.

Looking forward to the GeForce GTX 770's release, we were hoping this would be a little more meaningful for the gaming community. The GTX 770 is based on the GK104 architecture, first used by last year’s GTX 680. Earlier rumors indicated that the GTX 770's specifications would be much like a GTX 680 on steroids, and as it turns out that's exactly what it is. Virtually everything about the GTX 770 and GTX 680 are the same, except for core and memory clock speeds.

GeForce GTX 770 Review: Adding Value to High-End GFX?S

The GTX 770 features the fastest GDDR5 memory we have ever seen at 7GHz. Memory at that clock rate is good for a peak bandwidth of 224GB/s, 16% more than the GTX 680. Therefore, technically if you could overclock a GTX 680 well enough you could create a GTX 770.

GeForce GTX 770 Phantom in Detail

Gainward has prepped their Phantom card in time for the GTX 770 release, touting a reworked PCB with an upgraded power phase, factory overclocking and a massive triple slot cooler — the last of which is the most noteworthy enhancement. Although Gainward featured its Phantom cooler on some GTX 600 series cards, the GTX 770 is the first to market with the company's third-generation solution.

The new Phantom delivers better thermals while making less noise and boasting of a sturdier construction. It's unlike any triple-slot cooler we've encountered before. It features five 6mm heatpipes that extract heat from the base and evenly distribute it throughout the heatsink.

GeForce GTX 770 Review: Adding Value to High-End GFX?S

GeForce GTX 770 Review: Adding Value to High-End GFX?S GeForce GTX 770 Review: Adding Value to High-End GFX?S

The most unusual part of the cooler design is the fans, or rather their location. Fans are typically attached to the top side of the heatsink, but instead Gainward has embedded three quiet 80mm brushless PWM fans inside the heatsink. The fans are also removable, featuring a tool-less design. Similar to the way hot-swappable hard drivebays work, the fans slide out once a single thumb screw has been removed, no cables, no fuss.

The heatsink measures 257mm long, 65mm wide and 45mm tall. It features a black fan shroud that forces the 80mm fans to draw air in through fins above them and push it over the card below them at the same time. Moving past the heatsink is a black aluminum heat spreader that engulfs the top side of the card and cools the eight 256MB GDDR5 memory chips along with the 8-phase PWM.

GeForce GTX 770 Review: Adding Value to High-End GFX?S

GeForce GTX 770 Review: Adding Value to High-End GFX?S GeForce GTX 770 Review: Adding Value to High-End GFX?S

By using a 8-phase design, Gainward includes two extra phases for power delivery to the GPU, which shouldimprove performance under heavy loads and aid in the card's overclocking abilities. Speaking of overclocking, Gainward has done a little bit of the heavy lifting by pushing the core clock from 1046MHz to 11150MHz, a decent 10% increase, while the Boost Clock is increased from 1085MHz to 1202MHz, an 11% increase. The GDDR5 operating frequency has been left at 7GHz meaning the memory bandwidth remains at 224.3GB/s.

As mentioned before, beyond clock speeds the GeForce GTX 770's specifications are identical to the GTX 680. This means there are 4 graphics processing clusters, 8 streaming multiprocessors, 1536 CUDA cores, 128 TAUs and 32 ROPs. The rest of Gainward's card remains fairly standard, including a pair of SLI connectors, 6-pin and 8-pin PCIe power connectors, and an I/O panel configuration consisting of HDMI, DisplayPort and two DVI ports.

Testing Methodology

As usual we tested each graphics card with Fraps, which lets us record the average frame rate in seconds over a set amount of time. Typically, we run our tests for 60 seconds. Reporting the average fps (frames per second) is how things have been done for... well, forever. It's a fantastic metric in the sense that it's easy to record and easy to understand. But it doesn't tell the whole story, as The Tech Report and others have shown.

To get a fuller picture, it's increasingly apparent that you need to factor in a card's frame latency, which looks at how quickly each frame is delivered. Regardless of how many frames a graphics card produces on average in 60 seconds, if it can't deliver them all at roughly the same speed, you might see more brief jittery points with one GPU over another — something we've witnessed but didn't fully understand.

GeForce GTX 770 Review: Adding Value to High-End GFX?S

Assuming two cards deliver equal average frame rates, the one with lowest stable frame latency is going to offer the smoothest picture, and that's a pretty important detail to consider if you're about to drop a wad of cash. As such, we'll be including this information from now on by measuring how long in milliseconds it takes cards to render each frame individually and then graphing that in a digestible way.

We'll be using the latency-focused 99th percentile metric, which looks at 99% of results recorded within X milliseconds, and the lower that number is, the faster and smoother the performance is overall. By removing 1% of the most extreme results, it's possible to filter anomalies that might have been caused by other components. Again, kudos to The Tech Report and other sites like PC Per for shining a light on this issue.

Test System Specs

  • Intel Core i7-3960X Extreme Edition (3.30GHz)
  • x4 2GB G.Skill DDR3-1600(CAS 8-8-8-20)
  • Asrock X79 Extreme11 (Intel X79)
  • OCZ ZX Series (1250W)
  • Crucial m4 512GB (SATA 6Gb/s)
  • HIS Radeon HD 7990 (6144MB)
  • HIS Radeon HD 7970 GHz (3072MB) Crossfire
  • HIS Radeon HD 7970 GHz (3072MB)
  • HIS Radeon HD 7970 (3072MB)
  • HIS Radeon HD 7950 Boost (3072MB) Crossfire
  • HIS Radeon HD 7950 Boost (3072MB)
  • HIS Radeon HD 7950 (3072MB)
  • HIS Radeon HD 7870 (2048MB) Crossfire
  • HIS Radeon HD 7870 (2048MB)
  • Gigabyte GeForce GTX Titan (6144MB)
  • Gainward GeForce GTX 780 (3072MB)
  • Gainward GeForce GTX 770 (2048MB)
  • Gainward GeForce GTX 690 (4096MB)
  • Gainward GeForce GTX 680 (2048MB)
  • Gigabyte GeForce GTX 670 (2048MB)
  • Gainward GeForce GTX 660 Ti (2048MB) SLI
  • Gainward GeForce GTX 660 Ti (2048MB)
  • Microsoft Windows 7 Ultimate SP1 64-bit
  • Nvidia Forceware 320.18
  • AMD Catalyst 13.5 (Beta 2)

Benchmarks: Battlefield 3, Crysis 3

GeForce GTX 770 Review: Adding Value to High-End GFX?S GeForce GTX 770 Review: Adding Value to High-End GFX?S

The Gainward GTX 770 Phantom was 5% faster than the standard GTX 770 in Battlefield 3 at 2560x1600 rendering 54.1fps. This meant that it was just 4% faster than the Radeon HD 7970 GHz Edition but 12% faster than the GeForce GTX 680. The overclocked Gainward GTX 770 Phantom was also 17% slower than the GTX 780 which averaged a more impressive 64.8fps.

GeForce GTX 770 Review: Adding Value to High-End GFX?S

The frame time performance saw the Gainward GTX 770 Phantom produce similar margins when compared to the competition. Here the GTX 770 Phantom was 5% faster than the standard GTX 770, 12% faster than the GTX 680 and 7% faster than the Radeon HD 7970 GHz Edition, while it did trail the GTX 780 by an 18% margin.

GeForce GTX 770 Review: Adding Value to High-End GFX?S GeForce GTX 770 Review: Adding Value to High-End GFX?S

The Gainward GTX 770 Phantom averaged 27.9fps when testing with Crysis 3 at 2560x1600 which is the same result turned in by the standard GTX 770. Despite that it was still 6% faster than the GTX 680 and 18% faster than the Radeon HD 7970 GHz Edition. Meanwhile the Gainward GTX 770 Phantom was also just 6% slower than the GeForce GTX 780.

GeForce GTX 770 Review: Adding Value to High-End GFX?S

The Crysis 3 frame time performance is quite different to that of the frames per second performance. This time the Gainward GTX 770 Phantom was 8% faster than the standard GTX 770 and 18% faster than the GTX 680, while it was just 4% slower than the GTX 780.

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Republished with permission from: GeForce GTX 770 Review: Adding Value to High-End GFX?

Steven Walton is a writer at TechSpot. TechSpot is a computer technology publication serving PC enthusiasts, gamers and IT pros since 1998.