Nvidia GeForce GTX Titan X review: Hail to the new GPU king

titanx stylized 010 titan name
At a Glance
  • Nvidia GeForce GTX Titan X

    PCWorld Rating

Nvidia sure knows how to strike a killer first impression.

The company revealed its new GeForce GTX Titan X not with a massive event, not with a coordinated marketing blitz, but by CEO Jen-Hsun Huang striding unannounced into Epic’s Game Developers Conference panel, introducing “the most advanced GPU the world has ever seen,” autographing one for Epic’s Tim Sweeney, then casually striding back out.

Like a boss.

Nvidia’s walking the walk to back up the talk, though. The $1,000 Titan X truly is the bestest, baddest, most firebreathing single-GPU graphics card in all the land—and it’s the first one able to play many games on high detail settings at 4K resolution all by it’s lonesome, with no multi-card setup necessary. It is a beast.

This is going to be fun.

Meet the Titan X

gefoce gtx titanx front

Nvidia's Titan X graphics card.

Let’s talk about technical design before jumping into raw performance specs. Huang stayed vague on tech specs when he revealed the Titan X at GDC, only teasing that the graphics card contains 8 billion transistors and 12GB of memory. That extreme amount of memory led some to believe the Titan X would be a dual-GPU card, like AMD’s Radeon R9 295x2 or Nvidia’s own Titan Z.

Nope.

titan x specs

The GTX Titan X's specifications. (Click to enlarge any image throughout this article.)

The Titan X’s beating heart is the all-new 28nm GM200 graphics processor unit (GPU), which is basically the bigger brother of the GM204 chip found in the GTX 980 and 970. Since it's based on "Big Maxwell" rather than the GTX 960's newer GM206 chip, the Titan X lacks the GTX 960's H.265 decoding abilities, and likely its HDCP 2.2 compliance as well. (We've asked Nvidia but haven't received an answer yet.) GM200 can handle H.265 encoding, however. 

Built using the same energy-efficient Maxwell architecture as its GTX 900-series brethren, the Titan X packs a whopping 3072 CUDA cores—compared to the GTX 980’s 2048—along with 192 textures units. The card comes clocked at 1000MHz, with a boost clock of 1075MHz. You can see the full list of specifications in the chart at right. For most of the core GPU specs, it’s basically a GTX 980 plus 50 percent more.

That 12GB of onboard RAM is clocked at a speedy 7Gbps—just like the GTX 900-series graphics cards—and it utilizes a 384-bit bus. AMD’s high-end Radeon GPUs use a wider 512-bit bus, but slower 5Gbps memory, for comparison.

geforce titanx board

The new 28nm GM200 chip is the beating heart of Nvidia's Titan X graphics card.

Physically, the black, aluminum-clad Titan X rocks three DisplayPort connections, a solitary HDMI 2.0 port, and dual-link DVI. The card draws 275 watts of power through an 8-pin and 6-pin power connection. It measures 10.5-inches long in a traditional dual-slot form factor. Unlike Nvidia’s GTX 980 reference card, the Titan X has no backplate, ostensibly to better facilitate cooler airflow in multi-card setups.

Speaking of, here’s how Nvidia describes the Titan X’s cooler design:

“A copper vapor chamber is used to cool TITAN X’s GM200 GPU. This vapor chamber is combined with a large, dual-slot aluminum heatsink to dissipate heat off the chip. A blower-style fan then exhausts this hot air through the back of the graphics card and outside the PC’s chassis.”

The card runs extremely quietly even under load, to the point that I’m not sure if I was hearing the case fans or the GPU cooler during intense benchmarking sessions. That's essential, especially since all Titan X designs will rock reference coolers only—there will be no aftermarket cooler options from board vendors. Nvidia claims the Titan X overclocks like a champ, hitting up to 1.4GHz in the company’s internal testing. I was unable to OC the Titan X due to time constraints, but given the superb overclocking capabilities of every other Maxwell-based GPU, I heartily believe the claim.

geforce titanx shroud off

Removing the Titan X's shroud reveals its heat sink and cooler.

The Titan X features the same basic software features as the GTX 980 and 970, including Voxel Global Illumination (VXGI), which lets developers create better dynamic lighting without invoking a massive performance hit, and VR Direct for virtual reality gaming. (The Titan X was actually used to power many of the VR demos on display at GDC 2015—hence the surprise launch during Epic’s panel.)

It also fully supports Nvidia’s impressive Multi-Frame-Sampled Anti-aliasing (MFAA) technology, which smooths out jagged edges at a level similar to traditional MSAA, but with much less of performance hit. This awesome technology works with any DirectX 10 or DX11 title that supports MSAA and basically provides a free—and often substantial—frame rate increase. That’s a huge deal at any resolution, but it can mean the difference between a playable game and stuttering garbage at 4K resolution.

If you use Nvidia’s GeForce experience to automatically optimize your games, it’ll enable MFAA in place of MSAA by default.

Next page: Performance benchmarks and a final verdict on Nvidia's Titan X graphics card.

At a Glance
  • PCWorld Rating

    Nvidia's GeForce GTX Titan X is hands-down the fastest single-GPU graphics card in the world, and the first capable of gaming at 4K without having to resort to a multiple-card setup.

    Pros

    • Incredibly powerful gaming performance
    • Capable of playing games at 4K resolutions with high detail settings
    • Quiet, relatively cool, and easily overclocked

    Cons

    • 99 percent of gamers can't afford it
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