The launch of the Kepler family of GPUs in March of 2012 was something of a departure from the normal for NVIDIA. Over the years NVIDIA has come to be known among other things for their big and powerful GPUs. NVIDIA had always produced a large 500mm2+ GPU to serve both as a flagship GPU for their consumer lines and the fundamental GPU for their Quadro and Tesla lines, and have always launched with that big GPU first.

So when the Kepler family launched first with the GK104 and GK107 GPUs – powering the GeForce GTX 680 and GeForce GT 640M respectively – it was unusual to say the least. In place of “Big Kepler”, we got a lean GPU that was built around graphics first and foremost, focusing on efficiency and in the process forgoing a lot of the compute performance NVIDIA had come to be known for in the past generation. The end result of this efficiency paid off nicely for NVIDIA, with GTX 680 handily surpassing AMD’s Radeon HD 7970 at the time of its launch in both raw performance and in power efficiency.

Big Kepler was not forgotten however. First introduced at GTC 2012, GK110 as it would come to be known would be NVIDIA’s traditional big, powerful GPU for the Kepler family. Building upon NVIDIA’s work with GK104 while at the same time following in the footsteps of NVIDIA’s compute-heavy GF100 GPU, GK110 would be NVIDIA’s magnum opus for the Kepler family.

Taped out later than the rest of the Kepler family, GK110 has taken a slightly different route to get to market. Rather than launching in a consumer product first, GK110 was first launched as the heart of NVIDIA’s Tesla K20 family of GPUs, the new cornerstone of NVIDIA’s rapidly growing GPU compute business.


Oak Ridge National Laboratory's Titan Supercomputer

Or perhaps as it’s better known, the GPU at the heart of the world’s fastest supercomputer, Oak Ridge National Laboratory’s Titan supercomputer.

The Titan supercomputer was a major win for NVIDIA, and likely the breakthrough they’ve been looking for. A fledging business merely two generations prior, NVIDIA and their Tesla family have quickly shot up in prestige and size, much to the delight of NVIDIA. Their GPU computing business is still relatively small – consumer GPUs dwarf it and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future – but it’s now a proven business for NVIDIA. More to the point however, winning contracts like Titan are a major source of press and goodwill for the company, and goodwill the company intends to capitalize on.

With the launch of the Titan supercomputer and the Tesla K20 family now behind them, NVIDIA is now ready to focus their attention back on the consumer market. Ready to bring their big and powerful GK110 GPU to the consumer market, in typical NVIDIA fashion they intend to make a spectacle of it. In NVIDIA’s mind there’s only one name suitable for the first consumer card born of the same GPU as their greatest computing project: GeForce GTX Titan.

GeForce GTX Titan: By The Numbers

At the time of the GK110 launch at GTC, we didn’t know if and when GK110 would ever make it down to consumer hands. From a practical perspective GTX 680 was still clearly in the lead over AMD’s Radeon HD 7970. Meanwhile the Titan supercomputer was a major contract for NVIDIA, and something they needed to prioritize. 18,688 551mm2 GPUs for a single customer is a very large order, and at the same time orders for Tesla K20 cards were continuing to pour in each and every day after GTC. In the end, yes, GK110 would come to the consumer market. But not until months later, after NVIDIA had the chance to start filling Tesla orders. And today is that day.

Much like the launch of the GTX 690 before it, NVIDIA intends to stretch this launch out a bit to maximize the amount of press they get. Today we can tell you all about Titan – its specs, its construction, and its features – but not about its measured performance. For that you will have to come back on Thursday, when we can give you our benchmarks and performance analysis.

  GTX Titan GTX 690 GTX 680 GTX 580
Stream Processors 2688 2 x 1536 1536 512
Texture Units 224 2 x 128 128 64
ROPs 48 2 x 32 32 48
Core Clock 837MHz 915MHz 1006MHz 772MHz
Shader Clock N/A N/A N/A 1544MHz
Boost Clock 876Mhz 1019MHz 1058MHz N/A
Memory Clock 6.008GHz GDDR5 6.008GHz GDDR5 6.008GHz GDDR5 4.008GHz GDDR5
Memory Bus Width 384-bit 2 x 256-bit 256-bit 384-bit
VRAM 6 2 x 2GB 2GB 1.5GB
FP64 1/3 FP32 1/24 FP32 1/24 FP32 1/8 FP32
TDP 250W 300W 195W 244W
Transistor Count 7.1B 2 x 3.5B 3.5B 3B
Manufacturing Process TSMC 28nm TSMC 28nm TSMC 28nm TSMC 40nm
Launch Price $999 $999 $499 $499

Diving right into things then, at the heart of the GeForce GTX Titan we have the GK110 GPU. By virtue of this being the 2nd product to be launched based off the GK110 GPU, there are no great mysteries here about GK110’s capabilities. We’ve covered GK110 in depth from a compute perspective, so many of these numbers should be familiar with our long-time readers.

GK110 is composed of 15 of NVIDIA’s SMXes, each of which in turn is composed of a number of functional units. Every GK110 packs 192 FP32 CUDA cores, 64 FP64 CUDA cores, 64KB of L1 cache, 65K 32bit registers, and 16 texture units. These SMXes are in turn paired with GK110’s 6 ROP partitions, each one composed of 8 ROPs, 256KB of L2 cache, and connected to a 64bit memory controller. Altogether GK110 is a massive chip, coming in at 7.1 billion transistors, occupying 551mm2 on TSMC’s 28nm process.

For Titan NVIDIA will be using a partially disabled GK110 GPU. Titan will have all 6 ROP partitions and the full 384bit memory bus enabled, but only 14 of the 15 SMXes will be enabled. In terms of functional units this gives Titan a final count of 2688 FP 32 CUDA cores, 896 FP64 CUDA cores, 224 texture units, and 48 ROPs. This makes Titan virtually identical to NVIDIA’s most powerful Tesla, K20X, which ships with the same configuration. NVIDIA does not currently ship any products with all 15 SMXes enabled, and though NVIDIA will never really explain why this is – yield, power, or otherwise – if nothing else it leaves them an obvious outlet for growth if they need to further improve Titan’s performance, by enabling that 15th SMX.

Of course functional units are only half the story, so let’s talk about clockspeeds. As a rule of thumb bigger GPUs don’t clock as high as smaller GPUs, and Titan will be adhering to this rule. Whereas GTX 680 shipped with a base clock of 1006MHz, Titan ships at a more modest 837MHz, making up for any clockspeed disadvantage with the brute force behind having so many functional units. Like GTX 680 (and unlike Tesla), boost clocks are once more present, with Titan’s official boost clock coming in at 876MHz, while the maximum boost clock can potentially be much higher.

On the memory side of things, Titan ships with a full 6GB of GDDR5. As a luxury card NVIDIA went for broke here and simply equipped the card with as much RAM as is technically possible, rather than stopping at 3GB. You wouldn’t know that from looking at their memory clocks though; even with 24 GDDR5 memory chips, NVIDIA is shipping Titan at the same 6GHz effective memory clock as the rest of the high-end GeForce 600 series cards, giving the card 288GB/sec of memory bandwidth.

To put all of this in perspective, on paper (and at base clocks), GTX 680 can offer just shy of 3.1 TFLOPS of FP32 performance, 128GTexels/second texturing throughput, and 32GPixels/second rendering throughput, driven by 192GB/sec of memory bandwidth. Titan on the other hand can offer 4.5 TFLOPS of FP32 performance, 187GTexels/second texturing throughput, 40GPixels/second rendering throughput, and is driven by a 288GB/sec memory bus. This gives Titan 46% more shading/compute and texturing performance, 25% more pixel throughput, and a full 50% more memory bandwidth than GTX 680. Simply put, thanks to GK110 Titan is a far more powerful GPU than what GK104 could accomplish.

Of course with great power comes great power bills, to which Titan is no exception. In GTX 680’s drive for efficiency NVIDIA got GTX 680 down to a TDP of 195W with a power target of 170W, a remarkable position given both the competition and NVIDIA’s prior generation products. Titan on the other hand will have a flat 250W power target – in line with prior generation big NVIDIA GPUs – staking out its own spot on the price/power hierarchy, some 28%-47% higher in power consumption than GTX 680. These values are almost identical to the upper and lower theoretical performance gaps between Titan and GTX 680, so performance is growing in-line with power consumption, but only just. From a practical perspective Titan achieves a similar level of efficiency as GTX 680, but as a full compute chip it’s unquestionably not as lean. There’s a lot of compute baggage present that GK104 didn’t have to deal with.

Who’s Titan For, Anyhow?
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  • Wolfpup - Tuesday, February 19, 2013 - link

    I think so too. And IMO this makes sense...no one NEEDS this card, the GTX 680 is still awesome, and still competitive where it is. They can be selling these elsewhere for more, etc.

    Now, who wants to buy me 3 of them to run Folding @ Home on :-D
    Reply
  • IanCutress - Tuesday, February 19, 2013 - link

    Doing some heavy compute, this card could pay for itself in a couple of weeks over a 680 or two. On the business side, it all comes down to 'does it make a difference to throughput', and if you can quantify that and cost it up, then it'll make sense. Gaming, well that's up to you. Folding... I wonder if the code needs tweaking a little. Reply
  • wreckeysroll - Tuesday, February 19, 2013 - link

    Price is going to kill this card. See the powerpoints in the previews for performance. Titan is not too much faster than what they have on the market now, so not just the same price as a 690 but 30% slower as well.

    Game customers are not pro customers.

    This card could of been nice before someone slipped a gear at nvidia and thought gamers would eat this $1000 rip-off. A few will like anything not many though. Big error was made here on pricing this for $1000. A sane price would of sold many more than this lunacy.

    Nvidia dropped the ball.
    Reply
  • johnthacker - Tuesday, February 19, 2013 - link

    People doing compute will eat this up, though. I went to NVIDIA's GPU Tech Conference last year, people were clamoring for a GK110 based consumer card for compute, after hearing that Dynamic Paralleism and HyperQ were limited to the GK110 and not on the GK104.

    They will sell as many as they want to people doing compute, and won't care at all if they aren't selling them to gamers, since they'll be making more profit anyway.

    Nvidia didn't drop the ball, it's that they're playing a different game than you think.
    Reply
  • TheJian - Wednesday, February 20, 2013 - link

    Want to place bet on them being out of stock on the day their on sale? I'd be shocked if you can get one in a day if not a week.

    I thought the $500 Nexus 10 would slow some down but I had to fight for hours to get one bought and sold out in most places in under an hour. I believe most overpriced apple products have the same problem.

    They are not trying to sell this to the middle class ya know.

    Asus prices the ares 2 at $1600. They only made 1000 last I checked. These are not going to sell 10 million and selling for anything less would just mean less money, and problems meeting production. You price your product at what you think the market will bare. Not what Wreckeysroll thinks the price should be. Performance like a dualchip card is quite a feat of engineering. Note the Ares2 uses like ~475watts. This will come in around 250w. Again, quite a feat. That's around ~100 less than a 690 also.

    Don't forget this is a card that is $2500 of compute power. Even Amazon had to buy 10000 K20's just to get a $1500 price on them, and had to also buy $500 insurance for each one to get that deal. You think Amazon is a bunch of idiots? This is a card that fixes 600 series weakness and adds substantial performance to boot. It would be lunacy to sell it for under $1000. If we could all afford it they'd make nothing and be out of stock in .5 seconds...LOL
    Reply
  • chizow - Friday, February 22, 2013 - link

    Except they have been selling this *SAME* class of card for much <$1000 for the better part of a decade. *SAME* size, same relative performance, same cost to produce. Where have you been and why do you think it's now OK to sell it for 2x as much when nothing about it justifies the price increase? Reply
  • CeriseCogburn - Sunday, February 24, 2013 - link

    LOL same cost to produce....

    You're insane.
    Reply
  • Gastec - Wednesday, February 27, 2013 - link

    You forget about the "bragging rights" factor. Perhaps Nvidia won't make many GTX Titan but all those they do make will definitely sell like warm bread. There are enough "enthusiasts" and other kinds of trolls out there (most of them in United States) willing to give anything to show to the Internet their high scores in various benchmarks and/or post a flashy picture with their shiny "rig". Reply
  • herzwoig - Tuesday, February 19, 2013 - link

    Unacceptable price.
    Less than promised performance.

    Pro customers will get a Tesla, that is what those cards are for with the attenuate support and drivers. Nvidia is selling this as a consumer gaming play card and trying to reshape the high end gaming SKU as an even more premium product (doubly so!!)

    Terrible value and whatever performance it has going for it is erroded by the nonsensical pricing strategy. Surprising level of miscalculation on the greed front from nvidia...
    Reply
  • TheJian - Wednesday, February 20, 2013 - link

    They'll pay $2500 to get that unless they buy 10000 like amazon (which still paid $2000/card). Unacceptable for you, but I guess you're not their target market. You can get TWO of these for the price of ONE tesla at $2000 and ONLY if you buy 10000 like amazon. Heck if buying one Tesla, I get two of these, a new I7-3770K+ a board...LOL. They're selling this as a consumer card with telsa performance (sans support/insurance). Sounds like they priced it right in line with nearly every other top of the line card released for years in this range. 7990, 690 etc...on down the line.

    Less than promised performance? So you've benchmarked it then?

    "Terrible value and whatever performance it has going for it"
    So you haven't any idea yet right?...Considering a 7990 costs a $1000 too basically, and uses 475w vs. 250w, while being 1/2 the size this isn't so nonsensical. This card shouldn't heat up your room either. There are many benefits, you just can't see beyond those AMD goggles you've got on.
    Reply

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