The Final Word On Overclocking

Before we jump into our performance breakdown, I wanted to take a few minutes to write a bit of a feature follow-up to our overclocking coverage from Tuesday. Since we couldn’t reveal performance numbers at the time – and quite honestly we hadn’t even finished evaluating Titan – we couldn’t give you the complete story on Titan. So some clarification is in order.

On Tuesday we discussed how Titan reintroduces overvolting for NVIDIA products, but now with additional details from NVIDIA along with our own performance data we have the complete picture, and overclockers will want to pay close attention. NVIDIA may be reintroducing overvolting, but it may not be quite what many of us were first thinking.

First and foremost, Titan still has a hard TDP limit, just like GTX 680 cards. Titan cannot and will not cross this limit, as it’s built into the firmware of the card and essentially enforced by NVIDIA through their agreements with their partners. This TDP limit is 106% of Titan’s base TDP of 250W, or 265W. No matter what you throw at Titan or how you cool it, it will not let itself pull more than 265W sustained.

Compared to the GTX 680 this is both good news and bad news. The good news is that with NVIDIA having done away with the pesky concept of target power versus TDP, the entire process is much simpler; the power target will tell you exactly what the card will pull up to on a percentage basis, with no need to know about their separate power targets or their importance. Furthermore with the ability to focus just on just TDP, NVIDIA didn’t set their power limits on Titan nearly as conservatively as they did on GTX 680.

The bad news is that while GTX 680 shipped with a max power target of 132%, Titan is again only 106%. Once you do hit that TDP limit you only have 6% (15W) more to go, and that’s it. Titan essentially has more headroom out of the box, but it will have less headroom for making adjustments. So hardcore overclockers dreaming of slamming 400W through Titan will come away disappointed, though it goes without saying that Titan’s power delivery system was never designed for that in the first place. All indications are that NVIDIA built Titan’s power delivery system for around 265W, and that’s exactly what buyers will get.

Second, let’s talk about overvolting. What we didn’t realize on Tuesday but realize now is that overvolting as implemented in Titan is not overvolting in the traditional sense, and practically speaking I doubt too many hardcore overclockers will even recognize it as overvolting. What we mean by this is that overvolting was not implemented as a direct control system as it was on past generation cards, or even the NVIDIA-nixed cards like the MSI Lightning or EVGA Classified.

Overvolting is instead a set of two additional turbo clock bins, above and beyond Titan’s default top bin. On our sample the top bin is 1.1625v, which corresponds to a 992MHz core clock. Overvolting Titan to 1.2 means unlocking two more bins: 1006MHz @ 1.175v, and 1019MHz @ 1.2v. Or put another way, overvolting on Titan involves unlocking only another 27MHz in performance.

These two bins are in the strictest sense overvolting – NVIDIA doesn’t believe voltages over 1.1625v on Titan will meet their longevity standards, so using them is still very much going to reduce the lifespan of a Titan card – but it’s probably not the kind of direct control overvolting hardcore overclockers were expecting. The end result is that with Titan there’s simply no option to slap on another 0.05v – 0.1v in order to squeak out another 100MHz or so. You can trade longevity for the potential to get another 27MHz, but that’s it.

Ultimately, this means that overvolting as implemented on Titan cannot be used to improve the clockspeeds attainable through the use of the offset clock functionality NVIDIA provides. In the case of our sample it peters out after +115MHz offset without overvolting, and it peters out after +115MHz offset with overvolting. The only difference is that we gain access to a further 27MHz when we have the thermal and power headroom available to hit the necessary bins.

GeForce GTX Titan Clockspeed Bins
Clockspeed Voltage
1019MHz 1.2v
1006MHz 1.175v
992MHz 1.1625v
979MHz 1.15v
966MHz 1.137v
953MHz 1.125v
940MHz 1.112v
927MHz 1.1v
914MHz 1.087v
901MHz 1.075v
888MHz 1.062v
875MHz 1.05v
862MHz 1.037v
849MHz 1.025v
836MHz 1.012v

Finally, as with the GTX 680 and GTX 690, NVIDIA will be keeping tight control over what Asus, EVGA, and their other partners release. Those partners will have the option to release Titan cards with factory overclocks and Titan cards with different coolers (i.e. water blocks), but they won’t be able to expose direct voltage control or ship parts with higher voltages. Nor for that matter will they be able to create Titan cards with significantly different designs (i.e. more VRM phases); every Titan card will be a variant on the reference design.

This is essentially no different than how the GTX 690 was handled, but I think it’s something that’s important to note before anyone with dreams of big overclocks throws down $999 on a Titan card. To be clear, GPU Boost 2.0 is a significant improvement in the entire power/thermal management process compared to GPU Boost 1.0, and this kind of control means that no one needs to be concerned with blowing up their video card (accidentally or otherwise), but it’s a system that comes with gains and losses. So overclockers will want to pay close attention to what they’re getting into with GPU Boost 2.0 and Titan, and what they can and cannot do with the card.

Titan's Performance Unveiled Titan’s Compute Performance (aka Ph.D Lust)
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  • JeBarr - Thursday, February 21, 2013 - link

    I would guess because as time goes by the reviewers here (and elsewhere) think they need to bench at settings used by the "majority". Even when that majority doesn't frequent, or even know the existance of, Anandtech.com. Go figure.

    I don't like it any more than you do...but for different reasons.

    I for one was happy to have a review site still benching at 16:10...which is what the long-time hardware enthusiasts/gamers prefer, that is, when they can't find a good CRT monitor ;)

    Just think of this review as the new bench standard going forward. A new starting point, if you will.
    Reply
  • Ryan Smith - Monday, February 25, 2013 - link

    Bench 2013 will be going live soon. The backend is done (it's what I used to store and generate the charts here), but the frontend is part of a larger project...

    As for why the settings change, when we refresh our suite we sometimes change our settings to match what the latest generation of cards can do. When Titan sets the high bar for example, running 2560 at Ultra with 4xMSAA is actually practical.
    Reply
  • TheJian - Thursday, February 21, 2013 - link

    NO Borderlands 2 (~6 million copies sold rated 89! not counting the addons rated high also)
    No Diablo3 (I hate the DRM but 10million+ sold of course rated high, but not by users)
    No Guild 2 (MMO with 3million copies sold rated 90!) even WOW Mists of pandaria has 3million or so now and 11 million playing the game's total content. I don't play WOW but it's still got a TON of users.
    No Assassin's Creed 3 (brings 680/7970 to low 30's 2560x1600)
    Crysis 3, warhead needs to die, and this needs to replace it (at the very LEAST). As shown below NOBODY is playing warhead. Wasted page space, and time spend benching it.

    Instead we get Crysis warhead...ROFL Well what can we expect Ryan still loves AMD.
    http://www.gametracker.com/search/warhead/
    Notice all the empty servers? Go ahead list them by players only 3 had over 10!..Most are ZERO players...LOL...Why even waste your time benchmarking this ignored game? Just to show NV weakness?
    Dirt Showdown - Raise your hand if you play this...Nope, you're all playing Dirt3 (wisely, or F1 etc anything that rates better than showdown)
    User ratings on metacritic of 70/4.7 (out of TEN not 5) and best summarized by gamespy (rated it a 40/100 on the frontpage of the metacritic site: http://www.metacritic.com/game/pc/dirt-showdown
    "DiRT: Showdown delivers bargain-basement entertainment value for the high, high price of $50. With its neutered physics, limited driving venues, clunky multiplayer, and diminished off-road racing options, discerning arcade racing fans should just write this one off as an unanticipated pothole in Codemaster's trailblazing DiRT series. "
    If you're going to use a racing game, at least make it a good one, not just the one AMD wins in. Why not F1 2012 (scored 80 at metacritic/6.8 from users). AMD wins in warhead which is also why crysis warhead is chosen even though nobody plays it (it's from 2008!). Again check the server list, who are you testing this for? What does it represent today? What other game based on it's engine? It's representing nothing correct? Nobody plays showdown either.

    How about adding some games people actually PLAY. I thought the whole point of benchmarking is to show us how games WE PLAY will run, is that not true at anandtech?

    Also no discussion of the frame delay ala Techreport:
    http://techreport.com/review/24381/nvidia-geforce-...
    No discussion of the frame latency issues that AMD is working on game by game. Their current beta I think just fixed the skyrim/borderland/guild wars2 issues which were awful.
    http://techreport.com/review/24218/a-driver-update...
    This has been an ongoing problem Anantech (ryan?) seems to just ignore. AMD is just getting to fixing this stuff in Jan...LOL. You can read more about it in the rematch of the 660TI/7950 here:
    http://techreport.com/review/23981/radeon-hd-7950-...
    Of course you can start at the beginning but this is where they recommend the 660TI and why (dec 2012 article).
    "The FPS average suggests near-parity performance between the 7950 and the GTX 660 Ti, with a tiny edge to the GeForce. The 99th percentile frame time, though, captures the impact of the Radeon's frame latency issues and suggests the GTX 660 Ti is easily the superior performer."
    More:
    "Instead, we have a crystal clear recommendation of the GeForce GTX 660 Ti over the Radeon HD 7950 for this winter's crop of blockbuster games. Perhaps AMD will smooth out some of the rough patches in later driver releases, but the games we've tested are already on the market—and Nvidia undeniably delivers the better experience in them, overall. "
    Even Tomshardware reports on delays now (albeit the wrong metric...LOL). Read the comments at techreport for why they're using the wrong one.

    No wonder they left out the xmas blockbusters and diablo3 (which will still sell probably 15million over it's life even though I would never buy it). I can name other games that are hot and new also:
    Dishonored, Deadspace 3, max payne 3, all highly rated. Max 3 barely hits 50's on top cards at 2560x1600 (7970ghz, 680 even lower), excellent test game and those are NOT the minimums (which can bring you to 20's/teens on lower cards). Witcher 2 (witcher 3 is coming), with uber sampling ENABLED is a taxer also.

    Dragon Age 2 at 2560x1600 will bring 7970/680 to teens/20's at minimums also, barely hits 40's avg (why use ONLY AVG at techspot I don't know, but better than maxes).
    http://www.techspot.com/review/603-best-graphics-c...

    START reporting MIN FPS for every game benched! There should be more discussion of the fact that in a lot of these games you hit teens for even $500 cards at 2560x1600 maxed out. Max fps means NOTHING. IF you hit 10-20fps a lot in a game your max means nothing. You won't want to play at that res, so what have you shown me? NOTHING. You should ALWAYS report MIN FPS as that dictates our gameplay experience and if it isn't always above 30 life sucks usually. Farcry 3 hits below 30 on both 680/7970 at 2560x1600.
    http://www.hardocp.com/article/2013/02/21/nvidia_g...
    And they don't have them on ULTRA, only titan is and none on 4xmsaa. At least they're giving max details/res you can expect to play and what it's min will be (better, you at least have USEFUL info after reading their benchmarks).

    From your article:
    "This is enough to get Titan to 74fps at 2560 with 4xMSAA, which is just fast enough to make BF3 playable at those settings with a single GPU."
    Why didn't you just report the minimums so we can see when ALL cards hit 30fps or less in all resolutions tested? If the game doesn't give a way to do this use fraps while running it (again, for ALL games). So it takes 74fps to get playable in BF3? It's easier to just give the minimums so people can see, otherwise are we supposed to attempt to extrapolate every one of your games without MINS listed? You did it for us in this sentence, but for ONE card and even then it's just a comment, not a number we can work with. It's YOU extrapolating your own guess that it would be playable given 74fps. What kind of benchmarking is this? I won't even get into your other comments throughout the articles on titan, It's more important to me to key on what you totally ignore that is VERY important to anyone picking ANY gpu. SMOOTHNESS of gameplay (latency testing) and MIN FPS so we know where we have no prayer of playing or what to expect playable on a given gpu. This is why Hardocp actually points to you guys as why your benchmarks suck. It's linked in most of their articles...LOL. FIX IT.
    http://www.hardocp.com/article/2008/02/11/benchmar...
    They have that in nearly every gpu article including the titan article. It's a valid point. But if you're not going to use IN GAME play, at least give min fps for canned etc. That link is in the test setup page of nearly every article on hardocp, you'd think you'd fix this so they'd stop. Your benchmarks represent something that doesn't reflect gameplay in most cases. The maxfps doesn't dictate fun factor. MIN does.

    One comment on Titan, I'd think about it at $800-850. Compute isn't important today at home for me, and won't be until more games use it like civ5 (they're just scratching surface here). At that point this card could become a monster compared to 690 without heat, noise etc. One day it may be worth $1000 to me, but for now it's not worth more than $800 (to me, no SFF needed, no compute needed). I don't like any dual chips or running multiple cards (see microstutter, latency delays etc), so once cheaper this would be tops on my list, but I don't usually spend over $360 on a card anyway...LOL. Most of the first run will go to boutique shops (20K first run I think). Maybe they'll drop it after that.

    LOL at anyone thinking the price sucks. Clearly you are NOT the target market. If you're product sells out at a given price, you priced it right. That's good business, and actually you probably should have asked more if it's gone in hours. You can still an SLI of titan in SFF, what other card can do that? You always pay a premium for the TOP card. Intel's extreme chips are $1000 too...No surprise. Same thing on the pro side is $2500 and not much different. IT's 20% slower than 690, but 690 can't go into SFF for the most part and certainly not as quiet or controllable. Also blows away 690 in compute if someone is after that. Though they need APPS that test this, not some home made anandtech benchmark. How about testing something I can actually USE and is relevant (no I don't count folding@home or bitcoin mining either, they don't make me money-a few coins?...LOL).
    Reply
  • JeBarr - Thursday, February 21, 2013 - link

    I'm pretty sure Ryan has mentioned the benches you want are forthcoming. Maybe they haven't figured it all out yet...i dunno....but like you, I've been waiting what seems like a year or more for Anandtech to catch up with reality in GPU benching. Reply
  • CeriseCogburn - Tuesday, February 26, 2013 - link

    Yes, well I've found Frame Rate Target to be an absolute GEM in this area:

    " START reporting MIN FPS for every game benched! There should be more discussion of the fact that in a lot of these games you hit teens for even $500 cards at 2560x1600 maxed out. Max fps means NOTHING. IF you hit 10-20fps a lot in a game your max means nothing. "

    If you crank to max settings then have frame drop issues, FRAME RATE TARGET by nVidia of course, is excellent for minimizing and eliminating that issue.
    It really is a great and usable feature, and of course is for the most now already completely ignored.

    It was ported back to at least the top 500 series cards I don't remember exactly which ones right now, but that feature should have an entire article dedicated to it at every review site. It is AWESOME, and directly impacts minimum frame rates lofting nVidia to absolutely playable vs amd.

    I really think the bias won't ever be overcome. We used to hear nothing but eyefinity, yet now with nvidia cards capable of 4 monitors out of the box, it has suddenly become very unpopular for reviewers to mention eyefinity, surround, and surround plus ONE MORE in the nVidia case, without the need for any special adapters in many of nViida's partners card releases.

    So, it's really a sick situation.
    Reply
  • Urbanos - Friday, February 22, 2013 - link

    he went through all the trouble of benchmarking in order to show that entry points for budget conscious users can get through Titan, but it doesn't actually prove that Titan is even worth the money without comparing it to at least 1 of its bigger competitors in the GPGPU market. Can you please consider adding that or having a new review based on the compute only. Reply
  • codedivine - Friday, February 22, 2013 - link

    I am certainly interested in looking at the Xeon Phi if I can find the time and if we can arrange the resources to do so.

    My performance expectation (based on Intel white papers) is about 1700-1800 GFLops for SGEMM and 800-900 GFlops for DGEMM on the Xeon Phi 5110P. However, there are also a few benchmarks where I am expecting them to win as well thanks to the large cache on the Phi. Stay tuned.
    Reply
  • Ryan Smith - Monday, February 25, 2013 - link

    This is really a consumer/prosumer level review, so the cards we're going to judge it against need to be comparable in price and intended audience. Not only can we not get some of those parts, but all of them cost many times more than Titan.

    If we were ever able to review K20, then they would be exactly the kinds of parts we'd try to include though.
    Reply
  • kivig - Friday, February 22, 2013 - link

    There is a whole community of 3D people interested.
    Or when it will get added to bench table?
    Reply
  • etriky - Saturday, February 23, 2013 - link

    +1
    Since this card at this price point is pointless for gaming I figured the article would be heavy on compute applications in order to give us a reason for it's existence.

    But then, nothing. No SmallLuxGpu or Cycles. Not even any commercial packages like Octane, or any of the Adobe products. I know LuxGPU and Blender used to be in the test suite. What happened?
    Reply

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