The 2GB Question & The Test

Before diving into our test results, I wanted to spend a moment mulling over NVIDIA’s choice for the default memory configuration on GTX 770. Due to the use of a 256bit bus on GK104, NVIDIA limits their practical memory choices to either 2GB of RAM or 4GB. A year ago this was fine even if it wasn’t as large as AMD’s 3GB memory pool, but that was after all a year ago.

Not unlike where we are with 1GB/2GB on mainstream ($150+) cards, we’re at a similar precipice with these enthusiast class cards. Having 2GB of RAM doesn’t impose any real problems today, but I’m left to wonder for how much longer that’s going to be true. The wildcard in all of this will be the next-generation consoles, each of which packs 8GB of RAM, which is quite a lot of RAM for video operations even after everything else is accounted for. With most PC games being ports of console games, there’s a decent risk of 2GB cards being undersized when used with high resolutions and the highest quality art assets. The worst case scenario is only that these highest quality assets may not be usable at playable performance, but considering the high performance of every other aspect of GTX 770 that would be a distinct and unfortunate bottleneck.

The solution for better or worse is doubling the GTX 770 to 4GB. GTX 770 is capable of housing 4GB, and NVIDIA’s partners will be selling 4GB cards in the near future, so 4GB cards will at least be an option. The price premium for 4GB of RAM looks to be around $20-$30, and I expect that will come down some as 4Gb chips start to replace 2Gb chips. 4GB would certainly make the GTX 770 future-proof in that respect, and I suspect it’s a good idea for anyone on a long upgrade cycle, but as always this is a bit of a gamble.

Though I can’t help but feel NVIDIA could have simply sidestepped the whole issue by making 4GB the default, rather than an optional upgrade. As it stands 2GB feels shortsighted, and for a $400 card, a bit small. Given the low cost of additional RAM, a 4GB baseline likely would have been bearable.

The Test

For today’s launch article we’re using NVIDIA’s 320.18 drivers for the GTX 780 and GTX 770, , and AMD’s Catalyst 13.5b2 drivers for all AMD cards.

CPU: Intel Core i7-3960X @ 4.3GHz
Motherboard: EVGA X79 SLI
Power Supply: Antec True Power Quattro 1200
Hard Disk: Samsung 470 (256GB)
Memory: G.Skill Ripjaws DDR3-1867 4 x 4GB (8-10-9-26)
Case: Thermaltake Spedo Advance
Monitor: Samsung 305T
Video Cards: AMD Radeon HD 7970 GHz Edition
AMD Radeon HD 7990
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 580
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 680
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 690
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 780
NVIDIA GeForce GTX Titan
Video Drivers: NVIDIA ForceWare 320.14
NVIDIA ForceWare 320.18
AMD Catalyst 13.5 Beta 2
OS: Windows 8 Pro
Meet The GeForce GTX 770 DiRT: Showdown
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  • mapesdhs - Friday, May 31, 2013 - link


    I've just bought two 3GB 580s for 450 UKP total, will be benching them next week
    single & SLI. If you're interested in the results, let me know by PM/email (or Google
    "SGI Ian" to find my contact page) and I'll send you the info links once the tests are
    done. I'll be testing with 3DMark06, Vantage, 3DMark11, Firestrike, Call of Juarez,
    Stalker COP, X3TC, PT Boats, Far Cry 3, and all 4 Unigines (Sanctuary, Tropics,
    Heaven and Valley). If I'm reading reviews correctly, two 580s SLI should beat a 780.

    If your existing 580 is a 1.5GB card, note you can get a 2nd one off eBay these days
    for typically less than 150 UKP. I've won two this month, a Zotac card for 123 UKP
    (using it to type this post) and an EVGA card for 142 UKP.

    And yes, I agree, the new gen card pricing is kinda nuts. Anyone would think
    we haven't had a recession. I doubt peoples' budgets have suddenly become
    30% higher (only reason I could buy some is I sold some of my other stuff to
    cover the cost). The two 3GB 580s I bought were in total 100 UKP less than the
    cheapest 780 from the same seller (I probably could have eventually obtained
    two 3GB 580s off eBay, but decided the chance to get them from a proper
    retailer right now with warranty, etc. was too good to pass up).

    Ian.
    Reply
  • colonelclaw - Saturday, June 01, 2013 - link

    Thanks for the reply, Ian. For some reason I'd totally forgotten about SLI. I'd be very interested to see the results of a 580 SLI vs. 780, and I suspect a few other readers here would too. One thing, how closely matched do the two cards have to be? Exactly the same model? Just the same clock speeds? Or is it more forgiving? I can't imagine it would be very easy to track down a 2nd identical 580, which is the reason I ask. If any Anand readers with knowledge of SLIing can share their experiences that would be great. Reply
  • shompa - Friday, May 31, 2013 - link

    Memory... How many games are 64bit? = How many games needs more then 4gig memory? Today zero. It was even more fun when most PCs had BIOS. It cant even address that much graphic memory.
    Maybe 64bit gaming will be mainstream in a year? I don't know. I sure seems to take its time. I have used 64 bit in my work since 1995 (real computers) and 64bit on my mac since 2002. (OSX 10.27 Smeagol). Gaming/Windows takes its time since Windows don't have smart software packaging. (real computers have the same binary for 32/64bit, different languages and even different architectures. I loved when Apple had "fat binaries" and everything could run on both PPC and X86. Gives the customer a choice of architecture.)
    Reply
  • SymphonyX7 - Friday, May 31, 2013 - link

    Looks more like a GTX 680 Plus. The gains over the year-old GTX 680 and HD 7970 Ghz edition are measly and power efficiency was thrown in as an afterthought.

    I'll wait for the HD 8950 and HD 8970 or whatever they'll call it before I make a decision. I suppose it's worth the wait considering what implications the new PS4 and Xbox One will have on game development and their impact on PC ports performance-wise.
    Reply
  • kwrzesien - Monday, June 24, 2013 - link

    4GB models have appeared at Newegg: http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N8... Reply
  • Colin.B - Tuesday, July 09, 2013 - link

    I just ordered the Gigabyte GTX 770, sold one of my 660 SCs for 160 dollars and am returning the one I just bought. Will I see a big performance drop from 660 SLI to the 770 at 2560x1440? I hope I made the right choice :/ Reply

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