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


View All Comments

  • LoccOtHaN - Friday, May 31, 2013 - link

    True Bro ;-) AMD is more user friendly, but when Next-Gen on ATI/AMD comes PS4 and M$ XBx1 then all optimalisation will be AMD friendly and DX11.1 (DX11.x or Full DX11) and we won ! Reply
  • whyso - Thursday, May 30, 2013 - link

    Well looks like the 7970 ghz has been tied. Lower price is nice but almost no OC headroom (wouldn't be surprised if AT got a cherry picked sample) and no game bundle. Similar power consumption too. Performance increase is virtually 0 but the price decrease is nice. Reply
  • A5 - Thursday, May 30, 2013 - link

    Worth pointing out that you can pretty easily get the AMD bundle codes for ~$30 on eBay. It wipes out the price advantage, but it does let you weigh the cards on the merits of their hardware. Reply
  • steve_rogers42 - Thursday, May 30, 2013 - link

    Think there is an error on page 7,

    "Of course this is only a 9% increase in the GPU clockspeed, which is going to pale in comparison to parts like GTX 670 and GTX 780, each of which can do 20%+ due to their lower clockspeeds. So there’s some overclocking headroom in GTX 780, but as to be expected not a ton."

    Last sentence should read GTX 770 yea?

    Great article, good to see nvidia's progress with the GPU boost 2 and taking on-board the tdp/power issue that the 600 series seems to have had. It will be interesting to see what they make of the 760 and what it will contain.

  • nathanddrews - Thursday, May 30, 2013 - link

    Wow... at worst it is equal with the 680 for $100 less. At best, it is tied with the 780 for $250 less. I think NVIDIA needs to reexamine their pricing model - I'm sure the market will fix it for them. Either the 770 is too cheap or the 780 is way too expensive. (signs point to the latter) Reply
  • shompa - Thursday, May 30, 2013 - link

    GTX 780 die is huge. It costs Nvidia almost double to manufacture a 780GTX then a 770/680 die.

    Only if Nvidia have enough harvested defect dies from Tesla chips they could/would lower the price on GTX 780.
  • EJS1980 - Thursday, May 30, 2013 - link

    If the 780 performs better than the 680 by 30-35% out the gate w/ crappy day1 drivers (future updates will only increase that advantage), how exactly is it tied with the 770? Reply
  • nathanddrews - Thursday, May 30, 2013 - link

    How exactly is it tied? Like I said, at its best.

    770 and 780 tied (within +/-5%):
    DiRT: Showdown - 1920x1080 - Ultra Quality + 4xMSAA
    Sleeping Dogs - 1920x1080 - Ultra Quality + Normal AA
    Battlefield 3 - 1920x1080 - Ultra Quality + FXAA-High
    Compute: Civilization V
    Compute: Sony Vegas Pro 12 Video Render
    Synthetic: 3DMark Vantage Pixel Fill
  • EJS1980 - Thursday, May 30, 2013 - link

    Your link shows the 780 with a pretty substantial performance advantage, save for a couple instances. I stand by my comment. Reply
  • nathanddrews - Saturday, June 01, 2013 - link

    It's easy to stand by your comment if you completely ignore what I wrote and ignore the facts. For instance, the 680 was not tested with "crappy day1 drivers", it was tested with very recent 320.14 drivers while the 770/780 used 320.18. In addition, I never said that the 770 was always tied with the 780, I said "at its best", which means that at the high end it ties the 780 in some benchmarks. At its worst, on the low end, the 770 is tied with the 680 in some benchmarks. I hope that clarifies things for you. Reply

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