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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  • djboxbaba - Thursday, May 30, 2013 - link

    I'd say thats a good choice for the 1440p monitor. As far as the actual card, I agree with you that your decision should be between those 2 cards. Just as performance of the 7970GHz has increased due to driver updates, I think we can expect some performance increase from the 770 over time as well. Not sure why that was not mentioned at all in the article. If i were in your situation it would probably come down to the bundled games that come with the AMD card, do you want those games? Reply
  • yasamoka - Thursday, May 30, 2013 - link

    No, we cannot expect performance increases from the 770 over time due to driver updates. The 770 is GK104, same architecture as the GTX680. It's just a higher-clocked 680. 680 drivers have been rolling since its release in March, it's been 14 months.

    The regular game-specific performance improvements will be there for both cards, for games that are coming, but we can't expect the 770 to improve in performance due to drivers as it is already a 14-month mature product (refresh), driver-wise.
    Reply
  • EJS1980 - Thursday, May 30, 2013 - link

    That makes no sense. If the 7970 has been benefiting greatly from each driver update, and its almost 6 months older than GK104, why can the 7970 improve but the 770 can't? Reply
  • Galidou - Saturday, June 01, 2013 - link

    Wow that's a real lack of information to come up with an answer like this. 7970 was a COMPLETE remake of what had been done before. Totally justifiable that drivers improved performance like the gtx 600 series that was new. The 770 is TOTALLY a 680, physically, it's simply a GK 104 die pushed to the extreme, almost nothing new on the driver side from 680 to 770. Not that they can't improve anything but most of the job is done on the driver side of things. Reply
  • Stuka87 - Thursday, May 30, 2013 - link

    Did you mean to say 7970Ghz? The 7950 is already at $300, has been for some time. Reply
  • joel4565 - Thursday, May 30, 2013 - link

    Yeah I did mean 7970Ghz. Sorry for confusion. Reply
  • EJS1980 - Thursday, May 30, 2013 - link

    I'd say forget the Dell, and go with an Overlord Tempest OC. It's the same price & panel as you'd get from Dell, except it can be overclocked to 120hz. They're a California based company, and their sales/IT departments are awesome. If you're not interested in overclocking, they sell a 60hz model for about $400. You should seriously check them out. Reply
  • cbrownx88 - Friday, May 31, 2013 - link

    I went to their page and everything is sold out... :( Reply
  • Hrel - Thursday, May 30, 2013 - link

    Pretty happy to see Nvidia FINALLY realize the potential of this architexture. Gives me hope for the next generation; combined with a process node drop we should see pretty impressive performance. This refresh will keep the market feeling fresh until then. I just hope they're a lot more aggressive with pricing. I know you say in the article that you were surprised by this price; but really it's still too high. It's not absurd or anything, and assuming the price drops 50+ bucks by fall it's in line with GPU market trends. But I'd like to see some price pressure FROM Nvidia, instead of AMD always being the one to kick off a price war. Reply
  • trajan2448 - Thursday, May 30, 2013 - link

    Most of the reviews I've seen have had the 770 beating the 7970gE pretty well. It seems this site really bends over to make AMD look as good as possible, even though the 7970 uses more power and is generally slower and more expensive. Reply

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