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?


View All Comments

  • AeroJoe - Wednesday, February 20, 2013 - link

    Very good article - but now I'm confused. If I'm building an Adobe workstation to handle video and graphics, do I want a TITAN for $999 or the Quadro K5000 for $1700? Both are Kepler, but TITAN looks like more bang for the buck. What am I missing? Reply
  • Rayb - Wednesday, February 20, 2013 - link

    The extra money you are paying is for the driver support in commercial applications like Adobe CS6 with a Quadro card vs a non certified card. Reply
  • mdrejhon - Wednesday, February 20, 2013 - link

    Excellent! Geforce Titan will make it much easier to overclock an HDTV set to 120 Hz
    ( )

    Some HDTV’s such as Vizio e3d420vx can be successfully “overclocked” to a 120 Hz native PC signal from a computer. This was difficult because an EDID override was necessary. However, the Geforce Titan should make this a piece of cake!
  • Blazorthon - Wednesday, February 20, 2013 - link

    Purely as a gaming card, Titan is obviously way to overpriced to be worth considering. However, it's compute performance is intriguing. It can't totally replace a Quadro or Tesla, but there are still many compute workloads that you don't need those extremely expensive extra features such as ECC and Quadro/Tesla drivers to excel in. Many of them may be better suited to a Tahiti card's far better value, but stuff like CUDA workloads may find Titan to be the first card to truly succeed GF100/GF110 based cards as a gaming and compute-oriented card, although like I said, I think that the price could still be at least somewhat lower. I understand it not being around $500 like GF100/110 launched at for various reasons, but come on, at most give us an arpund $700-750 price... Reply
  • just4U - Thursday, February 21, 2013 - link

    Some one here have stated that AMD is at fault for pricing their 7x series so high las year. Perhaps many were disapointed with the $550 price range but that's still somewhat lower than previously released Nvidia products thru the years. Several of those cards (at various price points) handily beat the 580 (which btw never did get much of a price drop) and at the time that's what it was competing against.

    So I can't quite connect the dots in why they are saying that it's AMD's fault for originally pricing the 7x series so high when in reality it was still lower than newly released Nvidia product over the past several years.
  • CeriseCogburn - Monday, March 4, 2013 - link

    For the most part, correct.
    The 7970 came out at $579 though, not $550. And it was nearly not present for many months, till just the prior day to the 680's $499 launch.

    In any case, ALL these cards drop in price over the first six months or so, EXCEPT sometimes, if they are especially fast, like the 580, they hold at the launch price, which it did, until the 7970 was launched - the 580 was $499 till the day the 7970 launched.

    So what we have here is the tampon express. The tampon express has not paid attnetion to any but fps/price vs their revised and memory holed history, so it will continue forever.

    They have completely ignored capital factors like the extreme lack of production space in the node, ongoing prior to the 7970 release, and at emergency low levels prior to the months later 680 release, with the emergency board meeting, and multi-billion dollar borrowing buildout for die space production expansion, not to mention the huge change in wafer from dies payment which went from per good die to per wafer cost, thus placing the burden of failure on the GPU company side.

    It's not like they could have missed that, it was all over the place for months on end, the amd fanboys were bragging amd got diespace early and constantly hammering away at nVidia and calling them stupid for not having reserved space and screaming they would be bankrupt from low yields they had to pay for from the "housefires" dies.

    So what we have now is well trained (not potty trained) crybabies pooping their diapers over and over again, and let's face it, they do believe they have the power to lower the prices if they just whine loudly enough.

    AMD has been losing billions, and nVidia profit ratio is 10% - but the crying babies screams mean to assist their own pocketbooks at any expense, including the demise of AMD even though they all preach competition and personal CEO capitalist understanding after they spew out 6th grader information or even make MASSIVE market lies and mistakes with illiterate interpretation of standard articles or completely blissful denial of things like diespace (mentioned above) or long standing standard industry tapeout times for producing the GPU's in question.

    They want to be "critical reporters" but they fail miserably at it, and merely show crybaby ignorance with therefore false outrage. At least they consider themselves " the good hipster !"
  • clickonflick - Thursday, March 7, 2013 - link

    i agree that the price of this GPU is really high , one could easily assemble a fully mainstream laptop online with dell at this price tag or a desktop, but for gamers, to whom performance is above price. then it is a boon for them
    for more pics check this out

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