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?
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  • vacaloca - Tuesday, February 19, 2013 - link

    A while ago when K20 released and my advisor didn't want to foot the bill, I ended up doing it myself. Looks like the K20 might be going to eBay since I don't need HyperQ MPI and GPU Direct RDMA or ECC for that matter. I do suspect that it might be possible to crossflash this card with a K20 or K20X BIOS and mod the softstraps to enable the missing features... but probably the video outputs would be useless (and warranty void, and etc) so it's not really an exercise worth doing.

    Props to NVIDIA for releasing this for us compute-focused people and thanks to AnandTech for the disclosure on FP64 enabling. :)
    Reply
  • extide - Tuesday, February 19, 2013 - link

    Can you please run some F@H benchmarks on this card? I would be very very interested to see how well it folds. Also if you could provide some power consumption numbers (watts @ system idle and watts when gpu only is folding).

    That would be great :)
    Thanks!
    Reply
  • Ryan Smith - Tuesday, February 19, 2013 - link

    OpenCL is broken with the current press drivers. So I won't have any more information until NVIDIA issues new drivers. Reply
  • jimhans1 - Tuesday, February 19, 2013 - link

    Alright, the whining about this being a $1000 card is just stupid; nVidia has priced this right in my eyes on the performance/noise/temperature front, they have never billed this as being anything other than an Extreme style GPU, just like the 690, yes the 690 will outperform this in raw usage, but not by much I'm guessing, and it will run hotter, louder and use more power than the Titan, not to mention possible SLI issues that have plagued ALL SLI/CF on one PCB cards to date. If you want THE high end MAINSTREAM card, you get the 680, if you wan't the EXTREME card(s), you get the Titan or 690.

    Folks, we don't yell at Ferrari or Bugatti for pricing their vehicles to their performance capabilities; nobody yelled at Powercolor for pricing the Devil 13 at $1000 even though the 690 spanks it on ALMOST all fronts for $100 LESS.

    Yes, I wish I could afford 1 or 3 of the Titans; but' I am not going to yell and whine about the $1000 price because I CAN'T afford them, it gives me a goal to try and save my sheckles to get at least 2 of them before years end, hopefully the price may (but probably won't) have dropped by then.
    Reply
  • chizow - Tuesday, February 19, 2013 - link

    The problem with your car analogy is that Nvidia is now charging you Bugatti prices for the same BMW series you bought 2 years ago. Maybe an M3 level of trim this time around, but it's the same class of car, just 2x the price. Reply
  • Sandcat - Wednesday, February 20, 2013 - link

    The high end 28nm cards have all been exercises in gouging. At least they're being consistent with the 'f*ck the customer because we have a duopoly' theme. Reply
  • Kevin G - Tuesday, February 19, 2013 - link

    The card is indeed a luxury product. Like all consumer cards, this is crippled in in some way compared to the Quadro and Tesla lines. Not castrating FP64 performance is big. I guess nVidia finally realized that the HPC market values reliability more than raw computer and hence why EDC/ECC is disabled. ditto for RMDA, though I strongly suspect that RMDA is still used for SLI between Geforce cards - just a lock out to another vendor's hardware.

    The disabling of GPU Boost for FP64 workloads is odd. Naturally it should consumer a bit more energy to do FP64 workloads which would either result in higher temps at the same frequency as FP32 or lower clocks at the same frequency as FP32. The surprise is that users are don't have the flexibility to choose or adjust those settings.

    Display overclocking has me wondering exactly what is being altered. DVI and DP operate at distinct frequencies and moving to a higher refresh rate at higher resolutions should also increase this. Cable quality would potentially have an impact here as well. Though for lower resolutions, driving them at a higher refresh rate should still be within the cabling spec.
    Reply
  • Kepe - Tuesday, February 19, 2013 - link

    The comment section is filled with NVIDIA hate, on how they dropped the ball, lost their heads, smoked too much and so on. What you don't seem to understand is that this is not a mainstream product. It's not meant for those who look at performance/$ charts when buying their graphics cards. This thing is meant for those who have too much money on their hands. Not the average Joe building his next gaming rig. And as such, this is a valid product at a valid price point. A bit like the X-series Intel processors. If you look at the performance compared to their more regular products the 1000+ dollar price is completely ridiculous.

    You could also compare the GTX Titan to a luxury phone. They use extravagant building materials, charge a lot of extra for the design and "bling", but raw performance isn't on the level of what you'd expect by just looking at the price tag.
    Reply
  • jimhans1 - Tuesday, February 19, 2013 - link

    I agree, the pricing is in line with the EXPECTED user base for the card; it is NOT a mainstream card. Reply
  • Sandcat - Tuesday, February 19, 2013 - link

    The disconnect regards the Gx110 chip. Sure, it's a non-mainstream card, however people do have the impression that it is the lock-step successor to the 580, and as such should be priced similarly.

    Nvidia does need to be careful here, they enjoy a duopoly in the market but goodwill is hard to create and maintain. I've been waiting for the 'real' successor to the 580 to replace my xfire 5850's and wasn't impressed with the performance increase of the 680. Looks like it'll be another year....at least.

    :(
    Reply

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