GTX Titan Black vs. GTX 780 Ti: which is the ultimate gaming GPU?

Nvidia's GTX Titan Black was released to the public a few months back. I'll admit that it didn't interest me much. With standard GTX 780 Ti cards retailing for some £300 / $500 less than the price of the GTX Titan Black, and with almost identical specs, I got the feeling that it was only really relevant for the homebrew 3D rendering crowd.

But Nvidia have been marketing it as the “the ultimate gaming GPU for a pure gaming experience—the perfect balance of sleek design, uncompromising performance, and state-of-the-art technologies.” That would seem to indicate that it had been designed for PC gamers, so let's take a look.

The GTX Titan Black is an upgrade of the original GTX Titan . That means it's based on the same GK110 GPU, but this time it's the full monty, the full 15 SMX, 2,880 core monster. That should be a pretty big deal and indeed it was, late last year, when the GTX 780 Ti was launched.

The GTX 780 Ti has the same top-end GK110 GPU, with the full complement of 15 SMX units and 2,880 CUDA cores. The big difference between the two cards is the GTX Titan Black has a 6GB frame buffer and double precision processing enabled, while the GTX 780 Ti only has a 3GB frame buffer and no double precision.

And what does that big difference mean? Not a a lot by the looks of things. I've run a sample of the GTX Titan Black through my usual benchmarking suite to see what all the “ultimate gaming GPU” fuss is about. The results are rather underwhelming, especially when you put it transistor-by-transistor with it's older GTX 780 Ti sibling. I've also added in the top-end AMD Radeon R9 295X2 performance, because it represents the same sort of price difference between it and the Titan Black that exists with the GTX 780 Ti and the latest Titan.

Synthetic 4K graphics performance

Heaven 4.0 - (Min) Avg FPS: higher is better

Nvidia GTX Titan Black - (13) 20

PNY GTX 780 Ti XLR8 - (13) 22

AMD R9 295X2 - (14) 30

DirectX 11 4K gaming performance

Bioshock Infinite - (Min) Avg FPS: higher is better

Nvidia GTX Titan Black - (7) 40

Nvidia GTX 780 Ti - (9) 42

AMD R9 295X2 - (14) 58

Battlefield 4 - (Min) Avg FPS: higher is better

Nvidia GTX Titan Black - (18) 31

Nvidia GTX 780 Ti - (22) 33

AMD R9 295X2 - (13) 60

Metro Last Light - (Min) Avg FPS: higher is better

Nvidia GTX Titan Black - (7) 14

Nvidia GTX 780 Ti - (11) 16

AMD R9 295X2 - (12) 27

You'd hope that the double-size frame buffer would offer some extra gaming clout at 4K, but it still lags behind an overclocked 3GB GTX 780 Ti. And I'm not just talking about the likes of EVGA's epic K|NGP|N Edition card either, even PNY's ever-so-slightly overclocked card is generally out in front of the far more expensive card.

But they don't have double precision maths, though. Nope. And that has precisely zero bearing on any game engine you can throw at it. The original GTX Titan made sense. At the time it offered performance you could previously only get near with dual-GPU cards. Having an updated version with the same premium price tag, but little change in specs compared with the top 7-series GeForce card, seems entirely pointless.

The ultimate gaming GPU was already out there in the GTX 780 Ti and the GTX Titan Black doesn't add anything significant to the mix. If you want a cheap professional rendering card the GTX Titans are a good bet, but for PC gamers they simply don't add up.

Dave James
Managing Editor, Hardware

Dave has been gaming since the days of Zaxxon and Lady Bug on the Colecovision, and code books for the Commodore Vic 20 (Death Race 2000!). He built his first gaming PC at the tender age of 16, and finally finished bug-fixing the Cyrix-based system around a year later. When he dropped it out of the window. He first started writing for Official PlayStation Magazine and Xbox World many decades ago, then moved onto PC Format full-time, then PC Gamer, TechRadar, and T3 among others. Now he's back, writing about the nightmarish graphics card market, CPUs with more cores than sense, gaming laptops hotter than the sun, and SSDs more capacious than a Cybertruck.