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NVIDIA GeForce GTX Titan X 12GB Video Card Review

NVIDIA GeForce GTX Titan X 12GB Video Card Review

NVIDIA stuns with the GTX Titan X, with a huge 12GB of VRAM and 8b transistors, resulting in mind-blowing performance. Maxwell does it again, all on 28nm.

@anthony256
Anthony Garreffa
Published Tue, Mar 17 2015 2:00 PM CDT   |   Updated Thu, Jul 30 2020 4:20 PM CDT
Rating: 93%Manufacturer: NVIDIA

Introduction

It is March 9 and I am writing the introduction to this review of the NVIDIA GeForce GTX Titan X, where I have five days before I board a plane from Adelaide, South Australia to San Jose, California, USA for NVIDIA's GPU Technology Conference 2015.

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VIEW GALLERY - 43 IMAGES

At last year's GTC, we were introduced to the GeForce GTX Titan Z, which was powered by two Kepler-based GK110 cores. The Titan Z was a weird release for NVIDIA, as it was essentially two GeForce GTX Titan Black Edition cards, on a single PCB. Oh, and a $2999 price tag.

It was never destined for gamers, but it was marketed towards CUDA developers, especially with its $3000 price. It had 12GB of VRAM, but only 6GB was available as it had the two GK110 cores with 6GB of frame buffer each. The new GeForce GTX Titan X, on the other hand, is something so special that I don't think people have quite grasped what we have in front of us today.

NVIDIA unveiled the new GeForce GTX Titan X ahead of its GTC 2015 event, revealing the Maxwell-powered card during Epic Games' GDC 2015 event. Company founder and CEO Jen-Hsun Huang took the stage to unveil the new card, teasing that it was the most powerful GPU it had ever created, with 12GB of VRAM and a huge eight billion transistors.

It is a huge preemptive move against AMD, which is preparing to launch its Radeon 300 series, and more specifically, the Radeon R9 390X. The new GTX Titan X might not be aimed at consumers with its large price tag, but it is what some have been waiting for. I have a few friends who haven't pulled the trigger on the GTX 980 as they were "waiting for the GTX 980 Ti", hoping for 8GB of VRAM. Well, here we are.

Quick Specs

We have a card that has around 30-50% more performance of the GTX 980, with 300% more VRAM at 12GB. We've gone into details in the Titan X specifications further on in the review.

Availability & Price

The retail price of the GeForce GTX Titan X is $999, which is great considering the power available at your fingertips. At $999, we have NVIDIA launching it at the same price as the two previous Titan cards, with Titan X being much more powerful.

The Packaging & Box Contents

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The package that the Titan X arrives in is beautiful - simple, black, and a huge 'Titan X' branding on the front of it.

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Here we have the bottom of the box, where NVIDIA has 'Inspired by Gamers. Built by NVIDIA' on the bottom.

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The side of the box has some more Titan X branding, as well as a nice image of the card itself in the bottom right.

Detailed Look

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The NVIDIA GeForce GTX Titan X in all its glory.

On the front of the Titan X, we have the same blower cooling system that we have on the reference GTX 970 and GTX 980 cards. Compared to the Titan Black Edition, we have black styling versus the gray used on the original Titan.

The biggest difference between the GTX 980 and the Titan X is that the Titan X does not have a backplate, which some people have scolded NVIDIA for so far. I think the omission is good, as the backplate on the GTX 980 gets incredibly hot, and with the full GM200 core and a huge 12GB of VRAM, you want to get rid of as much heat as possible - so removing the backplate is a good move by NVIDIA in my opinion. We'll talk about temperatures and the feel of the card and its performance in a future article.

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Display output wise we have what is turning into the usual Maxwell outputs: three DisplayPort outputs, an HDMI 2.0 port and a dual-link DVI port.

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One of the surprising things, even for me, is that the Titan X is capable of 4-way SLI. With 12GB of VRAM, a 4-way setup is going to be the best setup you can have in your PC. Sure, the VRAM doesn't combine, but with the first card having 12GB, you'll never, ever run into a situation where you're pushing anywhere close to 12GB of VRAM. However, 4-way SLI support with a full GM200 core and 12GB of VRAM? We are living in amazing times, #pcmasterrace.

Card Specifications & Cooling Setup

Card Specifications

Before we blow you away with how powerful the GM200-based GeForce GTX Titan X is, we'll give you a rundown of the specifications of the card. We have 96 ROPs, 256 TMUs and 3072 shaders. This is compared to the 64 ROPs, 128 TMUs and 2048 shader cores found in the GM204-based GeForce GTX 980. So we can see that the Titan X is incredibly powerful on paper, even against the already powerful GTX 980.

We also have a 384-but memory bus on the Titan X, compared to the 256-bit memory bus found on the GTX 980. This gives us 336.6GB/sec of memory bandwidth, up from the 224GB/sec that the GTX 980 is capable of.

One of the big points of the Titan X is the 12GB of RAM, which is clocked at 7GHz. As for the Core and Boost clocks, we have 1002MHz on the GPU and 1072MHz Boost.

Cooling Setup

NVIDIA has continued the use of the blower cooler design that the GeForce GTX 780, GTX 780 Ti, GTX Titan Black, and the Maxwell-based GTX 980 on the new GTX Titan X. While it might look basic, the design is high-end, and it has some great performance that we'll talk about later on in the review, and a future article or two.

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The GTX Titan X is identical in size, measuring in at 10.5 inches long, with the identical cooling system that powered the GTX 980. I'm a big fan of this design, and an even bigger fan of the GTX 980 as even when they're being stressed to the max, you don't hear them. Is the GTX Titan X going to be the same? We'll find out soon.

The entire GTX Titan X is lined with a massive aluminum baseplate, which acts as a gigantic heat sink that covers the VRM and other components near it.

Testing Method & Test System Configuration

Testing Method

Because I'm just starting out reviewing GPUs, we're going to slowly evolve our benchmarking setup. I'm not going to dive into the deep end and start testing out real-time FPS, as this will hurt the quality of the reviews. Instead, I'd like to nail these initial reviews and then we can start doing real-time numbers of games like Far Cry 4, and Star Citizen. For now, I've played Battlefield 4 on a 64-player server to provide some real-world performance numbers.

For now, I'm going to be using the same suite of benchmarks I've been using on my Tweakipedia articles, which uses a mix of synthetic benchmarks with Futuremark's 3DMark and Unigine Heaven. After that, we have a bunch of titles with built-in benchmarks (which does not represent actual in-game performance) but they are repeatable for you at home to gauge the performance of your PC or GPU.

Over time, I will be adding in new benchmarks and a new section that will concentrate solely on real-time gaming benchmarks. This will take more time per review, as I'll have to invest time into actually physically playing the games, but it'll be worth it in the long run. For now, let's get right into the synthetic benchmarks and see how this NVIDIA GeForce GTX Titan X performs.

Test System Configuration

We only recently built our new X99-powered system, something you can read about here. As for the detailed specifications, this is what we're running:

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  • CPU: Intel Core i7 5820K processor w/Corsair H110 cooler
  • Motherboard: GIGABYTE X99 Gaming G1 Wi-Fi
  • RAM: 16GB Corsair Vengeance 2666MHz DDR4
  • Storage: 240GB SanDisk Extreme II and 480GB SanDisk Extreme II
  • Chassis: Lian Li T60 Pit Stop
  • PSU: Corsair AX1200i digital PSU
  • Software: Windows 7 Ultimate x64
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We're running the system at stock CPU speeds, which will provide more of a 'real-world' feel to our benchmarks. Sure, this isn't an i7-5960X at 5GHz, but what person is going to team up an incredibly expensive CPU with a mid-range GPU? Not many.

Our GPU tests are changing, shifting toward more of a real-world feel. But don't worry, we will be doing some crazy balls-to-the-wall tests that will see serious overclocks, Extreme Edition processors, and much more in the coming months. For the most part, we will be doing more real-world testing by teaming up the right processor with the right GPU in its price category.

Benchmarks - Synthetic (3DMark and Heaven)

3DMark Fire Strike - 1080p

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3DMark Fire Strike Extreme - 1440p

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3DMark Fire Strike Ultra - 4K

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Heaven - 1080p

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Heaven - 1440p

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Heaven - 4K

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Right out of the gate, the GeForce GTX Titan X blows everything away, except for the GTX 980 SLI setup at 1080p in 3DMark, a 34% increase in performance. Moving over to the Fire Strike Extreme benchmark which is run at 1440p, the Titan X scores 32% better than the GTX 980. Moving on up to the Fire Strike Ultra benchmark at 4K, the Titan X is 33% faster. So we see an average of 33% over the GTX 980 in 3DMark, at all resolutions. Impressive stuff so far, NVIDIA.

We haven't even talked about the Radeon R9 290X with 8GB of VRAM, which the Titan X destroys in every single test.

Heaven is a huge stress on any GPU, but the Titan X handled it like a Maxwell champion. At 1080p, we have a 34% increase over the single GTX 980 with it nipping on the heels of the GTX 980 setup. The Titan X is 34% faster than the GTX 980 at 1440p, and at 4K, the Titan X is the king of single GPUs.

At 4K, the Titan X beats the Radeon R9 290X 8GB by a huge 68%, and the GTX 980 by 33%. It still loses out to the GTX 980s in SLI, but we kind of expected that.

Game Benchmarks (1080p)

Battlefield 4

This is one game that we did differently, as it does not feature a built-in benchmarking feature. When it comes to Battlefield 4, there are countless ways you can benchmark it. Some find a spot in the single player campaign which is easily repeatable, and use that. For our testing, we've chosen to use a 64-player online multiplayer server for real-time performance statistics.

We joined a 64-player map and played for five minutes using FRAPS, pulling our minimum/average and maximum FPS. We did this for each test, we run the game for 5 minutes at 1080p/1440p and 4K two times each. One time with Medium settings, and another with a custom Ultra preset (disabling AA). It's time consuming, but it gives us a perfect look into true real-world performance.

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And again, this time with the Ultra preset.

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GRID Autosport

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Metro: Last Light

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Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor

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Thief

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Tomb Raider

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BioShock Infinite

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DiRT Showdown

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You can find our performance summary of all of our gaming tests later in the review.

Game Benchmarks (1440p)

Battlefield 4

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GRID Autosport

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Metro: Last Light

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Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor

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Thief

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Tomb Raider

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BioShock Infinite

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DiRT Showdown

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You can find our performance summary of all of our gaming tests later in the review.

Performance - 4K

Battlefield 4

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GRID Autosport

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Metro: Last Light

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Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor

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Thief

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Tomb Raider

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BioShock Infinite

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DiRT Showdown

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You can find our performance summary of all of our gaming tests later in the review.

Performance Summary & Overclocking

How Does the NVIDIA GeForce GTX Titan X Stack Up?

In our synthetic testing, we had an average of 34% on our GTX 980. This is an amazing result, considering it barely uses anymore power, or runs any hotter, or runs any louder. The 4K performance on the GeForce GTX Titan X is unparalled. Nothing comes close to it in a single GPU solution. The Radeon R9 290X with 8GB of VRAM (and overclocked) is no competition. The only thing that gets close to it is the GTX 980 SLI setup.

Performance at 1080p

Starting with Battlefield 4, the Titan X hits the boundary that our other VGA cards have hit: at around 170FPS, on the Medium preset. Flicking over to the Ultra preset, the Titan X scores 143FPS, which is less than the R9 290X 8GB with 150FPS, and the GTX 980 SLI setup with 165FPS. But, it's a large jump over the GTX 980 with its 109FPS, an increase of 33%.

Continuing the GTX Titan X rampage with GRID Autosport, where we see the GM200 core smashing even the GTX 980s in SLI - sure, it is by 5FPS, but beating a seriously powerful dual GPU setup is not easy on a single card.

Metro: Last Light still has the performance there, but it's not enough to top the GTX 980s in SLI. It does beat the single GTX 980 by a decent margin of 26%, but loses to the GTX 980 SLI by 24FPS, or 24%.

Shadow of Mordor sees the GTX Titan X beating everything we've tested so far - demolishing the GTX 980. The same results are found within Thief, where the Titan X beats the GTX 980 SLI setup by 4FPS, and is a huge 30% increase over the GTX 980.

Another game where the Titan X flexes its 384-bit memory bus muscle is in BioShock Infinite, where it beats the GTX 980 and R9 290X 8GB without a problem, and isn't too far behind the GTX 980 SLI setup. Another surprising, well not-so-surprising result.

Performance at 1440p

The 384-bit memory bus comes into play much more at 2560x1440, starting with our Medium preset we have the Titan X managing a huge 163FPS average. This is a 28% increase over the GTX 980, and a 10% increase of the Radeon R9 290X 8GB. The GTX 980 SLI is still the setup to beat here.

The 1440p results on the Ultra preset (minus AA) are much more interesting, with the Titan X only losing out to the GTX 980s in SLI. The Titan X performs extremely well, with 118FPS versus the huge 159FPS on the GTX 980 SLI. But, it beats the Radeon R9 290X 8GB by 20%, and the GTX 980 by 19%.

We knew that the GeForce GTX Titan X would begin to excel at higher resolutions thanks to its 384-bit memory bus compared to the 256-bit memory bus found in the GTX 970 and GTX 980s, where GRID Autosport begins to really see some benefits. We have the Titan X scoring 1FPS less than the GTX 980 SLI setup, which goes to show how much power is sitting in the GM200 core.

Metro: Last Light sees it slump just a little, where the Titan X is 20% faster than the GTX 980, but 25% slower than the GTX 980 SLI cards. The same can't be said for Shadow of Mordor, where the Titan X kills the R9 290X 8GB by 45%, while it beats the GTX 980 by 40%. It's only 6FPS slower than the two GTX 980s in SLI, too.

In Thief, the GM200-powered Titan X just dominates. We have it taking the #1 spot, beating out the GTX 980s in SLI by 1FPS. Comparing the Titan X against the R9 290X, we have an improvement of 49%. The GTX Titan X is 28% faster than the single GTX 980 in Thief.

At 2560x1440, we're beginning to see the 384-bit memory bus and fully enabled GM200 core come out into its own. Tomb Raider loved the additional power, with the Titan X beating out everything else in our labs by quite a margin - it beat the two GTX 980s in SLI by 16%. The Radeon R9 290X 8GB lost to the Titan X by a huge 61%, while the single GTX 980 had its ass handed to the Titan X by 33%.

BioShock Infinite at 1440p wasn't as impressive, but we still have some great gains on the GTX Titan X. The GM200-powered card beat the overclocked R9 290X 8GB by 26%, while it beat the GTX 980 by 15%. The Titan X loses to the GTX 980 SLI by 30FPS here, which equates to 33%.

In DiRT Showdown, the Titan X has a huge 94FPS minimum and 131FPS average - which compared to the single GTX 980 and its 110FPS average isn't a huge jump. But it beats the R9 290X 8GB by 37%.

Performance at 4K

This is where we all want to see how the GeForce GTX Titan X performs at 3840x2160, or 4K. Starting with Battlefield 4 on its Medium preset, the Titan X pushes out 90FPS average, which is an increase of nearly 14% over the R9 290X 8GB, and 12% faster than the stock GTX 980. The GTX 980 is a beast of a setup here, with a huge 128FPS average.

On the Ultra preset (minus AA) we see the Titan X managing just 73FPS, losing out to the GTX 780, GTX 980 and GTX 980 SLI. I think this is because of an early driver, so we will be revisiting this in the next week or so as drivers being to mature for the GM200-powered card.

Moving onto GRID: Autosport, we see the Titan X pushing out and ahead with a huge 95FPS average. Comparing this to the reference GeForce GTX 980 which was 'only' able to manage 71FPS, the Titan X bests it by a decent 33%.

Metro: Last Light performance was astounding, where we see the Titan X equaling the performance of the GTX 980s in SLI with 73FPS average. The Titan X beat the R9 290X 8GB by 62%, while it beat the GTX 980 by 43%.

In Shadow of Mordor, the Titan X continues to dominate with 70FPS average, losing out to the GTX Titan and its 87FPS, or by 24%. The Titan X beat the single cards in the R9 290X 8GB and GTX 980 by 29% and 34%, respectively.

Thief continues to show us the power of the Titan X at 4K, with 48FPS average, and while it loses out to GTX 980 SLI setup with its 58FPS, it easily beats the R9 290X 8GB and GTX 980. Tomb Raider has similar results, with 90FPS average compared to the GTX 980 SLI with a huge 147FPS. The Titan X beats the R9 290X 8GB and GTX 980 here at 4K quite easily.

BioShock Infinite at 4K sees the Titan X nearly coming out on top of the GTX 980s in SLI, with the Titan X scoring 120FPS average, while the GTX 980 SLI beats it by 2FPS at 122FPS average. We have a huge jump in performance over the R9 290X 8GB and GTX 980, with the Titan X beating them by a huge 76% and 71%, respectively.

DiRT Showdown is a huge advertisement for the Titan X at 4K, where it just demolishes the GTX 980 SLI setup by a huge 49%. Things are even better when comparing it against AMD's best single card in the R9 290X with 8GB of VRAM, where the Titan X schools it by 168%... yes, one-hundred-and-sixty-eight percent. Wow. It thrashes the single GTX 980 by a huge 125%.

Overclocking - Let's See How Far We Can Go

We didn't have much time with our Titan X to play with overclocking, so we're going to write up a specific OC article in the coming weeks.

Power Consumption, Sound Testing and Software

Power Consumption

Thanks to the incredible power of NVIDIA's Maxwell architecture, the power consumption on the GeForce GTX Titan X is just amazing. All of that horsepower inside of the GM200 core only consumes 295W of power (for the full system) playing Battlefield 4 at 1440p.

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Sound Testing

Unfortunately, we didn't have time to do our sound testing on the GTX Titan X, but this is something we'll cover in a future article. From our 24 hours of testing with the Titan X, we didn't hear the fan spin up once - even during our heavy benchmarking sessions.

Software

NVIDIA doesn't have any overclocking software with its GeForce GTX Titan X, but we do have the incredibly useful and feature-packed GeForce Experience software. This is something we covered in a detailed piece last year, if you want to check it out.

What's Hot, What's Not & Final Thoughts

This is where you can fast forward to the final section of the review, and get a quick recap and points on the NVIDIA GeForce GTX Titan X.

What's Hot

The Full GM200 Core: This is the "Big Daddy" of the Maxwell architecture the world has been waiting for, compared to the GM204 that powered the GTX 980. I feel bad for even saying that, as the GTX 980 is still one of the best video cards ever released. But, the full GM200 core is delicious, with it being the best VGA card created to date.

12GB of VRAM!!!: That is all.

Unparalleled Performance: In most of our game testing, we saw an improvement of 30-50% on average, but there were cases where the performance was just out of this world in 4K. We had improvements of up to 168% against AMD's Radeon R9 290X 8GB.

NVIDIA Beats AMD to the GPU Punch: The world is still waiting for AMD to launch its "Fiji" architecture, which will result in the Radeon R9 390X. We've been hearing about these 4096-bit memory buses, HBM memory with insane memory bandwidth, and some huge performance.

NVIDIA's Maxwell architecture has allowed them to cut it down to the GM204 and release the GTX 980, but now we have the full GM200 core and the Titan X. This is going to have many people at AMD filling their pants with something a little smelly.

Did We Mention Amazing Performance?: The performance of the GM200-powered GTX Titan X is just absolutely amazing. There's nothing bad about the Titan X when it comes to performance, at all. At 1080p, 1440p and 4K there are improvements across the board compared to the GTX 980, and it even keeps up with two of them in SLI.

What's Not

Hot to the Touch: There is not much wrong with the Titan X, but after a few hours of insane benchmarking and Battlefield 4 sessions, the Titan X gets hot - incredibly hot. I had to replace it with other video cards during our testing, and it was next to impossible to touch without burning my hands. But, in a normal gaming scenario - this is not something you'd do. So, this doesn't impact our final decision on the card.

Final Thoughts

NVIDIA has done it again.

We knew that NVIDIA had a full GM200 core coming after the GM204 was what made the GTX 980 come to life, but we didn't expect it to be this good. I knew it was coming, but another thing that surprised me was the 12GB of VRAM. NVIDIA would normally have thrown 6GB of framebuffer on it, but I think in order to stay ahead of AMD's upcoming Radeon R9 390X, they preemptively striked with the Titan X, and used 12GB of VRAM.

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This isn't something to complain about, as it's a very good thing to see. It makes this card something that a consumer, or professional user can buy without having to worry about the future. 12GB of framebuffer is much more than gamers will use even in the coming 2-3 years, but for professionals who are using this card for the rendering side of things, 12GB of framebuffer is going to come in handy, big time.

The use of the 384-bit memory bus and additional cores is something that really helps in high-resolution gaming, something we saw at 1440p and 4K. But, we like to do things a little better here at TweakTown, so we've used the Titan X on an NVIDIA 4K Surround (6480x3840) setup, with that article available right here.

NVIDIA's GM200-based GeForce GTX Titan is one of the fastest, and in some cases, the fastest VGA card on the planet right now. If you're after a card that can handle some serious gaming and were considering purchasing two GTX 970s or GTX 980s in SLI, I urge you to reconsider and grab the Titan X instead.

SLI scaling in some games is still not so great, so you're always better off with a single, super-fast card - which is where the Titan X comes into play. NVIDIA has done it again with the Titan X, providing the world with a single GPU solution that runs rings around the competition.

Your move, AMD.

TweakTown award
Performance (including Overclocking w/a)95%
Quality including Design and Build95%
General Features95%
Bundle and Packaging90%
Value for Money90%
Overall93%

The Bottom Line: NVIDIA regains control of the fastest single GPU in the world with the GeForce GTX Titan X. Unparalleled performance at high resolutions, with the Maxwell architecture continuing to shine in the GM200 core.

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Anthony is a long time PC enthusiast with a passion of hate for games built around consoles. FPS gaming since the pre-Quake days, where you were insulted if you used a mouse to aim, he has been addicted to gaming and hardware ever since. Working in IT retail for 10 years gave him great experience with custom-built PCs. His addiction to GPU tech is unwavering.

We openly invite the companies who provide us with review samples / who are mentioned or discussed to express their opinion. If any company representative wishes to respond, we will publish the response here. Please contact us if you wish to respond.

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