NVIDIA’s Latest Graphics Cards – What Makes Them So Good?
The Titan X and GeForce GTX 10x series of graphics cards are the latest from NVidia, all of which are based on the new Pascal architecture. GTX 1080 is the standard for the series, with Titan X featuring at the premium range, whereas the likes of 1070 and 1060 offer systematic scaled-down versions without suffering on performance parameters. For this article, we shall focus on the marquee players i.e. 1080 and Titan X, but not before delving into some much-needed Pascal literature.
Pascal Architecture – The DNA Of NVidia GeForce GTX 10x And Titan X Graphics Cards
The GPU architecture for the 10x series graphics card is named Pascal whereas it was called Maxwell for the preceding 9x series. So, what’s in the name you ask? Well not much more than a collection of new feature(s) and/or improvements across baseline attributes that make the Pascal 10 times better if one were to go by NVidia’s claims.
Compared to Maxwell’s 28 nanometres (nm), Pascal GPUs have managed to cram up billions of transistors over a 16 nm FinFET manufacturing process. In layperson’s language, you got way more computational power on a given piece of silicon board than ever before. Plus, smaller architecture means efficient energy consumption, leading to less heating issues.
Pascal architecture variants churn out more than 5-teraFLOPS; up to 12 times more neural network training and seven times higher deep learning throughput. Without delving deeper into each aspect, its suffice to say, that the processing capability of Pascal GPUs is way higher than existing benchmarks.
But modern Graphics cards are a marriage between processing power and memory capabilities. And the simple thing with pairing memory with GPU until Pascal was that you could either increase capacity or you could increase bandwidth of the memory unit.
Increasing both capacity and bandwidth was a challenge, but it was a necessary challenge to overcome. Enter 3D memory on Pascal GPUs which offer 2.7 times the capacity and 3 times the speed, thereby leading to a holistic jump in overall performance attributes of the GPU.
Titan X Pascal – Simply Irresponsible Amounts Of Performance
In terms of performance parameters, Titan X’s Pascal version shreds its Maxwell counterpart to bits. Just to give you a perspective of the gulf in class, made from a 12 nm FinFET lithography on a die size of 471mm2, the GP-102 chip in the Pascal Titan X sports 12-billion transistors compared to 8-billion transistors on GM-200 chip of the Maxwell Titan X card.
The new Titan X with its 3584 CUDA cores and 1,417MHz of base clock speeds compared against its Maxwell counterpart (3,072 CUDA cores and 1,000MHz) is simply a phenomenal jump in graphic processing power. And even though the older version had similar memory capacity and bus i.e. 12GB and 384-bit respectively, the Pascal Titan X with its 48GB/s bandwidth accounts for 40% increase in that department.
As if past Titan X owners weren’t feeling miserable enough about their pricey card being trumped by the new GTX 1080 (on a price to performance scale obviously), the new Pascal Titan X has taken that gulf in class to a whole new level. The parameter numbers and benchmarks are all good, but the real test for the new Titan X was always going to be its performance on 4K resolutions. And here too, its proven more than capable.
For starters, this is the only single-GPU card that has been able to constantly pump out 60fps at 4K resolution for most games, a feat that was previously possible only through SLI. As for the games that it can’t, the bottleneck lies at the CPU level. So, if you really need to see what this card can do, then shift to a X99 platform with an eight-core CPU.
GeForce GTX 1080– The Gold Standard For 4K And VR
The GTX 1080 is the flagship of NVidia’s 10x GFX cards featuring the famed Pascal architecture. It is also the first card from the NVidia stables to take on the dual pronged challenge of 4K resolution display units and Virtual Reality gears.
The GTX 1080 uses the GP-104 GPU with 7.2 billion transistors, but for us gamers what counts is the CUDA cores and there’s 2,560 of them on this card. Compare that to GTX 980’s 2048, that’s a 25% more cores!
The clock speed is also higher – 1,607MHz to GTX 980’s 1,126MHz translating to 40% higher speeds. These two parameters alone offer ample evidence of the superior performance of the GTX 1080 against it’s previous generation counterpart and that too at a marginal increase in peak power draw.
There’s massive improvement on the RAM front too. Compared to GTX 980’s 4GB GDDR5 at memory clock of 7,000MHz, the GTX 1080 sports 6GB of GDDR5X RAM clocking at 10,000MHz. That means all that extended holding capacity for graphical data can be transferred at higher speed.
Ports wise, the Founder’s edition card offers connections for DVI, HDMI and DisplayPort (DP), where using the latter, 4K content can be pushed on to equally able display units at 120Hz and 5K at 60Hz. The 2.0b HDMI interface too can push 4K content but at 60Hz. So, all in all the GTX 1080 can be considered future proof in terms of the GFX hardware on offer.
On the software side, NVidia looks to have finally cracked the code to multi-monitor displays (4K), not to forget support for VR modules likes those on offer by Oculus and HTC. Apart from the basic software packages, one significant software feature is the asynchronous compute, which allows the GPU to work simultaneously with games and other GPU-intensive applications.
Now, you can play a game with a video compression software running in the background, without being bugged by those irksome frame freezes that were a constant pain with the GTX 980.
The future of 4K gaming definitely looks a lot brighter with the Pascal based Titan X and GeForce GTX 1080 cards. At this point, there really aren’t that many games that can push the GTX 1080, and we doubt the Titan X will break a sweat with upcoming games.