Gainward GeForce GTX 770 Phantom Review


Gainward GeForce GTX 770 Phantom Review

Having taken the covers off the GeForce GTX 780 a week ago, Nvidia is ready to release their next part in the GeForce 700 series. Giving us our first look at the GeForce GTX 770 is Gainward, with their special Phantom edition card featuring an upgraded cooling solution, factory overclocking, and 8-phase PWM.

But let’s put things into further context. The GTX 780 that debuted last week was based on the same Kepler GK110 architecture used by the GTX Titan. Nvidia priced the GTX 780 at $650 , INR 48,990 , making it 35% cheaper than the GTX Titan but also 40% more than the GTX 680. In terms of performance, the GTX 780 was only 10 – 15% slower than the Titan, so it added value to an otherwise very exclusive price point, however when compared to the GTX 680 the numbers were less impressive as the GTX 780 was just 24% faster.

Therefore the GeForce GTX 780 is an attractive option for those wanting Titan-levels of performance at a more moderate price, but in the overall scope of things, the 780 was hardly exciting news for the vast majority of gamers as it remains a very expensive affair and the release did nothing to drive down prices of previous generation cards.

Looking forward to the GeForce GTX 770’s release, we were hoping this would be a little more meaningful for the gaming community. The GTX 770 is based on the GK104 architecture, first used by last year’s GTX 680. Earlier rumors indicated that the GTX 770’s specifications would be much like a GTX 680 on steroids, and as it turns out that’s exactly what it is. Virtually everything about the GTX 770 and GTX 680 are the same, except for core and memory clock speeds.

The GTX 770 features the fastest GDDR5 memory we have ever seen at 7GHz. Memory at that clock rate is good for a peak bandwidth of 224GB/s, 16% more than the GTX 680. Therefore, technically if you could overclock a GTX 680 well enough you could create a GTX 770.

GeForce GTX 770 Phantom in Detail

Gainward has prepped their Phantom card in time for the GTX 770 release, touting a reworked PCB with an upgraded power phase, factory overclocking and a massive triple slot cooler — the last of which is the most noteworthy enhancement. Although Gainward featured its Phantom cooler on some GTX 600 series cards, the GTX 770 is the first to market with the company’s third-generation solution.

The new Phantom delivers better thermals while making less noise and boasting of a sturdier construction. It’s unlike any triple-slot cooler we’ve encountered before. It features five 8mm heatpipes that extract heat from the base and evenly distribute it throughout the heatsink.

 

 

The most unusual part of the cooler design is the fans, or rather their location. Fans are typically attached to the top side of the heatsink, but instead Gainward has embedded three quiet 80mm brushless PWM fans inside the heatsink. The fans are also removable, featuring a tool-less design. Similar to the way hot-swappable hard drive bays work, the fans slide out once a single thumb screw has been removed, no cables, no fuss.

The heatsink measures 257mm long, 65mm wide and 45mm tall. It features a black fan shroud that forces the 80mm fans to draw air in through fins above them and push it over the card below them at the same time. Moving past the heatsink is a black aluminum heat spreader that engulfs the top side of the card and cools the eight 256MB GDDR5 memory chips along with the 8-phase PWM.

 

 

By using a 8-phase design, Gainward includes two extra phases for power delivery to the GPU, which should improve performance under heavy loads and aid in the card’s overclocking abilities. Speaking of overclocking, Gainward has done a little bit of the heavy lifting by pushing the core clock from 1046MHz to 1150MHz, a decent 10% increase, while the Boost Clock is increased from 1085MHz to 1202MHz, an 11% increase. The GDDR5 operating frequency has been left at 7GHz meaning the memory bandwidth remains at 224.3GB/s.

As mentioned before, beyond clock speeds the GeForce GTX 770’s specifications are identical to the GTX 680. This means there are 4 graphics processing clusters, 8 streaming multiprocessors, 1536 CUDA cores, 128 TAUs and 32 ROPs. The rest of Gainward’s card remains fairly standard, including a pair of SLI connectors, 6-pin and 8-pin PCIe power connectors, and an I/O panel configuration consisting of HDMI, DisplayPort and two DVI ports.

Testing Methodology

As usual we tested each graphics card with Fraps, which lets us record the average frame rate in seconds over a set amount of time. Typically, we run our tests for 60 seconds. Reporting the average fps (frames per second) is how things have been done for… well, forever. It’s a fantastic metric in the sense that it’s easy to record and easy to understand. But it doesn’t tell the whole story, as The Tech Report and others have shown.

To get a fuller picture, it’s increasingly apparent that you need to factor in a card’s frame latency, which looks at how quickly each frame is delivered. Regardless of how many frames a graphics card produces on average in 60 seconds, if it can’t deliver them all at roughly the same speed, you might see more brief jittery points with one GPU over another — something we’ve witnessed but didn’t fully understand.

Assuming two cards deliver equal average frame rates, the one with lowest stable frame latency is going to offer the smoothest picture, and that’s a pretty important detail to consider if you’re about to drop a wad of cash. As such, we’ll be including this information from now on by measuring how long in milliseconds it takes cards to render each frame individually and then graphing that in a digestible way.

We’ll be using the latency-focused 99th percentile metric, which looks at 99% of results recorded within X milliseconds, and the lower that number is, the faster and smoother the performance is overall. By removing 1% of the most extreme results, it’s possible to filter anomalies that might have been caused by other components. Again, kudos to The Tech Report and other sites like PC Per for shining a light on this issue.

Test System Specs

  • Intel Core i7-3960X Extreme Edition (3.30GHz)
  • x4 2GB G.Skill DDR3-1600(CAS 8-8-8-20)
  • Asrock X79 Extreme11 (Intel X79)
  • OCZ ZX Series (1250W)
  • Crucial m4 512GB (SATA 6Gb/s)
  • HIS Radeon HD 7990 (6144MB)
  • HIS Radeon HD 7970 GHz (3072MB) Crossfire
  • HIS Radeon HD 7970 GHz (3072MB)
  • HIS Radeon HD 7970 (3072MB)
  • HIS Radeon HD 7950 Boost (3072MB) Crossfire
  • HIS Radeon HD 7950 Boost (3072MB)
  • HIS Radeon HD 7950 (3072MB)
  • HIS Radeon HD 7870 (2048MB) Crossfire
  • HIS Radeon HD 7870 (2048MB)
  • Gigabyte GeForce GTX Titan (6144MB)
  • Gainward GeForce GTX 780 (3072MB)
  • Gainward GeForce GTX 770 (2048MB)
  • Gainward GeForce GTX 690 (4096MB)
  • Gainward GeForce GTX 680 (2048MB)
  • Gigabyte GeForce GTX 670 (2048MB)
  • Gainward GeForce GTX 660 Ti (2048MB) SLI
  • Gainward GeForce GTX 660 Ti (2048MB)
  • Microsoft Windows 7 Ultimate SP1 64-bit
  • Nvidia Forceware 320.18
  • AMD Catalyst 13.5 (Beta 2)

Benchmarks: Battlefield 3, Crysis 3

 

 

The Gainward GTX 770 Phantom was 5% faster than the standard GTX 770 in Battlefield 3 at 2560×1600 rendering 54.1fps. This meant that it was just 4% faster than the Radeon HD 7970 GHz Edition but 12% faster than the GeForce GTX 680. The overclocked Gainward GTX 770 Phantom was also 17% slower than the GTX 780 which averaged a more impressive 64.8fps.

 

The frame time performance saw the Gainward GTX 770 Phantom produce similar margins when compared to the competition. Here the GTX 770 Phantom was 5% faster than the standard GTX 770, 12% faster than the GTX 680 and 7% faster than the Radeon HD 7970 GHz Edition, while it did trail the GTX 780 by an 18% margin.

 

 

The Gainward GTX 770 Phantom averaged 27.9fps when testing with Crysis 3 at 2560×1600 which is the same result turned in by the standard GTX 770. Despite that it was still 6% faster than the GTX 680 and 18% faster than the Radeon HD 7970 GHz Edition. Meanwhile the Gainward GTX 770 Phantom was also just 6% slower than the GeForce GTX 780.

 

The Crysis 3 frame time performance is quite different to that of the frames per second performance. This time the Gainward GTX 770 Phantom was 8% faster than the standard GTX 770 and 18% faster than the GTX 680, while it was just 4% slower than the GTX 780

Benchmarks: DiRT 3, Far Cry 3

 

 

The GeForce GTX 770 averaged 71.8fps at 2560×1600 in DiRT 3 making it slightly slower than the Radeon HD 7970 GHz Edition which managed 74.2fps. However the overclocked Gainward GTX 770 Phantom was 6% faster than the standard GTX 770 which was enough to get past the 7970 GHz Edition by a slim 2% margin.

 

The Gainward GTX 770 Phantom wasn’t able to beat the Radeon HD 7970 GHz Edition when measuring frame time performance in DiRT 3 as it was 4% slower. Despite that it was still 5% faster than the standard GTX 770 and 12% faster than the GTX 680.

 

 

The Gainward GTX 770 Phantom performed well when testing with Far Cry 3 averaging 40.1fps at 2560×1600, making it faster than the Radeon HD 7970 GHz Edition by a 15% margin. Better still it was 27% faster than the GeForce GTX 680 and 5% faster than the standard GTX 770, while it was just 8% slower than the GTX 780.

 

The Far Cry 3 frame time performance results show similar margins to the frames per second results. Here the Gainward GTX 770 Phantom was again 5% faster than the standard GTX 770, 9% slower than the GTX 780 and 29% faster than the GTX 680. Where there was some improvement made was in its lead over the Radeon HD 7970 GHz Edition which was extended out to a 23% margin.

Benchmarks: Max Payne 3, Sleeping Dogs

 

 

Max Payne 3 is a game where the Radeon HD 7970 GHz Edition enjoyed a comfortable lead over the GeForce GTX 680. As you can see the Gainward GTX 770 Phantom was able to beat the 7970 GHz Edition by a slim 5% margin, while providing 10% more performance than the standard GTX 770.

 

The Gainward GTX 770 Phantom was 8% faster than the Radeon HD 7970 GHz Edition when measuring frame time performance and 11% faster than the GTX 680.

 

 

Nvidia has recently made performance improvements for Sleeping Dogs, though despite that the Radeon HD 7970 GHz Edition was still faster than the GeForce GTX 680. The same is true for the GeForce GTX 770 which was almost 2fps slower than the 7970 GHz Edition. However the overclocked Gainward GTX 770 Phantom was able to just outperform the 7970 GHz Edition, albeit by less than a frame per second.

 

The Sleeping Dogs frame time performance saw the Gainward GTX 770 Phantom fall short of the GTX 780 by just a 4% margin, while it was 15% faster than the GTX 680, but 3% slower than the Radeon HD 7970 GHz Edition.

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Benchmarks: Tomb Raider, Resident Evil 6

 

 

The Gainward GTX 770 Phantom was 16% slower than the GTX 780 in Tomb Raider at 2560×1600 and yet despite that it was sill 14% faster than the GTX 680 as well as the Radeon HD 7970 GHz Edition.

 

The Tomb Raider frame time performance margins are similar to the frames per second margins. Here the Gainward GTX 770 Phantom is 18% slower than the GTX 780 but 15% faster than the GTX 680, while it was 9% faster than the Radeon HD 7970 GHz Edition.

 

 

When testing Resident Evil 6 at 2560×1600 the Gainward GTX 770 Phantom averaged 63.9fps, making it 5% faster than the standard GTX 770 and surprisingly just as fast as the GTX 780.

 

The Resident Evil 6 frame time results saw the Gainward GTX 770 Phantom outperform the GTX 680 by a 10% margin, while it was just 1% slower than the GTX 780. Meanwhile the Gainward GTX 770 Phantom was 16% faster than the Radeon HD 7970 GHz Edition.

Benchmarks: Medal of Honor, Hitman

 

 

Here we see yet another closely contested battle between the new GeForce GTX 770 and the old Radeon HD 7970 GHz Edition. The overclocked Gainward GTX 770 Phantom averaged 42.8fps making it just 5% faster than the 7970 GHz Edition, but 14% faster than the GeForce GTX 680.

 

The Gainward GTX 770 Phantom’s lead over the GeForce GTX 680 and Radeon HD 7970 GHz Edition was reduced when measuring frame time performance, as it was now just 7% and 1% faster respectively.

 

 

Hitman Absolution doesn’t play nice with Nvidia hardware and as a result the Gainward GTX 770 Phantom was for the first time slower than the Radeon HD 7970 GHz Edition, 11% slower in fact. The overclocked Gainward GTX 770 Phantom was also just 1% faster than the standard GTX 770 and just 7% faster than the GTX 680.

 

Despite taking a beating from the Radeon HD 7970 GHz Edition when measuring frames per second performance in Hitman at 2560×1600, the Gainward GTX 770 Phantom was worlds faster when measuring frame time performance. Here the Gainward GTX 770 Phantom was 52% faster than the Radeon HD 7970 GHz Edition and just 9% faster than the GeForce GTX 680.

Power Consumption & Temperatures

 

The GeForce GTX 770 Phantom system consumed 325 watts under load, which is only 6 watts more than the GTX 680, pretty good given we received on average 13% more performance. This also meant that the GTX 770 consumed 10% less power than the Radeon HD 7970 GHz Edition while providing 7% more performance.

 

The GeForce GTX 770 using the Gainward Phantom cooler never exceeded 77 degrees, which is only slightly warmer than the GTX 680 which also happened to be using the Phantom cooler.

Conclusion: Adding Value to High-End GFX?

The Gainward GTX 770 Phantom is an impressive graphics card that not only looks great, but also runs cool and very quiet, making less noise than most case fans — it certainly wasn’t heard over anything else in our test system.

While the Gainward GTX 770 Phantom does provide more performance when compared to a standard GTX 770 (~5% in the 10 games we tested), as is often the case with factory overclocking the gains are not huge, but it does grant you a little extra peace of mind knowing that the manufacturer is handling the extra boost under warranty. From here on we’ll use the Phantom’s boosted figures to compare against the rest of the cards.

The GTX 770 Phantom was 7% faster than the Radeon HD 7970 GHz Edition, 13% faster than the GeForce GTX 680, and 11% slower than the GTX 780. The frame time results varied a a percentage point or two, but the overall trend was untouched. Unsurprisingly the GTX 770 Phantom, which enjoys 17% more bandwidth than the GTX 680, is 13 to 15% faster.

Yet all these figures are fairly meaningless without a price tag to put things in perspective. Nvidia has set the suggested retail price for the GeForce GTX 770 at $400.

The GeForce GTX 680 started life at $500, and while some cards still cost that, many can be had for a little less at around $470. So it looks like the GTX 770 is going to come in at a lot less than the GTX 680, effectively replacing it in the process in this price bracket.

Compared to the Radeon HD 7970GHz Edition, which can be purchased for $430, the GTX 770 provided 7% more performance in our frames per second testing, while this figure was increased to 13% in our frame time testing. That puts them ahead in performance vs. value in the games that we tested with. The GTX 770 also has the upperhand on efficiency as it consumes less power to deliver more performance.

When all is said and done the GeForce GTX 770 doesn’t change the high-end graphics card landscape (or should we say the new “mid-range”). It is replacing the year-old GTX 680 at the same price point, while delivering some extra oomph, both are good things. Overall we are impressed with Gainward’s GTX 770 Phantom offering, and for would be GTX 680 buyers it’s a welcomed option.

Note: We have updated pricing information for GeForce GTX 770 cards which start at $400. We have been unable to confim if Gainward will sell the Phantom at a premium, but this price correction means the GTX 770 matches the price of the older GTX 670 cards at launch and currently undercuts both the GTX 680 and Radeon 7970 GHz while delivering better performance.

 
 Our Ratings : 80/100

Pros: Better performance and slightly less price, means the GTX 770 brings better value than the GTX 680 ever did. Gainward’s Phantom version of the card is phenomenal.

Cons: Based on year-old architecture means it’s essentially a higher clocked GTX 680. Competition is as competent as it’s been for the past year.

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