Well gosh, you wait months for new graphics cards and two (almost) arrive at once. Once might have thought that there’s a platform refresh and significant trade show coming next month. Today’s fresh release is the second of NVIDIA’s GTX 700-series, the GeForce GTX 770, and our review for the reference GTX 770 is now also live. Unlike the GTX 780 released last week it has at its core a GK104 GPU; still utilising 28nm Kepler architecture, but smaller and more power efficient. Those ahead of the curve will recognise it as the GPU at the heart of the GTX 680, 670 and 660Ti.
To get this out of the way: yes, this is a refresh and repositioning of the GK104 in NVIDIA’s product line-up, and not even a broad revision of the architecture or process as occurred with the Fermi-based 500-series. Now that the GK110 has a place at the top-end the GK104 is a little crowded out, motivating a move to bring the performance to a slightly more cost-conscious crowd. The good news for the consumer is that this new position brings with it a broad realignment of prices for the GK104-based cards, for much more value to the consumer. However, before we get to pricing, let’s move to the specs.
As we have mentioned the GTX 770 is based on the GK104, but is not just a simple rebadge of the previous flagship. As befitting a mature GPU NVIDIA improved the reference specs such that it is a genuine upgrade over even the top-end GTX680, if not quite to the extent that everyone would have liked.
The improvement over the card it is effectively replacing – the GTX 670 – is significant. It’s a full fat GK104 with 14% more CUDA cores and much higher GPU reference clocks. In fact, NVIDIA are confident enough with the binning process to increase the reference GPU speeds (Base and Boost) by a further two bins compared to the GTX 680.
GTX 770's party trick is however the memory frequency. Previous reference speeds for both the GTX 670 and 680 topped out at 6008 MHz (effective) GDDR5, a revelation compared to the 500-series ‘Fermi’ generation but seemingly old hat today. NVIDIA have gone above and beyond this time around, pushing reference speeds to 7GHz (effective) GDDR5, a level you typically see only on high-end overclocked partner boards.
Unsurprisingly the GTX770 will arrive in 2GB and 4GB GDDR5 variants, and be powered by 6+8-pin PCI-E power. Display outputs are also standard for a card in this class, sporting DVI-D, DVI-I, HDMI and Displayport. In this respect it is very similar to the GTX680.
As with the GTX780, NVIDIA project a 2yr upgrade cycle for enthusiasts. Under that system a GTX770 would be replacing a GTX570, a fairly hefty 65% improvement based their own internal testing of twenty titles in a variety of image quality settings. Keeping the power draw under control will also mean that a PSU upgrade will not be required, cutting down the overall upgrade cost significantly
So, blistering memory speeds aside, what’s so good about the 770? The answer is the price – just before the launch of this SKU the GTX680 was selling for ~£390, whereas the GTX770 will debut at a distinctly more favourable £329.99 MSRP inc. V.A.T. Whilst still an appreciable chunk of change it’s better price/performance at the top end than the previous generation, by some margin.
As it’s based on the GTX680 – including PCB design – we’d expect to see custom PCB/Cooler variants appearing immediately, although the reference design. Potentially even more cost-effective, these partner designs should bring higher factory and customer overclocks to the market.
Those who were expecting a GK110 for GK104 prices will be somewhat disappointed by the release of the GeForce GTX 770, but those who see the new 700-series as a vehicle for squeezing more value from a system upgrade should be pleased. The GTX770 brings with it better bang for your buck at the ~£325 whilst also pushing down the prices of the GTX670, a card which still has yet to be replaced and yet has a great performance pedigree. It’s no GTX680 killer, but consumers on a two year or longer upgrade cycle should gain significantly from the release.
More is expected from the 700-series in the fullness of time, but the aim of this refresh appears to be increasing consumer value as they push high-end performance to the mid-range. NVIDIA have come in for criticism in the past when a new range has been a broad rebranding exercise and they may come in for more today. However we're confident they can take it on the chin, especially as the GTX770 is significantly better value than was available in this price bracket even the day prior to release.
As always, detailed information on the GeForce GTX 770 can be found on the official NVIDIA site, and as a reminder our review of the reference version of the GTX 770 comparing it to the GTX 780, Titan and previous card generations is available. Enthused by better value? Aggravated over what you think is a re-badging exercise? Let us know what you think of the new release in our forums!