In ancient Greek mythology, the Titans are the immediate descendants of the primordial gods. So it is with the Nvidia GeForce GTX Titan, descended from the company's top-shelf professional workstation GPUs. First debuting in March 2013, the original Titan was nearly the most powerful video card that the company could offer. They sealed off a couple items that would be of little interest to gamers, which also prevented professionals from using these much less expensive gamer variants for workstation duties.
In the two years since, the company has iterated on this design, adding more shader processors (or "CUDA cores," as Nvidia likes to call them), and even adding a second GPU core on the same card. Now the time has come for it to deliver the Maxwell generation of super-premium GPUs, this time dubbed the GTX Titan X
. And it's a beast. Despite being stuck on the 28nm process node for several years now, the company continues to extract more and more performance from its silicon. Interestingly, the card goes up for sale today, but only at Nvidia's own online storefront. There is currently a limit of two per order. The company tells us that you'll be able to buy it from other stores and in pre-built systems "over the next few weeks." First-world problems, right?
These days, you can use the number of shader cores as a rough estimate of performance. We say "rough" because the Maxwell cores in this Titan X are, according to Nvidia, 40 percent faster than the Kepler cores in the earlier Titans. So when you see that the Titan X has "only" 3072 of them, this is actually a huge boost. It's about 30 percent more than the GTX 980, which is already a barnstormer. For reference, the difference in shader count between the GTX 780 and the original Titan was about 16 percent. The Titan X also has an almost ridiculous 12GB of GDDR5 VRAM. We say "almost" because Nvidia has some ambitious goals for the resolution that it expects you to be able to play at with this card.
At the Game Developers Conference two weeks ago, its reps pitched the Titan X to us as the first GPU that could handle 4K gaming solo, at high settings. They demoed Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor, which wasn't a solid 60fps, as they readily acknowledged. But we did see all the graphics settings cranked up, and gameplay was smooth at about 45fps when paired with a G-Sync monitor. As its name implies, G-sync synchronizes your monitor's refresh rate to the frame rate being delivered to your video card, which vastly reduces tearing. They also enabled motion blur, which can help mask frame rate drops.
For our review, we used seven high-end cards that have come out in the same two-year time frame as the original Titan. Some of these are no longer sold in stores, but they still provide an important frame of reference, and their owners may want to know if upgrading is going to be worth it.