Crank up the speeds
It seems as though we'll be unlikely to see more Nvidia 7-series GPUs for a while now. The GTX 780, 770, and 760 have fleshed out the £200-£600 space for the foreseeable future and add-in board partners have launched a litany of cards that look - and sometimes feel - like their 6-series brethren.
At the top end of release spectrum is the GTX 780, offering Titan-like performance from 'only' £520. It's unlikely that rival AMD will be able to overhaul Nvidia's single-GPU performance advantage this year, so anyone after a top-class card should be looking in the green team's direction.
And we have, with reviews of the Gigabyte WindForce 3X and EVGA GTX 780 ACX. Finishing off our look at the second-best GTX card is the Palit GTX 780 Super JetStream model, kitted out with improved power regulation, a large aftermarket cooler and reference-busting frequencies.
Pay careful attention to the card's name, readers, as there are two versions of the factory-overclocked Palit GTX 780, and both look the same. The standard JetStream runs at 902MHz core and 6,008MHz memory while the Super JetStream kicks these clocks up at least a couple of notches, to 980MHz GPU and 6,200MHz RAM, thus making it very competitive against the entire range of GTX 780s from all partners.
Just how good it will be is a function of how high the core frequency jumps; all GTX 780s use GPU Boost 2.0 to maximise clocks. Interestingly, in our test systems, Nvidia's reference card ran consistently at 902MHz. Palit's Super JetStream and EVGA's SuperClocked ACX would boost right the way up to 1,124MHz, while Gigabyte's WindForce 3X rarely shifted from 1,058MHz under load. Your mileage, of course, will vary, but Palit helps matters by upgrading the power circuitry up from six to eight phases.
Seen this type of design before? Regular HEXUS readers have, as the GTX 770 variant uses the same cooling. In a nutshell, this means strapping a three-fan cooler on top of a couple of heatpipe-connected heatsinks sitting underneath. The central 9cm fan is placed a little higher than the surrounding 8cm pair, leading to a flared section that isn't entirely necessary.
Connect it up to the system via the usual 8+6-pin connectors and the central fan is, like the GTX 770 version, lit with blue LEDs. Overall build quality is good, if not up to the standards of the reference design. While the cooling fans and shroud are the same as the cheaper card's, the PCBs are different, and Palit has to modify the right-hand heatsink for the GTX 780's fan-header to fit.
It's worth noting, also, that Palt's chunky heatsink causes the card to sit 2.5-slots high. This should cause no problems in the large chassis that we expect enthusiasts to house a card of this ilk in.
This card requires a half-inch longer PCB (10.5in) than the equivalent JetStream model from the GTX 770 family. Palit integrates the entire 3GB framebuffer on to the upper side, and includes thermal pads for the hot-running components and card memory. Nvidia prohibits partners from releasing GTX 780 models with 6GB (or Titan-esque) memory, because doing so would eliminate the purpose of having said card headlining the stack. You'll see why we make this statement when viewing the benchmark results.
One day we'll pass comment that an add-in board partner has decided to fiddle with Nvidia's rear outputs, but that day is some way off. What you need to know is that four screens can be run without the need for any AMD-style adapters.
Big and brash, Palit is going after ultimate performance with this GTX 780, priced at £580 or so. This represents a £60 premium over the cheapest cards, also made by Palit, so let's see if spending an extra 10 per cent or so is worth it.