ProsFantastic performance, effective and well-constructed cooler; reasonable noise for the performance
ConsHigh power use; premium price
The EVGA GeForce GTX 780 Ti 3GB is based on Nvidia's reference design for its curent top-of-the-line video card, not surprisingly named the GTX 780 Ti, which is derived from the game-changing GTX Titan released early in 2013. The GTX 780 Ti was the last official video card release of 2013, arriving in early November at a suggested retail price of $700, and was the first card to fully-enable all 2880 stream processors in the GK110 GPU.
EVGA sticks mostly to the reference design, but throws in its custom high-flow exhaust bracket, which when used on previous cards resulted in a temperature drop of a couple of degrees. It's a nice freebie, and it was likely a last-minute choice by EVGA - none of the marketing photos of the 780 Ti, like the one at the top of this page, actually show it. We've included a picture of it below. Other than that special touch and a subtle EVGA silkscreen on the PCIe connector, this is a reference card through and through. And that's a very good thing in this case, because the cooler was originally designed for the Titan and was a cut above other blower-style coolers. It has impressive styling, a hefty weight, and excellent craftmanship. Like all reference 780 Ti cards, this GTX 780 Ti ships with a base clock of 876MHz and a boost clock of 928MHz, although as we'll discuss later, the actual in-game clocks are always much higher than this.
Another nice feature of this cooler, depending on your tastes, is the cool green glow of the GeForce GTX logo when the system is in operation, which you can see in action below. This may or may not clash with the rest of your case's color scheme, so you may want to consider that if aesthetics are critical in your system. At 10.6" long, the card is actually the maximum length that would fit in our test bench case. Specifications list the 780 Ti as 10.5", but this is an ongoing error in the published lengths of GTX 780-based cards. We saw the same thing on our GTX 780 model. If you're short on space, that extra 1/10th of an inch may make a difference. Another thing to notice in the picture below is that we're running this card off of a 500W power supply. While not entirely optimal, as discussed below, even on a fully-maxed out system, the power draw didn't come close to 500W.
Overclocking, Power Use, and Temperature
The test bench we used for this article consisted of an Intel Core i7-4770K@4.4GHz, an Asus Gryphon motherboard, 16GB of DDR3-1866 RAM, Windows 8.1, and GeForce Drivers 332.21.
While the published boost clock of the GTX 780 Ti is 928MHz, we found that its in-game boost was almost always 1006MHz. This varied somewhat by game, and this variance was directly attributable to the power cap. At its default 100% setting, the 780 Ti is capable of maxing out the 250W TDP rating set by Nvidia. The very first thing you'll want to do if you're running a 780 Ti is raise the power limiter via software (for instance, EVGA PrecisionX). On this model, the limit is 106%, which is high enough to provide plenty of power at default clocks. Note that the memory clock on this card is 7000MHz, the highest of any production card other than the 780 Ti's little brother, the GTX 770, and combined with a 384-bit memory bus, the memory bandwidth available is quite substantial. Another thing to keep in mind besides the power limiter is the temperature limit, which is set at 83C on the GTX 780 Ti, up from 78C on the regular GTX 780. For the most part, the cooler is capable of keeping the card below this temperature at stock settings, but this will vary of course depending on ambient temperatures and the specific case setup you are using. Once you hit the temperature limiter, the card will cut voltage, just as it does when you hit the power limiter. This in turn will cut the core clock of the card by specific bins of 13MHz. The first step down is 993MHz, which we saw relatively frequently before upping the power limiter.
Of course, we wanted to test the limits of this behemoth, so we set out on some overclocking experiments using a few of our favorite tools, 3DMark and Crysis 3. We use 3DMark to determine whether performance actually goes up with an overclock (this is particularly important for memory overclocks, which begin to yield lower performance as they fail, rather than outright crashes), and then we turn to Crysis 3 to try to break the overclock with a system freeze. We found that the limit of our card was 1240MHz on the core and 7600MHz on the memory, an increase of 23% on the core over stock in-game boost, and 8.5% on the memory. There are a couple of things to note, however, about this overclock. First, because 106% power is most definitely not sufficient to keep this overclock going continuously, we often saw clocks drop down into the 1220-1230MHz range. There is simply nothing you can do about this - the card is maxing out its power delivery system and cuts voltage as a result. For this reason, we didn't even bother trying to raise the voltage. We had previously found raising the voltage led to higher but wholly-unstable overclocks on a GTX 780, and here, where voltage would simply increase power draw, any higher clocks would be nothing but a number, as they would never hold under an actual load. Another thing to note - near the end of our testing, we found one game that would constantly hang at our overclocked setting: Bioshock Infinite. This was a bit of a surprise, because it doesn't sport a particularly demanding game engine, but in the end, we found that the memory overclock had to be reduced to 7500MHz. The rest of our testing was conducted at 7600MHz, and this slight difference wouldn't have a significant affect on our benchmarking results, but it's a reminder that an overclock that you really have to test in multiple games to find a stable overclock.
At as-shipped settings, power use on our test bench peaked at 373W, using the 3DMark Fire Strike Combined test, which stresses both the CPU and the video card, and therefore draws more power than the typical game. At our overclocked setting, it drew 404W at peak, which is quite a substantial load, but still well within the limits of our gutsy little 500W power supply [note: we use a 650W unit in the gaming system we actually run this card in day-to-day, and would probably recommend more than 500W just to keep the power supply from slipping out of its sweet-spot for efficiency]. While our benchmarks on the next few pages will show that this is certainly an impressive card, consider that once you account for non-GPU system power draw, which is about 100W, the overclocked 780 Ti uses about 300W, while AMD's R9 270X, which as you'll see turns out to be about 50% as fast, uses barely over 100W. You certainly pay a price for all that horsepower under the 780 Ti's elegant hood - twice as fast, triple the power use.
With regard to temperatures, we found the card to idle around 29C in an ambient of 70F, and it maxed out at 79C in our open test bench. When we closed the case up, however, the card did indeed push up against the 83C temperature limit imposed by Nvidia, which is why we adjusted this upward (this is easy to do with EVGA's PrecisionX or MSI's Afterburner software) just to make sure we were always at maximum boost.
The cooler can certainly handle the 780 Ti's immense heat output, but how does it sound? We don't use a decibel measure, because much of the experience depends on the ambient noise, case fans, the case setup, and even the game being played. So we'll just use a subjective measure. The card is fairly quiet at load, certainly the quietest blower-style fan we've ever encountered from either Nvidia or AMD. It's also nearly silent at idle. Nvidia clearly invested a lot of money into the design of this cooler, originally used on the $1,000 GTX Titan, and the fact that it has moved down the product stack is a treat for gamers. It's far better than even the reference GTX 680 cooler that we've previously had experience with. It also has a huge speed range to tailor it to your needs, starting as low as 26% fan speed (around 1130 RPM), and going up to 100% (an impressive 4200 RPM). Yes, it's loud at 100%, but it has a very high-quality tone to it, not scratchy or harsh like many other fans, meaning you really can use that speed if necessary to keep the card's temperature in check.