The Final Word On Overclocking

Before we jump into our performance breakdown, I wanted to take a few minutes to write a bit of a feature follow-up to our overclocking coverage from Tuesday. Since we couldn’t reveal performance numbers at the time – and quite honestly we hadn’t even finished evaluating Titan – we couldn’t give you the complete story on Titan. So some clarification is in order.

On Tuesday we discussed how Titan reintroduces overvolting for NVIDIA products, but now with additional details from NVIDIA along with our own performance data we have the complete picture, and overclockers will want to pay close attention. NVIDIA may be reintroducing overvolting, but it may not be quite what many of us were first thinking.

First and foremost, Titan still has a hard TDP limit, just like GTX 680 cards. Titan cannot and will not cross this limit, as it’s built into the firmware of the card and essentially enforced by NVIDIA through their agreements with their partners. This TDP limit is 106% of Titan’s base TDP of 250W, or 265W. No matter what you throw at Titan or how you cool it, it will not let itself pull more than 265W sustained.

Compared to the GTX 680 this is both good news and bad news. The good news is that with NVIDIA having done away with the pesky concept of target power versus TDP, the entire process is much simpler; the power target will tell you exactly what the card will pull up to on a percentage basis, with no need to know about their separate power targets or their importance. Furthermore with the ability to focus just on just TDP, NVIDIA didn’t set their power limits on Titan nearly as conservatively as they did on GTX 680.

The bad news is that while GTX 680 shipped with a max power target of 132%, Titan is again only 106%. Once you do hit that TDP limit you only have 6% (15W) more to go, and that’s it. Titan essentially has more headroom out of the box, but it will have less headroom for making adjustments. So hardcore overclockers dreaming of slamming 400W through Titan will come away disappointed, though it goes without saying that Titan’s power delivery system was never designed for that in the first place. All indications are that NVIDIA built Titan’s power delivery system for around 265W, and that’s exactly what buyers will get.

Second, let’s talk about overvolting. What we didn’t realize on Tuesday but realize now is that overvolting as implemented in Titan is not overvolting in the traditional sense, and practically speaking I doubt too many hardcore overclockers will even recognize it as overvolting. What we mean by this is that overvolting was not implemented as a direct control system as it was on past generation cards, or even the NVIDIA-nixed cards like the MSI Lightning or EVGA Classified.

Overvolting is instead a set of two additional turbo clock bins, above and beyond Titan’s default top bin. On our sample the top bin is 1.1625v, which corresponds to a 992MHz core clock. Overvolting Titan to 1.2 means unlocking two more bins: 1006MHz @ 1.175v, and 1019MHz @ 1.2v. Or put another way, overvolting on Titan involves unlocking only another 27MHz in performance.

These two bins are in the strictest sense overvolting – NVIDIA doesn’t believe voltages over 1.1625v on Titan will meet their longevity standards, so using them is still very much going to reduce the lifespan of a Titan card – but it’s probably not the kind of direct control overvolting hardcore overclockers were expecting. The end result is that with Titan there’s simply no option to slap on another 0.05v – 0.1v in order to squeak out another 100MHz or so. You can trade longevity for the potential to get another 27MHz, but that’s it.

Ultimately, this means that overvolting as implemented on Titan cannot be used to improve the clockspeeds attainable through the use of the offset clock functionality NVIDIA provides. In the case of our sample it peters out after +115MHz offset without overvolting, and it peters out after +115MHz offset with overvolting. The only difference is that we gain access to a further 27MHz when we have the thermal and power headroom available to hit the necessary bins.

GeForce GTX Titan Clockspeed Bins
Clockspeed Voltage
1019MHz 1.2v
1006MHz 1.175v
992MHz 1.1625v
979MHz 1.15v
966MHz 1.137v
953MHz 1.125v
940MHz 1.112v
927MHz 1.1v
914MHz 1.087v
901MHz 1.075v
888MHz 1.062v
875MHz 1.05v
862MHz 1.037v
849MHz 1.025v
836MHz 1.012v

Finally, as with the GTX 680 and GTX 690, NVIDIA will be keeping tight control over what Asus, EVGA, and their other partners release. Those partners will have the option to release Titan cards with factory overclocks and Titan cards with different coolers (i.e. water blocks), but they won’t be able to expose direct voltage control or ship parts with higher voltages. Nor for that matter will they be able to create Titan cards with significantly different designs (i.e. more VRM phases); every Titan card will be a variant on the reference design.

This is essentially no different than how the GTX 690 was handled, but I think it’s something that’s important to note before anyone with dreams of big overclocks throws down $999 on a Titan card. To be clear, GPU Boost 2.0 is a significant improvement in the entire power/thermal management process compared to GPU Boost 1.0, and this kind of control means that no one needs to be concerned with blowing up their video card (accidentally or otherwise), but it’s a system that comes with gains and losses. So overclockers will want to pay close attention to what they’re getting into with GPU Boost 2.0 and Titan, and what they can and cannot do with the card.

Titan's Performance Unveiled Titan’s Compute Performance (aka Ph.D Lust)


View All Comments

  • justaviking - Wednesday, February 27, 2013 - link

    On Feb 22, the review closed wtih this teaser:
    "Wrapping things up, on Monday we’ll be taking a look at the final piece of the puzzle"

    Monday was two days ago. Am I impatient? Yes. I am really looking forward to seeing what you have to say about Origin’s tri-SLI full tower Genesis PC.

    Did I miss it somehow?
  • avel - Wednesday, February 27, 2013 - link

    I've been thinking the same thing. While I was waiting I found that Tomshardware has a tri sli titan review up. Maybe Anand will have theirs up today. Reply
  • Ryan Smith - Wednesday, February 27, 2013 - link

    Unfortunately it's going to be a few more days. I'm currently out of commission with the flu, so I haven't been able to finish my work on the Genesis system yet. Reply
  • justaviking - Friday, March 1, 2013 - link

    Oh, sorry to hear about that.
    Get well soon.
  • CiccioB - Monday, March 4, 2013 - link

    It would be nice if you could also address TheJian's post.
    In particular on the reasons for choosing such games instead of those listed and, most of all, if in the future the list of games used will change with at least a part of those more modern ones.

    If you made a choice there must be a reason. It would be nice to let us know which it is. Avoiding giving reasons for your choices is a reason for many to have doubts on impartiality and/or professionalism.

    Thanks in advance
  • CeriseCogburn - Monday, March 4, 2013 - link

    Dream on, you play as many games as the person you have a problem with.

    The site is amd gpu biased out the wazoo, and every blind pig knows it. They failed to get a card from nVidia years ago (a certain G92) and it's been open hatred ever since. Same thing happened to Tom's.

    I'm sure there are other reasons - I've seen some stated - "the confident and arrogant nVidia reps" was one theme.
    The intense "hatred" right now for anyone profitable, especially above and beyond the pined for "take down the giants (Intel and nVidia)" AMD underdog dream of these fantasy activists.

    The desire for the "competitive war" to continue so this site has a reason to exist and do video card reviews, thus the failing piece of crap company AMD must be propped continuously, it is after all fully compliant with "self interest" even if it is, and it is, extremely unethical and completely immoral.

    So don't expect any answers, and there's exactly ZERO chance fair and equitable is the answer.
  • CeriseCogburn - Monday, March 4, 2013 - link

    Don't get me wrong, the site is great, I've been reading it forever, before it was even on the map, and of course people are human and have certain pressures and personal tastes.
    That won't ever change.

    They have many sections, the podcasts are a recent cool addition for some added flavor, and like anything, especially evaluating tow competing entities, perfection is impossible.
  • CiccioB - Monday, March 4, 2013 - link

    I like this site for GPU reviews. I have always found its review better than those done by many other sites.
    They are rich in technical description and give many answers many other sites don't even imagine to question.
    Or ask and answer only by doing a copy & paste from here, and sometimes even without understanding much of what they are C&P.
    The computational tests done here, even in the past years, have not been found anywhere. Others use stupid synthetic benchmark mostly based on OpenCL that require two minutes hack to double their performances or are biased depending on who has sponsored the tests (see AMD and SiSandra Benchmark Suite).

    However I have been thinking that the game choice was always "random".
    Review after review some good games suddenly disappeared to leave space to others that have not real meaning (i.e. games that do 150+ FPS on high end systems are quite ridiculous to bench). Same for very old games recently superseded by new release. And some games never reviewed at all.
    For example, I would like to know games like StarCraft 2, that had big problems with SLI/Crossfire at the time it was published, run now on the latest GPUs with latest drivers. Or games like Arma2 that were unplayable. But I still see Crysis Warhead benches, which is not exacly interesting nor indicative of anything while others already have Crysis 3 benches.
    It would also be a good option to add Physx option when possible. For example, with such a beast like Titan many games have enough room to run Physx at high levels. How does that compare with a SLI solution? Or with no Physx at all? How that impact on these GPUs rather than GK104 or older Fermi?

    But apart these requests, it would really be nice to understand the choice of reviewed games. Because it is well known that games are good or bad on certain architectures more than others, and choosing only most of those that adapt to one or to another with no apparent reason really makes these test quite cheap with respect to others, like for example those done by Techpowerup like it has been addressed before.

    Not answering rally means feeding the doubts. Which for many may change in not being doubts anymore.

    Sorry for my English, it is not my native language
  • clickonflick - Thursday, March 7, 2013 - link

    i agree that the price of this GPU is really high , one could easily assemble a fully mainstream laptop online with dell at this price tag or a desktop, but for gamers, to whom performance is above price. then it is a boon for them

    for more pics check this out


    so check the above link for specifications of titan
  • enigz - Thursday, March 7, 2013 - link

    CeriseCogBurn, you shit from your mouth, don't you? I've owned both nvidia and amd cards, I go for performance and I most certainly do not care about spending. It is not about the company. I don't go around slamming the other team online like the bloody ball-less keyboard warrior you are. Do you not realise that that your comments make you look like those "fanboys" which you go around insulting? Go grab a paper towel to clean off all that shit dripping down your chin, then sit down and try to absorb what I've just said while I'll be off to get my Titan. At least AMD and NVIDIA are capable of producing graphics and computing solutions for consumers worldwide while you, Sir, are just capable of being an asshole right here at Anandtech. Reply

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