When Nvidia announced its graphical powerhouse, the $999 GeForce GTX Titan, in February, eyeballs widened. Fortunately Nvidia now offers the lower-performance GeForce GTX 780, which also cuts the price by a third, to $649.
Today Nvidia will begin shipping its new enthusiast cards to partners, in the form of reference designs that its hardware partners will tweak over time. These third-party versions of the GeForce GTX 780 will be available in about a month's time, Justin Walker, program manager for Nvidia's GeForce, said in an interview.
Nvidia claims that the GTX 780 will offer, on average, about 35 percent better graphics performance than the GeForce GTX 680, which Nvidia launched a year ago. (That card's price now hovers at about $470, temporarily providing a lower-cost alternative if the GTX 780 is still too rich for your blood. You'll have to move fast, though: The GTX 780 will officially replace the GTX 680.) Nvidia also claims that the GTX 780 outperforms the $400 AMD HD7970 graphics card by an average of about 30 to 35 percent; however, that AMD card debuted at the end of 2011. For gamers who really want to shell out, pairing two GTX 780 cards in SLI mode will improve performance by 75 percent over a single GTX 780 card, Nvidia said.
Basically, Nvidia is positioning the GTX 780 for enthusiast PC gamers who are willing to pony up for a superior rig, running at the maximum graphics settings and screen resolutions, with high levels of antialiasing. The 780 supports both DirectX 11.0 tessellation, for improved rendering of 3D objects, and Nvidia's PhysX physics enhancements.
To assist gamers who want to plug in a GTX 780 card, sit down, and begin playing, Nvidia has brought its GeForce Experience out of beta, providing an automated configurations experience and managing the downloads and updates of Nvidia's driver software. Buyers can expect the GTX 780 to be quieter than previous generations of Nvidia cards too, thanks to better fan management. In situations where performance demands it, however, Nvidia has added its Boost 2.0 technology, which runs the card as fast as possible within a specified temperature envelope.
"Someone is making an investment in their gaming experience over the next few days," Walker said. "They're going to be using us for gaming and it's going to be an integral part of their gaming experience."
As to how many people are going to buy a $649 graphics card (as opposed to an entire new PC, say) analyst Jon Peddie of Jon Peddie Research says that the enthusiast graphics card market remains relatively healthy: about 3 million units were sold last year. That figure includes graphics cards that cost $250 and above, however, so it's likely that $600 cards will slice off just a small fraction of that.
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