Last month, Nvidia launched the Titan Z — a dual-core version of its full GK110 architecture at a $ 3000 price tag. With AMD’s R9 295X2 sitting at $ 1500, it was genuinely surprising to see Nvidia hold the line on Titan Z’s price. The card’s low clocks (relative to the Titan Black or the GTX 780 Ti) meant, we theorized, that it would have a hard time competing against Nvidia’s own single-GPU cards. Now, a new review of the card has demonstrated just how poorly it compares to AMD — and even its own hardware.
Over at PC Perspective, Ryan Shrout has put the card through its paces. The GTX 780 Ti is faster in most cases by 10-15%, while the R9 295X2 can blister past the Titan Z by up to 35%. It wins nothing, partly because the GTX 780 Ti is clocked at 876MHz, compared to just 706MHz for the Titan Z. The additional RAM might help in a game like Watch Dogs, which is known to be an enormous memory hog, but it’s no help in any of the 4K titles that PC Perspective tested.
These results are fairly expectable given the Titan Z’s clock rate, but it illustrates just how badly Nvidia miscalculated Titan’s positioning and price point. When I first wrote up the announcement, I opined that the only way this card makes sense is if it’s meant for rack deployments. An eight-slot motherboard could conceivably deploy two Titan Zs with three slots for each card, while the same motherboard could only mount two Titan Blacks in the same configuration. From this perspective, Titan Z offers double the GPU power.
Some of you disagreed, pointing out (correctly) that such customers would almost certainly adopt Tesla-based products instead of a GeForce GPU. Nonetheless, this kind of corner case — multiple GPUs in a dev system designed to pack as much CUDA-crunching power into a single rig as possible — is the only use case I can plausibly construct for the GTX Titan Z. The fact that Titan Z consumes significantly less power than a pair of GTX 780 Ti cards in SLI, despite having 2x the RAM, also tends to favor this explanation.
Can Nvidia fix it? Probably. It would be time consuming to take a page from AMD’s book and build a liquid-cooled closed-loop version, but doing so would bring the clocks up again. The better question that only Nvidia can answer is whether it makes any sense to do so. Maxwell is already planned for the back half of the year, which means it might just be better to cut its losses and move on to greener pastures as far as GPU architectures are concerned. Titan Z isn’t going to take a serious drubbing from this because the card is already priced out of all comparison with any other product from AMD or Nvidia; even a pair of Titan Blacks are just 2/3 the price of a single Titan Z.
AMD, it’s safe to say, outmaneuvered Nvidia this round on the dual GPU front. Nvidia may not have a short-term response to the Titan Z problem if it makes more sense to push for Maxwell, but we’re certain Team Green will fire back later this year.