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Gor­don Mah Ung looks at the new Pas­cal-based Ti­tan X, which is noth­ing like the old Ti­tan X

Tech Advisor - - Contents - CHRIS MARTIN

A new Ti­tan has en­tered the next-gen­er­a­tion graph­ics war. But while Nvidia’s new Ti­tan X Pas­cal is no doubt the most po­tent gam­ing hard­ware ever re­leased – the Ti­tan X page on is plas­tered with lofty gam­ing per­for­mance claims – you won’t find too many re­views of the graph­ics card hit­ting the streets to­day. In­stead, Nvidia’s fo­cus­ing more on the graph­ics card’s use for pro­fes­sional deep-learn­ing AI ap­pli­ca­tions.

The Ti­tan se­ries has al­ways been de­signed to bridge the gap be­tween the con­sumer-cen­tric GeForce line-up and pricier Quadro pro­fes­sional cards. The new Ti­tan X Pas­cal, which gets its name from Nvidia’s cut­ting-edge 16nm Pas­cal graph­ics ar­chi­tec­ture, de­liv­ers 11 teraflops for sin­gle-pre­ci­sion float­ing­point per­for­mance. But Nvidia’s de­ci­sion to sur­prise launch this card dur­ing an AI meetup in San Fran­cisco, com­bined with its touted 44 TOPS INT8 per­for­mance – a new deep learn­ing in­fer­enc­ing in­struc­tion – shows that the com­pany ex­pects the new Ti­tan X to be used to bol­ster neu­ral net­works and ma­chine learn­ing.

Make no mis­take: Nvidia is push­ing the Ti­tan as a com­pute card first and fore­most. But most peo­ple read­ing PC Ad­vi­sor aren’t data sci­en­tists. Most peo­ple want to know how much ass the Pas­cal kicks in games.

Ti­tan X specs and gam­ing per­for­mance

The new Ti­tan X Pas­cal packs in a lot more hard­ware than the older Maxwell GPU-based pro­ces­sor, as you can see in the com­par­i­son chart op­po­site. It has 3,584 CUDA cores with a 1,417MHz base and 1,531 boost clock. That’s a face-melt­ing half a gi­ga­hertz faster

than its pre­de­ces­sor, roughly speak­ing, and more than 1,000 CUDA cores greater than the fe­ro­cious new GeForce GTX 1080, which also uses Nvidia’s Pas­cal ar­chi­tec­ture.

The new Ti­tan X is no slouch in the mem­ory depart­ment ei­ther, with 12GB of next-gen GDDR5X mem­ory clocked at 10Gb/s. It’s con­nected to the GPU over a 384-bit bus, de­liv­er­ing a blis­ter­ing 480GB/s mem­ory band­width aided by the new delta colour com­pres­sion sys­tem cre­ated for Pas­cal. You read that cor­rectly; it doesn’t have the su­per-fast high-band­width mem­ory first fea­tured in AMD’s Fury cards. Some peo­ple ex­pected the new Ti­tan X to come equipped with it af­ter HBM2 made its de­but in Nvidia’s pow­er­ful P100 su­per­com­put­ing card. But first-gen HBM is limited to 4GB, and sec­ond-gen HBM with higher ca­pac­i­ties isn’t ex­pected to be ready un­til some­time around the end of the year. Fear not, though: 12GB of newer, faster GDDR5X mem­ory def­i­nitely won’t be a gam­ing bot­tle­neck any time soon.

Nvidia’s not pro­vid­ing any ad­di­tional ar­chi­tec­tural de­tails about the new ‘GP102’ pro­ces­sor beat­ing at the heart of the Ti­tan X. ROP and tex­ture-unit counts aren’t be­ing dis­closed.

So what does that mean in terms of pure per­for­mance? Nvidia says the Ti­tan X Pas­cal will of­fer 60 per­cent greater per­for­mance than its pre­de­ces­sor. Con­sid­er­ing that the GTX 1080 of­fered 25- to 30 per­cent greater per­for­mance than the last-gen Ti­tan X, the new Ti­tan X will likely of­fer about 30 per­cent higher frame rates than the GTX 1080. While we won’t know for sure un­til we get our grubby paws on the card, there’s a pretty de­cent chance that the Ti­tan X Pas­cal will be able to play many of to­day’s top games at damned near 60fps with high set­tings at 4K res­o­lu­tion.

If that winds up be­ing true, it’ll be a ma­jor mile­stone. While the orig­i­nal Ti­tan X, GTX 980 Ti and Radeon Fury X can all play games at 4K, do­ing so of­ten requires graph­i­cal com­pro­mise and a FreeSync or G-Sync mon­i­tor to smooth out a sub-60fps frame rate. Now, how­ever, you can run two Ti­tan X Pas­cal cards in a sin­gle sys­tem with Nvidia’s new SLI HB bridge – the hard bridge pic­tured be­low.

De­spite push­ing far more pix­els, the Ti­tan X Pas­cal still draws the same 250W of power as the orig­i­nal Ti­tan X, sip­ping the juice through 8- and 6-pin power connectors. The two-slot card mea­sures 10.5x4.376in wide, and has the same connection­s as the GTX 1080: DVI-D, an HDMI 2.0b port, and three Dis­playPort 1.4 connection­s. The new Ti­tan comes with the same vapour cham­ber cool­ing with a blower-style fan as the GTX 1080, along with a sim­i­larly an­gu­lar metal

shroud, though the Ti­tan X Pas­cal’s is all black, rather than sil­ver.

The lat­est Ti­tan X also packs all the var­i­ous new fea­tures rolled out with Pas­cal, in­clud­ing si­mul­ta­ne­ous multi-pro­jec­tion, asyn­chro­nous com­pute en­hance­ments, the Ansel su­per-screen­shot tool, Fast Sync, GPU Boost 3.0, and more.

Price and avail­abil­ity

Though it’s pretty safe to say that the Ti­tan X Pas­cal will be a beast of a gam­ing card, we’d rec­om­mend – as al­ways – hold­ing off on buy­ing one un­til you’re able to read in­depth re­views of its per­for­mance.

If you do de­cide to pick one up, Nvidia will be the only man­u­fac­turer, so you will have to buy the Ti­tan X Pas­cal from GeForce. com, or get it as part of a cus­tom sys­tem via a hand­ful of bou­tique sys­tem builders. In coun­tries where you can’t buy from Nvidia di­rectly, the card will be of­fered by its part­ners, but they’ll still be made by Nvidia.

There are two points worth not­ing. First, the price: the Ti­tan X Pas­cal is £1,099, or £200 more than the orig­i­nal Ti­tan X’s MSRP. That con­tin­ues the GTX 10-se­ries trend of be­ing priced higher than their Maxwell GPU-based pre­de­ces­sors. You have to won­der how much the in­evitable GTX 1080 Ti, which will likely be more gamer-fo­cused, will cost at launch. Se­condly, avail­abil­ity is a ques­tion. The high-end GTX 1080 hasn’t stayed in stock re­li­ably since its launch, which in turn has re­sulted in in­flated street prices. (The GTX 1070 and GTX 1060 have had more stock, but are still in high de­mand.)

Don’t ex­pect Ti­tan X Pas­cal prices to go sky-high since they’re be­ing sold only by Nvidia, but stocks may very well be limited in the near term. The de­mand for a £1,099 card will no doubt be lower than for even a £600-plus card such as the GTX 1080.

Re­gard­less, this thing looks like an ut­ter mon­ster. There’s a new Ti­tan in town, and it’ll be the prover­bial 800-pound gorilla for a while – AMD’s en­thu­si­ast-class ‘Vega’ cards with HBM2 aren’t ex­pected un­til at least the end of the year, or pos­si­bly 2017.

Nvidia’s new SLI HB bridge

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