Breaking from our usual benchmarking of new graphics cards, today we're revisiting one of the most powerful GPUs you could've purchased four years ago. The GeForce GTX 780 launched in May 2013 and was the second card to be based on Nvidia's Kepler architecture, which debuted with 2012's GTX 680.
The GTX 680 was later refreshed as the GTX 770 with higher clocked GDDR5 memory, but shortly prior to that we received the GTX 780, a brand new bit of silicon that boosted the core count by a whopping 50% and took the die size to 561mm2, which wasn't even the full configuration. All 2880 CUDA cores weren't enabled until the GTX 780 Ti landed six months later.
At the time, these big Kepler cards were mighty impressive. For example, at launch, the GTX 780 was ~24% faster than the GTX 680 and 16% faster than the Radeon HD 7970 GHz Edition.
The GTX 780 remained king of the hill for six months until the GTX 780 Ti shipped, though it was AMD's Radeon R9 290 series that proved to be the real issue as its arrival forced Nvidia into hefty price cuts, slashing the GTX 780 from its introductory MSRP of $650 to $500, where it was still a somewhat weak proposition against the cheaper, quicker R9 290.
According to the tests we ran in 2013, the R9 290 was slightly faster in Battlefield 3, Crysis 3, Far Cry 3, Medal of Honor Warfighter, Metro Last Light and BioShock Infinite. Meanwhile, the R9 290 was a good bit quicker in Battlefield 4, Dirt 3, Max Payne 3, Sleeping Dogs and Hitman Absolution. In fact, the only game where the GTX 780 came out on top was Tomb Raider.
Since then, the GTX 780 has been on its back foot while the R9 290 has been as fast or often slightly faster, with many gamers complaining that Kepler-based graphics cards such as the GTX 780 have continued to fall away. Whereas the R9 290 and its reincarnation the R9 390 are still able to hold their ground today, it's said that the GTX 780 has crumpled into a heap, putting out performance on par with today's entry-level GPUs.
To learn whether that's accurate, I've tested 22 PC games at 1080p and 1440p to see how the once mighty GeForce GTX 780 compares against more modern GPUs. In place of the R9 290 is the R9 390 and while I'm sure many of you would have liked to see the R9 290 in this battle, there's honestly little to no clock-for-clock difference between the 290 and 390.
Test System Specs & Memory
- Intel Core i7-7700K @ 4.9 GHz
- Asrock Z270 Extreme4
- 32GB DDR4-3000 RAM
- Samsung SSD 850 Evo 2TB
- Gigabyte GTX 1050 Ti G1 Gaming [4GB]
- Gainward GTX 970 Phantom [4GB]
- MSI RX 470 Gaming X [4GB]
- MSI RX 480 Gaming X [4GB]
- MSI GTX 1060 Gaming X [3GB]
- MSI RX 480 Gaming X [8GB]
- HIS R9 390 IceQ X2 OC [8GB]
- Gainward GTX 970 Phantom [4GB] OC
- EVGA GTX 1060 FTW+ [6GB]
- HIS R9 390 IceQ X2 OC [8GB] OC
- Gigabyte GTX 1070 G1 Gaming [8GB]
- Windows 10 Pro 64-bit
- GeForce Game Ready Driver 381.89
- Crimson ReLive Edition 17.4.4
Let the Benchmarks Begin
The GTX 780 isn't a great deal slower than the 970 in Far Cry Primal at 1080p and this meant it was 24% faster than the GTX 1050 Ti. That said it was 17% slower than the R9 390 which was good for an average of 63 fps.
The margins grew ever so slightly at 1440p, here the GTX 780 was 20% slower than the R9 390 and still a few frames behind the RX 470. That said the GTX 780 is now almost 30% faster than the GTX 1050 Ti.
This time testing with Tom Clancy's The Division the GTX 780 finds itself situated right between the GTX 1050 Ti and GTX 970. This meant at 1080p it was 20% slower than the R9 390.
Moving to 1440p the margin remains much the same, the GTX 780 was 24% faster than the 1050 Ti but 14% slower than the GTX 970 and this put it well off the pace of the R9 390 as well as the current generation mid-range contenders.
Benchmarks: Hitman, Civilization VI, Doom
Hitman's results are interesting. Whereas the the GTX 780 has previously been found to land somewhere between the GTX 1050 Ti and GTX 970, it's now pretty much on par with the 1050 Ti, making it one of the slowest GPUs tested. Of course this is an AMD-sponsored title, but the R9 390 was still 74% faster.
The R9 390 is now 82% faster at 1440p and again the GTX 780 is only able to match the GTX 1050 Ti. Hitman is the most recently released game of those tested so far, so it shall be interesting to see how things go as we look at the next 18 games.
The GTX 780 completely tanked in Civilization 6, at least when compared to the competition. Here it was slower than even the GTX 1050 Ti with an average of 53 fps at 1080p.
Moving to 1440p the margins remain much the same, here the GTX 780 was roughly on part with the 1050 Ti making it the slowest GPU tested.
Doom was never going to be gentle with the GTX 780 and here we see a large drop in the minimum frame rate. Please be aware that minimum fps is based on an average of three runs so this isn't some kind of one off dip in performance. Although the GTX 780 did keep the frames above 60fps at all times, we see that rates did fluctuate quite a bit here.
Moving to 1440p, the variance between the minimum and average frame rate isn't as extreme but even so, overall the GTX 780 didn't look particularly impressive in Doom, especially when compared to the GTX 970 and R9 390.
Benchmarks: Overwatch, Mirror's Edge Catalyst, Mafia III
The GTX 780 also performs fine in Overwatch at 1080p with an average of 149fps, placing it roughly on par with the R9 390 (the GTX 780 was just 4% slower).
The GTX 780 remains strong at 1440p as it turns in a rather strong minimum frame rate. When looking at the average frame rate it was able to match the RX 470 while it wasn't much slower than the R9 390.
Testing with Mirror's Edge Catalyst shows fairly consistent performance across the mid-range GPUs along with the titans of yesteryear such as the GTX 780 and R9 390. Here the GTX 780 and R9 390 are quite evenly matched, though the Radeon did offer slightly better minimum frame rate performance.
Jumping to 1440p, the GTX 780 slips away a little and is now roughly on par with the RX 470. This isn't a bad result for the 780 and frankly this is where I would expect to see it in relation to the R9 390.
Mafia III doesn't play well with current generation hardware so I wasn't expecting the GTX 780 to deliver much. That said, it was able to match the RX 470, albeit with an average of just 38fps.
Much the same was seen at 1440p. Here the GTX 780 did match the R9 390, though both averaged under 30 fps so, not really a noteworthy result.
Benchmarks: Gears of War 4, Deus Ex: MD, WATCH_DOGS2
The GTX 780 struggles with Gears of War 4 and is well behind the GTX 970 and R9 390, sitting nearest to the GTX 1050 Ti at 1080p with an average of just 56fps.
Jumping up to 1440p slaughters the GTX 780 and here it delivers GTX 1050 Ti-like results, positioning it miles behind the pack.
The GTX 780 was also weak in Deus Ex: Mankind Divided, averaging just 38fps at 1080p to the R9 390s 56fps. This time it was found sitting between the GTX 1050 Ti and GTX 970.
Playing at 1440p crushes the mid-field in this title and despite providing completely unplayable performance, the GTX 780 wasn't much slower than the 1060 3GB.
Watch Dogs 2's performance was quite typical: the GTX 780 was 18% faster than the 1050 Ti at 1080p, but also 15% slower than the R9 390.
The margin is reduced at 1440p and now the GTX 780 is just 11% slower than the R9 390. That said, the minimum frame rate is low and this is something we have seen quite a bit from the 780.
Benchmarks: Battlefield 1, Quantum Break, F1 2016
Here we see that the GTX 780 was able to average just over 60fps at 1080p in Battlefield 1 which is of course playable performance despite being much slower than the GTX 970 and R9 390.
Cranking the resolution up to 1440p hammered the GTX 780 down to just 6fps faster than the GTX 1050 Ti and a lot slower than everything else tested.
After getting obliterated in Hitman, it was unexpected to see the GTX 780 overtake the GTX 970 in Quantum Break. It wasn't a great deal slower than the R9 390 either, at least compared to previous titles.
The 780 does drop off the pace at 1440p, though it's still able to match the GTX 970 so that's certainly not a poor result.
Playing F1 2016 at 1080 returns the GTX 780 to mediocre performance, as its 56fps positioned it between the 1060 3GB and 1050 Ti, which is much slower than the GTX 970 and R9 390.
The GTX 780 did no better after moving to 1440p and here it trailed the R9 390 by a 22% margin with an average frame rate of just 42fps.
Benchmarks: Total War: Warhammer, Rise of the Tomb Raider
The GTX 780 was tested using DirectX 11 in Total War: Warhammer as it doesn't support DX12 in this title. Even so performance was excellent as the 780 matched the 1060 3GB and GTX 970 at 1080p.
Moving to 1440p the 780 dropped off its pace ever so slightly, though for the most part provided comparable performance to the GTX 970, 1060 3GB and RX 470. It was also significantly faster than the GTX 1050 Ti here.
In Rise of the Tomb Raider the 3GB GTX 780 struggles with the minimum frame rate, only managing to edge ahead of the GTX 1050 Ti by a few fps. An average of 72fps at 1080p isn't bad though, positioning the 780 between the 1050 Ti and RX 470/R9 390.
Tomb Raider's 1440p results are much the same though the minimum frame rate looks much better in comparison to the RX 470 and R9 390 here. That said, the average frame rate is still quite a bit off the pace at 46fps to the R9 390's 55fps.
Benchmarks: Titanfall 2, CoD: Infinite Warfare, For Honor
Despite offering a fairly smooth 60fps at all times, the GTX 780 was the slowest card tested in Titanfall 2. The GTX 1050 Ti is surprisingly fast in this title and as a result the GTX 780 came in last place.
Moving to 1440p allowed the GTX 780 to claw its way out of last place, if only just. It's worth noting, however, that performance here was competitive across most of the graphics cards tested.
Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare saw the GTX 780 deliver acceptable performance at 1080p with an average of 60fps. That made it 13% slower than the GTX 970 and 18% slower than the R9 390.
Surprisingly, the GTX 780 actually closed in this time at 1440p, at least on the GTX 970 anyway. It was still 18% slower than the Radeon R9 390.
For Honor isn't a hugely demanding game and this is evident by the GTX 780's performance as it managed to match the RX 470 with almost 70fps. This also placed the 780 within striking distance of the GTX 970.
Even at 1440p we find similar results and here the mid-range graphics cards are mostly competitive, including the 780.
Benchmarks: Prey, Dawn of War 3, Resident Evil 7
Prey is a well-optimized title and the GTX 780 had no trouble delivering highly playable frame rates at 1080p. It wasn't a great deal slower than the RX 470 though it did trail the GTX 970 and R9 390 by over 10fps.
Moving to 1440p we once again find similar results and even at this resolution the GTX 780 was able to provide smooth gameplay.
Finally we have Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War III and well, the results are what we have come to expect for the most part. The GTX 780 was found sitting between the GTX 1050 Ti and GTX 1060 3GB, making it around 20% slower than the R9 390.
As we've seen several times now, the GTX 780 is able to catch up at 1440p, though this resolution has crippled the GTX 780 more than a few times as well. Anyway, in Dawn of War it averaged 47fps along with the GTX 1060 3GB, landing just a single frame behind GTX 970 and RX 470.
The Resident Evil 7: Biohazard results look fairly typical: the GTX 780 finds itself situated between the GTX 1050 Ti and GTX 1060 3GB though it was a good bit slower than the RX 470. The 780 also trailed the R9 390 by a 42% margin so this is another title where we see the Kepler-based GPU aging poorly.
The margins are much the same at 1440p and here the once mighty GTX 780 struggles to even deliver playable performance with an average of just 39fps.
Power Consumption & Performance Summary
Two weeks ago we revisited the R9 390 and some of you gave the card a hard time over its power consumption. I get that the GTX 780 is an older GPU but it still consumes quite a bit more power, increasing total system consumption by 11%.
The GTX 780 wasn't much faster than the 1050 Ti in many of the games tested, yet it increased total system consumption by almost 140%. For those running a 780, you will require a 500 watt power supply to avoid running into any problems.
In the 22 games we tested, the GTX 780 was on average 23% faster than the GTX 1050 Ti but 15% slower than the RX 470 and GTX 970. Not only that, but compared to the R9 390 it was 20% slower.
When the R9 290 first launched it was just a few percent faster than the GTX 780 and when the 390 arrived it delivered around 10% more performance than the 290 on average, so it seems over the years that margin has basically doubled.
For the margins to have remained similar, we would expect to see the GTX 780 averaging 70fps at 1080p and not 64fps.
As a reminder, the 22 games we tested are all modern releases, so for comparison's sake, let's take a look back at a couple of older titles using today's drivers.
In Metro: Last Light, the GTX 780 and R9 390 provide similar or basically the same performance, and it's also interesting to note that while the GTX 780 was just 20% faster than the 1050 Ti in modern games, it's almost 50% faster here when looking at the average frame rate. The same is true for the R9 390: whereas it was 7% faster than the RX 470 on average in modern titles, it's 20% faster here.
To verify Metro: Last Light's results I ran the Sleeping Dogs benchmark. Again, the R9 390 and GTX 780 were neck and neck, there was just a slight variance in the minimum frame rate. Meanwhile, the GTX 780 was almost 30% faster than the 1050 Ti and 20% faster than the RX 470.
It's hard to believe that the GeForce GTX 780 is four years old, although the card is certainly showing its age. In the 22 modern titles we tested, the 780 was just 23% faster than the 1050 Ti, despite the former GPU being four times larger, packing more than twice as many transistors and consuming well over twice as much power.
Compared to the R9 390, the GTX 780 has slipped well behind. It's no secret that the Kepler architecture hasn't aged as well, which is either down to the architecture itself or Nvidia neglecting driver development -- or maybe a bit of both. Regardless, we've never seen an Nvidia architecture age as poorly as Kepler has. We don't expect the same to happen to Maxwell anytime soon, but of course we'll keep an eye on its performance.
My advice for those looking to save some money by purchasing a second-hand GTX 780: don't bother. Current performance is sketchy at best. Some titles run okay while others are horrible. If you're willing to tweak the visual settings at 1080p you can achieve smooth performance in all games, but the card's power consumption is still going to be a shortcoming, especially compared to similarly performing current-gen GPUs.
Pricing for the GTX 780 is surprising. People are still asking over $100 for these things, with most being listed on eBay for between $120 and $150. Given that you can pick up a GTX 1050 Ti for $135, this makes the most sense to me. It might be a bit slower overall but it's also worlds more efficient, thus it'll run cooler and quieter. The GTX 1050 Ti is also less than a year old, which (hopefully) bodes well for future driver support.
Of course, I would have suggested the RX 470 or RX 570, but good luck finding one. AMD's graphics cards are pretty much out of the question right now because of inflated prices and shortages caused by demand from digital currency miners.