I am a doctoral student in Cultural Anthropology, with a bachelor's in English & Creative Writing. I specialize in subcultures and cognition.
I love gaming, and I have followed the industry and its technology since I was a kid in the 80's. I have gamed primarily on PC since 2000, though I still follow console news and hardware as well. I was also a sales associate at Micro Center for a while, which was a great experience and got me into PC hardware.
I worked as a mapper and beta tester for the mod Action Half-Life. My maps, most of which have vanilla Half-Life Deathmatch versions, are available on my website.
So I picked up a GTX760 4GB OC this Monday. I didn't really need it, but I tend to buy stuff for my PC when I'm badly depressed and September is a very bad month for me (no, not 9/11). If you came here to troll about PC gaming costs etc, go read my blog on that subject. That's not what this blog is about.
I'd been eyeing the 760 already, but I wanted at least 3GB of RAM on my next card. When I saw there was a 4GB model, I caved. It cost $300, which is $40 more than the 2GB version. It also came with a free copy of Arkham Origins. Here are links to where I purchased it (Newegg) and the manufacturer's website (Gigabyte):
Why did I want a 4GB card? Two reasons. First, I wanted a card that surpassed the next-gen consoles, so having 4GB of video ram was important. In theory they could use more with their shared RAM pool, but it's very unlikely. Second, I wanted a card capable of running games decently at 2560x1440. 1440p is the next step up in HD resolution from 1080p. Monitors with that resolution are just becoming affordable ($390 for a 27" on Monoprice), and video RAM is crucial to running at higher resolutions. The extra RAM is also useful if you want to run multi-monitor, or if you like to run HD texture mods in games like Skyrim. It's possible higher-end versions of the Oculus Rift will need more video ram as well I suspect it has to render 2 frames (one per eye) like other 3D devices, though I could be wrong about that.
1440p is four times the resolution of 720p.
I'm bothering with this article because this is the biggest jump in raw power I've ever experienced between card upgrades. My old HD6870 is a fine card and still runs most games on High easily. On less demanding games, it maxes them out with a steady framerate over 60. But the GTX760 is just massively more powerful from what I've seen so far.
I've never done an "unboxing" blog or video before, but I thought it might be fun. So I here are some pics with brief commentaries.
I decided to go with the Gigabyte version of the card. My last two cards were also Gigabyte, and I was impressed with their quality, and with my Gigabyte motherboard. It's also the least expensive 4GB model, and has the highest factory overclock.
The 760's packaging is very nice. The slick black inner box and the soft black foam it's packed in give it a very "premium" feel. I laid it here as a reminder, but the Arkham Origins voucher actually came taped to the Newegg invoice in the box - so make sure you don't lose it!
Underneath the card itself is a cardboard piece you can pull out to reveal a driver CD, manual, and power adapters in case your PSU doesn't have 6 and 8 pin video card power connectors.
At 11" long, this is not a card for small cases.
The 760 is the same length as my old 6870 (bottom), but even heavier (the thing is a brick). While the Windforce coolers are similar on both cards, if you look carefully you can see copper heatpipes underneath the regular aluminum heatsink on the 760. Between the excellent cooling and the fact that the GPU clocks down to only 135mhz (!) when not in use, the card idles at a cool 33C. The extra power it drains while gaming may well be made up for by this super low-power state. A word of warning, though - the card was revving up to full speed when the Ribbons screen-saver came on, so you might want to make sure you pick a screen-saver that doesn't "trigger" the card's acceleration mode.
I decided to do some benchmark comparisons with my previous card, an HD6870. Note that some of the older (HD6870) benchmarks were done when my system had 8GB of RAM vs 12GB, and may have had the processor clocked a bit slower. I don't think either of those had much of an impact on the results, though. They are probably outweighed by the fact that I knew the HD6870 and had it better optimized, and in fact I think some of these benchmarks were done with the GTX760 running higher settings.
In short, these are far from "professional" benchmarks. But they should give a rough sense of the performance difference I'm experiencing between the two cards.
One thing these stats don't show is how much smoother games feel on the 760. With the 6870, when I loaded a game area in say Borderlands 2 or Skyrim, I would often get some lag initially as I first looked around. Usually it would be okay after that, though the 6870 still never felt as smooth as the 760 does. Even when the 760 is pushed down to 30fps in a game, it never feels laggy, you never feel any "stuttering" as newer game areas load or as you move around.
Phenom II x6 1090T 3.2ghz (overclocked to 3.6ghz usually)
12GB DDR3 1333 (recently upped from 8GB)
Gigabyte AM3 Motherboard Windows 7 64-bit
HD6870: 29.5 fps 742 score
GTX760: 53.5 fps 1349 score
Unigine Heaven is a great free benchmarking program. It's designed to deliver a very heavy load of DX11 effects like tessellation. It's also absolutely beautiful, even on basic DX9 settings, and worth checking out just to enjoy.
S.T.A.L.K.E.R. Call of Pripyat:
The Stalker: Call of Pripyat benchmark is another free download. It's a strange game engine; in some ways it is antiquated, but they have tacked on a lot of DX10 and DX11 features. The benchmark results here really surprised me. I had always assumed my CPU was the bottleneck in these games, because they are optimized for only one core. The dramatic improvements here would suggest otherwise (though it might be keeping the 760 from getting even higher, of course).
Lost Planet 2:
DX11 benchmark A, 1080p, maximum settings
HD6870: 34 fps (stuttered considerably, too, while running)
GTX760: 106 fps
Lost Planet 2's benchmark uses a lot of DX11 and DX10 effects, so it's a nice way to gauge a card's capabilities in terms of advanced visual effects.
1080p, maximum settings
HD6870: 52 fps, min 41
GTX760: 89 fps, min 70
1080p, max settings with FXAA High, no PhysX
HD6870: 57 fps (29 with PhysX normal)
GTX760: 86 fps (51 with PhysX normal)
1080p, maximum settings except for high precision (TressFX on)
HD6870: 11 fps
GTX760: 52 fps (84 without TressFX)
Just Cause 2:
Dark Tower, 1080p, max settings (760 seems to have more HQ options)
HD6870: 45 fps
GTX760: 59 fps
"Frontline" benchmark, 1080p, High preset, no PhysX
HD6870: 53 fps
GTX760: 82 fps
Title screen, 1080p, max settings
Overall, the framerate improvement is somewhere between 50% and 300% in most of these. It's hard to quantify these things, but I'd loosely say the 760 is seems roughly twice as powerful as my 6870 overall. The lack of load-stuttering is a nice improvement as well.
There are some aberrations here, though. I'd expected the 760 to blow the 6870 out of the water in Metro, Just Cause 2, and Arkham City, but that just wasn't the case. That could be a matter of me not setting up the card properly, and I am pretty sure some games like JC2 have Nvidia-only options (like GPU water physics) making the 760 work harder.
There's also the question of whether the Phenom II x6 is bottlenecking the 760 in certain games. I previously thought it was the bottleneck in Call of Pripyat and Skyrim, which are poorly optimized for multicore CPUs, but apparently I was wrong. However, it might be the culprit in the other mediocre scores. Overall, though, I think my CPU is aging pretty gracefully. My motherboard is an older PCI-E 2.0 model, too, which could create a bandwidth bottleneck for this 3.0 card.
This is going to sound weird, but my only regret is losing access to RadeonPro, an AMD-only 3rd party config tool I've come to rely on. Thus far I've found no comparable Nvidia tool, and I have yet to find a way to fine-tune the 760 the same way I could the 6870. I do have options, but it seems I'll need 3-4 programs to get everything RadeonPro provided conveniently in one package.
I didn't take comparisons in Skyrim, but the framerate is much improved and the game just feels smoother. Areas with NPCs, in particular, run far better.
The GTX760 is an awesome card, though you might want to wait for it to come down in price a bit and for AMD's next line of cards to show up in a month or so. I wouldn't have upgraded yet if not for my need for a distraction in my life right now. If you have a mid-range card from 2-4 years ago like the 6870, 7870, or 560ti this is a massive upgrade. It's not just newer, it's in a higher weight class. Still, those cards all perform great in most games, so I wouldn't feel pressured to upgrade right away.
If you do decide to get a GTX760, I recommend the 4GB model for future-proofing. You probably won't need more than 2GB at the moment, but that may change soon. Battlefield 4's system requirements were just released, and optimally they'd like you to have 3GB of RAM on your card. 4GB also seems a good choice for those of us who want to stay one step ahead of the PS4/One. Having a PC somewhat better than them assures you'll be able to play all the latest games nicely for quite some time.
For those of you who crave a score:
9.5/10, Would Bang
I'd originally wanted to included a comparison of 3DMark 11 scores. Unfortunately, due to some bugs in the program or Steam, I couldn't get the program running to bench the GTX760 - until today.
Pretty dramatic improvement. The odd surprise is in the Physics score. That score is supposed to purely measure CPU performance... but it goes up by almost 700 points using the 760. So I'm left wondering if the 6870 was somehow bottlenecking the Phenom II x6 somehow? Not really sure, as a lot of this is beyond my knowledge.