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The Nvidia Titan V Takes the GPU Crown - For Now


It feels like just yesterday that we were blown away with the price-performance proposition of the GTX 1080, but since then Nvidia has outdone itself time and time again.
Their mainstream enthusiast line has revolutionized desktop and laptop GPU performance and turned VR into something within reach of mid-range users.

Their Titan line of GPUs have been a little more hit and miss. When a new Titan card launches you can be pretty sure that it will be the fastest consumer card money can buy. Sometimes it's the fastest of any GPU on the market, especially since profesional cards tend to lag a bit when it comes to processor generation. Which is great, until the flagship mainstream card overtakes it, which is what happened to the original Titan when the Pascal GTX series launched. That move generated enough salt from Titan buyers to make another Dead Sea.

Fifth of His Name
The first Titan card launched in 2013 as part of the Kepler GPU line. In 2014 we got two more Titan cards -the Black and the dual GPU Z. The Titan X followed in 2015. Lastly we got the Titan X and Xp in 2016 and 2017 respectively.

That’s six Titan cards so far, but early in January of 2018 a seventh Titan card was announced. The Titan V. Since this is the seventh card you’d be right in guessing that the “V” is not short for five. Indeed, the “V” is for “volta”, the latest Nvidia microarchitecture.

This new Titan therefore is more than just a very fast consumer card. It is the first graphics card to sport the successor to Pascal. It is Nvidia’s convention to name their architectures after famous scientists. Hence Maxwell, Pascal and now Volta.

Which means the Titan V also gives us a glimpse of what the Volta consumer cards will offer. It’s not the first Volta product. That honor goes to the Tesla V100, but this is the first graphics card to feature the new technology.

A Long Time Coming
Nvidia announced the Volta architecture all the way back in 2013. A main feature of these chips would be stacked DRAM similar to AMD’s HBM, with massive amounts of bandwidth.

The card we now actually have does indeed come with 3D stacked memory. The memory bus is 3072 bits wide for a total of 652.8 GB/s bandwidth. A little shy of the 1TB/s that Nvidia was aiming for back in 2013, but a massive amount of bandwidth nonetheless. The Titan V comes with 12GiB of the stuff.

The GPU itself is made using a 12nm process and has 21.1 billion transistors in total. It offers 6900 GFLOPS of double precision performance and a staggering 13800 GFLOPS of single precision performance. Nvidia says it will be at least 1.5 times as fast in terms of computation compared to Pascal.

AI Core
In addition to 5120 CUDA cores, the Titan V also comes with 640 “tensor” cores. These are a new type of core aimed specifically at machine learning. With the help of these tensor cores Nvidia claims a massive 110 TFLOPS of deep learning computation.

There’s a good chance that the GTX Volta cards aimed at gamers won’t have these tensor cores, or at least will have fewer of them. So if you’re professional applications rely on machine learning this would be the card to get.

The Price of Admission
The asking price for the Titan V is not small. You’ll have to part with $2999 in order to own one. Thanks to the ongoing crypto mining-induced GPU shortage, you can also only buy two at once for the time being.

Unlike previous Titans, this is not really a card one can recommend for enthusiast gamers. Those tensor cores are too specialized to make them worth paying for at this point. Perhaps of game developers figure out a way to harness their AI prowess they aren’t all that interesting to most users.

If you’re a data scientist or anyone who has to leverage machine learning on your projects, this could be the most revolutionary card you ever buy.

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