Second look at Titan Z for GPU rendering

It’s been a while since nVidia announced & released the most powerful GTX card to date – dual GPU called Titan Z. Safe to say it’s not only the most powerful, but also one of the most expensive GTX line card (sold for ~3000$ just after launch).

With recent releases in Titan line (Titan, TitanBlack & Titan Z) nVidia is raising prices & almost creating new category of “semi professional cards” targeted as entry level product for compute intensive applications, even if nVidia is mainly marketing Titan Z as gaming card & keeping GeForce GTX (“The ultimate GPU for gamers”) badge.

My guess is that we are going to see three segments in the future line of nVidia GPUs.

(I hope I’m wrong with that..- but again, only time is going to show).

How Titan Z differs from other dual GPU cards?

When You look at this card comparing it to other dual GPU cards from the past You might notice one interesting fact: it has full set of vRam per GPU. I mean, GTX 580 came in two SKUs (looking from vRAM standpoint) : 1.5GB & 3GB, but GTX 590 (dual GPU card based on the same GF110 chip) got “only” 3GB (1,5GB per GPU – that is what programs like Octane Render see as usable memory to fit Your scene). The same story was with GTX 680 (2GB & 4GB) & GTX 690 (4GB “only” split between two GPUs), so in that extent Titan Z is unique as it has 12GB (6GB per GPU) – the same amount as in Titan (Black).

Recent Price-Cuts & value

After recent price cuts You can get Titan Z for “as low” as ~1500$ & that’s finally putting it into a list of appealing choices for anyone looking to leverage GPU compute with CUDA powered applications.

Looking from value perspective, original price of Titan Z made little to no sense of buying it – at least I thought like that back then. You can find a small article I wrote just after GTC’14 – “Titan Z in the eyes of Octane Render user”.

I have to admit, that I’ve made a small mistake predicting its performance (based on SP) from given data, but for the asking price that doesn’t make too much of a difference anyway.

From what we know now Titan Z actually performs very close to two Titan Blacks. From early official data it should have been running at ~700 MHz, but it’s usually over 1000 MHz. Only as temperature rises under load it might start throttling down effectively setting up final Clock speeds between 700-1000 MHz . With both cards (TitanBlack & TitanZ) sitting in Jeroen Tapper’s from Tapperworks (a.k.a Rappet via OTOY forums) system we can figure out exact differences between those Titans  & how they behave under load. Also putting a pair of TitanZs into the same case would give us more precise results of four GPUs ..(I’ll cover the impact of layout He’s using in his workstations & provide more data on this topic in separate article coming soon!)

Where does Titan Z fit out of the box?

One of the best example of using such card is in SFF (Small Form Factor) builds. Boutique builders like DigitalStormFalcon Nothwest, etc. showed some nice little GPU powered monsters – take a look :

When You start thinking about the amount of render power these small boxes possess (in terms of GPU computation capacity) – that compares to hot & loud 4x GTX 580 equipped towers just few years ago & it amazes me how small computer could be build in these days.

DIY route? Well, there are few mITX standard motherboards, SFX power supplies & other parts to choose from..(We’ll get into this topic soon, as I’ve been asked to make a list of parts for very portable, yet as powerful as possible rig for traveling).

Custom cooling for Titan Z

Soon after the release one of the best know company specializing in water-cooling, EKWB – from Slovenia, brought water block for Titan Z.

Apart from keeping card cool (if Your loop has enough radiators), in the kit You would also find a bracket to shrink card from three to two slots.

For those who don’t like to mess with expensive hardware EVGA started selling its version of Titan Z called hydro Copper – for little extra You get pre-fitted water block (it is made by EK too).

What’s the point, You may ask? Obvious answer would be to Overclock & still keep cards cool, but even more than that You’d be able to house four of those cards into single system (using any 4-way capable motherboard, whether You choose any consumer 1150/1155 socket coupled with PLX or high-end X79/X99 for 2011). ATX/EAT form factor has 8 slot spacing & fitting more than two Titan Zs with stock cooling might become a problem (3x of these cards is maximum, provided You have a capable case with 9 PCIe expansion slots on the back & specific motherboard layout).

What if You would take 4x Titan Zs, water-cool them, even OC to squeeze more performance?

Check this teaser, 4x Titan Z powered EpicForce from MAINGEAR:

MAINGEAR, best known for mad gaming oriented systems, is stepping into entirely different niche. No surprise for any gamer that modern titles (because of driver limitation & game engine design) don’t benefit from anything more than quad-SLI (two Titan Z) cards. That’s probably one of the main reason (together with excessive price tag) why we haven’t seen such systems before. But times are changing, prices are dropping & Boutique builders are starting to have fun with them, building systems for those who can utilize all the power provided.

Stay tuned for more info on this (4x Titan Z) topic!

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