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Customer Review

57 of 71 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Best bang for the buck, 19 July 2013
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I recently bought an Alienware Aurora i7 980 Xtreme from eBay. Alienware are the sports cars of the computer gaming world: only an idiot would buy them new, but they are very reasonable second hand (and actually cheaper than a self-build, more durable and look better). As is usual with eBay though, the seller was selling for a good reason: this was a very fast CPU but limited by a pair of ATI 6770s in crossfire. I certainly needed a faster graphics card to match the '980X.

I took a look at Passmark to see what was what, and that listed the GTX 770 as the third fastest graphics card in the 'high end video cards' table (as of 18 July 2013), with a score of 6327. Only two cards are faster, the GTX780 (7922) and the GTX titan (8269). Looking at the cost of the other two cards, I decided the 770 was the best price-performance ratio, especially when I can stick another one in for SLI later when the prices drop a little. This was incidentally why I also picked a mainstream make such as ASUS - they are likely to be in production in 10 months time when I might want to go SLI. Further, the ASUS has a metal backplate on it, so the airflow when I get two in SLI will not be compromised (without the backplate, you can find dust getting snagged on the pins on the back of the first card as air blows over it from the second card). The backplate also makes the card more ridged: important because the heatsink is quite heavy.

Once I'd put the CPU on overclock (4GHz), I was ready to start benchmarking. With GPU Tweak, I got a decent stable overclock on the 770 straight away by increasing CPU boost to max (1260) from the default of 1110, and setting power target to 110% (from 100%) and GPU target to 90C (from 79) The memory I left alone for now, as it looked to be pretty high to start off with: 7GHz(!).

The memory is overclockable to up to 7.8GHz (at 7GHz it is already the fastest memory on a card to date: even faster than on the Titan, and it can easily overheat on overclock, so I'd strongly advise leaving memory at 7GHz)). If you want to do multi monitor SLI gaming at crazy quality, you might also consider getting one of the 4GB versions of the '770 as opposed to the 2GB on this card. I chose not to do that as I feel 4GB is overkill for now, there's only a handful of games that need it (from online discussions I've looked at, only Crysis comes close), and more memory usually equates to slower clocks.

Although you can go higher by increasing the GPU voltage, I decided against this: turning up the voltage is usually a good way of frying the electronics, and you're only getting marginal gains for bragging rights (and why would you even bother: when playing Crysis2 on DirectX11 and everything on ULTRA @1920x1200, the GPU loading graph shows usage at 60-80%, and never even close to 100%, with the i7 980X never getting warm as it sits around 30% @3.7GHz... looks like current-gen hardware performance is finally leading gaming software requirements by quite a margin!). The only 'current gen' game that seriously stretches this card is Rome Total War 2. I get 40fps average with everything set to the highest settings @1920x1200. Not a high score for an fps, but still very playable for a strategy game (they typically look fine and play well down to 30fps).

That gave me a 3DMark 11 score of 11037 (for comparison, stock speeds on the 770 gives me 10065, so overclock gives me a decent +10% real gaming performance). 3Dmark results noted this score as 'better than 87% of all results', so we're already almost in the top 10% of all computers. For comparison, the 3Dmark 11 website states that a high end gaming PC (i7-4770K and GTX Titan) gets 11894. That's so close to my current result that you won't notice the difference, although your wallet will - the Titan costs over twice as much as the 770! (NB - 3Dmark underutilises the 980X, so I don't think it will get me a higher score than the 4770K - only apps such as Softimage, Vue or Premiere seem to be able to hit 100% CPU usage as the 980X seems to be aimed at authoring rather than gaming... but I don't think any high end i7 will be a gaming bottleneck for some time!).

All tests I've thrown at the 770 are smooth, no glitches, and good frame-rates at 1080p. I can't comment on 1440p gaming yet, although I will update this review when I upgrade to that resolution (which I will do once my wallet has recovered from my buying the Alienware, the GTX770, and a Samsung 840 pro SSD!). What I can say is that the ASUS GTX770 does not feel noisy on high loads (although this may be down to the heavy Aurora case), and is practically silent at no load.

In terms of cooling, I've had no issues assuming proper case cooling: the card gets up to the mid to high 70s for most high end gaming (I've tried Crysis2, BF3). There are options for better cooling such as the Gigabyte windforce (Gigabyte Nvidia GTX 770 OC 2GB Fan PCI-E Graphics Card), but it feels like temperature is not an issue for overclocked gaming unless you are over-volting, and using a 3 fan solution will probably get you on noise. I'm happy to lose the ~2% gain of an extra fan and stay quieter. As an aside, my rig initially had slow but silent fans (a Noctua 92mm at half speed and a pair of 'Enermax silent' 950rpm 120mm fans). My cpu, chipset and '770 GPU were all running far too hot on load: mid 70s for the CPU, mid 80s for the GPU, and mid 90s(!) for the chipset. Making the GPU fans go faster had no effect whatsoever. Simply changing the Enermaxs for some decent fast-but-quiet replacements (Scythe 'Gentle Typhoons'), and setting the Noctua up for full speed fixed all my heating issues in one go (temps now are low 60s for the CPU, mid 70s for the GPU, and low 60s for the chipset). Moral of the story: case airflow is *much* more important than extra GPU fans.

Physically, the card looks well manufactured. The quality seems very high, and there is no plastic on the casing outside the fan itself - its all metal. Note that there is a protective clear film on the backplate, so be sure to take it off as its easy to miss. If you smell something plasticky and melting once you start serious gaming and benchmarking, you've probably missed it :)

I'll be using my PC for gaming, but mostly as a video editing machine (Premiere, After Effects, so the 770 will be used for its CUDA during realtime video editing) and image work (Photoshop, so again, a bit of CUDA). So far, I'm very pleased with my purchase - the third fastest graphics card, and for a very reasonable price, giving me a relatively cheap video editing workstation with a good gaming score thrown in. Its also expandable - if I need GTX Titan level performance later, I can always SLI.

** Conclusion **

I've always been a little put off by high end NVidia cards, as they tend to have very high price tags on them (as evidenced by the GTX 780 and Titan). The 770 is actually very reasonable, and is my first NVidia card since the GeForce 256 (which came out in 1999!). The price to performance is that good on the 770 that I switched from AMD/ATI.

In terms of performance this card is the third fastest card on passmark. That's very good, as it beats even the current dual GPU AMD cards and with SLI will probably match the Titan. So you have some level of expandibility if you step up to 1440p or multi monitor.

Another thing that has always put me off with high end cards has been the noise. The ASUS 770 is actually surpisingly quiet on the out-of-box clocks, and still pretty quiet on my overclock. NB - as the Aurora case is pretty thick (the sides are double skinned), I took the side off to re-check this, and it was still quiet, and whisper quiet with the case closed.

In terms of overclock, I'm looking at 13% for the GPU, and a possible 11% for the memory (but I leave it at 7GHz as its very susceptible to overheat unless you have all your fans on 100%). With GPU at +13% and memory at 7GHz, I get around a 10% gaming performance increase over stock, and that takes me within sight of the 3DMark top end i7-4770/GTX Titan equipped gaming rig (it gets me to 92% of its performance). Pretty good!

A totally new NVidia CPU architecture is not expected until next year ('Maxwell'), but the fact that the 770 is just an enhancement on last year's architecture ('Kepler') is probably the thing driving the surprisingly low price. If you wait for Maxwell, my guess is that you will be paying a lot more as NVidia will be pricing higher to recoup development costs.

The biggest unknown issue for me is whether or not SLI will microglitch on this family of cards. I just don't know, and hopefully another reviewer can chip in.

Another issue to consider is that DirectX11 has been out for a while, and DirectX12 may be on the horizon. You may want to wait a little until 12 appears, but I feel that it won't be worth the wait: there's few games that use 11 to its full abilities as it is, and I expect the take-up of DirectX12 to be very slow, and probably only immediate for the usual 2 or 3 headline games... and Windows 8 doesn't even use Aero anymore, so you can probably tell the way this is all going (IMO DirectX 12 will be about energy efficiency and tablets, just like Intel Haswell is).

My full PC specs, as used for this review:
Alienware Aurora with swapped motherboard: i7-980X (Xtreme) overclocked to 4GHz, water cooled, ASUS Rampage III Gene motherboard, 24GB (6x4GB) DDR3 at 2000MHz, single ASUS GTX770, Windows 8 Pro 64bit, GeForce 320.49 drivers, Samsung 840 pro 256GB SSD as OS boot drive, WD VelociRaptor for scratch file (page file and app caches) 2x1TB WD Black HDDs for data. Note that this computer was primarily built for video editing (but its also a very good gamer!).
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Showing 1-10 of 16 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 19 Jul 2013 09:24:42 BDT
Last edited by the author on 29 Apr 2014 13:13:48 BDT
ShammyB says:
With regard to the choice between 2GB vs 4GB cards, the following review is useful:

One thing I should mention that does not really belong in my review is how to get a good price for a high end gaming system.
The new Haswell family seems to have pulled down the price of the previous chip families. Haswell is built with mobile computing in mind (i.e. power efficiency) rather than raw performance.

Thats good if, like me, you want a good 2-3k system for cheap. There's lots of Alienware Area51 and Aurora systems like the one I got going on eBay right now for around half the original price. First adopters are clearly jumping up to Haswell, and leaving perfectly good high end systems on eBay for cheap. All you need to do to get these systems up to date is bang in a '770 or similar, and maybe put in an SSD boot drive. That way you can get that 2-3K system performance for closer to 1k.

In reply to an earlier post on 21 Jul 2013 12:59:49 BDT
The gtx 690 is also faster, so 770 comes 4th, 690 is the no.1 beats titan. its basically 2x 680's together. just saying...

In reply to an earlier post on 22 Jul 2013 00:25:18 BDT
Last edited by the author on 22 Jul 2013 00:28:45 BDT
ShammyB says:
@ P.R Brumpton
You're probably right, although passmark gives the 690 a low score for some reason. As I haven't had a NVidia card for years, I didn't notice this. I'm just getting up to speed with GTX cards, having used AMD/ATI for the last 10 years.

The 690 is another 700 quid card though, so it certainly should be 100% trouncing the GTX 770!

Posted on 21 Dec 2013 17:08:40 GMT
Last edited by the author on 21 Dec 2013 17:21:32 GMT
Canopus72 says:
M. Bhangal. I had an Asus 7990HD but had to RMA it back to Amazon due to over heating issues. I think I will go Nvidia. I'm considering either 780GTX in SLI or 770GTX in SLI or single 780Ti. What would you recommend?. I am also considering either the custom cooler R9-290 in Xfire or maybe even R9-290X in Xfire. Asus, HIS, Sapphire have all released their own custom cooler version of the 290 and 290X, but get this, the custom cooler 290X is £500!. I spoke to dabs and they were willing to give me a Palit 780Ti for £502 (but Palit is apparently a cheap make and not as good as Zotac, Gigabyte, Asus, etc). Anyway, I want something that will be future proof for at least 12months and that will be equal to (or preferably beat) 780Ti in performance whilst being at an affordable price point. I would appreciate some advice as I am stuck in the woods so to speak. Thanks.

In reply to an earlier post on 22 Dec 2013 02:29:25 GMT
Last edited by the author on 22 Dec 2013 02:33:41 GMT
ShammyB says:
I'd go best single GPU, then only go xfire if and when it became too slow... so single 780Ti now, then xfire later. It would potentially also give you two 780Tis (one now, one later) for nearer the price of two GTX now, as I expect the second 780Ti will be significantly cheaper down the line.

Plus you'd only want an xfire on any of these cards if you were on 1440p IMO.. I havent needed to xfire my 770 yet, as nothing runs slow for me yet at 1920x1020, 60Hz

In any case, I'd wait till mid January to see what price drops you can get (From what I read, I dont think people have been buying high end cards much in 2013, so there may be a glut to get rid of in Jan).

Hope that helps

In reply to an earlier post on 22 Dec 2013 14:24:27 GMT
Last edited by the author on 22 Dec 2013 14:28:59 GMT
Canopus72 says:
M. Bhangal. Thanks man. Appreciate the assist. I actually did get a Palit 780Ti from Dabs for £500 (2 weeks ago) but I think it is an under-performer (maybe faulty) because the benchmark results I am getting with the Palit for heaven 4 and Valley 1 are way below the bench score I was getting for my Zotac 780GTX (I'm talking like 200 points below performance of 780GTX!). I think I will RMA the Palit (it was too good to be true) and get a Zotac or Gigabyte 780Ti for £529 instead. BTW, Xfire is term for multiple AMD GFX cards and SLI is term for multiple Nvidia GFX cards!. I currently have a 24" 1080p monitor at 120Hz. If I can find a decent 1440p/120Hz monitor at a decent price, then I would go for it.

In reply to an earlier post on 26 Jan 2014 11:24:42 GMT
Dom Robinson says:
Why would anyone want to buy a 2nd hand PC? I can understand wanting not to pay top whack, but I wouldn't want a PC that someone else has been using.

In reply to an earlier post on 26 Jan 2014 14:02:40 GMT
Last edited by the author on 26 Jan 2014 14:19:08 GMT
ShammyB says:

Buying a name PC now is like buying a second hand sports car. It depreciates by about 50% as soon as you take it out of the box and use it for a bit, and the days when newer PCs were much faster than last year's is long gone.

I used to self build and swear by it (have self-built every rig since 1995!), but this build really opened my eyes. High end name rigs really are better quality, and better value than self build if you buy second hand and know what you are doing. Alienware was a dirty name as far as I was concerned when you could self build better.

My point being that the only thing that is actually faster is the graphics card, so buying a cutting edge PC from a year ago and just swapping out the graphics card makes no discernible difference re performance from buying brand new. Bragging rights is all you get these days, unfortunately, and even then my second hand PC is still in the top 10% of all benchmarked gaming computers according to 3dMark.

I priced it up and could not have self built a 3DMark top 10er for less unless I really cut corners on case quality, used a DVD plaer rather than a Blueray one, used 3 year HDs instead of 5 year guaranteed ones, used Samsung SSds rather than Samsung Pro, used a pirated OS, used generic blowers rather than 'name' ones, etc, etc.

A new PC with similar spec from Alienware would have been twice as much, and because a lot of the depreciation in my PC had already occurred before I bought it, my resale price is high because its an Alienware.

So to turn the question around, why would anyone buy a brand new computer (either self build or 'name' rig), when just taking delivery of a 2000 quid 'top 10 3DMarker' gaming rig and playing through the latest Crysis is going to cost you getting on for half of that 2000 quid!

In reply to an earlier post on 26 Jan 2014 14:18:41 GMT
Dom Robinson says:
Ta for the info. I haven't got 2k to spend on a PC, but I wouldn't buy one off Ebay because there's no warranty with it. And I don't buy very expensive stuff on there anyway. I don't trust it that much, but I take your point about going round to check it all out first.

Graphics-card-wise, I was originally going to go for a GTX680, but when trying to buy a new PC online (eg. Dell or PCspecialist) neither stock them any more, so is GTX770 the closest? Also, are there any other sites you'd recommend, other than Ebay please?

In reply to an earlier post on 26 Jan 2014 14:35:09 GMT
ShammyB says:
yeah, GTX770 is closest as its the same die (Kepler) with minor changes.
As for buying, I'd simply use whatever is cheapest new out of Amazon, eBuyer, overclockers, but wait until the card was slightly trailing edge (about now). FWIW, I'll be buying my second 770 for SLi as soon as Maxwell comes out, as that will result in a big price drop IMO
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