On July 21, graphics-specialist NVIDIA (NASDAQ:NVDA) made a surprise announcement of its next generation, ultra-high-end graphics processor, known as the Titan X, which replaced the company's 2015 flagship, also known as the Titan X. NVIDIA already held the crown for fastest gaming-oriented graphics processor with its GeForce GTX 1080 (released in late May of this year), so the Titan X represented an opportunity for the company to bring out an even higher-performance part targeted at buyers willing to pay a large premium for even-more performance.
Several major hardware review sites have put out reviews of the Titan X. It's clear that the part is quite impressive.
Significant performance uplift over GTX 1080; excellent power efficiency
According to testing performed by TechPowerUp, the Titan X is, on average, 31.5% faster than the GeForce GTX 1080 in games at a resolution of 3840-by-2160, and 26.58% faster at a resolution of 2560-by-1440 -- respectable increases, for sure. It's not uncommon in the world of graphics processors for a higher-performance part to be less efficient than a lower-performance part. For example, according to TechPowerUp's numbers, the GeForce GTX 980 was a bit more efficient than either the prior-generation GeForce GTX 980 Ti, or its fully enabled counterpart, the GeForce GTX Titan X.
This isn't the case this time around, though. The new Titan X is actually more efficient in TechPowerUp's tests than the GeForce GTX 1080, with the efficiency lead actually growing at the more graphically intensive 3840-by-2160 resolution relative to the lead seen at 2560-by-1440. From an engineering perspective, the GP102 graphics processor that powers the new Titan X seems, to borrow NVIDIA CEO Jen-Hsun Huang's words, "exquisite."
It's extremely pricey, though
Although the new Titan X is between 26% and 32% faster than the GTX 1080, the price-to-performance ratio of this new product falls off a cliff because it sells for $1,200. To put this into perspective, NVIDIA's own Founders Edition variant of the GeForce GTX 1080 sells for $699. This is already a markup from the price at which NVIDIA's add-in-board partners sell their lower-end boards based on the 1080.
A product at this kind of pricing is never going to make up a large portion of NVIDIA's unit shipments, nor is this product likely to make up a substantial portion of NVIDIA's gaming-oriented graphics-processor shipments. Nevertheless, there will be those gamers (and other prosumer types) willing to spend whatever it takes to get their hands on the absolute highest-performance single-graphics processor available on the market. That market probably isn't trivially small given that NVIDIA continues to build and sell these Titan-class products year in and year out.
What to expect from NVIDIA's next Titan?
Interestingly, the latest Titan X doesn't use a fully enabled variant of the GP102 chip; it has just under 7% of the total functional units on the chip disabled. This has led some to speculate that the company will release a fully enabled version of this chip later on, perhaps as a "Titan X Black" -- which, as an aside, would be very clunky branding.
However, I don't think this is likely. If NVIDIA refreshes its Titan product in a year, it really needs to have something more interesting than the same chip that it sold in the year prior, but with a small number of previously disabled functional units enabled.
To that end, it seems likely that this new Titan X represents the fastest Pascal-architecture-based graphics processor that NVIDIA will sell to gamers. Next up will need to be something based on the company's Volta architecture, which, if NVIDIA's claims from 2015 are to be believed, should deliver a substantial improvement in performance per watt, and ultimately, performance.
Ashraf Eassa has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Nvidia. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.