On April 6, graphics specialist NVIDIA (NASDAQ:NVDA) announced yet another brand-new graphics card targeted at gaming enthusiasts, known as the Titan Xp. This graphics card succeeds the NVIDIA Titan X that the company launched last year, delivering increased performance for the same $1,200 price point.
The new card is pretty much exactly what one might expect. It has 12 gigabytes of GDDR5X memory running at 11.4 gigabits per second (the previous Titan X had 12 gigabytes of GDDR5X running at 10 gigabits per second), and 3,840 graphics cores (NVIDIA calls them CUDA cores) running at 1.6 gigahertz (up from 3,584 on the previous Titan X).
What's perhaps unexpected is that it's out so soon following the launch of the GeForce GTX 1080 Ti last month. Let's go over what this launch means for NVIDIA.
Keeping the Titan brand great
In previous generations, NVIDIA's Titan graphics cards would represent the company's unequivocal best graphics cards for gaming. However, over time, NVIDIA would bring those capabilities to its highest-end GeForce GTX cards for lower prices than the corresponding Titan cards, making said Titan products pointless.
Indeed, last month NVIDIA launched the GeForce GTX 1080 Ti for $699 which ultimately delivered the same or better performance as the $1,200 Titan X card launched in late July of 2016. Nobody in their right minds would buy that Titan X card once the 1080 Ti card launched, and NVIDIA knows that.
To that end, I expected NVIDIA to launch a fully enabled GP102 chip (the previous Titan X and 1080 Ti use a partially disabled version of the GP102 chip) under the Titan branding at some point to keep the Titan branding relevant (and, of course, to keep selling $1,200 graphics cards). The fact that the new Titan is here so soon, though, is a pleasant surprise and reflects positively on NVIDIA's ability to understand and serve its highest-paying customers.
A few stray observations
What I think is most telling, though, is the fact that NVIDIA rushed to update its Titan line via press release rather than, say, wait for its May GPU Technology Conference or some other "big" gaming/graphics related event to release the new card.
What this tells me is that the Titan-branded products have gone from essentially a "really profitable niche" to a core brand and product line that the company is determined to continue to support and keep current. In my view, this means that sales of the prior-generation Titan X were probably quite robust (since, after all, NVIDIA probably wouldn't care that much if it only sold a handful of these chips).
Another thing to keep in mind is that the GP102 chip that powers the old Titan X, GeForce GTX 1080 Ti, and new Titan Xp is a chip that NVIDIA sells to data center customers as well as its professional visualization customers. It's also quite large and thus relatively difficult to manufacture.
If NVIDIA can now spare the fully enabled GP102 chips to sell to prosumers/gamers for prices lower than it would likely get selling them as professional graphics processors, then it's likely that its manufacturing yields (and thus supply) of these fully capable chips is reasonable.