NVIDIA Titan X Pascal vs. Maxwell Review


Today we are pitting the NVIDIA Titan X (Pascal) against the NVIDIA Titan X (Maxwell) to give you an idea what the benefits are of upgrading.

NVIDIA, famous for its graphics cards, has branched out in recent years to new areas such as handheld gaming devices, artificial intelligence, accelerated computing and autonomous vehicles, just to name a few.  To be honest, if you call yourself an enthusiast, not only have you heard of NVIDIA, you more than likely have owned one or more of the company’s products in your lifetime.

It is NVIDIA's high end Titan X that brings us here today. We wanted to put the company's claim that its new Pascal architecture "delivers up to 3x the performance of previous-generation graphics cards" to the test by pitting its previous generation Titan X against its brand spanking new Pascal version. 

From the company's About Us page: 

NVIDIA’s invention of the GPU in 1999 sparked the growth of the PC gaming market, redefined modern computer graphics, and revolutionized parallel computing. More recently, GPU deep learning ignited modern AI — the next era of computing — with the GPU acting as the brain of computers, robots, and self-driving cars that can perceive and understand the world. Today, NVIDIA is increasingly known as “the AI computing company.”

As stated, the subject of today's evaluation is the NVIDIA Titan X (Pascal) video card and how it compares to its predecessor, the Titan X (Maxwell). For the purposes of this review, we are going to assume that you have already read reviews of these cards separately and just want to know what the direct benefits of upgrading from the older Maxwell Titan X to the newer Pascal version.

While NVIDIA's Maxwell Titan X carried over the same 28nm process used for Kepler, the jump to Pascal brings a brand new 16nm FinFET fabrication technology with it which, for starters, gives us a smaller die size and less power consumption. According to NVIDIA, Pascal is an "exponential leap in performance and the most powerful compute architecture ever built inside a GPU." The newer Titan X is built on a 16nm process compared to the much larger 28nm process of the Maxwell based Titan X. Doing the math, this means that the die size of the Pascal Titan X is roughly 20% smaller at 471mm²  than the Maxwell Titan X's 601mm² die size. The smaller die size and newer Pascal architecture makes the new Titan X up to 3x more power efficient than its predecessor as well. The Pascal Titan X has a total of 12 billion transistors and 3584 CUDA cores, while the Maxwell Titan X has 8 billion transistors and 3072 CUDA cores. Another plus for the Pascal Titan X is that its 12GB GDDR5X runs at 10,000MHz while the Maxwell TITAN X uses GDDR5 that runs at only 8,000MHz.

With that out of the way, let’s look at the tale of the tape shall we?

It’s fairly obvious that just the newer architecture and improved specs of the Pascal Titan X should put it head and shoulders above the older Maxwell version when it comes to performance.  So, what do all these improvements mean when it comes to performance? What are the real-world benefits of a die shrink, improved clock speed, additional CUDA cores, speedier GDDR5X and added memory bandwidth? That folks, is what we are here to find out.

But first, let’s take a look at these two Titans side by side.


First up, let's get a good look at the new Titan X Pascal shall we?

As you can see from the images above and the comparison shots below, both versions of the Titan X are dual slot GPUs measuring 4.376” high and 10.5” long. Both video cards have blower style fans with a clear window in the housing that gives you a peek at the aluminum heatsink fins on the inside. From the front, the two cards are very similar in appearance with the biggest difference between the two versions of the Titan X being the aggressive angled styling of the newer Pascal version and the fact that the older Maxwell card simply says “Titan,” while the newer card is branded “Titan X.”  


Another difference between the two generations of Titans is the inclusion of a very robust backplate that is divided into two sections. The rear portion of the backplate is removable allowing for improved airflow when running two cards in SLI.  The Titan X (Pascal) packaging is a slightly refined version of the original Titan X box and proudly states “Powered by Pascal” on the outside.


NVIDIA Titan X Maxwell

NVIDIA GeForce Driver v378.78 was used for this evaluation.

Our test platform consists of an i7-7700K running at stock settings (4.2GHz) paired with a Gigabyte Z270XP-SLI motherboard. We use the stock memory settings and timings, a fresh Windows 10 Pro installation and the latest drivers available at the time of testing.   


For all of our graphics card evaluations, we use 3D Mark Fire Strike Extreme, Time Spy (DX12), Fallout 4, DOOM, GTA 5, Rise of the Tomb Raider (DX12), and Ashes of the Singularity (DX12). Settings for each game are clearly noted on each benchmark graph and all scores are average frame rates.

Now, getting down to business, let's put these two titans to the test and see just what you can expect when upgrading from the Maxwell Titan X to the new Pascal powered Titan X.

Fire Strike Extreme:

From the 3DMark website: Fire Strike Extreme is an enhanced version of Fire Strike designed for high-end multi-GPU systems (SLI / Crossfire) and future hardware generations. In addition to raising the rendering resolution, additional visual quality improvements increase the rendering load to ensure accurate performance measurements for truly extreme hardware setups.

The performance difference between the two cards is staggering to say the least. While the lead in Fire Strike Extreme was much larger than in the Time Spy test, it is safe to say that the Pascal architecture truly shines when it comes to synthetic benchmarks. We will see if that is still the case as we move on to testing real world games. 

Rise of the Tomb Raider:

Rise of the Tomb Raider, developed by Crystal Dynamics and published by Square Enix, is the second installment in the reboot of the Tomb Raider series. The PC port was handled by Nixxes, the same studio that ported the previous Tomb Raider title to the PC as well as Sleeping Dogs and Deus Ex: Human Revolution.

As you can see from the results above, the Pascal Titan X is roughly 60% faster than the Maxwell Titan X at both resolutions tested.


In order to use the in-game benchmark tool, make sure you have the resolution and graphics options you want to use set before you navigate your way to graphics menu and press the tab key to start the benchmark. Your results can be found in the "My Documents\Rockstar Games\GTA V\benchmarks" folder.

Once again we see a huge performance gain over the original Maxwell based card. In fact, the higher the resolution, the bigger the lead the Pascal has over its predecessor. At 2560 x 1440, there was a gain of just over 30% but once the graphics were cranked up to 3840 x 2160 that lead jumped to close to 70%.

The Witcher 3: 

The Witcher 3 is a great benchmark tool, not only because it is a GPU intensive title but because it is a popular game that many of you own, making it easy for you to compare our results with your own. FPS measurements for The Witcher 3 were taken using FRAPS.

With everything cranked up to the max, at 2560 x 1440, the Titan X Pascal was able to hit just over ninety frames per second, while the Maxwell card topped out in the mid fifties.

Star Wars Battlefront:

Once again using Fraps, we recorded two minutes of gameplay from the training mission on Endor. We began benchmarking once the Stormtrooper jumps on his speeder bike and begins pursuit. We used Ultra settings for everything including ambient occlusion, textures and lighting with FXAA settings on high.

The Titan X Pascal once again demonstrates why it may be worth your time and hard earned money to ditch your old Maxwell Titan X.

Ashes of the Singularity:

The Ashes of the Singularity benchmark is accessible from the main menu with a number of different display options available. We chose to run the benchmark at 2560 x 1440 and 3840 x 2160 on high settings with no MSAA.

In case you haven't noticed by now, the Pascal card is besting the Maxwell Titan X by 60 - 70% pretty much in every game we have tested so far.

Fallout 4:

Fallout 4 was tested using the ultra quality preset. Which means that TAA anti-aliasing was employed and anisotropic filtering was set to x16 and "Bokeh" depth of field was used. Once again we used Fraps to record two minutes of gameplay while battling raiders nearby the Corvega assembly plant.

Although the Titan X Pascal walks away from the Maxwell card at 2560 x 1440, 61 fps is nothing to be ashamed of. Obviously that changes for both cards once we hit 3840 x 2160 but, if you are going to be playing at that resolution with maxed settings, the Pascal is obviously the card you are going to need in this situation.


We tested DOOM with both OpenGL and Vulkan but, in the end, while AMD cards see a significant benefit from Vulkan, there was almost no difference between the two APIs running on either Titan X card. We ran our benchmark test early in the game in the large room full of arch-vile demons.

Once again there was a huge performance increase at 2560 x 1440, with a gain of almost 65% but, once the graphics were cranked up to 3840 x 2160, the Pascal Titan X's lead jumped to over 70%.


For audio tests, we take sound level readings from three feet from the open air test bench with two off-the-shelf dB meters from two different angles. While both cards are extremely quiet at idle, once the blower fans spin up under load both cards become noticeably loader but nothing that would be considered annoying.


We monitor temperatures two ways; manually with a custom built unit capable of reading up to eight temperatures simultaneously as well as with CPUID's Hardware Monitor. This ensures that our readings are accurate and reliable. Leads from our temperature probe are physically attached to various points on the card allowing us to double check all of our temperature readings. To get the system up to temperature, we run Furmark for 60 minutes before we start taking any readings. This allows the system to level off after reaching max temperature.

Frankly, we were a bit surprised that the Pascal's newly redesigned cooler didn't provide much better temperatures than the old Maxwell version but, in the end, all that matters is that both keep temperatures in check, even under the most demanding conditions. 


The Titan X is a “best of the best” type of product. Your average gamer isn’t going to plop down $1,200 for a new GPU but hardcore enthusiasts are more than willing to do so, many times buying more than just one. These are the very same consumers that bought the original Titan, then upgraded to the Titan X Black, followed by the Titan X Maxwell and now, the Titan X Pascal.

The good news is that there is a very real, tangible benefit of upgrading from the Titan X Maxwell to the Titan X Pascal. Temperatures and sound levels were lower, even if only slightly. While we didn't see the "3x the performance of previous-generation graphics cards" that NVIDIA claimed in its PR material in the games we tested, we can absolutely tell you that all of our gaming benchmarks, on average, were up almost 60% across the board with some games like GTA V and DOOM seeing 70% increases at 3840 x 2160 with graphics quality set to Ultra.

To be totally honest, the Titan X Pascal is everything you would want if you were upgrading from a Maxwell based Titan X. The problem today is that you can get the same or better performance from NVIDIA’s recently launched GeForce GTX 1080 Ti for $500 less (or two GTX 1080 Ti cards for only $200 more). Frankly, we would have had no qualms recommending the Titan X Pascal as an upgrade to the older Maxwell Titan X had it not been for the impressive performance and amazing price point of the new GeForce GTX 1080 Ti.

Looking to the future, we are anxious to see what NVIDIA eventually does roll out to replace the Titan X Pascal. Maybe a Pascal powered dual GPU GeForce GTX Titan Z?