The Crazy Thing About NVIDIA Corporation's Titan Black

At the annual Game Developers Conference, NVIDIA pre-announced its next generation halo graphics chip known as the Titan X. This is expected to be based on the company's high-end GM200 graphics chip (the high-end variant of the GM204 found in the current GTX 980 flagship), feature 12 gigabytes of memory, and retail for $999.

About this time last year, NVIDIA unveiled a graphics processor known as the Titan Black. This featured 6 gigabytes of memory and was based on the company's high-end variant of the previous generation Kepler architecture, known as GK110. It, too, retailed for $999. However, the cards based on this chip sold out rather quickly and it wasn't uncommon to see these cards being resold for far more than $999.

What I find most surprising, though, is how much these Titan Black cards are selling for -- both new and used -- today.

Quite a shockerTake a look at the following ended listing from eBay for a used NVIDIA Titan Black:

Source: eBay.

A year after the Titan Black launched, and even after NVIDIA had begun teasing the next-generation Titan X, the winning bidder of this auction apparently was willing to pony up $985 for a year-old Titan Black. This listing is far from anomalous; a scan of completed listings on eBay shows that brand-new Titan Black cards routinely sell for well over $1,000.

Here's where it gets crazyI can understand that the Titan Black is still a very potent card, and by virtue of its status as a "halo" card, it should hold its value pretty well. However, not only has the Titan Black seemingly held its value relative to the initial launch pricing, but it has even appreciated.

What makes this even more puzzling at-a-glance is that these Titan Black cards, at least in games, offer worse performance than the GTX 980 (which retails for about $550) that was released back in September of 2014.

So, why is the Titan Black so desirable?The key difference between the Titan Black and the latest GTX 980 is that the Titan Black offers much faster double precision floating point performance. According to AnandTech, the GTX 980 offers double precision floating point performance that's 1/32 that of the single precision floating point performance it can deliver. The GTX Titan Black, however, supports double precision floating point performance that is 1/3 that of its single precision floating point performance.

This means, in a nutshell, that for GPU workloads that require higher precision floating point arithmetic, the GTX Titan Black is a far more suitable choice than the GTX 980. Double precision isn't widespread in games (the additional precision isn't worth the performance hit), but is known to be useful for scientific applications.

It seems likely, then, that these Titan Black cards continue to hold their value because they offer similar double precision floating point performance to the much more expensive Tesla high-performance computing cards, as well as the high-end Quadro workstation cards.

For example, the high-end Tesla K20X, which is based on the same GK110 chip as the Titan Black, sells for $2900 on Newegg. The Titan Black looks downright cheap compared to the K20X.

It'll be interesting to see if the upcoming GM200 that powers the Titan X will have double precision floating point performance equal to or greater than the GK110. KitGuru claims that the GM200 won't have high double precision performance, making it a product aimed squarely at gamers.

It's not too long now before NVIDIA's GPU Technology Conference, at which the company is expected to formally launch the Titan X. We'll likely learn more details then.

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Ashraf Eassa has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends eBay and Nvidia. The Motley Fool owns shares of eBay. 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.

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