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NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980 Ti Review

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Category: Video Cards
Price: $649
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NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980 Ti Introduction:

Ten months ago we saw the launch of the GTX 980. Two months ago we got a look at the latest halo card in NVIDIA's Maxwell-based product stack, and can see that NVIDIA got us interested with the GTX 980, then slammed the proverbial door on any of the single GPU cards in AMD's aging product stack. Now we finally get our hands on the card everyone knew had to come out of the skunk works at NVIDIA: the GTX 980 Ti! While the GTX Titan X is the card to have to futureproof your gaming system with 12GB of GDDR5 memory and 3072 CUDA cores to handle the load when making the switch to 4K gaming and rolling in upcoming VR tech. So how does that pan out when you chop 6GB, two streaming multiprocessors, and 256 Cuda cores out of the equation? That's what we are here to find out boys and girls.

Today the latest card from NVIDIA, the GTX 980 Ti, comes to fruition and is finally available to the gaming public. Cards will be available from most of the AIB partners, with prices starting at $649 for reference cards, like the one I am looking at today.

Built on NVIDIA's GM200 Maxwell architecture, the GTX 980 Ti has its core count reduced and GDDR5 memory capacity cut in half to offer a better price point for the upper end Maxwell parts. Rolling out the door with a base core clock of 1000MHz, a GPU Boost clock speed of 1075MHz, and 6GB of 7Gbps GDDR5 memory running through a 384-bit bus, the GTX 980 Ti should prove to offer a solid performance when compared to the GTX 980, GTX 780 Ti, and R9 290X.

NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980 Ti Closer Look:

NVIDIA's Maxwell architecture has been out for quite some time now and has become a proven product that delivers improvements in power efficiency as well as a big leap forward in performance. The GTX 980 Ti comes to us with a cut down version of the GM200 core, utilizing six Graphics Processing Clusters. Five of the six GPCs house four Maxwell streaming multiprocessors for a total of 22 instead of the 24 seen on the full implementation of GM200. Each GPC has a total of four Maxwell Streaming Multiprocessors units, each with a Polymorph engine, 128 CUDA cores, and eight texture units. A 384-bit bus consisting of six 64-bit memory controllers are used to manage a total of 6GB of Hynix 7000MHz rated GDDR5. Each of the memory controllers comes equipped with 16 ROPs and 512KB of L2 cache.

Adding it all up you get 2816 single precision CUDA cores, a unified shared 3072KB of L2 cache, 96 ROPs, and 176 texture units. NVIDIA's Maxwell GM200 based silicon is built on a mature 28nm process housing a total of eight billion transistors under the lid. Delivered clock speeds on this GM200-based core miiror those of the GTX Titan X, using a 1000MHz base core clock speed on the core with a GPU Boosted clock speed of 1075MHz, although the boost speed can push higher depending on the load, temperature, and power limits.

Built on a mature process, NVIDIA has delivered performance and efficiency with its Maxwell-based cards. The GTX 980 Ti is a scaled down version that puts it in a perfect price performance envelope that should prove wildly appealing with the performance it delivers. While the core has been tweaked for that price/performance point, the memory subsystems see improvements in bandwidth via improved memory compression techniques used to reduce the memory bandwidth needs. Using new third-generation lossless Delta Color compression algorithms, you see a benefit as data is written to and from the GDDR5 memory at up to an 8:1 ratio depending on the size of the pixel block being written. This results in Maxwell needing 25% less bytes of data than a comparable Kepler core to deliver the same bandwidth offering significant bandwidth improvements. The image below shows the full implementation of the GM200 core as a reference.

 

The first look of the card lets you know that the aesthetics do not change much with the introduction of the GTX 980 Ti. It carries a silver colored magnesium cover with a poly-carbonate window showing the fins of the vapor chamber-based cooling solution. It's a rugged industrial look that has been in place on NVIDIA's enthusiast level line up since the GTX 690 was introduced. It's a look that so far has continued to impress. The blower style fan is dynamically controlled so that the noise profile of the card is minimized while still keeping the GM200 core well under the thermal design limits of the architecture. The back side of the GTX 980 Ti is covered in surface mount components, with a few HiC capacitors over the core to improve voltage stability to the eight billion transistors that make up the GM200 core. Where the GTX 980 had a unique back plate, the GTX 980 Ti is sans backing plate. At 10.5 inches in length, the form factor of NVIDIA's enthusiast lineup has not changed much. The GTX 980 Ti and the cooling solution make this a two-slot card to be used in a PCIe 3.0 slot.

 

 

The I/O section of the card matches what we saw on the GTX Titan X and includes three full size DisplayPort 1.2 ports, a single HDMI 2.0 port, and a single Dual-Link DVI port. The HDMI 2.0 port supports resolutions up to 4K natively with a refresh rate of 60Hz. The maximum resolution supported by the DisplayPort connections is increased to a much larger 5120x3200 at 60Hz. There are a total of five ports and seven links onboard that allow the end user to use any four of the connections simultaneously.

The use of the trio of DisplayPort connections with G-SYNC ready monitors, such as the ASUS ROG Swift PG278Q, allows you to take advantage of NVIDIA's G-SYNC technology to eliminate the screen tearing and lag that occurs with running with V-sync on or off with refresh rate that scale up to 144Hz. The I/O panel grill is visually appealing with improved functionality that uses the improved air flow rate to dump the thermal load out the back of the chassis. The back end of the card features an opening that allows airflow to be pulled into the fan through a small heat sink over the VRM section of the card that houses the 6+2 phase VRM circuit at the back end of the PCB.

 

 

Power connectivity for the GTX 980 Ti is a combination of a single 6-pin and 8-pin PCIe power connection. This arrangement is used to supply the card with up to 300 watts of power. This is more than the 250 watt board power design and more than the 275 watt potential when overclocking and running up against the 110% power limit imposed on the card. By using power balancing technology, NVIDIA ensures that no one rail is overloaded by monitoring the load and balancing it across all three power inputs.

The GTX 980 Ti has a 250W TDP leading NVIDIA to recommend usage of the card with a 600 watt power supply. The efficiency improvements of the Maxwell GPU design pay dividends in this arena. Keep in mind that the 600 watt recommendation is for a single card equipped system and that as you scale up performance with multiple GPUs, the power supply will need to be increased accordingly. The two bridge connections allow you to connect up to four cards in a multi-GPU SLI configuration by using a motherboard that supports the use of up to four cards. One that comes to mind on the Intel side of the fence is the Rampage V Extreme from ASUS.

 

 

Pulling that beautiful cover off of the GTX 980 Ti allows us to get deep into the innards to see what this card is made of. What you get is at its core a design that really does not change much. Change is good at some point, but why worry when you have a great looking design that just works. The cover ducts the airflow intake from the fan and sends it through a vapor chamber-based heat sink package that dumps the rated 250W TDP load out through the back of the chassis. An aluminum heat sink is used to cover and cool the 6+2 phase power system as well as serve to keep the PCB from flexing. By using this design, NVIDIA can keep the components cooler to deliver the high end gaming performance this card is capable of delivering for the long term. Surrounding the GM200 GPU are 12 GDDR5 memory modules that flesh out the 6GB of 7Gbps memory used on the GTX 980 Ti.

 

 

With the performance specs on the GTX 980 Ti, we should see performance results that are fairly close to those of the GTX Titan X. If that holds true and we see the same kind of overclocking, then this card should become the next gotta have it card that more users can afford thanks to the $649 price point.




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