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NVIDIA GTX 980 Review

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NVIDIA GTX 980 Conclusion:

And there you have it. As a whole the GTX 980 is a pretty interesting piece of hardware. On several fronts it is truly an amazing piece of hardware. Visually the reference GTX 980 maintains the industrial look that works so well with just about any build, be it small form factor or a full on multi GPU SLI configuration in a full size tower ready for use with a trio of G-SYNC monitors.

From a performance perspective the GTX 980 has some positives and very few negatives. In games that can use the additional memory bandwidth, we can see decent performance scaling and margins over the GTX 780 Ti, and an even wider gap when compared to the R9 290X. The 3DMark results point to a card that is going to rewrite the record books by this weekend, if not tonight. Overall you do get a higher level of performance, but in some games the margin is almost non-existent over the GTX 780 TI. With base clock speeds of 1126MHz on the GM204 core that hits 1216MHz under Turbo Boost 2.0 speeds, and 1750MHz on the 4GB of GDDR5 memory, the GTX 980 comes right out of the gate with a pretty strong baseline performance level.

Overclocking with a baseline clock speed that high might lead you to the conclusion the architecture is tapped out, but you would be oh so terribly wrong. It's just the starting point for a card that, with very little tweaking, will run up and over 1400MHz on the core and hit right around the 2000MHz mark (8000MHz effective) on the memory. My sample card, with a small boost in core voltage, allowed me to run maximum clock speeds of 1469MHz on the core and 1979MHz on the GDDR5 memory fully stable; the two highest clock speeds I have ever reached on a video card on air or otherwise. With more voltage available I did not fully explore the maximum, but suffice to say there is more left in the card depending on how you overclock and manage the thermals. That boost in clock speed was good for almost 1000 points above the GTX 780 Ti in 3DMark using the Extreme preset.

As far as gaming performance is concerned, the GTX 980 can play pretty much any game out today running a resolution of 2560x1440. With a compromise in settings, the card can run 3840x2160 without a hitch, especially when using NVIDIA's upcoming MFAA (Multi Frame Anti-Aliasing) technology to be available in an upcoming driver release. Overclocking will surely add to the performance metrics if you take the time to maximize the core clock speeds.

Cooling this savage beast is not really an issue using the 250 watt rated reference cooling solution. The lower 165 watt TDP of the card makes it an appealing purchase that does not require you to break the bank and splurge on a 1000 watt power supply. You can easily get by on a power supply rated at just half that at 500 watts. With less power comes heat to absorb, as the card is as quiet as can be, even when under load.

Priced at $549, the GTX 980 cuts the legs out from the GTX 780 Ti and is squarely in AMD's price point of its flagship single GPU card, the R9 290X, at $559. That's OK on the NVIDIA side, though, as we found out today that the introduction of the GTX 980 and GTX 970 harkens the death knell of the GTX 780 Ti, GTX 780, and GTX 770, putting them effectively EOL. That's end of life, if you need to know.

The GTX 980, as I said, is an interesting piece of hardware using a highly efficient architecture to drive power efficiency way up and thermal loads in the opposite direction. It is poised to take NVIDIA into the next era with technologies that enhance game play for the end user and performance to spare.

 

Pros:

  • Overclocking (damn)
  • Power consumption
  • New technologies
  • Cooling
  • Low noise
  • Good looks 
  • Pricing

 

Cons:

  • Sideways move if you have a GTX 780 Ti


 

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