NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980 Ti Video Card RoundupIt's hard to believe that the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980 Ti 6GB video card came out ago six months to the week, however, the card is still dominating on the performance front and more time than not it outperforms AMD’s flagship Radeon R9 Fury X 4GB video card. Over the past six months both AMD and NVIDIA have released a ton of drivers and a handful of great gaming titles came out during the holiday season. We thought it would be a great idea to start off the new year by looking at several GeForce GTX 980 Ti video cards in a small roundup with the latest drivers. We also wanted to include benchmark numbers on hot new game titles like Fallout 4 and Star Wars: Battlefront. Pretty much any NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980 Ti video card on the market today is going to be custom designed by the add-in board partners, so if you are looking for a high-end card like the GTX 980 Ti you'll be getting all the bells and whistles that one would expect from flagship cards. The bad news is that all of the cards are drastically different with respect to the board design, GPU cooler and most certainly the clock speeds. The three GeForce GTX 980 Ti 6GB video cards that we are going to be looking at today are the ASUS GeForce GTX 980 Ti 6GB STRIX Gaming, MSI GeForce GTX 980 Ti 6GB Gaming OC, and the Zotac GeForce GTX 980 Ti 6GB Amp! Extreme Edition. Each one of these cards are impressive in their own right as we'd expect nothing less when spending up to $700 for desktop gaming graphics card. We made a quick table (below) to show you some of the key differences between the cards on a high level.
|ASUS GTX 980 Ti STRIX||MSI GTX 980 Ti Gaming 6G||ZOTAC GTX 980Ti AMP!|
|Model Number||STRIX-GTX980Ti-DC3OC-6GD5||GTX 980TI GAMING 6G||ZT-90505-10P|
|GPU boost clock||1317MHz||1279MHz||1355MHz|
|GPU base clock||1216MHz||1178MHz||1253MHz|
|Texture Fillrate||214.0 GTexel/s||207.3 GTexel/s||220.5 GTexel/s|
|Memory clock||1800MHz (7200MHz)||1774MHz (7096MHz)||1855MHz (7220MHz)|
|Memory Bandwidth||345.6 GB/s||340.6 GB/s||346.6 GB/s|
|0dB Fanless Idle||Yes||Yes||Yes|
Closer Look - ASUS GTX 980 Ti STRIX OC 6GBThe ASUS STRIX GTX980 Ti 6GB Gaming OC video card features the usual black design with red accents and measures in at 304.8 x 152.4 x 40 mm in dimension. At 12-inches in length this card is fairly massive and you'll need to ensure that it will fit inside your case properly if you are using anything but a full tower gaming case. This card is also taller than normal, so you also might need to measure that if you have a case fan or something protruding out your side panel. The good news about this dual-slot card is that it actually only takes up two slots! The ASUS GeForce GTX 980 Ti 6GB STRIX OC has default GPU base clock of 1216MHz, a boost clock of 1317MHz (OC mode) or 1291MHz (gaming mode). The 6GB of GDDR5 memory on the card is clocked at an effective speed of 7200MHz. The STRIX GTX 980 Ti Gaming OC has a 14-phase (12+2) Super Alloy II Power design that should give you plenty of smooth power and minimal choke noise. In fact, this card had the least choke noise of the bunch. The ASUS DirectCU III GPU cooler features five copper heat pipes that directly contact with the GPU. Two of these are full length 10mm thick heat pipes that run the length of the heat sink to ensure the fastest transfer of heat away from the GPU. The three wing-blade fans on the STRIX GTX 980 Ti are 0db models, so they'll only spin up when the card reaches a certain operating temperature. ASUS says that they are quieter than the reference cards cooling fans and deliver 105% more airflow. In the photo above you can also make out the STRIX LED located on the top edge of the video card. You can enable or disable a pulsating light under the logo to your liking. Along the top edge of the ASUS STRIX GTX 980 Ti you'll find a pair of NVIDIA SLI multi-GPU interconnects for those that might want to combine one or more of these cards together for even greater performance. On the other end of the top edge of the PCB there are two rear-facing 8-pin PCIe power connectors for an additional 375W of power if the card ever needs it. ASUS recommends at least a 600W power supply for their NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980 Ti video card. The ASUS GTX 980 Ti 6GB STRIX OC comes with a backplate that helps prevents PCB bending over time. This model includes the STRIX GPU-Fortifier (the red bracket directly behind the GPU), which relieves physical stress around the GPU in order to protect it. ASUS went with three DisplayPort 1.2 outputs as well as single HDMI 2.0 and Dual-Link DVI-I when it comes to video outputs. ASUS includes a DVI to VGA adapter in the accessory bundle, so the STRIX-GTX980TI-DC3OC-6GD5-GAMING should be able to connect to pretty much any monitor that you own or that is coming out in the years ahead. Here you can better see the heat pipes that make up the DirectCU III GPU cooler. These heat pipes make direct contact with the GPU to ensure the best possible heat transfer. Let's take a look at the MSI GeForce GTX 980 Ti 6GB Gaming OC video card on the next page!
Closer Look - MSI GeForce GTX 980 Ti 6GB Gaming OCNext up we have the MSI GeForce GT 980 Ti Gaming 6GB! This is a dual-slot card that features the Twin Frozr V GPU cooler with high-density heatsinks, dual TORX 100mm cooling fans, and copper heatpipes that have been nickel-plated. The MSI GeForce GT 980 Ti Gaming 6GB has default GPU base clock of 1178MHz and a boost clock of 11279MHz. The 6GB of GDDR5 memory on the card is clocked at an effective speed of 7096MHz. If you install the MSI software you can also run it at lower clock speeds (gaming and silent). The MSI GeForce GT 980 Ti Gaming 6GB is the shortest card in the roundup at 269mm in length, so if you have a smaller case this could be the ideal card for you. MSI went with an 8+2 power phase design using SFC chokes, Hi-C speed caps, and Sinopower MOSFETs as part of the Military Class 4 components used on this card. The GPU cooler uses four copper heatpipes that help transfer the heat from the GPU to the two cooling fin arrays. The two double ball bearing fans on the card have are 0db models, so they'll only spin up when the card reaches a certain operating temperature. Along the top edge of the MSI GeForce GT 980 Ti Gaming 6GB you'll find a pair of NVIDIA SLI multi-GPU interconnects and two rear-facing 8-pin PCIe power connectors. With the 8-pin power design it means that this card can get 375 Watts of power from the system if it is needed. Note that MSI installed small heat sinks on critical power management components to help keep them cool below the power connectors. The back of the card has a full coverage black back plate with a cool looking dragon logo on it. MSI went with three DisplayPort 1.2 outputs as well as single HDMI 2.0 and one Dual-Link DVI-D header when it comes to video outputs. Here is a look at the bottom of the MSI GeForce GT 980 Ti Gaming 6GB video card.
Closer Look - Zotac GTX 980Ti AMP! 6GBThe last card in our 3-way GTX 980 Ti roundup is the ZOTAC GeForce GTX 980 Ti AMP! Extreme Edition 6GB model that is sold under part number ZT-90505-10P. This card comes clocked at 1253 MHz base with a 1355 MHz boost clock on the 2816 CUDA cores and the 6GB of GDDR5 memory is clocked at 7220 MHz effectively. This is the fastest of the three GeForce GTX 980 Ti cards that we are looking at in this roundup and it is most certainly the fastest GeForce GTX 980 Ti offered by Zotac. This card is also the largest of the group as it measures 12.25-inches in length! Zotac says this card is 12.92" long, but they must be going off the PCI bracket and we start our measurement from the back as it's the length inside the PC case that really matters. The GTX 980 Ti AMP! Extreme Edition has a nice look look to it and features a triple 90mm IceStorm GPU cooler with dual copper heat pipes and dual blade EKO fans. This card also has what Zotac calls a Carbon ExoArmor system. This means that the back plate that comes on the card wraps around the top, which is a bit unusual and adds to the visual appeal. Along the top edge of the GTX 980 TI AMP! Extreme Edition there are two NVIDIA SLI multi-GPU interconnects and two rear-facing 8-pin PCIe power connectors. The ZOTAC GeForce GTX 980 Ti AMP! comes with a full coverage black back plate, but it sticks out far enough to hit the memory slots on our test system motherboard causing it to not work in the primary PCIe Gen 3.0 x16 slot. We had to use the secondary PCIe Gen 3.0 x16 slot for testing on our ASUS P9X79 WS motherboard, which isn't a big deal for us, but might be on some system builds out there. In the middle of the card you can see the POWER BOOST module that is said to reduce ripple noise and minimizes power fluctuation resulting in smother power for higher clock speeds. The back plate also says 'Push The Limit' on it for some added flare. The back plate on the GeForce GTX 980 Ti AMP! Extreme Edition card uses a gigantic heat sink and the VRMs also have heatsinks on them. ZOTAC placed three DisplayPort 1.2 headers, one HDMI 2.0 port and a single Dual-Link DVI header on the rear panel of the card when it comes to video outputs. This card is thicker than two slots, so be prepared to give up three slots for this beast!
Test SystemBefore we look at the numbers, let's take a brief look at the test system that was used. All testing was done using a fresh install of Windows 10 Pro 64-bit and benchmarks were completed on the desktop with no other software programs running. There has been some concern of people testing a cold card versus a hot card, but we've always done out testing 'hot' since the site started back more than a decade ago. Video Cards & Drivers used for testing:
- AMD Crimson 15.12
- NVIDIA GeForce 361.43
Intel X79/LGA2011 PlatformThe Intel X79 platform that we used to test the all of the video cards was running the ASUS P9X79-E WS motherboard with BIOS 1704 that came out on 05/08/2015. We went with the Intel Core i7-4960X Ivy Bridge-E processor to power this platform as it is PCIe 3.0 certified, so all graphics cards are tested with PCI Express Gen 3 enabled. The Kingston HyperX 10th Anniversary 16GB 2400MHz quad channel memory kit was set to XMP Profile #2. This profile defaults to 2133MHz with 1.65v and 11-13-13-30 2T memory timings. The OCZ Vertex 460 240GB SSD was run with latest firmware available. A Corsair AX860i digital power supply provides clean power to the system and is also silent as the fan hardly ever spins up. This is critical to our testing as it lowers the ambient noise level of the room and gives us more accurate sound measurements. Here are the exact hardware components that we are using on our test system:
|The Intel X79 Test Platform|
|Processor||Intel Core i7-4960X|
ASUS P9X79-E WS
16GB Kingston 2133MHz
|Solid-State Drive||OCZ Vertex 460 240GB|
|Cooling||Intel TS13X (Asetek)|
|Power Supply||Corsair AX860i|
|Operating System||Windows 10 64-bit|
|Monitor||Sharp PN-K321 32" 4K|
|GPU base clock (MHz)||GPU boost clock (MHz)||Memory speed (MHz)||Idle GPU Voltage||Load GPU Voltage||Gaming GPU clock (MHz)|
|ASUS GeForce GTX 980 Ti STRIX OC 6GB||1216||1317||7200||0.861||1.193||1379.5 (+63)|
|MSI GeForce GTX 980 Ti Gaming 6GB||1178||1279||7096||0.881||1.199||1354.2 (+75)|
|Zotac GeForce GTX 980 Ti AMP! 6GB||1253||1355||7220||0.868||1.193||1442.8 (+88)|
Battlefield 4Battlefield 4 is a first-person shooter video game developed by EA Digital Illusions CE (DICE) and published by Electronic Arts. It is a sequel to 2011's Battlefield 3 and was released on October 29, 2013 in North America. Battlefield 4's single-player Campaign takes place in 2020, six years after the events of its predecessor. Tensions between Russia and the United States have been running at a record high. On top of this, China is also on the brink of war, as Admiral Chang, the main antagonist, plans to overthrow China's current government; and, if successful, the Russians will have full support from the Chinese, bringing China into a war with the United States. This game title uses the Frostbite 3 game engine and looks great. We tested Battlefield 4 with the Ultra graphics quality preset as most discrete desktop graphics cards can easily play with this IQ setting at 1080P and we still want to be able to push the higher-end cards down the road. We used FRAPS to benchmark with these settings on the Shanghai level. All tests were done with the DirectX 11 API. Benchmark Results: If you game on a 2560x1440P display and play BF4 the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980 Ti cards will get you close to 100 FPS averages with minimums that don't even come close to dipping below 60 FPS. The Zotac GeForce GTX 980 Ti AMP! Extreme Edition lead the pack of GT 980 Ti's since it had the highest clock speeds. Benchmark Results: When it comes to 4K Ultra HD gaming we found the GeForce GTX 980 Ti cards were averaging 50 FPS or close to it. The AMD Radeon R9 Fury X was a good 10 FPS slower with regards to minimum and average frame rates.
Fallout 4Fallout 4 is an open world action role-playing video game developed by Bethesda Game Studios and published by Bethesda Softworks. Fallout 4 is set in a post-apocalyptic Boston in the year 2287, 210 years after a devastating nuclear war, in which the player character emerges from an underground bunker known as a Vault. Gameplay is similar to Fallout 3. The title is the fifth major installment in the Fallout series and was released worldwide on November 10th, 2015. Fallout 4 was benchmarked with ultra image quality settings with TAA and 16x AF. These settings are tough for entry level discrete graphics cards, but are more than playable on high-end gaming graphics cards. V-Sync can't be disabled in the games options, so we edited the necessary INI files and disabled vsync in the driver software as well. We used FRAPS to benchmark Fallout 4 after you emerge from the vault and are in The Commonwealth. Benchmark Results: In Fallout 4 at 2560x1440 the GeForce GT 980 Ti cards and no issues handling our benchmark scene and were found to be nearly 25% faster than a stock AMD Radeon R9 Fury X 4GB reference card. Benchmark Results: When we increased the resolution to 3840x2160 for some 4K gaming goodness the performance on the GT 980 Ti's dropped down to around 50 FPS on average with the lows in the 30's.
Grand Theft Auto VGrand Theft Auto V, currently one of the hottest PC games, was finally released for the PC on April 14, 2015. Developed by Rockstar, it is set in 2013 and the city of Los Santos. It utilizes the Rockstar Advanced Game Engine (RAGE) which Rockstar has been using since 2006, with multiple updates for technology improvements. In Grand Theft Auto V we set the game to run with no MSAA with 16x AF and high image quality settings as we didn't want the GPU to bottleneck the system too bad, but wanted a setup that your average gamer would actually play on. We used the games built-in benchmark utility to have at least one game we used that could be compared to your setup at home. We averaged all the five of the default benchmark runs and omitted the maximum values as those results are garbage for some reason. Benchmark Results: After running the games built-in benchmark we found that the GeForce GTX 98o Ti had ~90 FPS averages and was easily able to outpace the GeForce GTX 970 and AMD Radeon R9 Fury X video cards that we tossed in for comparisons sake. Benchmark Results: The GeForce GT 980 Ti was averaging about 45 FPS in GTAV with the minimum frame rate dropping into the teens at some points at 4K resolutions. The AMD Radeon R9 Fury X finally showed up to do battle and posted respectable minimum frame rates that actually were better than two of the three GTX 980 Ti cards. Unfortentially, the Radeon R9 Fury X average FPS was still behind that of all three GTC 980 Ti video cards.
Star Wars: BattlefrontStar Wars: Battlefront is a series of first- and third-person shooter video games based on the Star Wars films. Players take the role of soldiers in either of two opposing armies in different time periods of the Star Wars universe. Star Wars: Battlefront is built on the Frostbite 3 engine. Thief is the fourth title in the Thief series, developed by Digital Illusions CE and published by EA DICE/Disney Interactive on November 17, 2015. We ran Star Wars: Battlefront with the image quality settings set at Ultra and VSYNC was disabled. We used FRAPS to benchmark with these settings on Battle on Tatooine. Benchmark Results: We were shocked to see how much a little extra clock speed on the GTX 980 Ti did for performance in Start Wars Battlefront, but we'll take it. The AMD Radeon R9 Fury X wasn't too much slower than the GTX 980 Ti, but it was still slower. Benchmark Results: The performance between the MSI GeForce GTX 980 TI and AMD Radeon R9 Fury X reference card was close, but on the higher clocked GTX 980 Ti cards you can see the performance gap widen.
3DMark 20133Dmark Fire Strike Benchmark Results - For high performance gaming PCs Use Fire Strike to test the performance of dedicated gaming PCs, or use the Fire Strike Extreme preset for high-end systems with multiple GPUs. Fire Strike uses a multi-threaded DirectX 11 engine to test DirectX 11 hardware.
Fire Strike Benchmark Results:
Benchmark Results: The 3DMark Fire Strike benchmark had the MSI GTX 980 Ti scoring 15,517 points the ASUS GTX 980 Ti scoring 15,903 and the Zotac GTX 980 Ti topping the chart at 16,333. The AMD Radeon R9 Fury X video card came in with an overall score of 13,617 and that wasn't enough to complete.Fire Strike Extreme Benchmark Results:
Benchmark Results: In 3DMark Fire Strike Extreme we see different scores, but basically the same scaling and performance results.
Temperature & Noise TestingSince gaming performance is basically a wash one of the most important things when picking out a GeForce GTX 980 Ti 6GB will be the noise, temperature and power consumption numbers and the temperatures and noise levels on these cards does vary greatly. ASUS GeForce GTX 980 Ti 6GB STRIX Gaming Idle and Load Temps: MSI GeForce GTX 980Ti Gaming 6GB Idle and Load Temps: Zotac GeForce GTX 980 Ti AMP! Extreme Edition Idle and Load Temps: When it comes to temperatures all three cards didn't have the fans spinning at idle and were around 50C. When we started gaming all the fans kicked on a few seconds later and kept the cards from overheating. When it comes to peaking gaming temperatures during a 30 minute gaming session on each card in an open test system the massive cooler on the Zotac GeForce GTX 980 Ti kept that particular model from exceeding 69C, but we should note that the fan was the loudest and was 'sluggish' to get going. For some reason the fan surges a few times before kicking in and staying on when gaming. The GPU cooler on the MSI GTX 980 Ti was solid and the GPU ran just 2C hotter than the Zotac card. The ASUS GTX 980 Ti card that we are testing hit 78C, which was the hottest of the group, but still a respectable temperature and low enough not to impact gaming performance.
We test noise levels with an Extech sound level meter that has ±1.5dB accuracy that meets Type 2 standards. This meter ranges from 35dB to 90dB on the low measurement range, which is perfect for us as our test room usually averages around 36dB. We measure the sound level two inches above the corner of the motherboard with 'A' frequency weighting. The microphone wind cover is used to make sure no wind is blowing across the microphone, which would seriously throw off the data.All of the GeForce GTX 980 Ti cards have no fans spinning at idle, so the idle noise is the same on all of the cards. The only reason the system is above ambient noise levels is due to CPU's water cooler fans and pump noise. The Zotac GeForce GTX 980 Ti AMP! Extreme Edition is hands down the loudest of the three GTX 980 Ti cards, the ASUS GTX 980 Ti Strix Gaming was the queitest and the MSI GTX 980 Ti was right in the middle. None of the cards are obnoxiously loud by any means, but you'll certainly hear the Zotac model inside your case while gaming, so hopefully that won't bother you. ** The AMD Radeon R9 Fury X reference card that we are using was the original model with a loud water pump that whines. AMD changed the pump design before the cards hit the retail market, but wasn't willing to replace ours. We expect retail cards to perform quieter for this and hopefully AMD will send us a replacement card for proper noise testing. **