The final piece needed to get our In Win D-Frame Mini build together was a powerful video card that runs cool, quiet, and matches the red and black theme of the build. For a short while I ran a reference GTX 980 but quickly switched to the Asus GTX 980 Strix. Well today I’m going to take a closer look at the card to see what it Is all about, how it performs, and how well it overclocks. Going off previous Strix reviews we can expect it to run well and stand out in the noise department as well assuming the Strix cooler can keep the GTX 980 running cool.

Product Name: Asus GTX 980 Strix

Review Sample Provided by: Asus

Written by: Wes

Pictures by: Wes

 

Specifications

Graphics Engine

NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980

Bus Standard

PCI Express 3.0

Video Memory

GDDR5 4GB

Engine Clock

GPU Boost Clock : 1279 MHz

GPU Base Clock : 1178 MHz

CUDA Core

2048

Memory Clock

7010 MHz ( MHz GDDR5 )

Memory Interface

256-bit

Interface

DVI Output : Yes x 1 (DVI-I)

HDMI Output : Yes x 1 (HDMI 2.0)

Display Port : Yes x 3 (Regular DP)

HDCP Support : Yes

Power Consumption

up to 300Wadditional 6+8 pin PCIe power required

Accessories

1 x Power cable

Software

ASUS GPU Tweak & Driver

Dimensions

11.36 " x 5.3 " x 1.61 " Inch

28.86 x 13.44 x4.09 Centimeter

 


Packaging

The packaging for the GTX 980 Strix is similar to the GTX 960 Strix that I just covered but the vox for the 980 is a lot larger. The cover has the same mechanical looking owl in the background. Asus kept the branding simple with small Asus and Strix logos up in the top left corner. The bottom right corner has the standard Nvidia branding that shows the model name and runs around to the side of the box as well. Asus did include a drawing of the DiretCU II cooling on the cover. Then down along the bottom there are badges showing that this is an overclocked card, has 4GBs of ram, DIGI+ power, and that this is a 0dB card. Onn the back of the packaging there is a photo of the card itself along with the same cooling photo from the front. Here they write a little sections about the cooling, DIGI+ VRM, and the included GPU Tweak software. You get a full specification listing as well as a line drawing of the rear connections to help you make sure the GTX 980 Strix is going to fit in your build and hook up to your monitors without extra trips to the store.

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Inside there is a second box, this time around it It just has a gold embossed Asus logo on the top. Inside when you open things up there is yet another box, this time for accessories. Under that box there is a foam tray with a cutout that fits the GTX 980 Strix perfectly. To keep it safe the card is also wrapped up in a static protective bag. The back of the card also came covered in a

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For documentation you get a small user guide as well as the driver/software disc. You get a power adapter cable as well. They also include a small bag with a few small metal plates inside. This is unique to some of the Strix cards, Asus gives you the option to trim the card out in black or red trim to help match your build.

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Card Layout and Photos

The Asus GTX 980 Strix looks a lot like the two other Strix cards I have taken a look at in the past, only larger. This means you get the angular fan shroud and the somewhat tribal looking designs on the fans and in between the fans (that you apply yourself in your choice of colors). Unlike the GTX 960 and the GTX 750ti this Strix card’s fan shroud is made out of a thick aluminum giving the card a very solid feel. The backplate helps with that as well giving the card a well build/quality feel when you handle it.

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The GTX 980 Strix is designed with Asus’s DirectCU II cooling. This means they run heatpipes from all across the heatsink to directly on top of the GPU. This is similar to CPU heatsinks that have the heatpipes touching the CPU. This direct contact design helps pull the heat away as quickly as possible. The heatpipes (one up top and three on the bottom of the card) spread the heat out across the heatsink for more efficient cooling. This way you don’t have a single hot spot. The cooling then uses the two large fans by blowing air down onto the heatsink and then out the bottom, top, and ends of the card. This is the best way to get high end cooling. Using a design similar to the reference design is great for keeping the hot air out of your case but there is a limited amount of room so the heatsink surface area is small. Speaking of that, as you can see, the GTX 980 Strix is a tall card, Asus extended the cooling over an inch taller than the top of the PCI slot, so fitment in skinny cases could be an issue.

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Up along the top edge of the card there might not be a GTX 980 logo but you do get a Strix logo. It is machined and does not light up or do anything special.

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I love the two different trim options that Asus gives you. The badges go in between the two fans. I was a little up in the air for our build because we were going for a black and red theme so both options looked good but I ended up going with the black. Here is a shot of the reds sitting in place to give you an idea of what they would look like as well.

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Being Nvidia’s flagship card you do get two SLI bridge connections. This way you can run up to four GTX 980 Strix’s together.

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For power the FTX 980 Strix requires an 8-pin connection as well as a 6-pin. Between the two there is more than enough power to cover the cards TDP of 165 watts. Asus installed both plugs backwards so the lips face away from the heatsink. This should prevent any cuts when unplugging them and it also means they have more room for the heatsink to make it as large as possible. Asus also slipped in small LEDs under each connection. These will light up red if your computer has power and the cable isn’t plugged in and green if it is plugged in. It is a small detail but it is nice to have a visual conformation that you have the power cables hooked up correctly.

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For the back of the GTX 980 Strix Asus did cover the entire PCB with a large backpanel made of aluminum. We can see the four screws needed to quickly remove the DirectCU cooling. They also put holes in the backpanel to give it good ventilation to help keep things cool. It also has the Asus logo as well as the DirectCU logo. I would have preferred it to say GTX 980 or something similar to show off what you have in your computer but they at least put it on upside down so that when you have the card installed it is readable.

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Back on the PCI slot cover we have a whole selection of connection options on the GTX 980 Strix. You get one DVI, one HDMI, and three DisplayPort connections. The HDMI and DisplayPorts are both full sized connections to make finding cables the easiest.

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The blacked out GTX 980 Strix went so well in our D-Frame Mini build that at first glance a lot of people don’t even see it.

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Our Test Rig and Procedures

Our Test Rig

CPU

Intel i7-3960X

Live Pricing

Memory

Corsair Vengeance 1600 MHz DDR3 RAM Quad Channel  (4x4GB)

Live Pricing

Motherboard

Asus Rampage IV X79 Motherboard 

Live Pricing

Cooling

Intel Active Thermal Solution RTS2011LC

Live Pricing

Power Supply

Cooler Master Gold Series 1200 Watt PSU

Live Pricing

Storage

Kingston Hyper X 120 SSD

Seagate Constellation 2tb Hard drive 

Live Pricing

Live Pricing

Case

High Speed PC Test Bench

Live Pricing

Our Testing Procedures

Bioshock Infinite

Using the Adrenaline Action Benchmark Tool we run Bioshock Infinite on the “Xtreme” quality setting. This has a resolution of 1920x1080, FXAA turned on, Ultra Texture detail, 16x Aniso Texture Filtering, Ultra Dynamic Shadows, Normal Postprocessing, Light Shafts on, Ambient Occlusion set to ultra, and the Level of Detail set to Ultra as well. We also run this same test at 2560x1440 using the same settings as mentioned above.

Tomb Raider

Using the Adrenaline Action Benchmark Tool we run Tomb Raider on the “Xtreme” quality setting. This has a resolution of 1920x1080, Exclusive Fullscreen turned on, Anti-Aliasing set to 2xSSAA, Texture Quality set to Ultra, Texture Aniso set to 16x Aniso, Hair Quality set to TressFX, Shadow set to Normal, Shadow Resolution on High, Ultra SSAO, Ultra Depth of Field, High Reflection quality, Ultra LOD scale, Post Processing On, High Precision RT turned on, and Tessellation is also turned on.  We also run this same test at 2560x1440 using the same settings as mentioned above.

Hitman: Absolution

Using the Adrenaline Action Benchmark Tool we run Hitman: Absolution on the “Xtreme” quality setting other than the MSAA setting is turned down from 8x to 2x. That setting puts the resolution at 1920x1080, MSAA is set to 2x, Texture Quality is set to High, Texture Aniso is set to 16x, Shadows are on Ultra, SSA is set to high, Global Illumination is turned on, Reflections are set to High, FXAA is on, Level of Detail is set to Ultra, Depth of Field is high, Tessellation is turned on, and Bloom is set to normal. We also run this same test at 2560x1440 using the same settings as mentioned above, except on the “high” setting.

Sleeping Dogs

Using the Adrenaline Action Benchmark Tool we run Sleeping Dogs on the “Xtreme” quality setting. That means our resolution is set to 1920x1080, Anti-Aliasing is set to Extreme, Texture Quality is set to High-Res, Shadow Quality is High, Shadow Filter is set to high, SSAO is set to High, Motion Blur Level is set to High, and World Density is set to Extreme. We also run this same test at 2560x1440 using the same settings as mentioned above.

F1 2013

We use the built in benchmark for F1 2013. We set our resolution to 1920x1080 and then use the “Ultra” setting.

Total War: ROME II

Ultra setting tested at 1920x1080 and 2560x1440, built in forest benchmark

Crysis 2

Using Adrenaline Crysis 2 benchmark.  1080p, 4x Anti-Aliasing, DX11, Laplace Edge Detection Edge AA, on the Times Square map, with hi res textures turned on.

Sniper Elite 3

Ultra setting tested at 1920x1080 and 2560x1440, built in benchmark

GRID Autosport

Ultra setting tested at 1920x1080 and 2560x1440, built in benchmark

Metro Last Light

Using the included benchmark tool. The settings are set to 1920x1080, DirectX 11, quality is set to very high, Texture filtering is untouched at 4x, and motion blue is set to normal. SSAA is unselected, PhysX is unselected, Tessellation is off. We run through scene D6 three times to get an average score.

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Tested using the “Very High” setting at 1920x1080 and 2560x1440

3DMark

The same goes for the most current version of 3DMark using the Fire Strike benchmark in normal, extreme, and ultra settings

Unreal Heaven Benchmark 4.0

Using the “Extreme” preset

Unreal Heaven Benchmark 4.0 heat testing

We run through Unreal Heaven using the “Extreme” preset for 30 minutes to test in game cooling performance.

Power Usage

Using Unreal Heaven Benchmark 4.0, we get our “load” power usage number from the peak power usage during our test. We get our numbers from a Kill-A-Watt connected to the test benches power cord.

Noise Testing

Our Noise testing is done using a decibel meter 3 inches away from the video card on the bottom/fan side of the card. We test an idle noise level and then to get an idea of how loud the card will get if it warms all the way up we also turn the fan speed up to 50% and 100% and test both speeds as well. The 100% test isn’t a representation of typical in game noise levels, but it will show you how loud a card can be if you run it at its highest setting or if it gets very hot.

 

 


Synthetic Benchmarks

To start off our testing of the GTX 980 Strix I went with our Synthetic Benchmark suite. This consists of three different tests in 3DMark and the Unigine Heaven Benchmark 4.0. In  3DMark I run the card through the Performance, Extreme, and Ultra settings. This covers 1080p, 1440p, and 4k resolutions. So how did the GTX 980 Strix perform? Well In all three of the 3DMark Fire Strike benchmarks it is right at the top of the charts. That isn’t a huge shock with the reference GTX 980 also up right below it but what impressed me was just how much of a jump the overclock gave the Strix, especially in the Extreme and Performance tests. In Heaven Benchmark 4.0 the two GTX 780’s pulled ahead, but that is two cards just barely out performing a single card.

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In-Game Benchmarks

So synthetic benchmarks are nice to compare from card to card but if you are like me you are looking at this card because you want to play games with it. 3DMark scores don’t really show how well a card will perform in game. So I ran the GTX 980 Strix through our in game benchmark suite that consists of 9 different games currently. All but one of those games were benchmarked at both 1440p and 1080p so we can see just how well the Strix will perform as you upgrade your monitor. So how well did the card perform? Well in most of our tests it was at the top by a large margin. There were a few games where the R9 290 still performed slightly better (games that tend to favor AMD) and a few where we had GTX 780 and GTX 770 SLI configurations ahead as well. There was also a single test that had the reference GTX 980 ahead as well, I can only assume that shows the variance that in game benchmarks can sometimes have. As a whole the GTX 980 Strix dominated 1080p testing with 9/9 benchmarks having at least 60FPS with most up in the mid 100’s and the highest being 171 FPS in Sniper Elite 3. In 1440p testing things were a little lower with 5/8 being over 30 FPS but less than 60 FPS. Most of those were up very close to 60 FPS with numbers like 57. The other 3/8 performed over 60 FPS as well showing that even at 1440p with the settings turned completely up the GTX 980 Strix can still power through.

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Cooling, Noise, and Power

So the overclock helps the Strix pull ahead in a lot of our performance testing, but how has Asus handled keeping it cool. Does the Strix run cool but is noisy because of it? Does the overclock pull more power? To start things off let’s take a look at the idle and load power usage of the GTX 980 Strix. Being a high end card I wasn’t shocked to see it up in the top half of the card tested. What is really cool to see is that even with an overclock it is still pulling less than the GTX 780 and in line with overclock versions of the GTX 670 and the GTX 760. It does pull 20 watts more than the reference GTX 980 but having seen the performance numbers I would say it was worth it. Idle power usage is a little higher as well but still in line with any modern day cards.

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Is the GTX 980 Strix going to drive you insane with noise? Well the short answer is no not at all. At lower usage and temperatures both of the fans turn off and the card actually runs completely silent. It isn’t until you really push it that the fans even turn on. When they do turn on you can expect it to be quiet unless you decide to turn up the fan speeds yourself. At 100% fan speed it is in the middle of the pack for noise output, 50% testing is similar as well but like I said I don’t think the card even hit 50% fan speed in my testing at all.

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Okay so it is one of the fastest cards I have tested and it turns its fans off at low usage it has to run hot right? Well actually it runs 14 degrees lower than the reference card and sits in the middle of cards like the HD 7790 and the R7 260X for temperature performance while in game. Asus did a great job with the cooler on the Strix.

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Overclocking

While the GTX 980 Strix comes with a nice overclock right from Asus. I’m not one to leave things alone. I ran the card through our standard overclock testing to get an idea of how well it overclocks. What that means is I broke testing up into GPU overclocking, Memory overclocking, and then after that run the highest results from both together to see if the card can handle it. All the while I run through a 3DMark 11’s second test to confirm that the overclock is somewhat stable and to give us an average FPS to see the improvement the overclock gives you. The GTX 980 Strix has a GPU clock speed of 1279 stock so I jumped way ahead and started my overclocking with a 1400MHZZ with good luck then again at 1500MHz with good luck. From there I couldn’t get anything to pass so as it turns out my 1500MHz guess was spot on.

For memory testing I get a little more nervous and increase my overclocks slower to prevent damage. Stock was 7100MHz but from there I kept bumping things up until it failed at 8250Mhz. That put my peak memory overclock at 8200MHz. From there I went to combined testing but my initial run failed. I dropped the memory down but that didn’t fix it. Taking the GPU down to 1490MHz did it though. In the end I went from an average stock FPS of 81.76 up to 94.84. Without the memory overclock you would still see over 94 FPS as well so if you want to push your card without dealing with pushing the memory you can still see great improvements.

GPU Clock Speed Overclocking

GPU Clock Speed

Pass/Fail

FPS Result

Notes

1279MHz

Pass

81.76

Stock

1400MHz

Pass

90.14

 

1500MHz

Pass

94.45

 

1550MHz

Failed

N/A

Driver Crash

1520MHz

Failed

N/A

Driver Crash

1510MHz

Failed

N/A

Driver Crash

Memory Clock Offset Overclocking

Memory Clock Speed

Pass/Fail

FPS Result

Notes

7100MHz

Pass

81.76

Stock

7300MHz

Pass

82.00

 

7600MHz

Pass

82.16

 

7900MHz

Pass

82.49

 

8000MHZ

Pass

82.75

 

8100MHz

Pass

83.09

 

8200MHz

Pass

82.83

 

8250MHz

Failed

82.53

Artifacts

GPU and Memory Overclocks Together

GPU Clock Speed

Memory Clock Speed

FPS Result

Notes

1500MHz

8200MHz

N/A

Driver Crash

1500MHz

8100MHz

N/A

Driver Crash

1490MHz

8100MHz

94.84

 

 


Overall and Final Verdict

Coming into this review I had fairly high expectations because all of the Strix cards I have tested have performed very well. Add to that the numbers I saw with our original GTX 980 review I expected the GTX 980 Strix to impress and impress it did. As expected the 0dB mode meant silent running a good portion of the time. When the fan did kick on everything ran very cool when gaming putting the GTX 980 Strix down in with much lower performance cards as far as temperatures. The rest of the performance numbers are just as impressive with the Strix out performing nearly everything we have tested in the past with the exception of a few high end SLI configurations. What I liked the most about the card though was the all metal design. Asus used a metal fan shroud along with a backplate. Together they give the Strix a solid feel and protect the card VERY well.

Really the only issue I had with the GTX 980 Strix was with the height of the cooler. While most cases can fit anything, I know there are a few cases like Corsairs Carbide Air 540. Cases like the 540 need a standard height video card and frankly finding a good card that isn’t an inch taller than the PCI slot cover is getting harder and harder.

So if you are on the market for a GTX 980 is the Strix the card to go for? Well for starters currently this is actually one of the cheapest cards you can get so that is a major plus. For me it is the cooling performance and the 0dB design that really sets the Strix apart though. I personally don’t want my computer to sound like a wind tunnel, especially when I’m not in game.

fv4tophonorseditorschoice

Author Bio
garfi3ld
Author: garfi3ldWebsite: http://lanoc.org
Editor-in-chief
You might call him obsessed or just a hardcore geek. Wes's obsession with gaming hardware and gadgets isn't anything new, he could be found taking things apart even as a child. When not poking around in PC's he can be found playing League of Legends, Awesomenauts, or Civilization 5 or watching a wide variety of TV shows and Movies. A car guy at heart, the same things that draw him into tweaking cars apply when building good looking fast computers. If you are interested in writing for Wes here at LanOC you can reach out to him directly using our contact form.

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garfi3ld replied the topic: #36240 06 Feb 2015 17:29
Happy Friday everyone. Today I take a look at the GTX 980 Strix from Asus. I've really liked the silent running mode on previous Strix models, will the 980 perform as well?

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