You might be wondering what I’m doing posting on a Sunday night but with Computex starting in Taiwan there are a ton of things getting announced or about to get announced. You see a lot of people think that CES is the big event each year for PC hardware but CES is really for consumer electronics where Computex has more of a focus on PC hardware. So with that Nvidia has stepped up and is introducing their GTX 980 Ti. While the launch is exciting, it is a little surprising to see them launch now, before AMD launches their 300 Series cards. Typically companies leave an ace in the hole so Nvidia must be really confident that AMD doesn’t have what it takes to outperform the GTX 980 Ti. While we won’t know that until AMD launches their cards, what we can do today is run the GTX 980 Ti through our benchmark suite and see just how it compares to what is available today.
Product Name: Nvidia GTX 980 Ti
Review Sample Provided by: Nvidia
Written by: Wes
Pictures by: Wes
Amazon Link: HERE
|Model||GTX 980 Ti||GTX Titan X||GTX 980||GTX 780 Ti|
|Base Clock||1000MHz||1000MHz||1126MHz||875 MHz|
|Boost Clock||1075MHz||1075MHz||1216MHz||928 MHz|
|Memory Clock||7GHz GDDR5||7GHz GDDR5||7GHz GDDR5||7GHz GDDR5|
|Memory Bus Width||384-bit||384-bit||256-bit||384-bit|
So let’s recap what we have going on in the stats for the GTX 980 Ti. For starters we know that basically the GTX 980 Ti is a cut down Titan X. It shares the same GPU with the GM200. The 980 Ti does have a few less CUDA cores though with 2816 vs the Titan X’s 3072. This is still a huge jump over the GTX 980 for CUDA cores and basically in line with what the older GTX 780 Ti had. Surprisingly the base and boost clocks are exactly the same as the Titan X and with that the 250 watt TDP is the same as well. We have the same 384-bit memory bus that is a step up from the GTX 980 but to keep costs down we get 6 gigs of vRAM over the Titan X’s monster 12 gigs. So the short version is basically this is a Titan X but with a few less CUDA cores and half the vRAM.
With the GTX 980 Ti replacing the GTX 980 as the top non-titan card it does change their pricing structure just slightly. Basically the Titan-X stays at its launch price of $999, the GTX 980 Ti comes in with an MSRP of $649 and the GTX 980 drops in price from its launch MSRP of $549 down to $499 making it a better value. The GTX 980 Ti does also get a free copy of Batman: Arkham Knight included as well to help with its price. When you consider where the Titan X is price wise the GTX 980 Ti isn’t too bad, but until we see performance numbers I can’t be to sure on that one.
Nvidia At Computex
Being such a big event Nvidia did also introduce a few other things as well. For starters, with Windows 10 on its way Nvidia spent a lot of time going over the work they have putting in on DirectX 12.1 for Nvidia cards. Specifically they talked about GM2xx series cards, like the GTX 980 Ti, supporting a feature called Volume Tiled Resources. Volume Tiled Resources breaks in game textures down into tiles, figures out what tiles will be needed, then loads them into video memory. Doing this allows for higher fidelity graphics while using less memory.
They also covered Conservative Raster, a feature that is required for DirectX 12.1. Basically this is a more accurate method for determining if a pixel is covered or not. In the photo below you can see that in the triangle with conservative raster turned off there are a lot of boxes that the triangle lines go through but don’t go through enough for it to turn the pixel on. They do this because it takes more computing for the video card to figure it out in more detail. Now there will be support for conservative raster with hardware acceleration allowing for it to be used more. A good example of the difference is in the second photo below where they show ray traced shadows with it on an off as well as a standard shadow.
Nvidia is also introducing new tech for VR as well. In the past when using a VR headset the GPU renders everything just like it would on a normal screen, then everything is processed again to stretch everything out so that when you view it with the VR headset on it looks normal. Well Nvidia figured out that the fisheye like stretching that they do in post processing means the middle of the screen hardly changes. So they found a way to render everything all at once rather than post processing the VR stretch. By doing this they have greatly increased the performance when using VR.
I think the feature that was introduced that I like the most was the introduction of windowed mode G-Sync support. In the past G-Sync only worked if you ran your games in full screen. With the driver introduced along with the GTX 980 Ti you can now get G-Sync in windowed mode. This is huge for me because I game on a G-Sync monitor but hate running in full screen in my games because I tab out a lot when doing things on my other monitors.
Also in G-Sync news is the introduction of G-Sync for laptops. Nvidia along with a whole list of partners will be releasing a bunch of gaming laptops that now have G-Sync built right in.
Card Layout and Photos
Before I get into the card itself I wanted to include a few photos of the packaging that the card came in. The GTX 980 shipped in a similar box but this one included an Nvidia Claw logo on the side as well.
So unlike the Titan X for the GTX 980 Ti Nvidia went back to the silver finish on the card like the GTX 980. Really the only difference on the fan shroud design from the GTX 980 is actually just the Ti molded into the card alongside of the GTX 980. That means we have the same all metal design that I have loved in the past. Around the intake fan is a little black trim along with a machined bit around the fan that matches the machined cap on the fan itself.
I think the best part of this design and the main reason they keep going back to it is the inclusion of a transparent window that gives us full view of the heatsink inside of the card. To match the rest of the black trim the heatsink is anodized black as well. I like it though because it lets us see when the inside of the card is in need of a cleaning. Typically for me personally the fan itself collects most of the dirt because we have cats, but a lot of cards can get packed full of dust and hair and start to run hotter. With these cards specifically when the cooling performance drops the actual performance drops as well.
Being a reference card also means that Nvidia designs the card to push most of the air out of the back of your case where most aftermarket coolers are able to get better performance by letting the hot air go inside of your case in order to be able to fit larger fans and larger heatsinks. The GTX 980 Ti reference card is sealed on the top and bottom but does have a small heatsink and opening on the end that lets out some of the airflow. The fan design itself is designed to pull air in and push the air across the length of the card where aftermarket coolers use a more traditional fan design that pushes air down onto the PCB/heatsink.
Using Nvidia’s photos we can get a better look inside at the cooling design as well. Not only is the external fan shroud all metal but the baseplate is as well. The design is split up into two parts. The small heatsink on the back handles the keeping the power circuitry cool and the large heatsink that runs the length of the card and is under the transparent window is mounted on top of the GPU itself. The baseplate does also pull a little heat from the vRAM and that heat goes into the main heatsink as well.
Up on the top edge of the card we have the same black trim around the backlit Gefore GTX logo as well as the silver trim around that like on previous GTX cards. Just like I said on our Titan X coverage I’m really hoping that Nvidia moves to an RGB backlit logo in the future so that everyone can match the logo to their build. I know a few people who have avoided the reference cards specifically because the green logo would stand out against the theme in their builds. Also up on the top of the 980 Ti we have double SLI bridge connections that will let you run the GTX 980 Ti in up to a quad SLI configuration if you are looking for even more performance. For power, just like the Titan X you will need an 8 pin and a 6 pin cable to power the card. This is expected given the 250 watt TDP of course.
For display connection options we have the same layout as the GTX 980 and Titan X. You get three full sized DisplayPort connections, one DVI, and one full sized HDMI. For cooling the rear PCI slot cover has triangle shaped openings in nearly every possible spot.
Like the Titan X the GTX 980 Ti moved away from the backplate they used on the GTX 980. This does allow us to see the black PCB better but part of me will still miss the backplate simply because it looked even better and protected the card better. That said I’m sure it was related to keeping everything cool, some backplates hold heat in and in the case of the GTX 980 the backplate was also thick and made things a little tighter when running multiple card configurations.
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|
|Case||High Speed PC Test Bench||Live Pricing|
|Our Testing Procedures|
|3DMark||The same goes for the most current version of 3DMark using the Fire Strike benchmark in normal, extreme, and ultra settings|
|Unigine Heaven Benchmark 4.0||Using the “Extreme” preset|
|Unigine Valley Benchmark 1.0||Using the Extreme HD preset to get an average FPS|
|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 2014||We use the built in benchmark for F1 2014. We use the Ultra setting and then test at 2560x1440 and 1920x1080|
|Total War: ROME II||Ultra setting tested at 1920x1080 and 2560x1440, built in forest benchmark|
|Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor||Using the built in benchmark we test with ultra settings at 1440p|
|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|
|Theif||Tested using the “Very High” setting at 1920x1080 and 2560x1440|
|Folding @ Home||Using the Folding @ Home benchmark we test both single and double precision using the explicit result|
|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.|
To start off our testing I ran the GTX 980 Ti through our synthetic benchmark suite, here I can focus on the different between the cards rather than just real world performance. Our suite includes three 3DMark tests that test from 1080p all the way up to 4k. Then I use Unigine heaven and valley benchmarks. In 3Dmark under the performance setting I was very impressed that the Ti was able to hand so close with the Titan X given its higher CUDA core count and RAM although admittedly the vRAM difference doesn’t do much at the lower resolution. That said the numbers were still close in the Extreme and Ultra tests as well. The GTX 980 Ti performed well above even the overclocked GTX 980 with only the Titan X and two GTX 980’s in SLI outperforming. In the Heaven Benchmark 4.0 the results were similar as well with the 980 Ti coming in at fourth in overall cards tested with the Titan X being the only other single card to out perform in and frankly the GTX 780 SLI numbers weren’t far off at all! In the Valley Benchmark the 980 Ti came in a little under 4 FPS less than the Titan X and 20 FPS higher than the GTX 980.
For our in game testing I run a variety of games and get the average FPS for each game in both 1080p and 1440p with the exception of Shadow of Mordor that is only tested at 1440p. Across those tests when testing at 1080p the GTX 980 Ti performed with an average FPS over 60 in every single case. Keep in mind this is with the settings completely cranked up. In a lot of those games the FPS average was at least double the 60FPS that we consider to be the goal FPS. When testing at 1440p the results weren’t as good though. Out of the 9 games tested 6 came in over 60 FPS and three came in below 60 and above 30. With two of those I would basically consider them 60 FPS seeing that they were just off by a few fractions of an FPS. The only one that really didn’t pull it off was in Hitman. Ironically the GTX 980 Ti actually topped our charts there even outperforming the Titan X so I wouldn’t consider it a bad result at all, it just so happens to take two GTX 980s to just barely pull over 60 FPS at 1440p in that game.
In our recently added Compute benchmarks I use the Folding @ Home benchmark in both single and double precision tests to see how well the cards perform. In the single precision test the GTX 980 Ti came in just three nanoseconds per day less than the Titan X that tops that chart. In the double precision test the numbers were again right behind the Titan X but this time around the older GTX 780 still tops the chart by a large margin. This is because Nvidia has pulled back on the double precision performance of their new cards to prevent people from buying cards like the Titan X for MUCH cheaper than their Quadro and getting close to the same performance. With their Quadro cards requiring their own development and software work people snatching up the consumer cards was hurting their bottom line. It’s not a huge deal considering nearly all double precision applications should be looking into commercial quality cards anyhow.
Cooling, Noise, and Power
For my last bit of testing I run through a few tests that don’t have any effect on your in game performance but are still just as if not more important. Here we test to see how warm the card runs when in game, how noisy the fan is in a few situations, and how much power our testbench pulled when in game and at idle. My first test is power consumption. Here the GTX 980 Ti pulled just a few watts less than the Titan X. At 473 the results are actually less than the R9 290, R9 290X, and even some of the R9 280X’s. At idle the number is on point with everything else at 210 watts so there aren’t any weird power draws out of game to worry about.
When it came to noise testing I didn’t really have high hopes. The top of our noise charts are littered with reference Nvidia cards because of how noisy they tend to be when running at 100% fan speed. Surprisingly our GTX 980 Ti while still having the exact same design as the others did manage to be quieter than the Titan X and GTX 980. This was especially true at idle where the Ti actually comes out near one of the quietest. The single card design helps, but clearly this sample has a quieter fan than some of the others.
For the last test I run Heaven Benchmark 4.0 and see where the temperature levels off at over time. No surprises here, the GTX 980 Ti pulled the same 83 degrees that it is programmed to run at, just like the other Nvidia reference cards that have the same result on the charts. Cooling fan performance profiles are a big part of temperature performance because it is important to find a balance between keeping the card cool while also still being quiet. In this case it’s clear that Nvidia would rather the GTX 980 Ti run a little warm while still being fairly quiet
After I finished our standard benchmarking I had to see just how well the GTX 980 Ti overclocked. To do this I broke down the overclocking into the GPU clock and Memory clock and individually overclocked them. Each time I would use 3DMark 11’s 2nd test to put the overclock to the test. Below I documented each attempt including the average FPS. Then once I found peak overclocks for both I run them together and make sure the card can handle it together. So starting with the GPU clock we had a stock speed of 1076 MHz. Given my previous experience with the Titan X I jumped up to 1200MHz right away with a good result. From there I continued to increase the clock 100MHz at a time until it failed (1400MHz). From there I attempted to find the edge. In the end I took the GPU clock from 1076MHz to 1370MHz and went from 101.34 to 117.87 FPS.
On the memory side I started at the stock speed of 7010MHz and jumped up in large increments to try to get near where the Titan X failed but frankly the GTX 980 Ti kept going and going. In the end I didn’t run into a problem until just past 8500MHz. Oddly enough the driver crashed but previous to that I didn’t see any artifacts at all. Next I put the two peak overclocks together and once again the GTX 980 Ti handled it. In the combined testing we saw an average FPS of 118.08. In our Titan X coverage I was impressed with the overclocking potential but the GTX 980 Ti blew it out of the water. Both on the GPU and Memory clocks I was able to reach a higher overclock than the Titan X that shares the same GPU. I can’t wait to see what kind of performance we will see when the overclockers get their hands on them!
|GPU Clock Speed Overclocking|
|GPU Clock Speed||Pass/Fail||FPS Result||Notes|
|Memory Clock Offset Overclocking|
|Memory Clock Speed||Pass/Fail||FPS Result||Notes|
|GPU and Memory Overclocks Together|
|GPU Clock Speed||Memory Clock Speed||FPS Result||Notes|
Overall and Final Verdict
So the GTX 980 Ti is a really interesting card. Basically Nvidia has cut out some of the CUDA cores out of a Titan X and halved the vRAM. Normally if someone said they cut out CUDA cores and half of the vRAM I would be concerned but frankly the Titan X is a monster. The GTX 980 Ti fills the hole in the product line that was created when the Titan X was launched, giving them a high end gaming focused card that while still expensive isn’t the price of a small vacation like the Titan X. So how well does the Ti perform? Well I expected it fall in between the 980 and the Titan X but in nearly every test it is just a small step below the Titan X. The reason this is important is because the performance gap between the cards isn’t in proportion with the price difference, making the Ti a bit of a value. It might sound crazy calling a card that costs nearly $650 a value, but in comparison it is.
Where I was really impressed though was when overclocking the GTX 980 Ti. I saw memory overclocks as high as 8500MHz without any issues, well beyond what I have ever seen on any other card. The GPU overclocks were impressive as well and in the end I saw a performance increase of a little over 16%.
As for downsides, the GTX 980 Ti did run a little warmer than I would prefer but all of the Nvidia reference cards have been running similar. That is because the target temperature is set to 83 degrees by default. I was also sad to see the backplate that had its introduction on the GTX 980 go away also, but I know a lot of the manufactures will include them when they do their custom cards.
So is the GTX 980 Ti the card to get? Well when compared to the Titan X it is for sure. You get nearly the same performance at a much better price. That said it is still a lot of money and frankly it is more card than most need unless running at 1440p or higher. I would also keep an eye out for what AMD has upcoming as well. We don’t know how well it will compare to that until they launch their new cards.
Live Pricing: HERE