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Nvidia Geforce GTX 980 Review

Rating: 9.5.

The Maxwell architecture has been a remarkable advancement for Nvidia. Partner GTX750Ti solutions have earned many awards at KitGuru due to a combination of minimal power drain, modest heat output and excellent frame rate performance at 1080p resolutions. Today is an important one for the company as they expand their Maxwell portfolio, releasing not one but two new models – the GTX970 and GTX980. We look at the reference GTX980 in this specific analysis.

There is no doubt that Nvidia can create exemplary, low noise reference coolers. Part of their success in the development of these reference coolers is related to their advancements in dealing with power demands and subsequent heat output. Make no mistake, the continued hunt for additional graphics performance does come with a caveat – rising power consumption.

Much of Nvidia’s focus with the Maxwell architecture has been in dropping power and heat as far as they can – without compromising the performance of the hardware. AMD really do need to take note.

The Maxwell architecture has been designed to deliver twice the performance per watt of previous generation Geforce hardware. It sounds easy enough on paper, but the real world challenges for Nvidia have been complex.

GPU GeForce GTX 680 (Kepler) GeForce GTX 980 (Maxwell)
Streaming Multiprocessors
8 16
CUDA Cores 1536 2048
Base Clock 1006 mhz 1126 mhz
GPU Boost Clock 1058 mhz 1216 mhz
TFLOPS (based on base clock) 3.1 4.6
TFLOPS (based on boost clock) 3.3 5
Texel fill-rate 129 Gigatexels/Sec 144.1 Gigatexels/Sec
Memory Clock 6000 mhz 7000 mhz
Memory Bandwidth 192 GB/sec 224 GB/sec
ROPs 32 64
Manufacturing Process 28nm 28nm
TDP 195 watts 165 watts

The new GM204 GPU is very efficient. The Maxwell SM has been rebalanced so that the CUDA cores are fully utilised more often. Doing so saves power and enhances overall performance. The L2 cache size in the GM204 is 2MB, or four times larger than the GK104. The addition of extra cache means that fewer requests to the GPU memory are needed – again reducing power consumption and pushing more performance.

The Geforce GTX 980 is equipped with 7Gbps memory. Those of you with higher resolution monitors, or running in a multi screen configuration will also be pleased to hear that there is 4GB of GDDR5 memory on the card, not 3GB – this memory will push 224 GB/s sec. Nvidia have added a new compression engine to reduce the demand on DRAM bandwidth.

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  • Juan Caba

    I’m not too excited about this gen.. I was expecting alot more from maxwell. Either way I will own the card when it comes out. I would like to see what the card actually performs like myself and see if the new features can bring it to Amd’s IQ level..

  • Alcino Major

    Waiting for the Next Gen Volta

  • Ryan

    How is this card running cool? Look at the reported temps it is the hottest of all tested. Across all reviews it averages roughly 73-75 degrees gaming and higher under extreme loads. If you were to overclock it, it would be extremely hot, reference r9 290x hot, way too hot!

  • Ian McConvey

    And you haven’t taken fan speed into consideration. Turning the fan up to 100% on a reference high end GTX is still very much bearable in terms of noise. Extra fan noise for extra performance and stable temps. That’s how it always goes. Unlike the 290x that was a searing, red hot 95c at STOCK and ridiculously loud fans from AMD’s shitty reference design. If you want to keep those overclocks quiet then you buy an third party design. No one should ever intend to run a reference card overclocked off its balls anyway. Stop whining.

  • Ryan

    In sli the top card will be at the 90+ degree mark, no overclock. Just look at the numbers. Fan speed will not correct this. The really interesting card in all of this is the 970. I think it represents a revolution in price/performance, while the 980 cards are overkill for low res and just as incapable as all the others at multi display and/or 4K resolutions. The 20nm or sub 20nm cards are only a year or so away. As for stop whining, are you emotionally invested in a simple bit of conjecture? Its ok to have an opinion without espousing childishness.

  • Ryan

    Now you can read the most recent owner reviews on newegg and see how true my comments were in actual practice. This is not a jab. It is just a continuance of a prior conversation. Please do not get upset.