The HoF is mighty and powerful, next to that it looks exceptionally nice and the cooling stays silent as well. Combine that with the overall build quality and the sheer fact that this is the fastest GTX 980 we tested to date (by a good amount) then you cannot be anything else other than impressed. he HoF edition GALAX Geforce GTX 980 as such is frickin' fantastic, aside from one point which we will discuss at the noise levels chapter. But yeah in terms of aesthetics, cooling, heat levels, back-plate and that massive factory overclock of course you can't be anything else other then impressed. GALAX offers the product based on that ncie white 8+2 phases custom PCB that is covered by that thick phat funky cooler. The HoF sets a new standard, 1.4 GHz at the boost frequency is pretty insane. The boost frequency is relative as in reality the card at default was performing in the 1.45 GHz range with some games as well. And that shows in performance.
Maxwell GM 204 GPU experience overall
Both the GeForce GTX 970 and 980 leave a very solid impression. One offers good, the other exceptional performance within its range. It’s not heaps faster than the previous 780 series though. So I do not expect Geforce 780 range product owners to upgrade anytime soon. However, if you are in say the GeForce GTX 680 range, then this might be a very nice time to jump on-board with a new card. It is interesting to see that 10 years ago performance per generation nearly doubled. With current release schedules we continuously see 20 to 30% performance increases across the board over the last-gen products. That is still respectable as you need to keep in mind that the GM204 is still on 28nm much like Kepler. Injecting more transistors onto a GPU creates yield issues, heat and high power consumption. The GK110 (GTX Titan / Black), whilst being a true beast of a GPU, is testimony to that. With that in mind Nvidia tried to create a product series that is affordable and plays the most high-end and latest games perfectly fine at an acceptable price level. When you look at it from that point of view the Maxwell release is a successful one. This is probably the maximum that Nvidia should and can do on 28nm in terms of improved performance and power consumption versus price.
The reference design of the GTX 970 and 980 are the very same cooling wise. The reference products are set at an offset threshold of 80 degrees C. Once the GPU gets warmer the card will clock down and lower its voltage. All board partners including GALAX offer customized SKUs, much like the SOC edition we test today. Customizing means improving on that reference design, you can expect the temperature to hover in the 70 Degrees C range with hefty games in a properly ventilated chassis. Remember, this is massively factory overclocked cooling performance for you. What people will miss however is that there is no zero dBA fan option. Pretty much all partners have their fans disabled up-to roughly 65 Degrees C, that would have been nice to see on the HoF as well.
Cooling versus noise levels
The cooler in IDLE is quiet, however during gaming you will hear some airflow. This is a normal noise level, nothing irritating. Sound pressure values are in the 40 dBA range under load and warmer circumstances. That's measured 75 CM away from the PC. So you can hear the card while using it heavily, but it remains at a normal noise level. Hyper Boost technology acts like a hardware turbocharger, increasing fan speed and maximum power delivered to the GPU with the push of a button is pretty crapahola though, full fan RPM kicks in at over 54 DBa noise levels, which is redonkeyless. Then again, in a competition it might bring you a little extra TLC for setting that overclocking record. A topic of discussion with recent graphics cards is coil noise, we unfortunately have to report that the GALAX GTX 980 HOF does produce some coil noise that can be heard, especially in high GPU load / high framerate gaming.
A nice advantage for the new cards is that they now come standard with 4 GB of DDR5 graphics memory, this means gaming sweetness at even the highest resolutions. We do hope to see some 8GB versions as well. All games play perfectly at up-to WHQD at 2560x1440, The GeForce GTX 980 is a nice card that certainly offers a nice chunk of performance in those high resolutions, albeit it will fall short here and there if you are at Ultra HD. Overall you can play all the modern and latest games with nice AA levels and excellent image quality, the PC gaming way. GeForce GTX 980 I would recommend with Ultra HD if you can tick off AA, however with MFAA (review here) you'll be able to play games quite well with this MSAA equivalent quality AA feature as well. It is a perfect card for gaming up-to 2560x1440.
Depending on how much your board will take and allow, with voltage tweaking you’ll pass the 1450 MHz mark. Roughly 1500 MHz on our end works with air-cooling, but it might depend per production batch and also variables like your PC stability, power supply and so on. We ended up at a stable 1.5 GHz, which is a crazy clock frequency. Remember though, our overclock is not a guarantee for your results and if you reverse that, your tweaking results could also be better than ours. The memory is clocked standard at 7.0 GHz, you'll fairly easily achieve 7.5 GHz and we even reached close to 8.0 GHz stable. My advice is to keep your effective memory data-rate just under 8 GHz for a little more stability, roughly 7900 MHz seems to be a sweet-spot for most cards we have tested. Overall you’ll see a nice gain in extra gaming performance.
The HoF edition of the GeForce GTX 980 is incredibly sexy and is the fastest GTX 980 we've had in our hands. Yes at three slots it's a bit thick, but the looks man, wowzers. Other than that everything about the HoF is top notch. We do hope to see a little more voltage control on this puppy in the near future as then we'd be able to pass 1500 MHz more easily. At default GALAX offers a product with exceptionally high factory clock frequencies, I mean the card has a baseclock at 1.3 GHz with a Boost allowance over 1.4 GHz. During gaming the card will even pass this boost frequency as we have seen it hovering in-between 1400 and 1450 MHz all by itself. That shows in performance. Surprising to see is that GALAX left the memory clock frequency at default. 7.2 Gbps would have been nice. But hey, press a button or two, tweak a little and you are there. Overall, overclocking wise we even pushed the card over 1.50 GHz on the boost frequency, definitely worthy of being called a grand overclock still. Now, I am not recommending this as a long term tweak really, honestly if you like lifespan... 1400~1450 MHz should be your range with as little added Voltage on the GPU as needed. The HoF certainly is a lovely choice for the true enthusiast gamer, realistically in the GTX 980 space you'll have a-plenty to choose from when shopping for a 980. The card is a notch noisier opposed to the competition and our sample did have a bit of coil whine at very high framerates, these are the two negatives I simply have to point out. The model as tested today hovers at roughly 575~600 EURO at the moment of writing. Though a lot of money you can certainly tell where the investment goes to, it is something very unique overall. For gaming at Full HD and WHQD PC anno 2014 it really is a top notch product. The HoF from GALAX is product that belongs in the enthusiast range, the looks are stunning and it surely is a product that comes recommended by Guru3D.com
Boom, back to you KITT.
- Nvidia GeForce GTX 970 and 980 reference review
- MSI GeForce GTX 970 Gaming OC review
- Gigabyte GeForce GTX 970 G1 Gaming review
- Gigabyte GeForce GTX 980 G1 Gaming review
- ASUS GeForce GTX 970 Strix review
- Palit GeForce GTX 970 Jetstream review
- GeForce GTX 970 SLI review
- GeForce GTX 980 2 and 3-way SLI review