In the reference review you have been able to read that we have been pleasantly surprised by the new 900 series from Nvidia. For the money the 970 kicks ass, and the 980 is a tweaking marvel. But that was reference, partners like Gigabyte went the extra mile and started pimping GM204. The SOC edition of the new G1 gaming series as such is a little gem. It is silent, it cools great and comes factory overclocked at a boost frequency of 1329 MHz already! Combine that with the great looks, the two 8-pin power headers and that all new 600W WindForce cooler, and yeah we have a winner here. I know that some of you will be worried after what happened to some of you with the previous GHz model from Gigabyte. We tested and stressed this card extensively, seriously extensively and you guys should not be worried.
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 aforementioned 780 series though. So I do not expect Geforce 780 range product owners upgrading 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% perf increases throughout 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 on a GPU created 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 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, power consumption versus price and performance.
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. That wasn't good enough for Gigabyte, and even with a lower heat wattage, they applied the new 600W WindForce cooler. It is a serious flagship cooler that offers way more cooling performance than the GM204 really needs. That shows in gaming, you can expect to hover at 65 Degrees C with hefty games. So Gigabyte shaved off a good 15 Degrees C over reference. The cooler looks great as well, aesthetically it is a product that is very friendly on the eyes and will fit any dark/white themed gaming PC really well.
Cooling versus noise levels
We spilled the beans in the previous chapter already I guess, we can’t complain about cooling whatsoever. Expect sound pressure values in the 40 dBA range at max under load and warm circumstances. That's measured 75 CM away from the PC. At best you can slightly hear the card while using it heavily. For those that require sheer silence like yours truly, this is the way to go.
A nice advantage for the cards is that they now come standard with 4 GB of DDR5 graphics memory, this means gaming sweetness in even the highest resolutions. All games play perfectly at up-to WHQD at 2560x1440, The GeForce GTX 980 is a nice Ultra HD card that certainly offers a nice chunk of performance in that massive resolution, albeit it will fall short here and there. Overall you can play all the modern and latest games with nice AA levels and excellent image quality, the PC gaming way. GTX 980 I would recommend with Ultra HD, especially with MFAA (pending a driver release) you'll be able to play games quite well. The GeForce GTX 970 I'd call a very solid WQHD card, e.g. it is perfect for gaming up-to 2560x1440.
Bloody heck, can these cards overclock or what? Without extra voltage tweaking you can expect a 1350~1400 MHz range for the Turbo clock frequency. Depending on how much your board will take and allow, with Voltage tweaking you’ll pass the 1400 MHz range. 1500 MHz is in sight but it might depend per production batch, but also variables like your PC stability, power supply and so on. We ended up at a stable 1547 MHz, which is ridiculously nice when you think about it. But again, our overclock is not a guarantee for your results. The memory is clocked standard at 7.0 GHz, you'll fairly easily achieve 7.5 GHz and we even reached 8.0 GHz stable. Overall you’ll see a nice extra gain in gaming performance.
Prices have been shifting all over the place up-to even 12 hours before the launch. The GeForce GTX 970 and 980 seem to be priced fairly overall, and the GTX 760 will see a price drop as well:
Effective for launch, the new lineup looks like this:
GTX 980: $549 / 452 EUR (ex VAT)
GTX 970: $329 / 270 EUR (ex VAT)
GTX 760: moves to $219
Please note, that this an MSRP, final E-tail and Retail prices at launch and after launch varies and can be lower, depending on the market conditions etc. There are no other changes to any other products. In addition, please note that the GTX 780 Ti, 780 and 770 have been discontinued with this launch.
The Gigabyte GeForce GTX 980 G1 Gaming SOC edition is a mighty product worthy of being called a true flagship. It ticks all the right boxes from the 600W cooler, to low noise levels and a nice factory overclock to the sheer aesthetics. Performance increases up-to say ~20% with the 980 compared to a Titan Black. But numbers will vary here and there due to the complexity of having less shaders, more ROPs, higher clock frequencies and then a narrower memory bus. Overall it is a nice improvement though, nobody can deny that. The card will have plenty of horsepower under the hood for today’s games, and they are excellent 2560x1440 resolution products armed with the finest game quality settings and even AA levels. A massive benefit is the lower power consumption, though that alone would obviously not justify an upgrade from the 780 series, but is testimony to less heat and thus better clock frequencies and higher overclock results. We consider the GeForce GTX 980 to be a first run in the new high-end performance cards. It is very likely we’ll see a Ti or even Titan version somewhere down the road. The Maxwell architecture is very sound and proves it can deliver big-time whilst remaining in line power consumption, heat and noise wise. Yes, the Gigabyte GeForce GTX 980 G1 Gaming SOC edition is absolutely gorgeous. It is impressive to use, and then when you start to tweak, you'll be impressed even more. So if you are still on the GTX 600 series, now might be an excellent time to upgrade, you will like the Gigabyte GeForce GTX 980 G1 Gaming SOC edition very much. It is a top pick from Guru3D.com
- 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