Nvidia GeForce GTX 970 and 980 reference review

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GeForce GTX 970 and 980 – Oh hey look, it's Maxwell!

Ah yes, welcome to a reference series product review that a lot of you fine ladies and gentlemen have been waiting on for a long time. Would it be released, wouldn’t it..? Delays at the manufacturing nodes in terms of fabrication process and die-shrinks; yes, a lot has been speculated about in the past six months. But we all knew that Nvidia would come up with something for the pending Christmas season, a season filled and loaded with nice PC game releases I must state.

The PC market is interesting, it has been on a decline for sure, but here at Guru3D.com we noticed an opposite trend, gaming PCs are getting more and more popular, much like an American muscle car or should we say card. We all want a beast of a gaming rig, as let’s face it, PC gaming as an experience is just so much better than anything else out there. Roughly a year and a half ago it became apparent that Nvidia was brewing a new GPU architecture under codename Maxwell, yes, named after the mathematical physicist. The Maxwell family of GPUs is actually the 10th generation of GPU architecture for Nvidia.

With several design goals in mind (higher performance and lower power consumption) Nvidia was hoping to reach 20nm by the time their high-end product would be released. It is now September 2014 and it is abundantly clear that the 20nm nodes are not yet viable for volume production of wafers with huge transistor counts. So Nvidia pretty much had to go with plan B and stuck with 28nm, this makes their silicon sizable, in relative proportions of course. None the less, Nvidia has moved forward and today the 2nd Maxwell based products (GTX 750 was actually the first trial) are being released as GM204 based GPUs. Yes, correct, GM204 and not GM210, meaning Nvidia is once again using the ‘high-end’ and not ‘enthusiast class’ chip to empower the product series we are about to review. Armed with voltage, power and load limiters Nvidia these days can harvest massive performance out of chips when you think about it. They did the very same with Kepler really, GK104 versus GK110 anyone? So Nvidia certainly is doing something right. Today is testimony to that as we see two products performing in the GTX 780 Ti range of performance, but both will consume much less power. That’s actually a primary feature design target for Maxwell, more performance with less power consumption. The GPU used thus is the 28nm GM204, the two derivatives created from it are the GeForce GTX 970 and 980. Ah, you noticed? Yes, correct, Nvidia decided to skip the 800 series to avoid confusion with some of their rebranded mobile parts. Maxwell is a new and sound architecture and as such it is released with a new series name. In this article we will have an extensive look at the architecture behind Maxwell, we will look at gaming performance from Full HD to Ultra HD, we will look at power and thermal characteristics and will serve you that on a silver platter with a nice photo-shoot here at Guru3D.com of course. Next to that, this reference review will also cover some new technologies like Multi Frame Sampled AA (MFAA) and Voxel Global Illumination (VXGI).

Obviously all board partners will release their customized revisions of these cards as well. This review will cover the two reference products, in separate stand-alone reviews (hey this is Guru3D.com) we will deal with Guru3D partners like MSI, Palit, Gigabyte and ASUS. So hop onwards to the next page, where we’ll start off the review. Come on now, you know you want to! But sure okay... here, a have a peek first.


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