PC Gaming anno 2015 is going strong, if anything titles like GTA-V and the latest Witcher have proven that. And though a card like the GeForce GTX 960 is sufficient in the 1080P domain, it's the hardcore revolvers like the GTX 980 Ti and Titan X aim to shoot the bulls-eye, expensive sure, but they do push you into quality and resolution regions that make a difference. Pricing wise at the moment of writing you are looking at a 649 USD pricetag with something similar in EURO. The GeForce GTX 980 (regular) will drop to 499 USD to make place for the Ti model.
To answer the question "Do you really need a card as beefy as the GTX 980 Ti really is?" Well no Sir, not at all if you are playing games in the 1080P or 2560x1440 monitor resolution domain. But it does help as you enable any quality settings you desire, next to that slowly becoming popular is DSR (super-sampling), with DSR you render at a higher resolution then sample it back to say 2560x1440, and that adds a level of extra image quality as pixels are calculated and rendered more accurately. We have an example of that in our benchmarks session, Shadow of Mordor which we rendered at a whopping Ultra HD and 5K and then output on 2560x1440. And yeah I know, it's all relative but these are options the truly enthusiast crowd likes. Then there is Ultra HD, that brute resolution of 3840x2160 requires sheer raw horsepower to output its 4x Full HD resolution, and the GTX 980 Ti is one of the two card that can handle this resolution well with very decent image quality settings. Now obviously value for money wise you are way better off with a GeForce GTX 970 or 980, make no mistake about that. But there is and always will be something better in the enthusiast domain, priced accordingly. But yeah this segment is representative for a large part of the Guru3D.com reader-base. So the GeForce GTX 980 Ti will be high up in the enthusiast space, and as always there is a market for cards like these, the Ferraris among the graphics cards.
For the GeForce GTX 980 Ti series Nvidia didn't really tingle with the aesthetics of the cooler. Being a very expensive card I had hopes for a nice dark design, something more dim looking with that black shell. Yeah I guess what I am saying is that after all these years some new aesthetics would be nice, the "been there done that" factor surfaces. The Titan X for example in its dark design looks much better. Overall it's OK though, some might dislike the GeForce GTX logo on top, it surely doesn't bother me though and that see-through Plexiglass in the cooler makes it look quite nice. Obviously we reviewed the reference product today, board partners will release their GeForce GTX 980 Ti series in wide varieties of SKUs with different clock frequencies, designs and coolers.
Cooling & Noise Levels
The cooling itself really is at the same level it was, you can't really complain about it but it's not top dog either due to the temperature targets that Nvidia is using. The default setting for the GTX 980 Ti will be just over 80 degrees C, meaning the card is allowed to run upwards to 80 Degrees C before after which the fan RPM will increase to compensate for the heat and keep the cooled at give or take 80 Degrees C. Nvidia feels this is a nice balance in-between performance, power consumption and temperatures. Most of you would however prefer something a little lower. You can obviously change the temperature target of the fan RPM yourself, that will ramp up the noise levels though. But at roughly 80 degrees C and at that level the noise levels are okay really. In idle you can barely hear the cooling solution and under stress, well you can hear some airflow and that's it. The downside of a higher temperature allowance is that it does affect the heating of the PCB, as you can see there is a lot of heat bleeding throughout the PCB. Including the VRM area, it however remains in the 80~85 degrees C range throughout the board, and that remains acceptable.
Much like the GM200 Maxwell GPU harbored in Titan X, this GTX 980 Ti is rated as having a 250 Watt TDP, our measurements back that up, bear in mind that this is a peak maximum value under full stress. At this performance level you are looking at a card that consumes roughly 450 Watts for the PC in total, that is okay. We think a ~650 Watts PSU would be sufficient and, if you go with 2-way SLI, an 800~900 Watts power supply is recommended. Remember when purchasing a PSU, aim to double up in Wattage as your PSU is most efficient when it is under 50% load. Here again keep in mind we measure peak power consumption, the average power consumption is a good notch lower depending on GPU utilization. Also, if you plan to overclock the CPU/memory and / or GPU with added voltage, please do purchase a power supply with enough reserve. People often underestimate it, but if you tweak all three aforementioned variables, you can easily add 200 Watts to your peak power consumption budget.
We can't be any clearer about it, all ranges from 1080P to Ultra HD are very playable for the GeForce GTX 980Ti. Up-to WQHD (2560x1440) this card seems to be a true sweet-spot, however it is very capable of rendering games in Ultra HD as well. You'll be in the 35 to 40 FPS on average domain with decent settings and the latest titles mostly, and that's ok.This much game rending horse-power versus the nice 6GB graphics memory helps you in Ultra HD, hefty complex anti-aliasing modes, DSR and of course the latest gaming titles. And that makes this the second viable single GPU solution that allows you to game properly in Ultra HD with some very nice eye candy enabled with a single GPU. Drivers wise we can't complain at all, we did not stumble into any issues. And with a single GPU there's no micro-stuttering to fight off. Performance wise, really there's not one game that won't run seriously good at the very best image quality settings. You must do gaming with a nice 30" monitor of course, at 2560x1440/1600 or Ultra HD.
The boost modes can be configured with temperature targets relative to maximum power draw and your GPU Core frequency offsets. Saying that; I realize it sounds complicated but you'll have your things balanced out quite fast as these products are easy to tweak. This GPU can take a 1200 MHz base clock, add to that the dynamic boost clock and you'll see your games rendering in the 1350 to 1400 MHz domain. The memory you'll be able to get close to roughly 8 GHz effective. That memory runs hot though, hotter than your GPU even. So don't push it too far, and we certainly do not recommend adding voltage to that memory. We are looking out for the board partner cards with 3rd party cooling. The overclock potential is tremendous, the reference cooler is really pushing its limits.
The Geforce GTX 980 Ti from a hardware and game rendering point of view is obviously a terrific product, but does come at a price level that many get goose-bumps from. That is what it is and really all I have to say about it. Enthusiast cards always have been expensive, period. Looking at the product from a technical and performance view, it really does tick all the right boxes for me, heaps of performance, plenty of memory and a freaky experience in tweaking and overclock is what I like. Still pricing is much better compared to the GeForce GTX Titan X of course, hey it is a niche product. In return you'll retrieve massive graphics rendering performance with a huge die-size GPU and you'll get more graphics memory usable for the years to come. In that respect the GTX 980 Ti can be considered a future proof product, but I also realize that in the graphics industry that boils down to 2-3 years at best. So, price/performance wise a 3.5 GB GeForce GTX 970 or 4 GB GeForce GTX 980 will make the most sense in the high-end spectrum of things.
That said, it's pretty frickin' fast in performance. Very fluid framerates is what you'll play your games with. It does so while hardly making any noise and keeps itself at OK temperatures. Compared to the GeForce GTX 980 at 2560x1440 you can expect an increase of 25 to 30% performance over a reference GeForce GTX 980, at Ultra HD we have seen that number grow to 40% more performance depending on the title you play. I find it interesting to see that with a GPU of this size there still remains to be room left for tweaking.
The Nvidia GeForce GTX 980 Ti is truly great, but remains a product series that most can't afford or refuse to pay. The good thing is that it's much cheaper than a GTX Titan X, but price-tag aside, the product is impressive and among the fastest single GPU based graphics card currently available on the market. If you pick one up, we can guarantee one thing - you'll love it dearly and will have a smile on your face that'll 'love you long time'.
We just, can't wait for the custom design board partner card though -- Summer is coming!