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Review : Nvidia GTX 980Ti

Last year, Nvidia had launched its GTX 980, which was followed by the GTX TITAN X which had three times the video memory that was seen on the GTX 980. Targetted more at the high-end gaming and professional audience, the GTX TITAN X costs double that of GTX 980.
Clearly, there was a gap between these two top end cards and as expected, Nvidia’s latest card, the GeForce GTX 980Ti (Kind of old now!) tends to fill the gap. It is second only to the TITAN X in terms of feature set.
AMD has launched the Radeon R9 Fury X and Radeon R9 Fury, which is its top of the line cards at the moment. I will be testing them in the near future if I get a chance. But, for the moment, let us check out the GTX 980Ti.

Firstly let’s check out the features it has,

Features

The Nvidia GTX 980Ti is based on the Maxwell architecture and just like the TITAN X, the GTX 980Ti too is based on the GM200 GPU. The GM200 on the 980Ti comes with two of the 24 streaming multiprocessors (seen on the TITAN X) disabled. So you have 22 SMMs giving you 2816 active CUDA cores. The other difference is that the GTX 980Ti comes with 6GB of VRAM which is half of that seen on the TITAN X.

The rest of the specs on the GTX 980Ti are similar to the TITAN X. For instance, both the cards have 8billion transistors, same core clock speed of 1000MHz and boost clock speed of 1075MHz, 384-bit memory bus width and a maximum TDP of 250W.

The GTX 980Ti supports DirectX 12. Also if the Nvidia booth at Computex was any indicator, the GTX 980Ti will also support high-end games on VR headsets. Apart from this, you have support for Nvidia’s features such as Dynamic Super Resolution (DSR), Multi-frame Anti-aliasing (MFAA), Voxel Global Illumination (VXGI), GameStream, G-sync and so on.
With the DSR activated, the scenes will be rendered at a higher resolution and then will be scaled down to the native resolution of your display. Multi-frame Anti-aliasing (MFAA) is a feature exclusive to high-end Nvidia cards, thanks to a hardware feature: programmable AA sample positions. It has been introduced to address the issue faced by graphically demanding games, which get a hit in frame rates when you increase the multi-sampling anti-aliasing (MSAA) to highest levels. The final result can deliver image quality approaching that of 8xAA at roughly the cost of 4xAA, or 4xAA quality at roughly the cost of 2xAA. With Voxel Global Illumination (VXGI), Nvidia allows a real time global illumination engine which assures realistic reflections.

Build and Design

Nvidia flagship cards have kind of acquired a uniform design language. The GTX 980Ti like the GTX 980, GTX 780Ti, GTX TITAN and to an extent the GTX 690 before it, has stuck to the similar gray colored design with slight variations. On a first glance, the designs look identical – the 65mm radial fan is the same, the fluorescent green GeForce logo atop the card is the same, the gray/black sheath is the same.

The card measures 10.5-inches in length. Under the gray metallic shroud, you have a black-coloured heat-sink though. Under the heat-sink, you have three heat-pipes that transfer heat from the GPU to the heatsink. This is a departure from the vapor chambers used in the GTX 780Ti and GTX Titan.

The GTX 980Ti adds in a backplate to the card to protect the PCB on the rear side. In addition to this, Nvidia also allows you to unscrew the top of the back plate just behind the PCIe power ports. On the display front, you have 3x DisplayPort 1.2, 1x HDMI 2.0 port and 1x DVI port. As is evident, Nvidia is pushing people to adopt the 4K displays for their systems having the GTX 900 series cards. The HDMI 2.0 port also supports 4K at 60Hz. It requires just one 6-pin and one 8-pin PCIe power connectors.

Performance

3DMark 11

3DMark is a computer benchmarking tool created and developed by Futuremark Corporation to determine the performance of a computer’s 3D graphic rendering and CPU workload processing capabilities. The latest version makes extensive use of all the new features in DirectX 11, including tessellation, compute shaders and multi-threading. I used the “Performance” preset for this benchmark.

The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt

The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt is an open-world action role-playing game. The story revolves around the protagonist Geralt of Rivia who is on a journey through the lands of the Northern Kingdoms. It is based on the REDengine 3 game engine which is meant for nonlinear RPGs. Since the game does not have its inbuilt benchmark we played a set saved game which involved a couple of action scenes and riding on horseback through various terrains including through water. I used FRAPs to keep track of the frame rates. The graphics section also has a separate post processing section. I played it using the Ultra and Medium settings.

Temperatures 

I noted the temperature of all the participating cards at idle and load states. The fan speeds were kept on auto. I also noted maximum load temperatures after running benchmarks such as FurMark at 1080p preset, 3D Mark 11, Battlefield 3 and Metro: Last Light and taking an average.

Power Consumption 

I used an energy monitoring device(which I have no idea about!)  to measure the power consumed by the total rig with the graphics cards on them. The Cooler Master 800W PSU was plugged into the power meter which gave out the power consumed in Watts on the display. After powering on the system I let it stay unused for a good five minutes to get the idle power reading and then ran three instances of FurMark 1080p preset to get the maximum load power.

Verdict and Price in India


The Nvidia GeForce GTX 980Ti comes out tops in most tests as far as single GPU cards go. Of course the price point of Rs 55,999 slots this card in the high-end segment. Ideally, those who already have or are planning to get a 4K monitor to play games at all settings maxed out, is the audience Nvidia is looking at. If you have a 1080p display, it is pointless to go for this card as it will not do justice to the performance the GTX 980Ti can offer.

The load power and load temperature readings aren’t the best of the lot, but with a beast like the GTX 980Ti which gives a superior performance than other competing cards, that should be expected. The 6GB VRAM on the GTX 980Ti is more than enough to handle the taxing games. I will be trying to test the AMD Fury series cards soon to see how they perform against this card which is almost as good as the flagship TITAN X.

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Bhavish Shah

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