NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980 Video Card Review


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NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980 Video Card Review

By Olin Coles

Manufacturer: NVIDIA Corporation
Product Name: GeForce GTX 980 Graphics Card
Price: Starting at $534.99 (Amazon B&H Photo)

Full Disclosure: The product sample used in this article has been provided by NVIDIA.

NVIDIA tends to dominate the field when it comes to graphics processing power, leaving AMD to reduce prices across their product line to remain competitive. Recently the AMD Radeon R9 290X became AMD’s flagship graphics card, and although powerful, it consumed plenty of electricity and was quite noisy during operation. NVIDIA answered back with GeForce GTX 780 Ti, which left no doubt who controls the top-end of discreet graphics. Not satisfied with producing the world’s most powerful graphics card, NVIDIA set out to produce an even better product that would deliver improved efficiency and reduced operating noise for gamers. The end result was their Maxwell-based GeForce GTX 980 graphics card.

GeForce GTX 980 is no one-trick pony; as it targets much more than simply delivering high frame rate performance. Sure, Maxwell’s new GPU datapath architecture translates into a 40% delivered performance increase per CUDA core, but it also delivers a host of additional features not seen or available from the competition. Four simultaneous Ultra HD 4K display heads are supported by GTX 980, utilizing DisplayPort 1.2 and HDMI 2.0 connections. While that may open the eyes to a bigger picture, GeForce GTX 980 makes that picture better using NVIDIA Voxel Global Illumination (VXGI). All of these new features pair nicely with: G-SYNC technology, which eliminates screen tearing and display-generated stutter, FXAA and TXAA post-processing effects that smooth rough edges and soften their graphical appearance, and always-on NVIDIA ShadowPlay that captures real-time gaming action in 1080p.

Codenamed NVIDIA Maxwell, GM204 GPUs debut the company’s 10th-generation graphics processing architecture. Maxwell improves upon all previously released processor designs, and delivers greater performance while reducing energy consumption. Anticipated as the replacement for GTX 680, the new GeForce GTX 980 yields up to 200% performance increase (per watt) while requiring less power. Voxel Global Illumination and VR Direct technologies have been added to improve upon picture quality and virtual reality immersion. In this article, Benchmark Reviews tests the GeForce GTX 980 graphics card against today’s best gaming solutions.


What’s new with GM204 Maxwell GPU in GeForce GTX 980?

  • 200% performance per watt increase over GK104 on GeForce GTX 680
  • Improved process scheduler
  • New datapath organization
  • 40% delivered performance increase per CUDA core

Multi-Frame Sampled AA (MFAA)

Anti-aliasing technique that alternates sample patterns both temporally and spatially to produce a perceived higher-quality AA while maintaining the performance penalty of lower-quality AA.

Dynamic Super Resolution (DSR)

Down-sampling technology with a 13-tap Gaussian filter effect that reduces the artifacts introduced by anti-aliasing during the process.

Voxel Global Illumination (VXGI)

Maxwell-accelerated real-time global illumination engine that generates efficient dynamic geometry and lighting, one-bounce indirect diffusion, reflections, and area lights. Available on UE4 and other modern engines near Q4-2014.

VR Direct

Low-latency virtual reality, with VR SLI, VR DSR, MSAA, auto-asynchronous warp, and auto-stereo.

4K NVIDIA ShadowPlay

Utilizing the H.264 video encoder built-in to every Maxwell GPU, ShadowPlay works in the background, seamlessly recording your gameplay footage. Compared to Kepler GPUs, Maxwell delivers a 250% increase in efficiency, allowing gamers to encode 4K footage at 60 FPS.

NVIDIA GeForce Experience

GeForce Experience is a new application from NVIDIA that optimizes your PC in two key ways. First, it maximizes your game performance and game compatibility by automatically downloading the latest GeForce Game Ready drivers. Second, GeForce Experience intelligently optimizes graphics settings for all your favorite games based on your hardware configuration.

Download NVIDIA GeForce Experience here: geforce.com/drivers/geforce-experience/download


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  1. Argos

    Thanks for this review. I am glad I waited a bit longer with building my new system. This card seems beyond belief. Every time I think it can’t get any better and then this monster card appears.

  2. Caring1

    I hardly think it “crushed” the R9 290X, however it did thrash the GTX 680, so it makes sense to upgrade if you have an older Nvidia card.

  3. Chris

    It isn’t that much faster than the 780TI. The big attraction is that the power consumption is much lower (more OC headroom) and the lower price.

    I think it may be worth waiting to see what AMD has to offer this generation and for “Big Maxwell” to arrive.

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