At the time of writing, the Inno3D GTX 980Ti iChill Black is available from Overclockers UK for £599.99 and comes with a copy of The Division. Its nearest rival is the EVGA GTX 980Ti Hybrid costing £635.99 which features a 1140MHz core clock, 1228MHz boost and 7010MHz effective memory speed. Clearly, there are much cheaper GTX 980 Ti models on the market but none of these utilize an all-in-one liquid cooling solution. This means it’s essential to compare water cooling variants, and the Inno3D unit is the cheapest option right now. Saying that, I do prefer the EVGA’s tubing which has a textured finish but this is all down to personal preference.
The graphics card opts for an elegant design ethos which looks absolutely stunning and suits a huge range of colour schemes. Inno3D have deployed a neutral styling to cater to a wide range of consumer tastes and I’m really fond of the luxurious silver finish. It’s certainly not the most extravagant aesthetic design I’ve seen, but there is flashier elements via integrated LED illumination. Furthermore, this lighting system is quite useful to quickly gauge the current thermal status of the GPU and ensure the cooling hardware is performing as intended.
This is important with a water cooling unit to determine if any issues arise early on in terms of the pump’s flow. Please remember this is an Asetek-based unit and the chances of leakage are incredibly slim. Similarly, if there was a leak, the water flow shouldn’t damage the CPU, or GPU and be directed towards the motherboard or power supply. As with any water-cooled graphics card, the initial setup process is more complicated and requires a higher level of expertise. Routing the molex cable and tubing requires a patient approach to obtain a clean build. However, this product is geared towards enthusiasts who have a firm grasp of tidy cable management. In an ideal world, I’d prefer to see an easily removable fan cable which uses a SATA connector.
In terms of cooling prowess, the AIO is very impressive and an extremely capable piece of kit. For example, the pump doesn’t emit any noticeable whine and provides a beautiful desktop experience even under heavy load. The bundled 120mm opts for a really low RPM curve, and even though it’s constantly on, I didn’t feel it impacted on system noise in a significant manner. This is evidently clear by the data during audio testing, and I was surprised to see almost zero difference between this and other models utilizing a 0db fan mode. When it comes to temperatures, the cooler does a great job of keeping everything in check well below the GPU’s thermal limits. Although, there’s no major benefit using a closed loop liquid cooling according to our testing and high-end air-cooled models actually performed better. Despite this, the difference is within a margin of error and the running order could be different with more benchmark runs.
Out of the box, the graphics card contains a very potent factory overclock which provides stellar performance without the need for tweaking. This has a downside though and makes it quite challenging to achieve large boosts via manual overclocking. Honestly, the overclocking results were good, but I expected to see the memory overclock to around the 7800MHz+ mark. Nevertheless, this didn’t impact on the performance numbers by a large margin, and the GPU still managed to set some very impressive scores in 3DMark. When overclocking on Maxwell, the restrictions revolve around the GPU power limit and not core temperature. In this case, the 106 percent limit had an effect on the final overclocking result.
Custom variants of the GTX 980Ti are unbelievably powerful and a fantastic choice for a 2560×1440 or 3440×1440 display. It’s a bit overkill for 1920×1080 users unless you want to ensure the minimum frame-rate never drops below 60. Sadly, users have to make too many concessions using a single card to play games on a 4K panel. This is down to the current performance of NVIDIA’s Maxwell architecture which doesn’t quite have the graphical grunt to push so many pixels. In theory you could buy two of these and use them in an SLI configuration but many new releases have been shown to implement SLI quite poorly. However, DirectX 12 could revolutionize the scaling across dual GPUs and make the 980Ti a great option even when Pascal and Polaris have been released.
To summarize, the GTX 980Ti is an exceptional performer, and extreme models like the Inno3D iChill Black can easily surpass the reference designed Titan X. This makes it the fastest option available and a suitable option for consumers wanting a no-compromise approach. Admittedly, there are new products coming out this year which might deter you from buying but this isn’t going to make the GTX 980Ti suddenly obsolete or depreciate in value by a huge margin. Any new flagship always costs an extortionate amount of money, and the GTX 980Ti’s performance may seem even better in comparison if the newer cards cost a lot more money. This is an unknown entity right now but it’s clear that this GPU is fantastic providing you avoid a 4K display.
- Decent overclocking headroom
- Excellent thermals
- Impressive stock performance
- Perfect accompaniment to a high-refresh 1440P display
- Striking aesthetic design
- Sturdy backplate to reduce GPU droop
- Superb build quality
- Unbelievably quiet
- Tidy cable management can be a bit tricky for inexperienced PC builders
- Price premium compared to air cooling alternatives
“The Inno3D GTX 980Ti iChill offers a phenomenal performance to noise ratio and adopts a really unusual design philosophy. This makes it stand out from the competition and helps to forge a truly unique custom PC build.”
Inno3D GTX 980 Ti iChill Black Graphics Card Review
Thank you Inno3D for providing us with this review sample