Inno3D GTX 980Ti iChill Black Graphics Card Review

Introduction


Closed-loop liquid coolers have become extremely popular in the CPU market due to the cleaner build, and greater space around the CPU socket compared to traditional air cooling hardware. This means you can install an all in one liquid cooler without having to make concessions in terms of memory compatibility or worry too much about your motherboard’s PCI-E arrangement. As you might expect, all in one liquid coolers have progressively moved into the GPU sector to offer improved overclocking headroom and a lower noise output. There are some interesting parallels between CPU and GPU all in one liquid cooling though which needs to be addressed.

Firstly, many air coolers like the Noctua NH-D15 can outperform Asetek units, while being much quieter. It’s a similar picture with graphics cards because proficient air cooling setups including the Gigabyte Windforce X3 and Sapphire Tri-X provide a superb noise to performance ratio. Liquid cooled graphics cards have a price premium and involve a more complicated installation process. It’s important to remember that Maxwell is a very mature and efficient architecture which allows vendors to enable a 0dB idle fan mode. Despite my own qualms about closed-loop liquid cooling, it’s fantastic to see products which cater to a different target market. There’s clearly a demand for pre-assembled liquid cooled graphics cards, and their appeal is bound to grow in the next few years.

Today, we’re taking a look at the Inno3D GTX 980Ti iChill Black which utilizes a very powerful hybrid cooling solution. The GPU incorporates a traditional fan which only switches on during heavy load, in addition to a 120mm fan/radiator combination. The Arctic Cooling radiator fan is constantly on but has a very low RPM curve to maintain silent running. This impeccable hardware allows for an impressive core clock of 1203MHz and default boost reaching 1304MHz. The memory has also been increased to 7280MHz. As you can see from the chart below, this isn’t the greatest configuration we’ve encountered from the factory, but it’s exceedingly fast and should be a top performer. It will be fascinating to contrast this graphics card with the marvellous Inno3D GTX 980Ti X3 Ultra DHS which opts for a hefty air cooling design.

Specifications:

Packing and Accessories

The Inno3D GTX 980 Ti iChill Black comes in a huge box to properly house the closed loop cooler’s tubing and protect against leaks during shipping. Honestly, the picture doesn’t provide an accurate depiction of the packaging’s size. I have to commend Inno3D because they have taken the precautionary steps to reduce the possibility of damage occurring and utilized strong foam inserts as cushioning materials. The box itself features an attractive render of the GPU, and outlines its specification.

On the rear portion, there’s a brief synopsis of NVIDIA’s Maxwell architecture. I’m a bit surprised to see the back doesn’t contain any information about the liquid cooling solution and the acoustical benefits compared to NVIDIA’s reference cooler.

In terms of accessories, the graphics card is bundled with mounting screws, 6-pin PCI-E to molex adapter, case badge, DVI-D to VGA adapter and installation guide. There’s also a driver’s disk which you should disregard, a copy of 3DMark, and other documentation. This is a great selection of items and provides everything you need to get started! The mouse mat is surprisingly high-quality and relatively thick.

AMD Showcases Polaris’ Incredibly Low Wattage Demands @ CES 2016

CES 2016: AMD’s upcoming GPU range, codenamed Polaris, is built on a 14nm FinFET manufacturing process and reports massive improvements in performance per watt compared to the competition. To demonstrate this, AMD compared two runs of Star Wars Battlefront; one with an NVIDIA GTX 950 and another using an unannounced Polaris chip. As you can see, Polaris delivers twice the performance per watt and maintained a solid 60 frames-per-second at medium details on a 1920×1080 display.

It’s impressive to see an actual chip from AMD being demoed before its release and to showcase the benefits of a refined manufacturing process. In contrast to this, details about Pascal’s performance, features and architecture is still fairly unknown. You have to commend AMD for adopting such an open approach and the graphics market really needs some competition to rebalance the overall market share percentage. So far, Polaris looks really promising, it’s working, and performing superbly when you take into account, the low-wattage under load. Theoretically, this means core temperatures should be moderate and have enough overclocking headroom providing the cards are not voltage locked.

NVIDIA Admits G-Sync Glitch Resulting in Huge Power Spikes at High Refresh Rates

NVIDIA’s G-SYNC is a propriety module embedded into select monitors which directly synchronizes game performance with the monitor’s refresh rate. This creates a smooth experience and minimizes the stutter you would typically get from V-Sync. This also eliminates screen tearing and some users argue it’s a more seamless experience than AMD’s FreeSync technology. Evidently panels with G-SYNC incur a hefty price premium which means consumers have high expectations.

Recently, a software bug emerged which results in significant increases in the GPU’s power draw under idle circumstances. Bizarrely, the clock speeds ramp up too, but only at a significant amount on monitors with a 144Hz+ refresh rate. This notion was discussed by Ryan Shrout from PCPer and said:

“But the jump to 144Hz is much more dramatic – idle system power jumps from 76 watts to almost 134 watts – an increase of 57 watts! Monitor power only increased by 1 watt at that transition though. At 165Hz we see another small increase, bringing the system power up to 137.8 watts.”

“When running the monitor at 60Hz, 100Hz and even 120Hz, the GPU clock speed sits comfortably at 135MHz. When we increase from 120Hz to 144Hz though, the GPU clock spikes to 885MHz and stays there, even at the Windows desktop. According to GPU-Z the GPU is running at approximately 30% of the maximum TDP.”

NVIDIA have acknowledged the strange power draw issue and is currently working on a fix to be included in a driver revision. The NVIDIA response reads:

“We checked into the observation you highlighted with the newest 165Hz G-SYNC monitors.

Guess what? You were right! That new monitor (or you) exposed a bug in the way our GPU was managing clocks for GSYNC and very high refresh rates.

As a result of your findings, we are fixing the bug which will lower the operating point of our GPUs back to the same power level for other displays.

We’ll have this fixed in an upcoming driver.”

I’d love to hear from people who own a G-SYNC display. Do you feel the module is worth the added cost when selecting a monitor?

AMD’s Carrizo APU Reduces Carbon Footprint by 46%

Earlier this year, AMD launched the A-series APUs under the “Carrizo” codename which strive for energy efficiency and lower wattage demands. In 2014, AMD outlined the 25×20 energy strategy to produce chips 25 times more efficient than current products by 2020. According to AMD’s research team, the extremely efficient Carrizo architecture has put the company on course to reach its 2020 target. More specifically, Carrizo chips alter the core voltage to gauge power demands and ensures the maximum frequency is only used when required.

In the enthusiast market, AMD has struggled to compete with Intel especially in single-threaded performance. However, this is a fairly niche sector and it’s sensible for AMD to work hard to manufacture low-cost, high-yield APUs which provide an excellent wattage to performance ratio. In the future, discrete graphics cards might become obsolete and replaced by APUs as computational demands are offset to a server. Whatever the case, AMD needs to make their products more energy efficient and that also applies to the Radeon brand. Thankfully, the Fiji architecture is a step in the right direction and illustrates AMD’s policy towards modern CPUs and GPUs.

Despite this, the majority of press coverage will surround AMD’s future high-end desktop CPUs and I hope they can produce something to shake up the market and make Intel feel less comfortable.

Thank you Venturebeat for providing us with this information.