NVIDIA’s cogent strategy to launch the Titan X at $999 and subsequently release the GTX 980Ti with similar performance at a significantly reduced price was a master stroke. This made the 980Ti compelling value and a great choice for high-end consumers wanting the best possible experience at demanding resolutions. Admittedly, there isn’t a GPU on the market capable of driving a 4K panel at maximum details but you can attain 60 frames-per-second with reduced settings. Evidently, the 980Ti has proved to be a popular choice especially when you take into consideration that factory overclocked models can easily pull away from NVIDIA’s flagship graphics card. While there is some competition from the Fury X, it’s not enough to dethrone custom-cooled 980Ti models.
Some users might argue that the upcoming Pascal architecture built on the 16nm manufacturing process and utilizing HBM2 ultra fast memory is reason enough to hold off buying a top-tier Maxwell solution. However, the current estimate suggests Pascal won’t launch until Q2 this year, and there’s no indication regarding pricing. As always, any new product has a price premium and I expect enthusiast Pascal cards to retail at a high price point. This means purchasing a Maxwell-based GPU right now isn’t a terrible option unless you require additional power to enjoy 4K gaming and have deep pockets. One of the best custom-designed GTX 980Ti cards on the market is the Gigabyte G1 Gaming. This particular GPU rapidly gained a reputation for its overclocking ability and superb Windforce triple fan cooling hardware.
The latest addition to Gigabyte’s graphics range is the GTX 980Ti Xtreme Gaming sporting a 1216MHz core clock, 1317MHz boost, and memory running at 7200MHz. One major improvement is the use of illuminated RGB rings behind the fans which creates a very unusual, and stylish appearance. Gigabyte’s GPU Gauntlet is a binning process which selects the best performing chips with impressive overclocking headroom. Once discovered, the top chips are incorporated into the Xtreme Gaming series, and G1 Gaming. By default, the Xtreme Gaming is bundled with a hefty overclock and should offer sensational performance. Although I expect to see some further gains due to the excellent cooling and stringent binning procedure. Could this be the best 980Ti on the market thus far?
Packing and Accessories
The product comes in a visually appealing box which outlines the extreme performance and gaming focus. I really like the sharp, dynamic logo with bright colours which draws you into the packaging.
On the rear side, there’s a brief description of the Windforce X3 cooling system, RGB illumination, GPU Gauntlet, and premium components. The clear pictures provide a great insight into the GPU’s main attributes and it’s presented in such a slick way.
In terms of accessories, the graphics card includes a driver disk, quick start guide, case badge, sweat band and PCI-E power adapter. It’s quite unusual to see a sweat band, but I’m sure it could come in handy during a trip to the gym or intense eSports contest.
A Closer Look
Gigabyte has adopted an elegant black and white colour scheme which complements a wide range of motherboards. It contrasts with models such as the MSI Z170A GAMING PRO CARBON beautifully and proves to be the perfect combination! In terms of dimensions, the graphics card measures 51mm in height, 270mm in length and a width of 134mm. The GPU has a fairly wide profile, but its length is very respectable considering some models can exceed 320mm. This means you should be able to easily install the card without restricting case airflow or storage mounting options.
The graphics card utilizes high quality 12+2 power phases to reduce MOSFET temperatures and provide a more stable voltage output. Theoretically, this can extend the GPU’s life-cycle and should help with stability during manual overclocking. On another note, the GPU opts for the same metal chokes and solid capacitors from the Titan X which enhances durability. The aerospace-grade PCB coating is dust resistant, protects against moisture and manufactured to eliminate corrosion. This exemplifies the premium build and no-compromise approach.
Gigabyte’s Windforce X3 cooling system features four 6mm and two 8mm composite heatpipes, a special fin architecture and unique fan blade design. More specifically, the airflow is split through the triangle design at the fan edge and guided through a 3D stripe curve. This reduces turbulence while enhancing airflow by 23 percent. Furthermore, the Triangle Cool technology in tandem with the other key cooling attributes delivers very effective heat dissipation. The middle fan spins in a reverse direction to optimize air flow, and attain lower temperatures.
On the side, there’s an additional 6-pin PCI-E connector and LN2 BIOS switch. Once enabled, the liquid nitrogen BIOS provides extra overclocking headroom to set benchmarking records. Clearly, this is only for a very small number of professionals, and consumers should disregard these hardcore overclocking options.
From this image, we can see the LED cabling, and PCB thickness. It does look a little untidy from an extreme close-up, but it’s not that noticeable when the graphics card is installed.
The graphics card requires two 8-pin PCI-E connectors to drive the factory overclock, and provide enough headroom to achieve extreme boosts from NVIDIA’s reference specification. Once the connectors have been plugged in, two white LEDs help with diagnostics regarding your power supply. If the lights remain solid, this means the PSU is working as intended. However, when the LEDs start to blink, this refers to a problem with the power delivery.
Gigabyte have added an understated blackplate which reduces GPU droop and creates a more solid feel.
Connectivity-wise, the GPU comes with a dual link DVI, three DisplayPort and single HDMI capable of running a 4K display at 60Hz.
With the lights switched off, the graphics card’s LED illumination gleams in a beautiful way and looks absolutely phenomenal. The colour range is gorgeous and makes for such a distinctive finish.
Behind each fan is an RGB ring capable of outputting 16.8 million colours. It’s easy enough to select your favourite colour or cycle through various effects in Gigabyte’s OC Guru II software package.
As you can see, the end result is astonishing and a real show-piece for any custom-made system.
Testing & Methodology
Before we delve into any testing we would like to take this opportunity to overview our test system. All tests will be conducted with the latest stable drivers available, with results will be taken from an average of three tests. All tests will be conducted using the highest factory setting if multiple options are available.
- Motherboard – Gigabyte X99-Gaming G1 WiFi LGA 2011-3 Motherboard
- Processor – Intel Core i7 5820K at Stock 3.3GHz
- RAM – 16GB (4 X 4GB) Crucial Ballistix Sport DDR4 2400MHz
- CPU Cooler – Thermaltake Water 3.0 with Gelid GC-Extreme
- Power Supply – BeQuiet Dark Power Pro 11 1200W
- Main Storage Drive – Crucial M550 512GB
- Chassis – Lian Li T80 Test Bench
- Displays – AOC U2868PQU 4K
- Operating System – Windows 8.1 Pro 64 Bit
- “Killawatt” style electricity usage meter wall plug
- Precision Gold N05CC Decibel meter
The latest drivers are always used at the time of testing, but please note reviews undergo a scheduling process. This means, a new driver could be released on the day of publication. However, this doesn’t impact on the results in a significant manner.
- Battlefield 4
- Grand Theft Auto V
- Metro Last Light
- Tomb Raider
- Unigine Valley
- Unigine Heaven
- CPU-ID HWMonitor
- TechPowerUp GPU-Z
During our testing, we use a range of readily available synthetic benchmarking tools which are free to download from the respective websites. We do this so the readers can download and compared to our results. Download links are contained within the “Software” subheading.
Everyone has their own reasonable noise level when it comes to comes to components in a computer. Some can handle all fans at 100% load to keep temperatures down, some want a completely silent computer.
With electricity becoming increasingly expensive across most parts of the world the need for computer components to become power efficient has never been more relevant. Graphics cards are often the most power-hungry components inside a desktop system so having an efficient graphics card is very important to keeping power bills under control. Power is often correlated to heat and so lower power consumption means a graphics card is likely to run slightly cooler and put out less heat into your system meaning your other components will run cooler with improved longevity. AMD and Nvidia have both made power consumption an integral part of the way graphics cards dynamically overclock so the need for graphics card vendors to use efficient VRM and PCB designs is becoming important to maximise performance. We take power readings after 5 minutes of two different load scenarios: desktop idle and Unigine Heaven load.
The cooling solution which graphics card vendors choose to implement is one of the main differences that consumers have to contend with when choosing a graphics cards. Apart from their acoustic properties, the thermal properties of graphics card coolers are extremely important. Lower temperatures are always better and with AMD and Nvidia opting to use dynamic overclocking algorithms that take temperature into account it is important that graphics card vendors use high-performance cooling solutions in order to maximise performance. The era of graphics cards reaching dangerous temperatures are now in the past but the importance of lower temperatures still remains. Lower temperatures mean better stability, longer component longevity and lower fan speeds .We take temperature readings after 5 minutes of two different load scenarios: desktop idle and Unigine Heaven load. We always record actual temperatures and make a note of the ambient; in the case where more than 1 GPU is used an average is created.
The Gigabyte GTX 980Ti Xtreme Gaming performs superbly in Fire Strike and records the first Graphics score beyond 20,000; this is very impressive and a noticeable improvement compared to its closest rival.
During 1440P testing, the graphics card maintains its lead and continues to set mesmerizing scores.
Even though the gap narrows slightly at 4K, the GPU still reports the best score we’ve encountered and deserves a great deal of critical acclaim.
The graphics card displays excellent performance in Valley’s 1080P benchmark and matches the extreme grade Inno3D GTX 980Ti X3 Ultra DHS. Also notice the marked difference between two factory overclocked 980Tis and the GTX Titan X.
Once the resolution is increased to 2560×1440, there’s nothing to separate the top two results.
This pattern continues in 4K testing, and the graphics card almost manages to reach an average of 30 frames-per-second.
In terms of compute performance, the GPU reigned supreme and just pipped the Inno3D GTX 980Ti X3 Ultra DHS.
In Battlefield 4, the GPU doesn’t even break into a sweat at 1920×1080 and reaches an average frame-rate of 140. This is superb when you consider how visually adept the game’s engine is. For some reason, Battlefield 4 favours the Titan X quite considerably compared to other titles, and this might simply be down to optimization.
There’s very little to choose between the top results on a 1440P monitor despite completing multiple runs. Here we can see the graphics card provides a wonderful experience and never drops below the magical 60 frames-per-second figure.
It’s extraordinarily difficult to achieve 60 frames-per-second on a 4K display, and this is evidently shown by the data below. Nevertheless, the game remains playable, and you can easily improve the frame-rate with slightly scaled back settings. It’s quite bizarre to see two graphics cards with identical results, but not overly surprising due to the identical core clocks.
Grand Theft Auto V
Grand Theft Auto V is a visual masterpiece brimming with detail and features fairly good optimization. At 1920×1080, the graphics card performs rather well, and creates a fluid experience. The minimum frame-rate is tantalizingly close to 60 frames-per-second, which showcases the stable level of performance across various sections.
The GPU achieves a wonderful frame-rate of 71 during 1440P testing and the minimum result is within a good range. This means, in demanding sections, you should still able to able to play the game without it feeling overly jarring. Although, I’m a huge advocate of 60 frames-per-second and notice small dips quite easily. It all depends on your eyesight and familiarity with frame-rate variation. Whatever the case, this is the best minimum result we’ve seen and impressive given the extreme settings.
Once the resolution is set to 4K, the graphical demands increase at an exponential rate. Here we can see, the minimum frame-rate is unplayable and showcases the need for a dual card configuration to run games properly at 4K. Overall, the GPU’s minimum rate is great for a single card, and just edges the Inno3D GTX 980Ti Ultra DHS.
Metro Last Light
Metro Last Light’s advanced texture quality, and stunning graphics fidelity makes it a great benchmarking tool for GPU performance. Here we can see the Gigabyte GTX 980Ti Xtreme Gaming provides a marvellous 1920×1080 experience and a great choice for any high refresh 1080P monitor.
Increasing the resolution to 1440P helps bring the Fury X to the forefront and attains the top spot by less than 1 frame. Despite this, the Gaming GTX 980Ti Xtreme Gaming is the better overall performer due to a significantly higher minimum frame-rate.
During 4K testing, the graphics card recorded the best average and minimum statistics thus far. Once again, it’s very close between the top-end solutions and within a margin of error. This showcases the fantastic performance from a wide range of graphics cards targeting customers with a 4K panel.
The original Tomb Raider, unlike its sequel, contains an integrated benchmarking tool to provide very accurate results. Currently, we’ve decided to keep benchmarking the game for this reason alone, but the situation might change after hearing reader feedback. As you can see, the graphics card is able to reach an absurdly high frame-rate at 1920×1080 and pulled away from its nearest competitor by a surprising amount. I’m not entirely sure why the GTX 980Ti Xtreme Gaming is ahead by such a margin but it might be down to the boost clock running higher.
Setting the monitor to 2560×1440 reduces the frame-rate by a large amount but it’s not enough to impact on the user-experience. As you can see, it’s perfectly feasible to obtain a minimum frame-rate of 120 with this particular GPU.
The graphics card is powerful enough to maintain a minimum frame-rate of 60 and performs superbly when you take into account the number of pixels being driven.
Overclocking and Overclocked Performance
The overclocking process took more time than I initially expected because there was a clear discrepancy in stability between Heaven 4.0 and 3DMark. For example, I could add an extra +20 to the core, and +45 to the memory and complete the Heaven benchmark without any graphical artefacts. However, 3DMark was a completely different experience and instantly failed upon start with these settings. To ensure we have a fully stable overclock, the settings displayed below managed to complete both Heaven 4.0 and 3DMark on multiple runs. This entire situation made me re-attempt each benchmark multiple times, in the interest of fairness.
By default, the graphics card’s opts for a very strong factory overclock which means you have to be realistic about the potential for manual boosts. Here we can see, I achieved a fairly decent figure on the core but it’s far from being the strongest result out there. In a similar fashion, the memory overclock was good although it’s some way off being ground breaking. Of course, your results may vary and it’s down to the silicon lottery.
If this procedure feels quite daunting, then you can easily leverage extra performance via the OC Guru II software. Here you can enable an OC mode with a single click which increases the base clock to 1241MHz and boost to 1342MHz. This is a great addition for beginners who feel a bit overwhelmed by manual overclocking.
3DMark Fire Strike
Here we can see the manual overclock allows for a fantastic Graphics score which exceeds the 21,000 mark. Furthermore, it competes rather well against another premium GTX 980Ti.
This pattern continues in Fire Strike Extreme, and the GPU attains a massive Graphics score above 10,000.
Finally, the GPU’s 4K performance is ridiculously good and not too far away from achieving a total score of 5000.
Noise, Power Consumption and Temperatures
Under idle conditions, the GPU enters a 0dB passive mode and doesn’t contribute to system noise. Please note, the 39-decibel figure is based on the bench’s total acoustic output which is affected by the CLC’s pump noise, and triple fan setup on a 360mm radiator. Even when the three GPU fans are enabled, they only add a mere 4-decibel to the overall running noise and remain extremely quiet. As you can see, the graphics card offers an astounding performance to noise ratio.
The aggressive factory overclocked core increases power consumption compared to NVIDIA’s reference design, but it’s not going to have a major impact on electricity bills.
I was a little surprised by the GPU’s high idle temperature, but this is probably down to the passive mode which initiates the fans once the thermals reach a certain threshold. During stress testing, the core never exceeded 69 degrees and attained a commendable average of 67.
The Gigabyte GTX 980Ti Xtreme Gaming is currently available from Overclockers UK for £569.99 plus shipping. This is a considered investment and costs £60 more than alternatives like the Inno3D GeForce GTX 980Ti X4 Air Boss Ultra. However, the cheaper option features a slower core clock of 1152MHz and boost reaching 1241MHz. Furthermore, Gigabyte offers added value with the gorgeous LED fan rings and 12+2 power design with LN2 overclocking in mind. This emphasizes the product’s extreme performance and target demographic.
From a visual standpoint, the Gigabyte GTX 980Ti Xtreme Gaming is phenomenal and it’s so easy to fall in love with the stunning design. The professional looking black shroud and white accents coalesces in a such a beautiful manner and adds a level of sophistication to any system build. Additionally, the RGB ring lighting creates a vivid, distinct appearance without being too ostentatious. In my opinion, this is probably the best looking GTX 980Ti model I’ve seen and there’s a great deal of customization to suit a particular colour scheme. For instance, it’s possible to select your favourite solid colour or cycle through a number of classy transitions.
The graphics card isn’t style over substance though and features impeccable build quality to prolong the product’s lifespan. This includes a premium 12+2 power phase design and aerospace-grade PCB coating to protect against the elements. Not only that, the four 6mm and two 8mm composite heat pipes combines with three high airflow fans to offer a wonderful noise to performance ratio. During idle conditions, the fans turn off to maintain silent running which provides such a joyous PC experience. Once stressed, the fans only have a minimal effect on noise output while taming the GPU’s core to an average of 67 degrees Celsius. This makes it one of the quietest and coolest GTX 980 Tis we’ve tested.
When it comes to overclocking, the headroom is fairly restricted because of the extremely high factory overclock. Despite this, it’s possible to attain good boosts on the core and memory with a minor voltage boost. As always, your mileage may vary from the maximum results we encountered. Personally, I think we could have achieved a much higher score using Heaven 4.0. It’s a bizarre situation because there shouldn’t be such a major difference in stability between two graphics benchmarks. Nevertheless, the gains we encountered are worthy of praise and helped the GPU to score record numbers. I also really like the inclusion of an OC mode to reach stable, impressive gains without any knowledge of the overclocking procedure. This helps users without any experience who want to maximize performance without being worried about causing damage to their investment.
Unfortunately, even a ridiculously powerful GTX 980Ti is not capable of maintaining 60 frames-per-second on a 4K monitor with very high details. The technology just isn’t on the market yet, and you will need to buy two cards to provide a silky smooth experience without reducing settings. With Pascal and Polaris both around the corner, it might be better for 4K users to hold off. However, if you own a high refresh 1440P display or 3440×1440 21:9 panel, then the GTX 980Ti is a suitable choice. During our testing procedure, this became apparent, and it’s surprising how far an extreme version of the GTX 980Ti can move away from NVIDIA’s flagship, the Titan X.
- 12+2 power delivery and extra 6-pin connector for LN2 overclocking
- Astonishing build quality
- Decent overclocking headroom
- Delightful RGB fan ring lighting
- Great thermal dissipation
- Fantastic aesthetics
- Unbelievable stock performance
- Whisper Quiet
- £60 more than competing custom-cooled GTX 980Ti models
- GTX 980Ti can’t handle 4K gaming on extreme presets
“The Gigabyte GeForce GTX 980Ti Xtreme’s strict binning process and remarkable cooling hardware make it the perfect choice for consumers wanting the absolute best performance today. Furthermore, the LN2 BIOS and additional 6-pin PCI-E connector will appeal to professional overclockers looking to set new world records in industry-standard benchmarking software.”
Gigabyte GeForce GTX 980Ti Xtreme Gaming Graphics Card Review
Thank you Gigabyte for providing us with this review sample