As expected and rumored earlier, Nvidia has now officially launched two new Geforce graphics cards, the Geforce GTX 980 and the Geforce GTX 970. Based on a new second-generation Maxwell GPU, the GM204, which brings a long list of new features, impressive power efficiency and decent performance update, it appears that Nvidia has a couple of winners on its hands.
We already wrote about Nvidia's new second-generation Maxwell GM204 GPU, so we will now focus a bit more on the actual graphics cards based on this GPU, the Geforce GTX 980 and the Geforce GTX 970. For reference, the 28nm GM204 packs 5.2 billion transistors on a 398 mm² die and feature 2048 CUDA cores, 2MB of L2 cache, 128 Texture Units (TMUs), 64 ROPs and a 256-bit wide memory interface.
The star of the show is definitely the Geforce GTX 980. Based on that same fully enabled GM204 GPU, it brings a slightly higher performance compared to the GTX 780 Ti, at much lower price point, much better power efficiency, reasonable pricing, excelent overclocking potential, plenty of display outputs including the HDMI 2.0, as well as plethora of new features, courtesy of the GM204 GPU.
As noted, the Geforce GTX 980 is based on a fully enabled GM204 Maxwell GPU so it packs all the 2048 CUDA cores as well as 128 TMUS. Most Geforce GTX 980 graphics cards on the market during the launch will be based on a reference design so you will be looking at a base clock of 1126MHz, 1216MHz GPU Boost clock and 4GB of GDDR5 memory clocked at 7000MHz. Paired up with a 256-bit memory interface, it adds up to 224GB/s of memory bandwidth.
While we already know that the Maxwell GPU is quite power efficient, the second-generation GM204 Maxwell GPU has brought efficiency to a new level. With the TDP set at 165W and since it only needs two 6-pin PCI-Express power connectors, it simply blows both the competition as well as Nvidia's available similar cards. Judging from the reviews that have come up online as well as some other reports and sources, the GTX 980 should be quite an overclocker, especially once AIB partners finalize their custom designs.
In order to cool down the GM204 GPU on the Geforce GTX 980, which was not that hard considering the low TDP and the impressive power efficiency Nvidia opted for a dual-slot blower-style cooler, similar to the one seen on the Geforce GTX 780 Ti. It features an aluminum heatsink with three copper heatpipes cooled by a single blower style fan.
The Geforce GTX 980 also feature a backplate, or to be precise, a partially removable backplate. That small piece of the backplate seen removed on some earlier leaked pictures is actually there for a reason. According to Nvidia, a section on the end of the backplate can be removed in order to improve the airflow when the GTX 980 is used in SLI multi-GPU configurations as that part of the board is critical for feeding air directly to the adjacent fan.
The Geforce GTX 980 also brings a new and rather interesting I/O bracket that has been stamped with triangles in order to improve the exhaust. The I/O bracket also features aforementioned five display outputs (four of which can be used at the same time), including three DisplayPort connectors, HDMI 2.0 connector and a dual-link DVI connector. This allows the Geforce GTX 980 to drive three G-SYNC enabled displays while the HDMI 2.0 output brings full support for 4K@60Hz output.
According to what we are hearing, Nvidia is doing a hard launch this time, which is definitely something we have missed during a couple of last graphics card launches, and while custom designs of the Geforce GTX 980 from most AIB partners will not be ready for launch, reference design ones should be on retail/e-tail shelves as of day one. The custom design GTX 980 graphics cards from most AIB partners are expected in two to three weeks time.
Nvidia has suprised us with both the performance-per-Watt as well as the price of the new Geforce GTX 980. While we honestly expected Nvidia to launch the Geforce GTX 980 with a US $599 price tag, which was a bit steep but expected, judging by the rumored performance yesterday, the report that Nvidia dropped the price down to US $549 caught us off guard and made us recheck our sources. The price in Europe will vary depending on the region but the MSRP is set at €452,00 ex. VAT.
Most, if not all, published reviews, including our own review, agree that Nvidia really did a great job with the new GM204 Maxwell GPU and the Geforce GTX 980. While the performance increase, compared to the GTX 780 Ti, is not stellar, the Geforce GTX 980 is still a great graphics card, with impressive power efficiency, new set of features and improved display outputs, which will certainly put a lot of pressure on the competition.
You can check out some of the reviews from other sites below.