Review: Faster than Titan X
EVGA has nine different GTX 980 Ti cards, including three superclocked flavours.
EVGA GTX 980 Ti Superclocked+ ACX 2.0+ card used for this review comes with hefty factory overclock which sets the base GPU clock at 1102MHz.
Superclocked stands for super high factory overclock, the suffix ‘+’ means the card comes with backplate, and ‘ACX 2.0+’ is for a custom dual fan cooler.
The clock speed is significantly higher than the 1006MHz reference. The Boost clock is 1190MHz compared to the 1074MHz reference . Higher clocks are translated directly into higher performance making this card perfect for users who want highest performance right out of the box.
EVGA did not overclocked the memory which is left at a default 7GHz (effective GDDR5), but as you will see you can overclock the memory and GPU even further.
The reference GTX 980 Ti is priced at $650 and it gets close to the Titan X, which is priced at $999. The EVGA GTX 980 Ti Superclocked+ ACX 2.0+, which is priced at $680, outperforms the Titan X in most scenarios.
For those who came in late, the GTX 980 Ti is based on a version of the 28nm GM200 GPU, earlier seen on the GTX Titan X graphics card. The GPU packs 22 enabled SMM units for a total of 2816 CUDA cores and 176 texture units (TMUs). The CUDA core number was cut and the amount of memory was slashed to 6GB, the number of ROPs, amount of L3 cache and the memory interface remained the same as on the Titan X. The Geforce GTX 980 Ti packs 96 ROPs, 3MB of L3 cache and 6GB of memory paired with a 384-bit memory interface. The new Geforce GTX 980 Ti has the same 250W TDP and needs 8+6-pin PCI-Express power connectors.
The next image shows EVGA’s full GTX 980 Ti line-up.
The packaging is sturdy and the design is already known to our readers, EVGA has been using it for years.
In the box you’ll find:
- EVGA Full Size Poster
- A User Guide and Quick Installation Guide
- A sticker set (Enthusiast Built)
- Driver DVD
- A small note about PCIE 3 compatibility
- EVGA Case Badge
- DVI to VGA Dongle
- 1x Molex to 6-pin Power Adapter
- 1x 6-pin to 8-pin Power Adapter
A closer look at GTX 980 Ti SC+
EVGA’s GTX 980 Ti Superclocked+ uses the ACX (Active Cooling Xtreme) 2.0+ cooler which we already had a chance to try out on earlier cards, including the GTX 980 Superclocked. It impressed us in terms of low noise. The cooler is 27cm or just under 11 inches long and sports a dual-fan cooler design.
High-end graphics cards generate plenty of heat and some AIB partners resort to a bulky triple-slot coolers to reduce noise and allow higher clocks, while keeping the GPU under the thermal threshold. The ACX 2.0+ cooler EVGA is a dual-slot design (11.0 cm thick) and it is perfect for enthusiasts who want to use the card in three-way or four-way SLI setups.
The Power Logic PLA09215B12H fan has some good features. First of all it was chosen due to its dense, curved blade design and double ball bearing design.
A poor blade design generates more noise but, this particular 9-blade fan seems to be up to the job. EVGA says that the blades are up to 700 percent more rigid than fan blades used in competing fans. This results in a 25 percent weight reduction. These fans really do live up to these claims. The fan uses a double ball bearing design. The noise generated by ball bearing designs tends to be low, at least while they are new. Since this fan uses two ball bearings it should last a bit longer and generate a less noise even after a couple of years of wear. This is what the bearings look like in real life, opposed to standard sleeve bearings used in most fans.
EVGA designed a special heatsink with many dissipation surfaces. Unfortunately you cannot remove the shroud without removing the whole cooler. This is due to one hidden screw below the EVGA top label. EVGA should really remove/reposition this screw and allow the user to remove the shroud easily.
EVGA GEFORCE GTX 980 Ti and SC logos are illuminated with white LED light, which has its own 2-pin power connector.
The heatsink was designed in such a way to minimize airflow turbulence between the fans, with clever barriers directing the airflow.
EVGA used a few tricks to maximise dissipation volume such as tall fins at the sides of the cooler. The heatsink was elongated to match the full length of the PCB. Airflow channels provide better airflow and prevent pockets of hot air from creating inside the heatsink and they should be kept clean.
The ACX 2.0+ cooler comes with five elaborate heatpipes. There are three 8mm straight heatpipes and according to EVGA findings, these heatpipes offer 6 per cent better heat dissipation than bent heatpipes with reduced thermal resistance.
A closer look continued
The reference Geforce GTX 980 Ti comes with three DisplayPort, single HDMI and single DVI display outputs. The EVGA SC card has the same configuration of video outputs. Four video outs can be used at the same time. HDMI comes in version 2.0, which includes HD audio and Blu-ray 3D movies support.
The backplate adds much to the overall image of the Superclock card.
The GTX 980 Ti SC+ ACX 2.0+ is ready for multi-GPU action, be it in standard two-card SLI, or 3-way and 4-way SLI. It features two SLI connectors. A combination of 6-pin and 8-pin power connectors is necessary to keep the card juiced up.
The EVGA GTX 980 Ti SC+ ACX 2.0+ PCB looks a lot like the reference GTX 980 Ti board. EVGA decided to reinforce the baseplate to strengthen the PCB and provide a bit more cooling to the memory chips and MOSFET.
The card uses an OnSemi NCP81174 voltage controller. The same controller is used for the GTX 980 Ti reference design.
In total the card has 6GB of GDDR5 memory. The SK Hynix chips, (model H5GQ4H24MFR-R2C) are specified to run at 1750 MHz (7000 MHz GDDR5 effective). All the memory modules at the front of the PCB are underneath the reinforcement plate.
For this review we migrated to new Windows 10. Migration was not straightforward and without issues. We tried the windows upgrade and ended-up with some bugs related to Nvidia driver. The Nvidia driver was not shown in Control Panel among other installed programs, however Nvidia control panel was accessible and fully working. This issue was solved with an Nvidia driver reinstall.
We could not find a solution for the second, more serious problem. We were not allowed to rise the graphics card memory clock but the GPU overclocked without problems. This issue was present when we upgraded from Windows 8.1 to Windows 10.
A fresh system install solved all the problems. We believe that most of our readers will do fresh OS install however, and we advise you to do so.
Windows upgrade may work for the most users, but there is no warranty that every byte will at the right position after upgrade.
- Motherboard: EVGA X99 FTW
- CPU: Intel Core i7 5960K, 4.2GHz (Haswell-E)
- CPU Cooler: Thermalright HR-02
- Memory: 4x4GB Kingston HyperX Predator DDR4 Memory Review (HX430C15PBK4/16)
- SSD: Toshiba THNSNJ256GCSU 256GB
- Case: CoolerMaster Cosmos II
- Operating System: Win10 64-bit
- Nvidia 353.62
Thermals and Noise
The EVGA ACX 2.0+ cooler is superior to the reference design as it keeps the GPU temperatures below 78 degrees Celsius. If the ACX cooler wasn’t as good, GPU Boost 2.0 would kick in and throttle the card once it gets too hot. The ACX cooler ensures your card maintains the maximum boost clock possible for as long as possible. The new Boost 2.0 algorithm will reduce the GPU Boost clocks on the GTX 980 Ti if the GPU temperature goes over 84 degrees Celsius respectively.
The card is completely silent in idle and during media playback or light gaming. Namely the card turns its fans off when GPU temperature is below 60 degrees Celsius.
The ACX cooler is quiet, even under load. It’s not inaudible, but it won’t be any distraction, as you will hear only some airflow.
The fan management is excellent and two 88mm fans won’t surprise you with sudden RPM changes. The fan gradually accelerates when a game is started and slowly decelerates until it stops rotating when finished.
We can confirm that our test sample has no coil whine noise.
The EVGA GTX 980 Ti SC+ ACX 2.0+ works at a 1102MHz base clock, while the reference GPU base clock is set at 1006MHz. The overclocking potential is good considering that this is a factory overclocked card. Using standard voltage and AUTO fan settings we managed to push the GPU 139MHz over the factory clocks. This resulted in a Boost clocks up to 1455MHz. Memory overclocking is vital in any attempt to squeeze out more performance from a graphics card. The memory produced average results with a total 790MHz (effective GDDR5) overclock. Note that each sample overclocks differently and therefore our results can serve only as guideline for what you can achieve with another GTX 980 Ti.
The card was relatively quiet even after overclocking.
For the best performance we advice to combine GPU and memory overclock.
Power consumption for the EVGA GTX 980 Ti SC+ ACX 2.0+ is slightly higher (10W to 20W) compared to the reference GTX 980 Ti. Higher power consumption is due to high factory GPU overclock, but for that you get better performance. Overall, performance-per-watt is good. Recent Geforce cards tend to consume 10 to 40 watts less than competing Radeon cards in a multi-monitor scenario. The whole testrig using EVGA GTX 980 Ti SC consumed below 500W during game tests.
The GTX 980 Ti is Nvidia’s new flagship graphics card. The GTX 980 Ti is based on the 28nm GM200 GPU, which is used on the GTX Titan X graphics card. While the number of CUDA cores was reduced and the amount of memory was cut down to 6GB, the number of ROPs, amount of L3 cache and the memory interface remained the same as the Titan X. In games there is little difference between the two. With slight GPU clock increase, the GTX 980 Ti manages to be faster in games than GTX Titan X. EVGA GTX 980 Ti SC comes with a nice 96MHz GPU overclock which translates up to 8 per cent performance increase over GTX Titan X.
EVGA GTX 980 Ti SC+ comes with backplate (therefore the sign ‘+’ after Superclocked). The card is listed on the EVGA web shop for $680, which does not sound like a big price premium (+$30) over EVGA Geforce GTX 980 Ti ACX 2.0+ cards based on a reference clocks and without backplate. We are still looking at the excellent ACX 2.0+ cooler, which keeps the card quiet even during long gaming sessions. The card features idle-fan-off capability and this means the fans are not spinning at all at idle and light loads.
The card is factory overclocked but this does not mean the fun stops there. We rised the GPU clock by additional 140MHz while the Boost clocks went to 1455MHz. The memory produced average results with a total 790MHz (effective GDDR5) but combined with the GPU overclock we gained about 7 per cent performance increase. If you are in overclocking business EVGA has another card for you and that is the GTX 980 Ti Classified Kingpin Edition, with a full copper heatsink and 15-phase VRM circuit.
For most users we recommend GTX 980 Ti SC, with or without backplate it does not matter. EVGA GTX 980 Ti Superclocked is faster than GTX Titan X but is considerably cheaper. Until recently is was impossible to play games smoothly at 4K resolution, but with the last generation of the high end cards, including EVGA GTX 980 Ti SC+ we can.
Windows 10 is officially available and you can get it as a free upgrade if you own a genuine version of Windows 7 or Windows 8.1. Microsoft has said that it will roll out the updates in waves and there is no way to know when it will be your turn. We have tested the EVGA card under Windows 10, and it runs smoothly. There is no performance increase or decrease compared to previous systems. If you are gamer and you want to upgrade from Windows 7/8 we suggest to do a clean install. Just download Windows 10 ISO file and do it standard way. You need the MediaCreationTool, and this tool offers to upgrade your windows or create an ISO file.