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GeForce GTX 980 and 970 Cards From MSI, EVGA, and Zotac Reviewed 66

MojoKid writes: In all of its iterations, NVIDIA's Maxwell architecture has proven to be a good performing, power-efficient GPU thus far. At the high-end of the product stack is where some of the most interesting products reside, however. When NVIDIA launches a new high-end GPU, cards based on the company's reference design trickle out first, and then board partners follow up with custom solutions packing unique cooling hardware, higher clocks, and sometimes additional features. With the GeForce GTX 970 and GTX 980, NVIDIA's board partners were ready with custom solutions very quickly. These three custom GeForce cards, from enthusiast favorites EVGA, MSI, and Zotac represent optimization at the high-end of Maxwell. Two of the cards are GTX 980s: the MSI GTX 980 Gaming 4G and the Zotac GeForce GTX 980 AMP! Omgea, the third is a GTX 970 from EVGA, their GeForce GTX 970 FTW with ACX 2.0. Besides their crazy long names, all of these cards are custom solutions, that ship overclocked from the manufacturer. In testing, NVIDIA's GeForce GTX 980 was the fastest, single-GPU available. The custom, factory overclocked MSI and Zotac cards cemented that fact. Overall, thanks to a higher default GPU-clock, the MSI GTX 980 Gaming 4G was the best performing card. EVGA's GeForce GTX 970 FTW was also relatively strong, despite its alleged memory bug. Although, as expected, it couldn't quite catch the higher-end GeForce GTX 980s, but occasionally outpaced the AMD's top-end Radeon R9 290X.
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GeForce GTX 980 and 970 Cards From MSI, EVGA, and Zotac Reviewed

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  • by tysonedwards ( 969693 ) on Saturday January 31, 2015 @05:10PM (#48948401)
    What surprises me is that these manufacturers are advertising the cards as supporting DX12, yet at Microsoft's Press Conference, they said that these cards weren't going to support the *entire* DX12 spec... Sort of makes is generation of PC GPUs a "why bother" moment at best, or a deceptive marketing moment at worst.
    • Where did they say this?

      Nvidia mentioned the last Kepler series and Maxwel 1.0 would have drivers to support DirectX 12 so this means 600/700 onward can run 10 fine in directx12.

      • "Some DX12 features will still need updated GPUs, but all the basic features should work." ExtremeTech []
        • So "DirectX 12 will support Maxwell, Kepler, and even Fermi. Basically, a DX 11.1 card will be compatible with most of the new APIs. Note, Maxwell is actually the first GPU with full DX12 support, although DX12 graphics are currently only making appearances in demos."

          Alright it looks like we are good then as most of the api is transferable with older products. So a 700 series nvidia card like my gtx770 will have 100% native full features then and a 600 will have most and can still play games reliable as lo

    • Re:!DX12 (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Luckyo ( 1726890 ) on Saturday January 31, 2015 @05:40PM (#48948535)

      After 970 PR SNAFU where they marketed what is essentially a 3.5GB card with additional 0.5GB of crippled and largely useless VRAM as a full blooded 4GB card because it would otherwise look really bad next to AMD's 4GB cards, I would expect them to market these cards as DX12 compatible even if they really aren't.

      Marketing's job is to deliver sales, even at expense of lying to customers by obfuscating potential and existing problems.

  • by Billly Gates ( 198444 ) on Saturday January 31, 2015 @05:11PM (#48948405) Journal

    Nvidia stepped up its game when the ATIs in the previous generation were quite a challenge. The 900's were there answer and the 290x is not far behind. I want to see ATI deliver a knockout with its next generation chipset this spring/summer.

    AMD is really hurting and I DO NOT WANT an nvida monopoly even if I have a 770gtx in my system right now. I was hoping AMD would keep delivering in the next round and get their drivers together.

    Good lord the drivers had been an issue last decade and I am surprised they only got serious about improving since 2012. They mostly work but when I had a 7850 I had memorizes which sets of .13 drivers which would BSOD and corrupt my Windows 7 install so bad not even a restore could fix it. Only a re-image.

    • by epyT-R ( 613989 )

      The radeon driver maintainers don't understand the concept of handling exceptions. I realize gpu drivers are crazy complex nowadays, but it seems like they don't even try.

    • by Luckyo ( 1726890 )

      To be fair, Nvidia did a lot to undermine Maxwell's initial dominance with idiotic marketing SNAFU on 970 and massively cut down memory bus on 960 slowing that card so much that they had to end up comparing it to card from two generations ago in marketing materials rather than one generation ago. AMD has a chance to come back if they play their cards right.

      • I hope so. The 900 series really is a knockout right now. I think these benchmarks might be biased as I saw a more narrow comparison. I wonder how much ram the 290x had?

        But AMD needs to up its game and I remember nvidia cut their prices nearly 50% when ATI did the r2xx series!

        I do not want to pay $600 for my next card which is what the 780 GTX and the Titan was $1000 before ATI came roaring back??! WTF

        • by Luckyo ( 1726890 )

          This is actually the one argument that I keep pushing on more extreme nvidia fans I run into (I run nvidia card in my machine so I end up talking to quite a few when discussing things like specific optimizations, features and so on). We cannot have nvidia monopoly. Prices would skyrocket. No matter how much you are mentally invested in the green camp, right now you should not avoid criticizing nvidia for current problems. We need the competition, and we need to keep nvidia's marketing machine truthful.


    • I run both ATI and Nvidia based machines, to be fair I seem to get more trouble with the Nvidia drivers than the ATI ones. Though both have there share of issues. I originally swore off Nvidia around 2007 when there drivers were so abysmal as to be nearly unusable in a system you wanted some stability in, but difference in power usage and hence noise levels has brough me back to Nvidia recently, just wish they would both get there driver acts together.

      • I had the opposite. Nvidia would go black with no BSOD. ATI fixed that.

        But ATI did bsod depending on driver on my AMD phenom II which I would assume would be more well tested?? I went back with NVidia and it is solid.

        • yeah I get the black screen regularly on Nvidia which is the driver faulting. The ATI I get the occasional machine lockup every few days, usually the minutes before it happens I start getting artifacting on the screen. The Nvidia though is having driver faults several times a day, most recover, sometimes I have to restart the machine.

      • Your problem is that you're using really old hardware. ATi brand stopped producing new products long ago, I can only imagine your nVidia cards running ancient hardware and drivers too.

  • gotta ask. Why do Slashdot articles seem to link hothardware a lot, it seems at best an average site that produces reviews weeks after all the good sites have already done them. Why not link to some of the better hardware review sites?

  • EVGA are pretty famous for dying in 12-18 months. Most people buying them don't care since they're gonna upgrade anyway. MSI's reputation isn't much better, but I know a few people who have had good luck. That said even my brother's Gigabyte GTX 260 only lasted 2 years before the RAM burned out. Too much heat. I bought a 660 w/o thinking about it and I'm hoping it doesn't suffer the same fate (since it's more than enough card for my next 5 years of gaming). I just wish I could buy even a mid range card w/o
    • I have a couple and they perform decent and none of them have died on me. I've avoided EVGA for two reasons, first for the reason you mentioned that many people in assorted forums have mentioned that they die with an frequency that is somewhat alarming and second that they appear to be average performers at best. I've got my eye on one of those Zotac GeForce GTX 980 AMP! Omega cards to replace the Asus GTX 770 I'm using now.

    • I only buy Asus and XFX. Asus stepped up its game after it fucked up royally with crappy caps on their motherboards last decade. The Asus 770 in my box has chocks and several VRM voltage regulators and cost $25 more than a similiarly priced 770 but was well worth the cost as it wont bust and has a solid cooper heatsink and is very quiet :-)

      Go to a microcenter or tigerdirect and not bestbuy which only stocks the cheapest products at the most expensive prices.

      • I never had the caps go on anything Asus or Gigabyte. It was always the ram corrupting :(.
        • by karnal ( 22275 )

          I've had late 90s motherboards (think AMD Athlon xxxxXP chip timeframes) from asus with bad caps; had a customer who loved to keep equipment well past serviceable date blow a few up. Since then, Gigabyte boards with solid caps - haven't had a bad board since, even though I've read reviews of others on newegg/amazon with some DOA concerns.

          Ditto with EVGA; bought 2 cards direct, no issues - however if I have a choice at the time of build, I'll usually go with something with a quieter than stock aftermarket c

          • The Step Up Program is only if a new model is released within 90 days of purchase.

            They do have a pretty good warranty program though. I've only ever owned 2 EVGA motherboards, both died after about 12 - 18 months and were replaced, one died about a year after the other is still going strong.

          • I almost bought a gigabyte. The sales guy convinced me to get an Asus based on returns.

            No their caps on their average boards now are military grade. I had a bad Asus experience from a core2 go and threw it out. It worked fine for a few years.

            Gigabyte does make GPUs too but they do not seem as good. Maybe next upgrade I will try a gigabyte if they sell military grade with VRM voltage regulators and chokes too like the Asus. Well worth the extra $50 for testing and certification

            • ...their caps on their average boards now are military grade.

              I was surprised that this is part of the marketing for gaming graphics cards. I'm curious as to what specification or certification qualifies them for this classification. I'm also curious as to whether this means that they're better than "consumer" grade, and if so, if that means they're better for consumer uses.

              I'm not sure I'd go out of my way to go to a restaurant offering "military grade" cuisine...

              • It was printed on the graphics card box. Most boards with good caps and certifications loudly advertise it including MSI as well.

                Basically the military certs mean they test to see if it runs between -40F and up to a hot 200F and other tests. Maybe overblown and juding on the language think it is silly, but when most old Pentium IVs XP boxes fail these days it is caused by 2 things
                1. Power supply going out
                2. Caps on the board failing to provide adaquite voltage in spikes causing BSOD.

                Home routers too get wea

              • by NoZart ( 961808 )

                Consider the average target consumer of such a card: Battlefield playing teens. "Military grade" is exactly the right buzzword for them.

          • I've read reviews of others on newegg/amazon with some DOA concerns

            That's because people are retarded and mash the socket pins and send it back and Newegg doesn't check and send it out to the next retard.

          • Asus (and a lot of other manufs) had trouble with bad caps all the way up until ~2007 give or take. When they go, it is a very loud pop (along with the smell of electricity arcing) that will make you jump if you are in the same room.

            I've had quite a few fanless video cards with bad capacitors, along with a few motherboards from the mid-2000s.
    • i had the same heat issues, but i decided a couple years back to watercool and i have not looked back. if im gonna spend as much on my GP U as i do my laptop, I dont mind spending a few extra bucks for proper cooling.
  • The 980 has been out for months. I have one in my PC right now.
  • They may sound good in principle but I've never had a factory overclocked card last more than a few years regardless which manufacturer produced them. Heck at one point I had a Leadtek which lasted less than a year. On close inspection their massive aftermarket cooler they shipped on the card wasn't actually touching the voltage regulator chips and they were running at a cool 100+ degC.

    I'll stick with stock cards from now on.

    • You should try EVGA. I've bought EVGA cards for several years now. I've always bought either a super-clocked of a FTW card from them. All the cards I've ever bought from them are still going strong, including two 8800GTs. By contrast the 8800GT that came with my MacBook Pro had to be replaced within the year. Luckily the replacement card has lasted since then.

  • When did Zotac become any human's "favorite" and when did they suffer their traumatic brain injury? Zotac's business model is propped up by constantly paying for rigged reviews and features in magazines and their cards are failure-prone garbage. How about EVGA, ASUS, and MSI like everyone who knows what they're doing buys?
  • Zotac GeForce GTX 980 AMP! Omega - []
  • by Roman Mamedov ( 793802 ) on Sunday February 01, 2015 @03:19AM (#48950377) Homepage
    SHOCKING interview with Nvidia engineer about the 970 fiasco: []
  • by Blaskowicz ( 634489 ) on Sunday February 01, 2015 @09:26AM (#48951067)

    I miss gaming under Windows 98, when everything just worked.
    I don't want anymore to change motherboard, change OS, reconstitute a game library all for the diminishing returns of games looking slightly better and playing the same or worse than 10 years ago.

Make it myself? But I'm a physical organic chemist!