Our standard test methodology applies here. For thermal benchmarking, we deployed FurMark to place the GPU under 100% load while logging thermals with HW Monitor+. FurMark executed its included 1080p burn-in test for this synthetic thermal benchmarking. In FPS and game benchmark performance testing, we used the following titles:
- Metro: Last Light Benchmark.
- GRID: Autosport Benchmark.
- Battlefield 4 Gameplay.
- Titanfall Gameplay.
- Watch_Dogs Gameplay.
FRAPS was used to log frametime and framerate performance during a 120 second session. FRAFS was used for analysis. Tests were conducted three times for parity.
NVidia 344.07 beta drivers were used for all tests conducted on nVidia's GPUs. AMD 14.7 drivers were used for the AMD cards.
|GN Test Bench 2013||Name||Courtesy Of||Cost|
(This is what we're testing).
|CPU||Intel i5-3570k CPU
Intel i7-4770K CPU (alternative bench).
|Memory||16GB Kingston HyperX Genesis 10th Anniv. @ 2400MHz||Kingston Tech.||~$117|
|Motherboard||MSI Z77A-GD65 OC Board||GamersNexus||~$160|
|Power Supply||NZXT HALE90 V2||NZXT||Pending|
|SSD||Kingston 240GB HyperX 3K SSD||Kingston Tech.||~$205|
|Optical Drive||ASUS Optical Drive||GamersNexus||~$20|
|CPU Cooler||Thermaltake Frio Advanced||Thermaltake||~$65|
The system was kept in a constant thermal environment (21C - 22C at all times) while under test. 4x4GB memory modules were kept overclocked at 2133MHz. All case fans were set to 100% speed and automated fan control settings were disabled for purposes of test consistency and thermal stability.
A 120Hz display was connected for purposes of ensuring frame throttles were a non-issue. The native resolution of the display is 1920x1080. V-Sync was completely disabled for this test.
The video cards tested include:
- AMD Radeon R9 290X 4GB (provided by CyberPower).
- AMD Radeon R9 270X 2GB (we're using reference; provided by AMD).
- AMD Radeon HD 7850 1GB (bought by GamersNexus).
- AMD Radeon R7 250X 1GB (equivalent to HD 7770; provided by AMD).
- NVidia GTX 780 Ti 3GB (provided by nVidia).
- NVidia GTX 780 3GB x 2 (provided by ZOTAC).
- NVidia GTX 770 2GB (we're using reference; provided by nVidia).
- NVidia GTX 750 Ti Superclocked 2GB (provided by nVidia).
Note that although we’d love to do native 4K testing, we don’t presently have test equipment available to do so. We did test DSR at 4K resolution with the 980 (below), though, and this should theoretically only be about 1% slower in performance than a native 4K display.
Metro: Last Light FPS Benchmark – GTX 980 vs. 780 Ti, 290X, 770, & More
The first chart shows M: LL on very high settings with high (max) tessellation. AA and AO are not configured as high as in the below chart. The second chart shows lower (high) settings for comparison purposes.
The next chart (right) shows only high-powered GPUs running M: LL at maximum settings with max AA / AO tech enabled. Left shows high settings.
GRID: Autosport FPS Benchmark – GTX 980 vs. 780 Ti, SLI 780s, 290X, 770, & More
The first chart shows maximum settings on the high-end GPUs, including max AA (16x). The next showcases Ultra performance, with the final chart showing only High settings.
Battlefield 4 FPS Benchmark – GTX 980 vs. 780 Ti, SLI 780s, 290X, 770, & More
With Ultra settings, the 780 Ti and 980 are within margin of error of each other – effectively identical in average FPS. High sees the 980 pulling away pretty hard, which potentially indicates that most of the 980’s throttling is happening with AA enabled; maybe this will be resolved when MFAA goes live.
Titanfall FPS Benchmark – GTX 980 vs. 780 Ti, SLI 780s, 770, & More
We benchmarked Titanfall at launch. The game is capped by the monitor’s refresh rate, so 120FPS is the max possible throughput. The 980 easily hits 120FPS and manages to rocket ahead in 1% low and 0.1% (minimum) FPS marks.
Watch_Dogs FPS Benchmark – GTX 980 vs. 780 Ti, SLI 780s, 290X, 770, & More
We called Watch_Dogs one of the “worst-optimized games we’ve ever benchmarked.” That shows through here. Regardless, the 980 is one of the proud few cards that can retain a playable FPS on “High” settings with the game.
4K Gaming – Dynamic Super Resolution (DSR) – GTX 980 FPS Benchmark
This chart strictly shows the performance of the GTX 980 with DSR (at 4K) enabled. It’s clear that games need to be optimized well for DSR to be a viable setting, especially when looking at how heavily Trine beats the 980 up (the 980 runs Trine at about 100FPS average without DSR). DSR is meant more for games like Divinity, Dark Souls II, and other lower-end games; GRID does surprisingly well and would be playable with tweaks.
GTX 980 Thermal Performance & Temperatures
The thermals aren’t incredible given the impressively low TDP of the GTX 980, but that’s because it’s still outputting a lot of horsepower in terms of performance. NVidia’s GTX 980 clocks just slightly cooler than the 780 Ti. We test thermals with the fans at 100% for absolute performance, then move to “auto” for real-world performance.
Conclusion: NVidia’s GTX 980 is the Best Gaming GPU On the Market.
We’ve still got a lot of architectural explaining and digging to do on Maxwell (be sure to follow us on twitter / facebook / YouTube), but our conclusive game FPS testing definitively proves that nVidia’s GTX 980 is the best-performing sub-Titan video card out there. The MSRP of the GTX 980 hovers at $550 – damningly low if you’re AMD – and the GTX 970 brings up the mid-range at $330, with the GTX 760 shifting in price to $220 (competing against the R9 280).
Owners of the 780 Ti and 780 need not upgrade this instant – the GTX 980 looks more like a direct upgrade for GTX 680 users than the most recent Kepler users. That stated, nVidia plans to discontinue the GTX 780 Ti, 780, and 770 upon launch of the GTX 980.
The GTX 980 makes financial sense for high-end gaming configurations with an interest in proper single-GPU 4K gaming (you’d still have to reduce some settings, but it’s close) and 1080p users who’d like to run DSR. The 980 and 970 have impressive architecture behind them and, once everything’s fully rolled-out, we’re hopeful that the tech sees rapid adoption in driver packages and games.
Note that the GTX 780 Ti may have advantages in COMPUTE or render applications -- we have not yet tested either of these use case scenarios due to time and scope. The focus of this article was entirely the GTX 980 as it pertains to gaming.
The video card will be available for purchase at 12:00am PST on 9/19.
- Steve “Lelldorianx” Burke.