Gigabyte GeForce GTX 980 Ti Xtreme Gaming Windforce Review

Gigabyte's GeForce GTX 980 Ti Xtreme Gaming might just be the fastest single-GPU graphics card we've ever tested. It features a custom PCB, binned and overclocked processor, and robust cooling.

Nvidia's reference GeForce GTX 980 Ti is already one of the fastest boards on the market. With the added benefits of a factory-overclocked binned GPU, a custom PCA and high-end cooling, Gigabyte’s GeForce GTX 980 Ti Xtreme Gaming promises even more performance.

Nvidia launched its gaming flagship last May to rave reviews, particularly from those who were dismayed by the Titan X's comparable performance and much higher price tag. In fact, much of the time, Nvidia's GTX 980 Ti is faster than the mighty Titan X.

That's interesting because the 980 Ti employs a slightly cut-down version of the GM200 GPU (it sports 2816, rather than 3072 CUDA cores). Further, Nvidia specifies that the 980 Ti includes 6GB of GDDR5 rather than the 12GB found on the Titan X. If you want the complete comparison, check out our Nvidia GeForce GTX 980 Ti 6GB Review.

The 980 Ti has a base core clock rate of 1000MHz. Nvidia's board partners have some freedom to adjust that frequency, and Gigabyte really pushes the envelope. Its GeForce GTX 980 Ti Xtreme Gaming ships with the core cranked up to 1216MHz and GPU Boost rated for 1317MHz. Gigabyte also tunes the board's memory, pushing Nvidia's 7 GT/s transfer rate to 7.2 GT/s. As a result, the company says it achieves up to 33 percent more performance than the reference version.

Specifications

Product 360

The GPUs used in Gigabyte's GTX 980 Ti Xtreme Gaming are specially selected; each one goes through the company's GPU Gauntlet sorting process. Additionally, the GeForce GTX 980 Ti Xtreme Gaming employs Gigabyte's Ultra Durable VGA technology. Its PCB has a special coating that Gigabyte says protects against damage from moisture, dust and corrosion. This board further benefits from the same high-grade chokes and capacitors found on the GeForce GTX Titan X. A 12+2-phase power design helps maintain proper load balancing.

Enthusiasts familiar with Gigabyte's graphics portfolio will notice that the GeForce GTX 980 Ti Xtreme Gaming looks like some of the company's other cards. The big difference, of course, is that its thermal solution is quite a bit larger than most of the other boards with WindForce 3X coolers.

Overclocking a large, hot GPU necessitates a capable heat sink, and Gigabyte's starts with a copper plate that directly contacts the memory modules and processor. Heat pipes draw energy away from the plate and into two sets of vertically oriented aluminum fins.

Five 12mm copper heat pipes meet right above the GPU in a tight cluster, and then spread out into the second set of fins. The area above the GPU also benefits from two 8mm U-shaped copper pipes that improve the rate at which thermal energy moves away from the sensitive electronics.

All of that copper contributes to the GeForce GTX 980 Ti Xtreme Gaming's 1347-gram weight. This isn't the heaviest graphics card we've ever tested, but it's up there.

Copper and aluminum are great materials for dissipating heat, but they'd quickly be saturated without cool air moving across the card's surfaces. Gigabyte's WindForce 3X triple-fan cooler is found on many of the company's boards. But it made a change to the center fan for this particular model.

Notice that the middle fan's blades pitch a different direction than the left and right fans. The center fan spins clockwise, moving air in the same direction as the fans on either side of it.

Gigabyte also adds RGB LED light rings behind each fan, which you can control through the bundled OC Guru II software.

On some of the lower-end WindForce-equipped products, such as the GTX 950 Xtreme Gaming, the heat sink shroud is made of plastic. Gigabyte springs for higher-quality material on its GeForce GTX 980 Ti, building the shroud out of 2mm-thick brushed aluminum. It's painted mostly black, but there's a silver stripe across the bottom-rear fan. The silver parts are additional pieces of metal that get glued on.

The top edge of the shroud features Gigabyte's WindForce logo, which is lit by LEDs set to the same color as the fan rings. There's also a light to indicate when the fans stop spinning.

If you measure the GeForce GTX 980 Ti Xtreme Gaming from its I/O bracket to the edge of its exoskeleton-like shroud, the card is 11.5 inches long. From top to bottom, it's 4.75 inches tall. The heat sink and shroud actually extend beyond the length and height of the PCB. Without them, the circuit board would only measure 10.5 by 4.25 inches.

Flip the board over and you'll find an aluminum back plate covering the PCA.

Most of Nvidia's cards support multi-card configurations, and the GeForce GTX 980 Ti lets you connect as many as four boards together for improved performance. Gigabyte's GTX 980 Ti Xtreme Gaming has the two interconnects you'd need to enable such a setup. But because its PCB is taller than reference, you'd likely need a flexible link cable to connect 980 Tis from another board partner.

You'll need a power supply with plenty of output, as suggested by the pair of eight-pin auxiliary inputs. Gigabyte installs its connectors recessed somewhat into the heat sink, but the latches face outward, making it easier to remove the cables. Both inputs have a corresponding indicator light just below the latch. These LEDs stay lit when the power source is stable; they flash to alert you of a problem.

There's an additional six-pin power connector on the back of the card, along with a button marked Xtreme. Pressing the button toggles LN2 mode and activates the extra plug. Unless you're using extreme cooling, avoid messing with this setting.

Gigabyte's GeForce GTX 980 Ti Xtreme Gaming has all of the outputs you'd expect, including three full-sized DisplayPort connectors, HDMI 2.0 and one DVI-D port. From them, you can drive up to four monitors at a time.

Gigabyte clearly dedicated some effort to ensuring its heavy board doesn't get damaged in shipping. There's over an inch of closed-cell foam protecting all sides of the card from impact. Beneath the graphics card, you'll find a driver disc and setup guide. You also get a Y-connector that takes two six-pin PCIe cables and creates a single eight-pin connector in case your power supply doesn't have the requisite leads.

High-end graphics cards sometimes come bundled with extras that add value, and Gigabyte's GeForce GTX 980 Ti Xtreme Gaming card is no exception. Apparently, the company expects its customers to take part in some pretty intense action, because Gigabyte includes an Xtreme Gaming sweatband in the box.

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94 comments
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  • red river
    just wati for the Pascal cards peeps!
  • Myrmidonas
    I agree. Buying a GPU now is a waste of money.Just wait for the Pascal cards.
  • Gam3r01
    I am mostly interested to see how it would stack up against an MSI Lightning or the ASUS Strix cards.
  • ern88
    Can't wait to see how Pascal and Polaris cards to come to market.
  • dstarr3
    Ehh, if you keep waiting for the next best thing, you'll be waiting an eternity, because something newer and better is always just around the bend. Don't buy the next flagship Pascal card, wait for the Ti version. But don't buy that, wait for the next generation of Pascal because that'll be even more powerful and efficient, while being quieter. But don't buy that either, wait for the Ti.

    I picked up a 980 Ti last month and I love it, and I won't need a new card for several years now. There's a lot to be said about waiting, but you gotta take the plunge eventually.
  • beshonk
    That's because it's a dual GPU card...You just proved you have no idea what you're talking about.
  • Yuka
    Quote:
    That's because it's a dual GPU card...You just proved you have no idea what you're talking about.


    The Nissan GTR puts less than 3 seconds from 0 to 60 using a twin turbo V6 and beats exotic cars using V10s that cost 2 to 3 times more.

    Unless you're brand loyal or actually care about multi GPU issues, dismissing the 295 just because is a dual GPU card is weird in my eyes.

    --

    I kinda missed the Fury X in there and nice showing by that 390X. Beating the 980 in a lot of tests. Too bad the consumption numbers are so bad.

    Nice card none the less. I'll wait for the new batch of cards though to replace my lovely 7970Ghz.

    Cheers!
  • artk2219
    696345 said:
    Lol at the R9 295x2 winning most of the benchmarks handily.


    Thats what happens when its going against two 290X's, but the 980 TI doesn't have to deal with micro stuttering, it uses a whole lot less power, and puts out less heat. But, the 295's were priced really nicely when they were readily available. I saw one new open box at microcenter for $495 a few months ago, and I didn't pick it up... I still kind of regret that, I had it in my literal hands and everything :-/.
  • Epsilon_0EVP
    Quote:
    Ehh, if you keep waiting for the next best thing, you'll be waiting an eternity, because something newer and better is always just around the bend. Don't buy the next flagship Pascal card, wait for the Ti version. But don't buy that, wait for the next generation of Pascal because that'll be even more powerful and efficient, while being quieter. But don't buy that either, wait for the Ti. I picked up a 980 Ti last month and I love it, and I won't need a new card for several years now. There's a lot to be said about waiting, but you gotta take the plunge eventually.


    The difference in this case is that we're having a massive die shrink for the first time in 4 years. Pascal and Polaris cards are likely to completely wreck the current cards in performance per watt, which could mean ridiculous performance gains as well. In this specific scenario, waiting is not a bad idea.
  • ael00
    looks like a beastie. I especially like the fact that it shares the tank constructions of the 980/970 g1 series.

    Im sure if it wasn't 6 months late it would have dominated the 980ti/R9 fury market segment. No rgb fans will stop people hoarding cash for pascal tho ...
  • derekullo
    Quote:
    Lol at the R9 295x2 winning most of the benchmarks handily.


    A fair comparison would be to compare the 295 to 2 Gigabyte GeForce GTX 980 Ti Xtreme Gaming in sli at 4k.
  • thor220
    Quote:
    Ehh, if you keep waiting for the next best thing, you'll be waiting an eternity, because something newer and better is always just around the bend. Don't buy the next flagship Pascal card, wait for the Ti version. But don't buy that, wait for the next generation of Pascal because that'll be even more powerful and efficient, while being quieter. But don't buy that either, wait for the Ti. I picked up a 980 Ti last month and I love it, and I won't need a new card for several years now. There's a lot to be said about waiting, but you gotta take the plunge eventually.


    Waiting is a virtue they say and sometimes it really pays off. For example, remember the Titan X? $1,000 on launch and a $600 cards comes out two weeks later that's pretty much the same thing. $400 for doing nothing but waiting a measly two weeks probably paid off for those that waited.
  • kcarbotte
    316517 said:
    Quote:
    Ehh, if you keep waiting for the next best thing, you'll be waiting an eternity, because something newer and better is always just around the bend. Don't buy the next flagship Pascal card, wait for the Ti version. But don't buy that, wait for the next generation of Pascal because that'll be even more powerful and efficient, while being quieter. But don't buy that either, wait for the Ti. I picked up a 980 Ti last month and I love it, and I won't need a new card for several years now. There's a lot to be said about waiting, but you gotta take the plunge eventually.
    Waiting is a virtue they say and sometimes it really pays off. For example, remember the Titan X? $1,000 on launch and a $600 cards comes out two weeks later that's pretty much the same thing. $400 for doing nothing but waiting a measly two weeks probably paid off for those that waited.


    nearly 3 months later actually.

    http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/nvidia-geforce-gtx-980-ti,4164.html
  • kcarbotte
    215066 said:
    The GTX 980 Ti is getting old in the tooth. Why is it still being reviewed?? Last Christmas season there was a sale on these cards every day if you looked on "reddit build a pc sales". Seems like there is an oversupply. As everyone else has stated...wait for Pascal. I can't wait to read about the clueless teen who buys this card the day before the Pascal release. Happy Robert E. Lee day


    The GTX 980 Ti launched on May 31 2015.
    It's been a long time, but the card is hardly getting long in the tooth.

    Custom partner cards started coming out a few months ago, and admitedly, this review is a little late, the card is hardly irrelivent at this point.

    We're still likely several months away from seeing Pascal in the market, and even when it launches, the first cards could be in the Titan X price range.
    If you have the money now, and the need for a high end graphics card, there's no reason not to consider a 980Ti right now.
  • ammaross
    Nice beast of a card. But I'm sitting on my hands until Pascal and Polaris are out and benched. Should give a decent (albeit small) bump in performance for a moderate wattage drop.

    However, the lack of Fury X benches in this lineup is almost appalling, as it is the direct price-competitor to the 980 Ti.
  • kcarbotte
    444610 said:
    Nice beast of a card. But I'm sitting on my hands until Pascal and Polaris are out and benched. Should give a decent (albeit small) bump in performance for a moderate wattage drop. However, the lack of Fury X benches in this lineup is almost appalling, as it is the direct price-competitor to the 980 Ti.


    I really wish I had a Fury X to compare it to.
    The samples of those cards have been very hard to get our hands on, and without partners having the ability to change the design in any way, we can't even do a custom board review to compare.
  • Wrought
    Sorry, I'm with the crowd that thinks it's hilarious that 2 year old AMD tech is tromping on the current nVidia flagship card. "Bu-bu-but it has 2 GPU's!!" Yeah, and you could buy those 2 GPU's last spring for cheaper than the Ti is selling right now. Your point again?

    Props to nVidia though for doing it efficiently and on air.
  • iam2thecrowe
    Quote:
    Quote:
    That's because it's a dual GPU card...You just proved you have no idea what you're talking about.
    Unless you're brand loyal or actually care about multi GPU issues, dismissing the 295 just because is a dual GPU card is weird in my eyes.

    Maybe you have never owned a dual gpu setup then? Sure it may bench well on the few tests in tom's suite, but there will be one or two games that you really want to enjoy, only to find out they either scale poorly with dual gpu, have stuttering or fps dips to lower lows than an adequate single card, late dual gpu support with patches or it never gets dual gpu support and the game only plays well with one gpu disabled. You also don't get double the vram by adding a second card/gpu, each gpu must have its own ram. I have owned a crossfire and sli setup and had all the fore-mentioned problems. So......I am totally weird for not wanting these problems..........
  • thundervore
    I look at this card and do not understand why its being released. Honestly, who out there is still looking for a 980Ti card this late into its life cycle? Most who wants a 980Ti already have on or they are waiting for NVidia HBM like me with Pascal.

    The game changer is die shrink and high bandwidth memory on the GPU, we do not want the same rehashed chips with just more juice pumped through them. We need less heat. smaller PCBs, and higher speeds. The R9 fury is a right step in that direction with its speed and size, NVidia needs to get on board.
  • Epsilon_0EVP
    2097149 said:
    Sorry, I'm with the crowd that thinks it's hilarious that 2 year old AMD tech is tromping on the current nVidia flagship card. "Bu-bu-but it has 2 GPU's!!" Yeah, and you could buy those 2 GPU's last spring for cheaper than the Ti is selling right now. Your point again? Props to nVidia though for doing it efficiently and on air.


    On the other hand, though, it's kinda sad to see Nvidia be so conservative when they could be clearly delivering a better product. I mean, practically every 970 can run at 1300MHz, even though the official boost clock is under 1200MHz. It makes you wonder what kind of a beast we could have if they decided to throw power restrictions out the window and release a 500W monster with liquid cooling like AMD did.
  • Gam3r01
    627667 said:
    I look at this card and do not understand why its being released. Honestly, who out there is still looking for a 980Ti card this late into its life cycle? Most who wants a 980Ti already have on or they are waiting for NVidia HBM like me with Pascal. The game changer is die shrink and high bandwidth memory on the GPU, we do not want the same rehashed chips with just more juice pumped through them. We need less heat. smaller PCBs, and higher speeds. The R9 fury is a right step in that direction with its speed and size, NVidia needs to get on board.


    It is exceedingly worth noting this card was released November 11th of last year, while this review comes in 3 months late.
    While thats not a long time, it was before people began recommending the wait for pascal.
  • rhysiam
    RE the wait for Pascal, it's probably worth remembering that the GM200 inside a 980ti is an absolute monster of a chip (size wise). I suspect it'll be a long wait before we see decent yields on chips that size at 14/16nm. Pure speculation on my part, but I think the first high end Pascal will be a similar situation to the GTX 980 launch. That's to say, a smaller chip that provides a big jump in efficiency but a relatively small jump in performance over the previous flagship - in the case of the 980 that was a 780ti.

    No doubt we'll see a Titan successor and genuine big-Pascal GPU released at some stage, but I suspect it'll be much later. There was almost 9 months between 980 and 980ti.
  • rolli59
    What I like about this review is how well the GTX970 SLI setup comes out and does not hurt from lack of Vram.
  • Ahmedivx
    Well it's so close to the results of The G1 Gaming Edition, I'm not sure about the sample you tested here but other than the cooler (as far as I know the Xtreme Edition cooler is rated @ 700 watts dissipation while the G1 Gaming cooler is rated @ 600 watts), are these two cards really that different, I have the G1 Gaming but with a different OC of course and it fared pretty well against those scores, even beating it in some tests