NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980 4 GB Review 225

NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980 4 GB Review

Architecture & GeForce Features »



NVIDIA is doing the scientific community a great service by code-naming its GPU architectures after pioneering physicists. "Kepler" became synonymous with the GeForce GTX 680 launch back in 2012; and although it got its debut with the mid-range GeForce GTX 750 Ti earlier this year, "Maxwell", NVIDIA's latest GPU architecture, is really beginning to unravel with the new GeForce GTX 980 and GTX 970 we are reviewing today.

The development cycle of GPUs isn't too different from that of CPUs. A new GPU architecture is introduced every two or so years, facilitated by a new silicon fab process, which allows designers to cram in more transistors, to up performance. The common foundry partner for both NVIDIA and AMD, TSMC, threw a spanner into the workings of this cycle when news broke of delays in the implementation of its 20 nanometer manufacturing node, successor to the 28 nm node on which NVIDIA's GeForce Kepler and AMD's "Volcanic Islands" families of GPUs were built. NVIDIA probably had to redesign the performance-segment GPU based on its swanky new "Maxwell" GPU architecture for the existing 28 nm node. Its fruition is the GM204, the 5.2 billion transistor chip at the heart of the GeForce GTX 980 and GTX 970.

With the introduction of the GeForce GTX 980 and GTX 970, NVIDIA's product stack looks very similar to the way it did in 2012, in which the performance-segment GK104 went into making the GTX 680 and GTX 670, positioned as high-end parts because of their relatively higher performance to AMD's high-end chips at the time. Much like "Kepler" and GK104, "Maxwell" and GM204 boast leaps in performance-per-watt and overall performance. However, those two facets aren't Maxwell's only propositions. NVIDIA announced a bucket-list of innovations in consumer-graphics technologies, such as support for Microsoft's next-generation DirectX 12 API, Dynamic Super Resolution, Multi-Frame Sampled AA, Voxel Global Illumination, and VR Direct. Such is NVIDIA's confidence in the superiority of its "Maxwell" architecture, that it thinks a 28 nm chip with 165W TDP can outperform "Kepler" based chips on the same 28 nm process with a 50 percent higher TDP.

The GeForce GTX 980, hence, is NVIDIA's newest high-end single-GPU graphics card, by possible virtue of its performance. It is priced at US $549, which is $100 cheaper than the GeForce GTX 780 at launch, but $50 more than the GTX 680 at its launch. The GeForce GTX 970, on the other hand, is a high-performance offering priced at $329. With the introduction of these two, NVIDIA announced the discontinuation of the GeForce GTX 780 and GTX 770 from the product stack. The GTX 760 even sees a price-cut that puts it at $219. NVIDIA priced the GTX 980 to lock horns with AMD's R9 290X, and the GTX 970 is slotted to compete against the R9 290. Will they succeed?

GeForce GTX 980 Market Segment Analysis
GTX 680
GTX 780
R9 290
GTX 970
R9 290X
HD 7990
GTX Titan
GTX 780 Ti
GTX 980
GTX 690
R9 295X2
Shader Units153623042560166428162x 20482688288020482x 15362x 2816
ROPs32486464642x 324848642x 322x 64
Graphics ProcessorGK104GK110HawaiiGM204Hawaii2x TahitiGK110GK110GM2042x GK1042x Hawaii
Transistors3500M7100M6200M5200M6200M2x 4310M7100M7100M5200M2x 3500M2x 6200M
Memory Size2048 MB3072 MB4096 MB4096 MB4096 MB2x 3072 MB6144 MB3072 MB4096 MB2x 2048 MB2x 4096 MB
Memory Bus Width256 bit384 bit512 bit256 bit512 bit2x 384 bit384 bit384 bit256 bit2x 256 bit2x 512 bit
Core Clock1006 MHz+863 MHz+947 MHz1051 MHz+1000 MHz1000 MHz837 MHz+876 MHz+1126 MHz+915 MHz+1018 MHz
Memory Clock1502 MHz1502 MHz1250 MHz1750 MHz1250 MHz1500 MHz1502 MHz1750 MHz1750 MHz1502 MHz1250 MHz
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