Gigabyte G1 Gaming GTX 980 GPU
September 18, 2014
₹48,000 (MSRP with taxes extra)
Gigabyte entered India with their line-up of NVIDIA GPUs following the launch of the GTX 980 by NVIDIA in September 2014. The G1 Gaming series is their take on the chip with its Windforce custom cooler design. It uses the best chips available using a sorting process called GPU Gauntlet. These are chips that have the maximum overclocking potential from a single wafer.
The card has a ROP count of 64 and comes with 4GB of Hynix GDDR5 VRAM. Core clock is set to 1228 MHz and boost clock is 1329MHz up ~9% from the stock values of 1126MHz with boost clock at 1216MHz respectively. The VRAM is clocked at an effective 7012MHz marginally higher than the stock 7000MHz. The VRAM should be able to overclock decently though the overclocking headroom for the card is reduced due to the factory overclock.
The rear panel of the card sports a DVI-I port, DVI-D port, a HDMI port and three DisplayPort slots. Of these only four slots can be used at a time in a multi-monitor setup. There are two SLI connectors as well. Curiously, there is no heat vent at the back.
The launch price for the G1 Gaming GTX 980 is ₹48,000 excluding taxes.
Build Quality and Packaging
Given that the chip at the heart of the card is of the highest quality, the rest of the package strives to match it as well. The top and bottom of the card are covered by metal sheets with a brushed finish. Many slots have been cut to make interesting designs in the metal. The bottom has some bending for additional styling. There are three 90mm fans to keep the GPU cool and the heatsink design is branded with a glowing Windforce logo on the side. The bottom end of the card where the metal bends unsupported seems a little flimsy as the metal can be potentially bent out of shape. The fans have a pretty rugged design with a peak in the blades and ridges as well.
The large number of cut-outs means that the fan wiring can be seen tucked away in sleeves. The card came with plastic covers and inserts for all the ports and connectors wrapped in an antistatic bag. The box includes a manual and a driver DVD though it only contains an installer for the GeForce Experience software, which will then download the latest driver. The software can control the glow of the Windforce backlit logo. The materials and components used in the construction of the GPU are of good quality as far as we can tell. However, as we pointed out earlier, the unsupported bends in the sheet metal can be flexed out of position.
We tested the G1 Gaming GTX 980 not only for the average Frames per Second(FPS) but also for the 99th Percentile Frame time which tells us about the performance of the GPU within the second. Within the Second testing is useful to understand micro-stutter which can render a game unplayable despite FPS being high. Fraps 3.5.99 allowed us to calculate both.
Since the card is a Top End GPU, we decided to use highest possible settings in our benchmark games and compare with other Top End GPUs. We tried to disable CPU dependent settings or minimise their impact where possible. VSync and frame buffering were disabled for testing. All tests were run at 1920×1080 on a single monitor configuration.
CPU: AMD Phenom II X4 965 BE C3 @ 3.8GHz
Motherboard: ASRock 970 Extreme 3
RAM: 2x4GB G.Skill Sniper CL9 1600MHz, 2x2GB G.Skill Ripjaws CL9 1600MHz
PSU: Corsair TX650 650W
HDD: 2xSeagate Barracuda 7200.12 1TB, 1xWesten Digital Red 3TB
OS: Windows 8.1 x64
NVIDIA Driver: 334.89 for older benchmarks
NVIDIA Driver: 344.07 (Beta Driver) for GTX 980
NVIDIA Driver: 347.09 for G1 Gaming GTX 980
AMD Driver: 14.3 Beta 1 (Beta Driver)
While this system may not look like a purpose built test rig, we decided to use a normal usage PC so as to better reflect real world scores of the card. The games were also tested with a few applications like Antivirus, Browser, VOIP tool and others running in the background to get a realistic usage scenario. All HDDs were thoroughly defragmented prior to usage. Due to lack of equipment we were unable to conduct acoustic and power testing.
3Dmark is an artificial Benchmarking tool whose Firestrike Test is very thorough on DirectX 11cards powering High-end PCs. The full test run for Firestrike includes 2 GPU only tests, a CPU dependent Physics Test and a Combined Graphics and Physics Test. The Tool is also useful for stress testing a GPU when run on loop.
Given that we are looking for the Performance of the Card itself, one should look at the Graphics score and the FPS for Graphics tests 1 and 2. The Physics and Combined tests are CPU dependent, which is the limiting factor of our test rig.
Batman Arkham Origins
Batman Arkham Origins is a game that’s been supported by NVIDIA and utilises their PhysX technology to handle physics. We used highest possible settings. PhysX was also set to Enhanced. We ran the inbuilt benchmark tool with a FRAPS timed run of 120 seconds. Since this benchmark was picked mainly to showcase the NVIDIA exclusive PhysX performance, one should ignore the AMD card results that are generated sans PhysX.
This game is an NVIDIA Card’s Home territory and the results are visible. Disregard the AMD card since its score is sans PhysX. The G1 Gaming GTX 980 improves on the stock card and surpasses the Matrix GTX 780 Ti for average FPS and minimum FPS with a lower 99th percentile frametime, which shows that it is the better card.
The spikes in the graph with corresponding dips in the FPS come from transitions between benchmark areas and should be disregarded. The visuals were crisp for the duration of the run.
Battlefield 4 uses the Frostbite 3 engine to push the visual processing boundaries of current hardware. Since Mantle is only for AMD cards, we ran the DX11 version with the highest possible settings. The game offers no benchmark tool, so we used areas from the first single player campaign mission for the FRAPS run.
The G1 Gaming GTX 980 blows away the 780Ti and the other cards in this game by a significant margin across all criteria. We did not test this game with the stock GTX 980 so we haven’t any numbers from that card to compare.
The FPS stays pretty constant for the duration of the run and the frametime graph is also densely packed. There is a single spike in the graph but it’s not big enough to be noticeable as stutter in the game.
The Unreal Engine 3 powered Bioshock Infinite really pushed the boundaries of visual effects achievable with the ageing engine. It comes with a built in benchmark mode which runs for a lower time period than the standard 120s we used in other tests.
The NVIDIA cards all are very close in the average FPS comparison but the G1 Gaming GTX 980 takes the average FPS crown, though it loses out to the stock GTX 980 on the minimum FPS and 99th percentile frametime.
The graph shows local spikes that aren’t going to trouble your gameplay experience as microstutter. The FPS however changes wildly and is noticeable so it’s recommended to play with vsync on.
Company of Heroes 2
Relic’s Company of Heroes 2 is a tough nut to crack for quite a few GPUs, though it’s dependent on CPUs to a great degree as well. We used highest possible Settings with Physics turned off and Low AA for the short 45s benchmark run the game offers.
The G1 Gaming GTX 980 outperforms the stock card in the average and minimum FPS but curiously loses out in the 99th percentile frametime. It manages to stay above the playable 30FPS during the whole run and soundly beats the 780 Ti.
The frametimes are quite tight with the stray spikes. The FPS also remained playable and visually provided quite a smooth run.
CryEngine 3 was built to push the PC Hardware to its limits with Crysis 3 and deliver Maximum Eye Candy. We used the highest possible settings for the purpose of our test. The test run consisted of a section of the first mission for 120s, as the game surprisingly offers no benchmark tool.
This game is so graphics dependent that a change in CPU saw no change in the results. The G1 Gaming GTX 980 proves its superiority by giving the best performance of all the cards tested.
There are some noticeable spikes in the graph but they aren’t spaced closely enough to be observable as stuttering. The large spike at the start is caused by the benchmark being started. The rest of the graph is quite concentrated. The FPS seems steady for the most part, though it has wild swings towards the end.
Far Cry 3
Far Cry 3 is a visually impressive game that lacks a benchmark mode. We used highest possible settings and the test run consisted of a 120s sample from the game’s single player campaign where we spent some time goofing off in the open world.
The 780 Ti muscles through this game on all the criteria with the G1 Gaming GTX 980 coming a close second, which is a departure from what we have seen in other tests.
The frametimes are evenly distributed with a few spikes that were not noticeable as stutter. The FPS curve shows a lot of dips and valleys that makes vsync a necessity in this game.
GRID 2 from Codemasters is one of the few games in our test suite that has no allegiance to either NVIDIA or AMD, which makes it a neutral candidate to better judge the GPU’s performance. We used highest possible Settings to run the benchmark tool offered by the game.
The G1 Gaming GTX 980 utterly dominates the rankings in this game with a huge lead on the average FPS. Given that the game is vendor neutral, this is a good showcase of the card’s raw power.
The frametime graph is tight and the fps graph is relatively smoother. Gameplay was fluid though there were some instances of screen tearing. The solitary spike isn’t significant enough to have been noticeable as stuttering.
While the game is ageing, Sleeping Dogs is still a stunner when it comes to running benchmarks. We pushed the settings to highest possible and ran the game’s built in benchmark run.
The G1 Gaming GTX 980 surges ahead on all criteria by significant margins though it’s matched in the minimum FPS by the GTX 780 Ti. The huge lead in the average FPS is hard to ignore though.
While the frametimes are more spread out in the outdoor scenes, they are very tight in the final indoor sequence. The FPS varies accordingly too remaining near constant in the end. The spikes are corresponding to loading screens between the areas showcased in the benchmark and can be ignored.
Tomb Raider introduced us to a new Lara with fabled TressFX hair that behaves a lot more realistically than the pre-rendered mop we were used to. However, the card does not seem to cope well with this technology and we had to drop it in our test run. We used highest possible settings with TressFX on. The Test run was shorter since the benchmark tool offered by the game runs for less than out 120s target time.
The G1 Gaming GTX 980 stamps it authority all over this contest, despite the challenge posed by the TressFX technology. None of the other cards comes close to its performance.
The consistent spiking pattern is caused more by CPU bottlenecking rather than GPU problems.
Total War: Rome II
Total War: Rome II is another CPU heavy game that offers significant visual goodness. It offers a benchmark tool that focuses more on GPU power though and that is what we used for our test run of 120s. We set the game to Extreme and Unit Size to Small so as to reduce the impact of the CPU. Unlimited Video Memory was off so the game could scale down visual settings if it reached a bottleneck.
While the G1 Gaming GTX 980 has the best average and minimum FPS, it loses out to the stock GTX 980 in the 99th percentile frametime, though it fares much better than the other cards.
The frametimes are distributed all over the place and are partly higher due to the CPU bottleneck. The spikes are too isolated to have any effect on the visually crisp benchmark run.
We also had the opportunity to benchmark the card for the 2560×1440 resolution and you can find all the results summarised below.
The GPU is able to maintain a playable average in most of the games we tested which include those from our 2015 benchmark suite as well. While the average suggests that most games ran at playable fps (>30) at the maximum settings, the minimum FPS shows dips below 30 for quite a few games.
Our acoustics testing consisted of trying to determine how noticeable the noise output from the card was, when kept in a case at 1m distance with the side panel closed, as it might be in a real world scenario. Noise is a very relative characteristic that depends not only one the person hearing, but also the background noise of their surroundings. During the course of our testing, we found that the card barely went over 50% fan speed even at full load, which was silent to our ears. However, setting the fans at 100% rpm makes a noticeable din that sounds something like a small electric motor.
At idle the card hovered in the 37°-40°C range with an ambient temperature of 28°C, which is quite warm. The card easily went to 62°C under load. While overclocked it would plateau out at 69°C as the fan kicked up its RPM. This shows that there is room for manufacturers to improve on the stock cooler design for a cooler card.
The card comes in a dual 8 pin power connector configuration and is rated at 230W TDP though it might exceed that when overclocked. The card requires a good PSU for overclocking. The extra power as compared to the stock design increases the overclocking headroom of the card. However, this does mean that the card becomes slightly less power efficient, something that has been a key selling point for the Maxwell chips.
Using Gigabyte’s own OC Guru software, we were able to push the core clock to 1402MHz with boost clock at 1503MHz and the Hynix VRAM chips to 2076MHz (8304MHz effective) which is a total overclock of about 14.17% over factory speeds (24.4% over stock) for the core clock and about 18.45% over factory speeds (18.63% over stock) for the VRAM. These are impressive values though the lea may not seem as big as with the stock card. The Voltage can be increased to improve stability of the overclock and we added 0.05V with 122% power target. All our tests however, were conducted in the factory configuration.
We ran 3DMark to check improvements in the overclocked performance and the graphics score increased from 13978 to 15958.
We also ran the benchmark offered by the game Thief to get a real world idea of the performance gains. We used the Very High settings for our runs which concluded in less time than our standard 120 second runs. One must note that Thief is slightly unreliable as a benchmark due to inconsistency in results across various runs. That said we got an improvement of about 1 fps on average with a very slightly higher 99th percentile frametime.
With NVIDIA’s GeForce Experience, the card can support features like Shadowplay and game streaming. The card’s LED strip can also be controlled to display some cool effects. The new card also lets one use a technique called Dynamic Super Resolution that can be used to enhance the visual quality of shoddy console ports. Gigabyte also bundles its OC Guru software that has a slick interface for overclocking the card.
By dominating almost all the benchmarks we threw at it, the Gigabyte G1 Gaming GTX 980 took the performance crown from the stock GTX 980. Gigabyte certainly pick the best chips in these cards if the performance is anything to go by.
While the quality of the components used is top notch, we did find some minor flaws in the design and construction of the card. These flaws are more of an aesthetic thing than a performance impediment. The cooler design is quite efficient to keep the card cool even when overclocked.
The price of the card really hits the sweet spot, though the card does come for a premium. Despite the higher power rating, which reduces the long-term power savings of the card, we believe the boost in performance adequately compensates for this, adding value to the card. Considering all the findings of our tests, we award this card the iLL Gaming Gold and the Editor’s Choice awards.
We are extremely grateful to Gigabyte for providing us with a test sample for reviewing.
+Efficient Cooling Design
+Excellent value for the price
-Sheet metal covering can be bent out of shape
-Only 4 of 6 outputs useable at once