Last month we reviewed the GTX 970 from GIGABYTE. This time we have the bigger and faster GTX 980. If you look quickly at the two you’d be forgiven the thinking they are identical apart from the GPU. This couldn't be further from the truth because this entire PCB is different. Given that a reference GTX 980 actually exists, unlike with the 970, it made it easier for us to compare what GIGABYTE has done versus what NVIDIA spec’d in the “regular design”. For one, GIGABYTE has chosen to go with a much beefier VRM system, with more power phases. As you know by now this allows the GPU to draw more power and thus in theory clock higher.


With that higher power draw though we have our first official introduction of the 600W cooler from GIGABYTE. We previously saw this in the TITAN GHZ edition, but this was semi-official because this was not a cooler that was sanctioned by NVIDIA and thus could not be used on the TITAN Black Edition. GIGABYTE had cleverly shipped it with the graphics card however.

This time it has passed the NVIDIA green light program and with it we get the best air cooler on any GPU we’ve tested since. It’s easy to say that and may not mean much at face value, but consider that even with the card overclocked (we are talking a scorching 1,516MHz on the core and 2,053MHz (8.2GHZ QDR) on the memory), the GPU temperature never exceeded 59C in any benchmark we ran. That makes it by far the coolest GPU we’ve tested and possibly matched only by the MSI GTX 750 Ti Gaming which is a significantly smaller GPU with performance that is orders of magnitude lower in many cases. GIGABYTE had made a big deal about their 600W cooler before, but on the GTX 980 it’s very obvious just how efficient it is at keeping the graphics card cool.

As with the GTX 970, this supports the Flex display technology which allows you to use more displays simultaneously than any other GTX 980 on the market. The options are virtually unlimited and you can have a multi 4K display video wall all powered from this single GPU.

More importantly though, is how this graphics card performs. Once again GIGABYTE has released the highest clocked GTX 980 on the market, with a real clock reaching 1,336MHz. Not once did our sample reduce this turbo frequency. The official number that it’s supposed to reach is 1,329. The real clock isn’t much higher than this but it does perhaps speak to the GPU Gauntlet sorting process that we keep hearing about. Naturally this made it the fastest graphics card out of the lot. Usually the GTX 980 will trade some blows with the outgoing GTX 780 Ti, especially the factory overclocked models. In this case, because of the massive factory overclock, the GIGABYTE GTX 980 manages to outpace any and all 780 Ti models. UHD resolution performance has improved in the last couple of months as well with successive driver updates, but it isn’t quite where it should be yet. Do keep in mind that this affects all GTX 980 cards where AA is used. In the Tomb Raider testing for instance, there was an improvement where this card was able to run the game with the highest settings possible, including 4x AA at 39 fps. That is at the full 3840x2160 resolution. Without AA, the frame rate was much higher, well over the 50fps mark.

Overall, this is one powerful graphics card. There’s no need for any overclocking here, if you do decide to do it however, there’s plenty of legroom. As it stands, we are not likely to see a faster graphics card this year, at least one that is based on the GTX 980. GIGABYTE has once again produced a stellar graphics card with the G1 Gaming.

CORE  GM204 (28nm) 1,228MHz (1,329MHz Boost)
PROCESSORS  2,048
RENDER OUTPUTS  64 / 128
MEMORY  4,096MB GDDR5 7GHz
API  DirectX 12 / OpenGL 4.5

9.8/10