MSI GTX 980 GAMING 4G Graphics Card Review
   
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MSI GTX 980 GAMING 4G Graphics Card Review

October 27th, 2014 James Leave a comment Go to comments

Overview

 

As you may well be aware Nvidia’s next generation Maxwell Architecture GPU is now available in the form of the new GTX 980 and GTX 970. In fact the GTX 980 (at the time of review) is the worlds fastest single GPU Graphics Card. But, here we have MSI’s take on the new GTX 980; the MSI GTX 980 GAMING 4G with its overclocked GPU and its Twin Frozr V custom cooler. With a Core clock in OC Mode of 1216MHz and a Boost clock of 1317MHz it’s already around 8% up when compared to the stock GTX 980 (1127MHz / 1216MHz). The card is equipped with 4GB of GDDR5 VRAM running at 7010MHz (effective). The card also supports Nvidia’s new Voxel Global Illumination (VXGI) technology and supports Microsoft’s new DirectX 12 API.

 

MSI Logo

TWIN FROZR V
MSI’s Twin Frozr series has been the definition of graphics card coolers in the PC industry. Kicking off the dual-fan trend, MSI today stays true to its design offering the best thermal and acoustic performance in its class.

Two powerful 10cm radius Torx Fans provide massive airflow thanks to the new dispersion blade, instantly reducing noise by about 5% compared to previous generation’s designs. This reduces temperatures by about 10°C at maximum fan speed compared to the Twin Frozr IV Advanced.

Under those fans lies a massive heat-sink with Airflow Control Technology which covers 90% of the fans diameter. Connected to the GPU is MSI’s special SuperSU Architecture which allows the SuperPipes and regular size heat pipes to do their work more effectively.

 

The MSI GTX 980 GAMING 4G came in the ubiquitous Red ‘n Black Dragon adorned box that is now so synonymous with Gaming. It’s a smart design and one that has served MSI well. The front of the box gives very little away other than the following highlights: Twin Frozr V, 4GB GDDR5, PCI-E 3.0, OC Edition and Gamestream, Gameworks, G-Sync and DirectX 12 support.

The back of the box goes into far more detail regarding the technical specifications and the features of the MSI GTX 980 GAMING 4G (see above right & Specification/Features below).

 

MSI GTX 980 GAMING 4G - box front MSI GTX 980 GAMING 4G - box back

 

In the box we find a black inner box, with a tray lid featuring the MSI Gaming Dragon logo. Lifting the lid allows us to see that the card within is well protected, sealed within a anti-static bag and surrounded by soft cell foam.

 

MSI GTX 980 GAMING 4G - inner box MSI GTX 980 GAMING 4G - inner box (open)

 

Within the tray lid we find an MSI Graphics Card Quick User Guide, GAMING Series Products leaflet, Drivers & Utilities CD and a 6-pin to 8-pin PCI-E adapter cable.

 

MSI GTX 980 GAMING 4G - box contents

 

At the time of review the MSI GTX 980 GAMING 4G Graphics Card is retailing on AMAZON for approximately £450 and comes with a 3 year warranty.

 

Specifications/Features

courtesy of MSI

Graphics Engine NVIDIA Geforce GTX 980
Bus Standard PCI Express x16 3.0
Memory Type GDDR5
Memory Size(MB) 4096
Memory Interface 256 bits x2
Core Clock Speed(MHz) 1216MHz Core (Boost Clock:1317MHz) (OC Mode)
1190MHz Core (Boost Clock:1291MHz) (Gaming Mode)
1140MHz Core (Boost Clock:1241MHz) (Silent Mode)
Memory Clock Speed(MHz) 7010
DVI Output 1 (Dual-link DVI-I)
Max Resolution: 2048×1536 @60 Hz.
Maximum Displays 4
HDMI-Output 1
Max Resolution: 4096×2160 @24 Hz
DisplayPort 3
Max Resolution: 4096×2160 @60 Hz
Multi-GPU Technology SLI, 4-way
HDCP Support Y
Power consumption (W) 178
HDMI Support Y
Recommended Power 500
Dual-link DVI Y
Power Connectors 8-pin x 2
Accessories 1 x 8-pin Power Cable, 1 x DVI to VGA Dongle
RAMDACs 400
DirectX Version Support 12
OpenGL Version Support 4.4
SLI Support Y
3-way SLI Y
Card Dimension(mm) 279 x 140 x 36
Weight 782

* Additional details available here

 

First Impressions

 

The MSI GTX 980 GAMING 4G is a good looking card with its Twin Frozr V cooler, the unusual design (one red shroud) may look kind of odd, but I must admit to liking it, as it’s that little bit different…

 

MSI GTX 980 GAMING 4G MSI GTX 980 GAMING 4G - angled

 

Taking a look at the top of the card we can see the two 10cm Torx fans that make up the Hybrid Frozr design. Hybrid because not only do the fans come on when they need too, but one fan can come on independently of the other. It’s really rather weird when you look at the Graphics Card and only one fan is spinning! 😮

Looking at the back of the card there’s not much to see, note there’s no back-plate either, which is a shame as it adds stiffness to the card and stops it flexing during installation. In the top right corner we can see two SLI connectors, meaning that the MSI GTX 980 GAMING 4G will support Triple SLI.

MSI GTX 980 GAMING 4G - front MSI GTX 980 GAMING 4G - back

 

Looking at the top side of the card (that’s the side you see) we can see a smart Dragon logo in the left hand corner, that looks pretty cool. And in gets even cooler as when powered up, this logo also illuminates white. This side of the card is also dominated by the SuperSU 8mm heat-pipes. In the far right corner we can see the x2 8-pin power sockets.

Looking at the other side of the card there not so much to see, apart from the heat-pipes and the large cooler hiding within the chassis of the card.

MSI GTX 980 GAMING 4G - top MSI GTX 980 GAMING 4G - bottom

 

Looking at the left of the card we can see that the MSI GTX 980 GAMING 4G features the following outputs (DVI-D, x3 DiplayPort and x1 HDMI). Note that if you want to run a 4K resolution (3840×2160) at 60Hz then you’re going to need to use one of the DisplayPort outputs, or ensure that you’re using HDMI 2.0 (as HDMI 1.4a only supports 24Hz).

There’s not much to see at the far end of the card other than the main heat-sink and the cable that provides power and control to those 10cm Torx fans.

MSI GTX 980 GAMING 4G - outputs MSI GTX 980 GAMING 4G - end

 

Hardware Installation

 

Installation into our Test Rig (see below) and into the MSI Z87-G45 GAMING motherboard was simple enough, even despite the card’s length at 280mm . Cabling was easy with just x2 8-pin power connections needed.

  • Test Rig Setup

  • Case Cooler Master HAF XB Power Supply Corsair AX760i
    Motherboard MSI Z87-G45 GAMING CPU Intel Core i5-4670K
    CPU Cooler Raijintek Themis RAM Kingston HyperX Savage 8GB 2400MHz
    Graphics Card MSI GTX 980 GAMING 4G SSD (mSATA – on-board port) ADATA SX300 (64GB)

     

    MSI GTX 980 GAMING 4G - installed MSI GTX 980 GAMING 4G - installed (side)

     

    Testing Methodology/Setup

     

    Our Test Rig was treated to a fresh install of Windows 7 Home Premium 64Bit (Service Pack 1) with all associated drivers also installed. Nvidia Driver 344.16 was installed and used throughout testing.

    For testing purposes we used MSI Afterburner (here), which is included with the card.

     

  • Overclocking the MSI GTX 980 GAMING 4G via MSI Afterburner (Version 3.0.0)
  •  

    MSI GTX 980 GAMING 4G - overclocking (Afterburner settings) At stock settings the MSI GTX 980 GAMING 4G starts throttling quite early 65 degrees Celsius (1329MHz)! Luckily Afterburner comes to the rescue allowing us to push the power consumption up to 122%. This in conjunction with a Core Clock increase of 125MHz and a Memory Clock increase of 450MHz, combined with a 100% fan speed (that’s actually not that loud!) allowed the card to show its true potential.

    The MSI GTX 980 GAMING 4G would now happily run consistently at 1454MHz with an effective memory speed of 7900MHz!

     

    Hardware Performance

     

  • MSI GTX 980 GAMING 4G – STOCK (Core: 1317MHz/ Mem: 7010MHz)
  • Benchmark Ambient Temperature Max GPU Temp Delta Temp Result
    Batman Arkham Origins 23.50 68.00 44.50 225.00 FPS (average)
    Tomb Raider 24.00 67.00 43.00 96.9 FPS (average)
    Metro Last Light 24.00 68.00 44.00 90.00 (average)
    UNiGiNE Heaven 24.00 65.00 41.00 1704
    3DMark (Fire Strike) 23.00 67.00 44.00 10904

     

  • MSI GTX 980 gaming 4G – AFTERBURNER OC Settings (Core: 1442MHz / Mem:7910MHz)
  • Benchmark Ambient Temperature Max GPU Temp Delta Temp Result
    Batman Arkham Origins 23.50 66.00 42.50 242.00 FPS (average)
    Tomb Raider 23.50 67.00 43.50 110.80 FPS (average)
    Metro Last Light 24.00 66.00 42.00 98.00 (average)
    UNiGiNE Heaven 24.00 65.00 41.00 1884
    3DMark (Fire Strike) 23.50 66.00 42.50 11825

     

    Comparative Test Results:

     

    Batman Arkham Origins

    Batman Arkham Origins - Benchmark Settings Nvidia GTX980 - Batman Arkham Origins

    Tomb Raider

    Tomb Raider - Benchmark Settings Nvidia GTX980 - Tomb Raider

    Metro Last Light

    Metro Last Light - Benchmark Settings Nvidia GTX980 - Metro Last Light

    UNiGiNE Heaven 4.0

    UNiGiNE Heaven - Benchmark Settings Nvidia GTX980 - Unigine Heaven

    3DMark (Fire Strike 1.0)

    3DMark - Benchmark Settings Nvidia GTX980 - 3DMark

     

    So it’s true the Nvidia GTX 980 is the fastest single GPU in the world, especially in the guise of the MSI GTX 980 GAMING 4G! There’s no denying the performance of the card, it shows its performance in all tests, the only card it cant catch is the dual GPU MSI R9 295X2. Although, to be fair in some tests (Batman: Arkham Origins & Metro: Last Light) it gets damn close, and that’s impressive!

    It can also do this while remaining below 70 degrees Celsius and whilst saying quiet, all I could hear during testing at stock speeds was my case fans at around 43dB. Only when the card’s fans were increased to 100% during overclocking did the volume get loud and even then it was still only 50dB, which is also quite impressive, if a little loud.

    Overall an impressive showing, as not only do we have a powerful GPU in the MSI GTX GAMING 4G, but we also have a card with great overclocking potential while keeping those thermals and the acoustics in check. The icing on the cake must surely be the fact that it can do all of this while only pulling around 410 watts at the wall, while overclocked! It’s not just powerful it is efficient too!

     

    Final Thoughts

     

    There’s no doubt that the new Nvidia GTX 980 is a good card and here in the guise of the MSI GTX 980 GAMING 4G its an even more impressive card. It’s fast, it’s cool, it’s quiet and its even efficient! And it looks good too, although I would have liked to have seen a back-plate!

    The MSI GTX 980 GAMING 4G came in the predictable dragon emblazoned box, the card was well packaged and protected too. This is a pretty big card though it’s not really the length either at 279mm, it’s the width at 140mm. You may want to be careful if there’s not a lot of width to your case, here’s looking at you Corsair Air 240 (that’s right this card does not fit in that case!). Ok so the card is a little well, wide (and heavy at 782g), but it does look good with its new twin 10cm Torx fans and the new Twin Frozr V design. And then there’s that smart Dragon logo that lights up on the top left of the card, very cool…

    Luckily the MSI GTX 980 GAMING 4G Graphics Card performs as good as it looks, but I cant help but feel a little cheated… The card is already the fastest performing single GPU on the planet and it even overclocks well, we gained a performance increase of around 10% on an already overclocked card. And it remains very cool and quiet, which is good but also a bit of a disappointment, as I cant help but feel that this card (more specifically the Nvidia GTX 980) could actually perform even better, if the heat and TDP shackles were removed. I think that the card has been nerfed by Nvidia as there’s something better around the corner. I guess we will have to wait and see…

    For now though, the bottom line is, this new MSI GTX 980 GAMING 4G is a great Gaming Graphics Card, even the price (approximately £450) at the time of review is a pretty fair price for such a new GPU. Maxwell maybe here, but I’m thinking there’s better to come… 😉

     

    Verdict

    Please Share, Like & Comment below, we really value your thoughts and opinions…


     

      Design/Quality pcGameware awards the MSI GTX 980 GAMING 4G a Gold
    Performance
    Value
    Overall

     

    1. CL Neuenkirk
      October 28th, 2014 at 00:30 | #1

      Enjoyed the review. Might have a look at that processor stated…i7-4670k.

    2. James
      October 28th, 2014 at 16:27 | #2

      Thanks for pointing that out! 😉

    3. Ivan
      November 18th, 2014 at 04:06 | #3

      You stated, and even added an extra note that it will not work with HDMI 2.0 kit
      “Looking at the left of the card we can see that the MSI GTX 980 GAMING 4G features the following outputs (DVI-D, x3 DiplayPort and x1 HDMI). Note that if you want to run a 4K resolution (3840×2160) at 60Hz then you’re going to need to use one of the DisplayPort outputs.”
      As i am planning on buying 2 of these to run in sli, and hook them up to my HDMI 2.0 Onkyo 636 AV amp (with 4K upscaling), and into my HDMI 2.0 65 inch 4k Panansonic TV the lack of the HDMI 2.0 port that come as standard on the 980 Reference cards was a deal breaker, and means MSI have stupidly removing the original HDMI 2.0 port and fitting an older HDMI 1.4a port.
      I was very worried that after market companies would remove the original HDMI 2.0 port that NVIDIA fits to the 980’s, so i checked on the MSI website for the cards specs, and they are claiming the HDMI 2.0 port is untouched from the original and will run (3840×2160) at 60Hz. the link to the MSI website is http://uk.msi.com/product/vga/GTX-980-GAMING-4G.html#hero-specification

      So could you please tell us where you got the information that it will not work on HDMI 2.0 equipment, as this is a serious problem and would make the card unsuitable for many potential buyers.

      Or check your facts again and edit the review details before more buyers are scared off by the lack of HDMI 2.0 compatibility.

      Thank you

      Ivan

      • James
        November 18th, 2014 at 08:16 | #4

        You are (of course) correct, 3840×2160 @60Hz is supported by HDMI 2.0 only. HDMI 1.4a only supports up to 24FPS. Apologies for the confusion.

      • James
        November 18th, 2014 at 08:23 | #5

        It’s also worth noting that not all 4K monitors that have HDMI, support HDMI 2.0! So you need to be a little careful guys…

        😉

    4. James
      November 27th, 2014 at 20:01 | #6

      @Ivan
      It’s also worth taking a look here – https://forums.geforce.com/default/topic/776236/geforce-900-series/4k-60-not-possible-on-gtx-980-over-hdmi/

      * and on a personal note using this card I cannot run over 30Hz using HDMI at a resolution of 3440×1440!? DisplayPort is fine…

    5. Tarqua
      December 1st, 2014 at 21:22 | #7

      HI, Are you sure that gtx doesn’t fit in air 240?
      thank you

      • Mike
        December 1st, 2014 at 22:06 | #8

        Sadly the MSI GTX 980 GAMING 4G is too wide for the Corsair Air 240. You’ll find the heatpipes will rub up against and mark the window and your power leads may even bulk out even further.

    6. Dom
      December 30th, 2014 at 18:01 | #9

      What Size Case Would You Recommend for this graphics card to fit in comfortably. Are there any cases apart from the one you use on here that you know the card will fit well into ? !

      • Mike
        December 30th, 2014 at 19:23 | #10

        It really depends on what your needs are. Are you looking for a full tower or something smaller?