MSI GTX 980 GAMING 4G Graphics Card Review
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.
TWIN FROZR V
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).
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.
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.
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.
courtesy of MSI
|Graphics Engine||NVIDIA Geforce GTX 980|
|Bus Standard||PCI Express x16 3.0|
|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.
Max Resolution: 4096×2160 @24 Hz
Max Resolution: 4096×2160 @60 Hz
|Multi-GPU Technology||SLI, 4-way|
|Power consumption (W)||178|
|Power Connectors||8-pin x 2|
|Accessories||1 x 8-pin Power Cable, 1 x DVI to VGA Dongle|
|DirectX Version Support||12|
|OpenGL Version Support||4.4|
|Card Dimension(mm)||279 x 140 x 36|
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…
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.
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.
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.
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.
|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)|
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.
|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)|
|3DMark (Fire Strike)||23.00||67.00||44.00||10904|
|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)|
|3DMark (Fire Strike)||23.50||66.00||42.50||11825|
Comparative Test Results:
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!
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… 😉
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