Zotac GEFORCE GTX 980 AMP! Review
It’s been quite some time since I last reviewed a graphics card here at pcG. That isn’t to say I’ve just used the one graphics card over the last 12 months, but instead I’ve managed to bide my time until one has picked my interest enough to fight off the rest of the team and run away with the prize (or perhaps I’ve just managed to dodge a lot of work (ED: agreed!) 😉 ).
Here we have a look at the current flagship Nvidia GPU, in the guise of the Zotac GEFORCE GTX 980 AMP!. As you’re most likely aware, the GTX 980 uses the Nvidia Maxwell GPU core which just happens to be Nvidia’s most advanced architecture yet. It also offers us MFAA (Multi-Frame sampled Anti-Aliasing), DSR (Dynamic Super Resolution) and VXGI (Voxel Global Illumination), along with Nvidia Gamestream (stream to your Nvida Shield), the pretty awesome Nvida G-Sync (just as long as your Gaming monitor features it), Nvidia GPU Boost 2.0, Nvidia Adaptive Vertical Sync, Nvidia Surround (up to four monitors for a wall of Gaming) and of course Nvidia SLI Technology for when one GPU just isn’t enough. So what’s the difference between the AMP! and Nvidia’s reference card? Well the most obvious one to point out is the lack of a Titan-esque single fan blower cooler in favour of the latest version of the grey shroud and orange fans making up the Zotac AMP! Tri-cooler. We also get an additional factory overclock pushing the GPU Core up from 1126Mhz (1216MHz Boost) to 1165MHz (1266MHz Boost), but curiously the same 2x 6-pin power connectors and a remarkably similar PCB.
All looks pretty promising doesn’t it? Let’s take a closer look.
‘The GeForce® GTX 980™ is the world’s fastest, most advanced graphics card. Powered by new NVIDIA® Maxwell™ architecture, it includes incredible performance and next-gen technologies for a truly elite gaming experience.
This innovative GPU gives you twice the performance of previous-generation cards*, as well as realistic lighting and support for smooth, tear-free NVIDIA G-SYNC™ technology. Plus, it features Super Resolution technology that delivers 4K-quality gaming—even on 1080p displays.’
The Zotac GEFORCE 980 AMP! arrived at pcG clad in the familiar colours of a Zotac product. The front of the box being predominately gloss black, with a large white and orange Zotac logo in the top left and the AMP! logo in the right. In the lower right we are informed the box contains a GEFORCE GTX 980, which supports Nvidia Gamestream, Gameworks, G-Sync and DirectX 12, then in the lower left we are told of the extended warranty, that the card features 4GB DDR5 memory, is SLI ready and supports Zotac’s own overclocking utility Firestorm. You’ll also notice a silvery grey image in the background. If I’m honest I’m not entirely sure what it actually is, but from one angle it looks like a Z, then from another an A!?
On the box reverse and following the same styling, we have further information on Zotac Firestorm, system requirements, box contents, a small image of the graphics card concealed within, followed by descriptions of the Nvidia technologies mentioned on the front.
The left side of the box is of a rather nice and bright orange colour, as is typical of many Zotac products (it is their company colour after all 😉 ). It once again informs us the card inside is a GEFORCE GTX 980 and that it is a Zotac AMP! Edition, gives us the Zotac web address, then goes on to give us a list of the key features as follows:
- Voxel Global Illumination Technology (VXGI)
- NVIDIA® Super Resolution technology
- NVIDIA® GameWorks technology
- NVIDIA® GameStream technology
- NVIDIA® TXAA Technology
- NVIDIA GPU Boost 2.0
- NVIDIA PhysX® Technology
- NVIDIA FXAA Technology
- NVIDIA Adaptive Vertical Sync
- NVIDIA Surround
- Support for four concurrent displays including: Two dual-link DVI, HDMI and DisplayPort 1.2
- Microsoft DirectX 12
- NVIDIA® 3D Vision® Ready
- NVIDIA SLI® Ready Technology
- NVIDIA CUDA® technology
- PCI Express 3.0 support
- OpenGL 4.4 support
- OpenCL support
- NVIDIA SHIELD Ready
- NVIDIA G-Sync Ready
Whilst over on the right we have a similar styling, but this time in black, with a partial image of the Nvidia eye logo. Instead of the cards key features, we have its specifications (see Specifications/Features below).
As we can see, the Zotac GEFORCE 980 AMP! is very nicely packaged. Upon removing the outer sleeve we find a highly glossy black box with the Zotac logo printed centrally in dark grey. Lifting the lid reveals its contents to be very well protected within a shaped heavy foam block, with the card itself safely contained within an anti-static bubble wrap envelope.
- Zota GEFORCE GTX 980 AMP! Graphics Card
- DVI-to-VGA adapter
- 2 x Dual MOLEX-to-6-pin PCIe adapters
- Driver & Utilities Disc
- User Manual
- Zotac Extended Warranty Information
- Zotac Boost Premium leaflet
- Zotac Case Sticker
At the time of review the Zotac GEFORCE GTX 980 AMP! is available for £429.95 on Amazon or at Overclockers UK for £429.95 and comes with a very generous 5 year warranty (first two years through your retailer, extended by a further three upon registration of your GPU with Zotac).
courtesy of Zotac
|Interface||PCI Express 3.0 x16 (Compatible with 1.1)|
|GPU||GeForce GTX 980|
|Core clock||1165 MHz (base) 1266 MHz (boost)|
|Memory Clock||7010 MHz|
|HDMI||1 (4K @ 60 Hz)|
|DisplayPort||3 (4K @ 60 Hz)|
|VGA||(with included adapter)|
|Cooler||Triple fan cooler|
|Dual-Link DVI Supported||Yes|
|Supported OS||Certified for Windows 8 / 7 / Vista|
2 x Dual MOLEX-to-6-pin PCIe adapter
First impressions of the Zotac GEFORCE GTX 980 AMP! are good. The trademark Zotac orange complements the gun metal grey very nicely. If anything my only complaint would be the toned down and more industrious appearance of the new AMP! shroud, instead of the overly aggressive one on the old Nvidia 680 that I personally loved. Of course you could argue Zotac still have that aggressive looking edge, but if that’s what your after, you’ll need to be looking at the dual fan cooled ZOTAC GeForce GTX 980 AMP! Omega Edition or even the more aggressive looking ZOTAC GeForce GTX 980 AMP! Extreme Edition. Either way it still looks good…
From the top we can see the new AMP! shroud which at 270mm(L) x 120mm(W) clearly dominates the cards entire surface. The shroud itself is mainly gun metal grey in colour, with three textured silver strips running diagonally across the shroud. The Amp! shroud features three identical semi-translucent orange fans with a black sticker in the centre of the hub with the Zotac logo in silver.
On the reverse of the Graphics Card Zotac have seen fit to attach a massive gun metal grey backplate. Which I personally think looks great. One small oddity, being the Zotac logo at the nearside edge. Surely if Zotac want people to read this clearly when installed it should be the other way up!? We can also see the an all black PCB, which granted you’ll not see because of the lovely backplate, but is always a nice feature for anyone thinking of watercooling their Graphics Cards.
The Zotac GEFORCE GTX 980 AMP! is a dual slot card with a depth of 38mm, so it shouldn’t be too obtrusive. On the PCIe connector side, and despite still looking good, the GPU is largely featureless. The only notable features being being a few air-vents, the product code and serial number sticker.
On the opposite side (which also happens to be the side you’ll see), the shroud is nigh on identical. Yet instead of the central trio of air-vents we have a chrome effect Zotac logo, which despite being nice is still a little disappointing. Why? Because it also means the card doesn’t have any LED lighting on the side. 🙁
Looking at the reverse side I/O panel of the Zotac GEFORCE GTX 980 AMP!, shows the PCIe bracket to be of a metallic gun metal in colour with a triangular style air venting system. On the outputs front, we have a single DVI-D (allowing a maximum resolution of 2560 x 1600), one HDMI and a total of three DisplayPort (all of which allow up to 4K at 60Hz). Oddly Zotac have also seen fit to include a VGA adaptor. Although I understand this is commonplace, is it really necessary for a card so powerful? It isn’t like you’ll be using it, is it?
On the opposite end, we can see the the shroud is no longer closed, showing off the heat-sink hidden beneath it . We also get a slightly better view of the all black PCB. Of course once installed you’re unlikely to see this end at all.
Looking to the left of the GPU we can see the Zotac GEFORCE GTX AMP! features two SLI headers, then to the right 2x 6-pin power connectors. This I’m a little surprised about, we know the Nvidia Maxwell core is already famed for its low voltage use, but all other 980’s I’ve seen so far use 2x 8-pin or a combination of the two. Will this effect stability when overclocking? I guess we’ll see…
Installation into our Test Rig‘s motherboard was simple enough, as the Zotac GEFORCE GTX 980 AMP! is approximately 270mm in length and 120mm wide, meaning it fits easily without any issues at all. Cabling was easy enough just x2 6-pin connections needed.
|Case||Cooler Master HAF XB||Power Supply||Corsair Professional Series AX 760i|
|Motherboard||ASRock Fatal1ty Z97X Killer||CPU||Intel Core i5-4690K|
|CPU Cooler||Raijintek Themis||RAM||HyperX Savage 2400MHz 8GB Kit|
|Graphics Card||Zotac GEFORCE GTX 980 AMP!||SSD||HyperX FURY 120GB|
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 347.25 was installed and used throughout testing.
For testing purposes we use MSI Afterburner (here), to help us with our testing and overclocking.
|Benchmark||Ambient Temperature||Max GPU Temp||Delta Temp||Result|
|Batman Arkham Origins||24.00||71.00||47.00||223.00 FPS (average)|
|Tomb Raider||24.00||66.00||42.00||112.1 FPS (average)|
|Metro Last Light||25.00||71.00||46.00||87.33 (average)|
|3DMark (Fire Strike)||24.50||62.00||37.50||10809|
|Benchmark||Ambient Temperature||Max GPU Temp||Delta Temp||Result|
|Batman Arkham Origins||24.50||61.00||36.50||260.00 FPS (average)|
|Tomb Raider||24.00||62.00||38.00||131.2 FPS (average)|
|Metro Last Light||24.00||63.00||39.00||96.33 (average)|
|3DMark (Fire Strike)||24.00||59.00||35.00||12500|
Comparative Test Results (at stock):
NOTE: Please note that all of these benchmarks are valid and correct at the time of review and we do not use historical data. Each benchmark is re-run every time (against our Test Cards) for each new GPU review using the latest Drivers at that time. Therefore the scores may fluctuate between reviews as Driver optimizations come into play…
|Results measured in FPS (average)|
|Results measured in FPS (average)|
|Results measured in FPS (average)|
Having had a brief affair with the MSI GEFORCE GTX 980 GAMING 4G in our old pcG Test Rig, I was expecting big things from the Zotac GEFORCE GTX 980 AMP! and admittedly I was a little bit excited (ok, maybe a lot!). As you can see from the results above, even at its default speed it most certainly did not disappoint. With the pcG benchmarks currently running at a resolution of 1920 x 1080 (because it is the most popular), it gives our previously tested cards a hammering, then with a very healthy overclock it leaves them for dust! By cherry picking examples, you can see Metro Last Light jumps up from an average 87.33 FPS to 96.33 FPS, a very respectable 9 FPS gain, then UNiGiNE Heaven leaps a massive 292 up from 1701 to a score of 1993! So not only do we get a blisteringly fast GPU straight out of the box, but also a phenomenal boost in performance on top of that for no cost at all via a simple overclock.
The Zotac 980 AMP! custom cooler doesn’t disappoint either, keeping the GPU well under the 98.00C thermal limit throughout all testing. However running the card with the overclock with the fans set on auto, would see the 980 AMP! throttle and drop down to its stock speeds at just 71.00C!? So to combat this the trio of fans were set at 100%, which certainly keeps the GPU cool, but also increases the noise produced to 67dB, which is far too loud unless your Gaming with a headset on, and have that volume turned all the way up! 😉
I’ve been playing with (erm… That should actually be working with) the Zotac GEFORCE GTX 980 AMP! for a few weeks now and constantly delaying the review (soz). Simply because it’s the fastest single GPU I’ve ever used, I like it a lot and really don’t want to give it back…
The Zotac GEFORCE GTX 980 AMP! arrived at pcG in a fairly subdued and not too flashy, predominately glossy black box with a Zotac AMP! orange strip running down one side (everyone likes orange don’t they (I Know pcG James does!)?). After removing the outer box sleeving and popping open the inner box, we find that the 980 AMP! itself is very well protected within an anti-static bubble wrap envelope, which is in turn held within a shaped heavy foam block. The GPU is packaged with a fair amount of literature and some accessories including a driver and utilities disc. Most of which you’re unlikely to use, but it’s always nice to have just in case.
With its protective envelope removed, we gained our first real look at the Zotac GEFORCE GTX 980 AMP!. The card itself feels very solid and well made, gone are the extreme looks of the older AMP! cards (Zotac now have an Extreme! version for that) and in comes a more subdued and industrious look. The GPU shroud and backplate are both gunmetal grey with a matte finish, with a trio of textured silver stripes running across the fan side, the inner section of the shroud houses a trio of semi-translucent orange fans, that offer a nice contrast. I have to admit I rather like it. Except for the logo’s… The side logo does look nice with its chrome finish, but I would prefer a little extra bling in the form of LED illumination. The backplate logo is also a little odd, as I would say it is actually upside down!?
Where the Zotac GEFORCE GTX 980 AMP! really shines is in the area of performance. With a default factory overclock for the GPU Core of 1165MHz (1266MHz Boost) and Memory Clock of 1266MHz (7012MHz effective) you are already getting a very fast Graphics Card, yet with a relatively simple and non-time consuming overclock (courtesy of MSI Afterburner) we get a Core Clock of 1410MHz (1511MHz Boost) and Memory Clock of 2053MHz (8212MHz effective), an approximate gain of 21% in GPU Core speed and 17% on the VRAM. Which also rather nicely translates into better Gaming performance, which further gives you a better Gaming experience.
Now I was expecting the Zotac GEFORCE GTX 980 AMP! to be fast, but not to get that much extra headroom at all. There is of course a small downside to overclocking the GTX 980 AMP!, which is the thermals. Although it is a pretty cool card and has a maximum thermal limit of 98.00C, as soon as you introduce a heavy overclock it won’t get the opportunity to even get that hot as the card throttles at 71.00C and returns to its default speeds. Switch the fans up from auto to 100% though, and during our benchmarks the thermals wouldn’t surpass 63.00C, but with the noise level jumping up from 32dB to 67dB, it’s a pretty bitter pill to swallow.
Ultimately if you want to own the fastest solo Gaming GPU on the planet you are inevitably going to be paying a premium. It also means you have to go for an Nvidia 980 in one of its various guises. At approximately £430.00, the Zotac GEFORCE GTX 980 AMP! is one of the cheapest versions currently available, offers a very generous 5 year warranty and a Graphics Card I would heartily recommend… If pcG Terry hadn’t just reviewed a slightly cheaper, slightly faster, slightly quieter and slightly better looking alternative in the guise of the Palit GEFORCE GTX 980 Jetstream.
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Where possible we always use Amazon’s price for Value…
Many thanks to Zotac for providing this sample for review