Nvidia's New GeForce GTX GPUs Are All About Energy Efficiency

It's a big day for PC gaming. Graphics card powerhouse Nvidia has a new family of GPUs -- the GTX 980 and GTX 970 -- based on a brand new chipset, designed to deliver more visual power and higher frame rates than previous generations, while consuming less power. If you believe Nvidia, they're "the new benchmark in performance and efficiency for gaming on the PC."

The GTX 970 may turn out to be the better value card overall in the long run, but today it's the GTX 980 that will get everyone excited. Compared to the last-last-generation GTX 680, the new top-end GTX 980 has roughly 10 per cent higher clock speeds and 33 per cent more CUDA processing cores, but lowers the chip's TDP from 195 to 165 Watts. 7Gbps memory clocks makes the 980 an incredibly high-speed card for demanding gaming, pulling 224GB/sec of peak memory bandwidth.

General purpose computing and electronics more broadly around the world have been getting more efficient as time goes on, but look at the long line of high-end graphics cards and you'll see that they're generally the most power-hungry component inside a gaming PC case. It's great to see that Nvidia is paying attention to this, in the same way as Intel, in maintaining the highest possible performance levels while increasing efficiency and driving down energy consumption.

There are improvements on all sides in terms of the GTX 980's electronics -- a more efficient processing pipeline for faster performance per clock tick, 2.5 times the frame rate for demanding (4K, high anti-aliasing rate) gaming, a new efficient anti-aliasing feature called MFAA, and so on. With a pointer to the fact that Nvidia is looking to the future of gaming and entertainment, the new Maxwell graphics chipset and Nvidia software package cuts a full 10ms out of the standard 50ms latency between processing and display on devices like the Oculus Rift.

While the cards themselves are more efficient and consume less power out of the box, don't take this to mean that they're any less effective for all-out gaming grunt. The GTX 980 is broadly competitive and more powerful on paper than the GTX 780 Ti it inherits the top spot in Nvidia's line-up from, with the claim that the GM204 chipset is the fastest in the world.

Australian prices aren't yet confirmed, but use the US pricing as a guide: US$549 for the GTX 980, US$329 for the GTX 970. Australia Tax will probably see prices rise a little bit over that, but even so the cards should be a hell of a lot more affordable than last generation's top performers like the Radeon R9 295 X2.

Considering that manufacturer versions of the GTX 780 are around the $600 mark, the new GTX 980 should be roughly equal, although you might pay a premium close to launch as stock tries to keep up with demand. Speaking of demand, if the 980 performs anywhere near what Nvidia claims it will, I'd expect gamers to absolutely jump on anything with the latest GM204 Maxwell chip on board.

The reference board for the GTX 980 is a beautiful piece of technology -- simple and well built. The 2.5-slot silver-on-black cooler is heavy and substantial, with a partially removable backplate and an LED-lit GeForce GTX logo on the top of the card. The removable slot on the backplate will come in handy for anyone planning to use 2- or 3-way SLI with the GTX 980, if you have the spare cash and spare space in your case.

The new GeForce GTX 980 has three DisplayPort connectors, HDMI 2.0 for 4K 60Hz gaming or video playback, and dual-link DVI. Four connectors in total can be used at any time, so get your massive multi-monitor setup ready for action. The stock cooler exhausts hot air out through the rear I/O panel, thankfully not dumping hot air into your already-probably-quite-toasty PC case.

The GTX 980 gets its juice from two 6-pin PCI-E connectors -- yep, no more 8-pin connectors, a sign of the new top card's push towards energy efficiency. For a hardcore gaming device, it's still reasonably compact, with the card measuring 270mm in length (and actually fitting quite comfortably into a BitFenix Phenom chassis). Of course, if Nvidia wants to go completely insane, it could offer a GTX 980 Ti or 990 in the future that requires more power and return to 8-pin.

The unspoken advantage of more efficient chipsets and higher performance-per-Watt figures is that, with dynamic clock speed adjustment, you're able to provide significantly higher power at the same energy consumption as previous generation GPUs. The GTX 980 hits a maximum boost clock out of the box of 1216MHz, up from its default 1126MHz, but Nvidia told us to expect routine overclocking speeds of 1400MHz -- which should mean some pretty amazing frame rates.

We've got a GTX 980 whirring away in the Gizmodo office at the moment, and although we haven't been able to spend enough time putting it through its paces for a full benchmark, it's anecdotally a screamer. Comparing it to the GTX 780 previously in our testbed, it's quieter, smaller, and achieved better frame rates in a couple of games of Borderlands 2 and Metro: Last Light. Stay tuned for a full and comprehensive review in the next week or so.

We're checking standard Australian pricing with Nvidia's local reps, and we'll let you know as soon as we do. As an aside, the GeForce GTX 780 Ti, 780, and 770 are being discontinued with the launch of the 9-series cards. The GeForce GTX 760 sticks around, with a price tag dropping to US$219, but if you want one of the higher-powered 7-series cards expect prices to drop a little before stock dries up. [Nvidia]

Update: Early pricing for the cards is in, with PC Case Gear pegging the GTX 980 at $799 and the GTX 970 at $519. Let us know any other prices you see in the comments below!



    I updated my PC recently but kept the same gfx card. Glad I waited!

      Smart move. I've been on a GTX 670 for a while, and it's doing fine, but if I want to start gaming on that new 34-inch 3440x1440 pixel LG ultrawide, the 980 might make its way into my main gaming rig...

        I've got the same GPU Campbell. When I noticed the performance starting to dip a bit I bought another one second hand and chucked that in! They SLI very well.

        I get a little bit of latency though when using my Rift. A small downside of SLI. Here's hoping Nvidia have made some breakthroughs in their latest drivers.

          I've got the same GPU Campbell. When I noticed the performance starting to dip a bit I bought another one second hand and chucked that in! They SLI very well.
          Concur. Although I bought my second one to also deal partly with my triple screen setup.

          Last edited 19/09/14 2:09 pm

          Ah, my main rig at the moment is mini-ITX so SLI is out of the question unfortunately. That's why I've loved the high-end single cards and the dual-GPU-on-one-PCB setups.

    Looking like time to upgrade my old GTX460. Anybody want a kidney?

      I was reading this morning that the black market price of Kidney's is about $260,000 USD

      just for the record.

        Very intriguing! I'd like to meet this moose.

      you can get second hand GTX 780s for much cheaper than this now that the 900 series is out
      browse OCAU forums

      kidneys not required

      Source: i have 780sli

    So why did they go from the 7 series to 9? Or did I miss something?

    Last edited 19/09/14 12:38 pm

      The laptops have been in the 8s for a while, but that was a minor upgrade in going from 7 to 8 -- I think they didn't want to add to that confusion.

    PC Case Gear has a GTX 980 in stock for $799. http://www.pccasegear.com/index.php?main_page=product_info&cPath=193_1693&products_id=29083

    Hmm, i am looking to get a new graphics card soon, i was looking at a 780 ti but the 980 seems fairly good.

      780 Ti will go down in price (probably), but will disappear pretty quickly IMO...

        I was looking at a Galaxy Hall of Fame GTX 780 ti, which was $799 but PCCG has dropped it to $699 so i doubt they will still have them in stock when i get the rest of the dosh saved up.

        Either way, if the new GTX 980 cards stay at around $700 - $800 mark then i will be happy.

      The mockup is more than $100.
      $549 * 1.1 aud/usd * 1.1 gst = 665

      Edit: it looks like they have one for 679, which is within range

      Last edited 19/09/14 4:15 pm

      Colleague literally just clicked purchase on 2 of these from PC CaseGear. Currently a little bit jealous.

      Reference cards will be $549US from Amazon. $35 for 2-5 day shipping. After currency conversion you're like $160-$170 better off if you just get them from the US. If you're only getting one it's not such a big deal but it adds up if you're grabbing more. I'm looking at four so if I grab them from the US it will cost me about the same as getting three from local retailers.

        What about a warranty through Amazon? i have bought a couple of cards through PCCG and one came DOA, got it replaced within a week. I could imagine Amazon wouldn't have any warranties and have to RMA through the manufacturer. A mate RMA'd a graphics card (EVGA i think) and it took 6 weeks to receive a refurb.

        I'm not saying PCCG is the way to go but in the end i little more money could save you a huge headache in the end.

          Personally I've never RMA'd things through the retailer anyway, I've always just RMA'd it straight through the manufacturer which meant sending it back to Taiwan/US/etc whether I bought it from the US or Australia. So warranty is essentially the same for me. Sure a local retailer is better for a DOA because they'll swap it straight away but for a regular RMA it just takes longer because you have retailer handling time on top of manufacturer handling time. Considering I've never had a DOA GPU (surprising considering how many of the notoriously iffy GTX 670 DCU II Tops I bought) I'll take my chances.

    aaannnnnd the Australian retailer's pricing is extortionate as fuck. Will be Amazon for me.

      Still got nothing on NZ. My Asus 780 Ti is NZ$1049 (AU$952). Whereas AU$799 comes out at NZ$879, that's $74 mark-up there as well.

    My Radeon HD 7970 may be a gas guzzler, but it still rate pretty high on the score card.. :)

    Looks like it only has 2048 cuda cores, compared to 2880 on the GTX780ti. Likely a better gaming card but will need to see how it performs in Blender before I make the jump. The power efficiency does interest me regardless.

    Heading to America in December, I guess 2x EVGA GTX 980 Classifieds will be joining me on the trip back! Merry Christmas bank, you're going to be empty soon :(

    Well deserved upgrade from the old GTX 580 that's been slowly dying this year!

    Last edited 19/09/14 1:41 pm

    With the Dynamic clock speed adjustment much like my current GTX Titan, I'm assuming this would underclock itself if things got a litte toasty?

    Last edited 19/09/14 3:33 pm

    i'm running 2 evga 780 ti's superclocked in sli all i can say is AWESOME all games are in ultra and no slowdown i just love them.

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