How We Test
In order for us to compare results between cards reviewed by any of our reviewers, Tom's Hardware standardized the test bench that we all use. By doing this, each of our locations can have different sets of cards and still compare from the pool of results that any of us have obtained. Starting with an MSI X99S XPower motherboard, each test bench has an Intel Core i7-5930K overclocked to 4.2GHz, 16GB of Crucial Balistix Sport DDR4, two Crucial 500GB SSDs and an 850W power supply from be quiet!.
Software And Drivers
The last GPU review we published covered Gigabyte's GeForce GTX 980 Ti Xtreme Gaming. In that story, we used Nvidia's 358.91 driver, which was current at the time. We noticed power consumption was higher than expected, though. As it turns out, a bug in the company's software caused this anomaly. Igor Wallossek from Tom's Hardware DE discovered that GeForce driver 358.87 and up have an idle bug when Maxwell GPUs are paired with the X99 platform.
We tested the latest build to see if the problem persists, and unfortunately, it does. For that reason, and because our benchmark suite is old enough to not require the hot-fix changes, we ran all of this review's tests using the last driver unaffected by the idle bug, 355.65.
We've already shown that AMD's Radeon R9 295X2 outperforms a single GeForce GTX 980 Ti, even when the 980 Ti is aggressively overclocked. We also know that a pair of GTX 970s delivers similar performance, incurring higher power consumption and greater acoustic output in the process. For this review, we decided that re-running those tests wasn't important. As a result, today's comparative data is more succinct.
Gigabyte's take on the 980 Ti did make the cut, of course, as did Zotac's 980 Ti AMP! Extreme, which you'll see reviewed on its own soon. I didn't have a reference GeForce GTX 980 Ti on-hand, but I was able to manually set Corsair's card to Nvidia's reference specs to approximate that baseline performance level.
Getting our hands on more AMD Fiji-based cards has proven to be difficult. Most of what we've tested has to end up going back. A Radeon R9 Fury X would be the natural comparison against Corsair's liquid-cooled 980 Ti, but my remote lab doesn't have a long-term sample. Although we can't test AMD's latest drivers, at least we have older results from Sapphire's Fury Tri-X to include.
We chose not to bother with the R9 390X or GTX 980; both cards are a lot slower than Nvidia's GeForce GTX 980 Ti. For clarity on that statement, please refer to the gaming benchmarks section of the Gigabyte GTX 980 Ti Xtreme Gaming WindForce review.
|Direct X||DirectX 11|
|Graphics Drivers||Sapphire Radeon R9 Fury Tri-X: AMD Catalyst 15.15 Gigabyte GeForce GTX 980 Ti Xtreme Gaming: GeForce Driver 355.65 Corsair GeForce GTX 980 Ti Hydro GFX: 355.65|
|Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor||Built-in benchmark, 40-sec Fraps, Ultra preset|
|Battlefield 4||Custom THG Benchmark, 100-sec Fraps, Ultra preset|
|Metro Last Light||Built-in benchmark, 145-sec Fraps, Very High preset, 16x AF, Normal motion blur|
|Tomb Raider||Version 1.01.748.0, Custom THG Benchmark, 40-sec Fraps, Ultimate preset|
|Far Cry 4||Version 1.10.0, Custom THG benchmark, 60-sec Fraps, Ultra preset|
|Grand Theft Auto V||Build 617, Online 1.32, In-game benchmark sequence #5, 110-sec Fraps, FXAA: On, MSAA: 2x, Texture Quality: Very High, Shader Quality: Very High, Shadow Quality: High, Reflection Quality: Very High, Water Quality: High, Particles Quality: Very High, Grass Quality: High, Soft Shadows: Softer, Post FX: Very High, Anisotropic Filtering: 16x|
To test for noise, a handheld decibel meter records acoustic output two inches behind the graphics card's I/O bracket. The instrument has a floor of 35dB; anything lower and it registers 0dB. To represent a recording that comes back as 0dB, but clearly isn't silent, the graph is made to indicate 34dB. When no sound is generated (such as when the fans stop spinning in a semi-passive mode), the graph shows 0dB.
To test power consumption using our reference platform, a bit of creative math is needed. Since Haswell-E processors don’t have integrated GPU cores, we can’t boot the system without a discrete board installed to get a baseline. We are able to estimate consumption based on the approximate power draw of the test bench, though. In our observations, we’ve found that the approximate power draw from everything other than the GPU is 120W. By deducting that from the recorded wattage reported on our in-line power meter, we can calculate the approximate draw of the GPU.
Nvidia's GeForce GTX 980 Ti is a premium piece of hardware designed for high-resolution gaming. There's really no reason to bother with 1920x1080 (120Hz and 144Hz panels notwithstanding), so we're skipping over that resolution. Instead, we'll focus on 2560x1440 and 3840x2160.