Nvidia GeForce GTX 970 And 980 Review: Maximum Maxwell

Results: Assassin's Creed IV, Watchdogs, Far Cry 3

Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag

Despite its status as an Nvidia Gameworks partner title, Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag is known to perform well with the Hawaii GPU in the Radeon R9 290 series. Let's see how the new GeForce cards compare:

At 1080p the high-end graphics cards run in to a clear platform bottleneck, so it's difficult to call out any real winners amongst these super elite products. Perhaps bumping up the resolution will separate the men from the boys:

It remains a tight race but the GeForce GTX 980 has demonstrated a clear trend of achieving best-in-class performance at 4K, and manages over 40 FPS average in this case with very high details enabled.


Watchdogs can be brutal on medium-range hardware, but it does not present an insurmountable burden for the top-tier graphics hardware we're throwing at it today.

Even with the high detail preset enabled, all of these graphics cards handle 1080p without too much problem, but you can see that this game engine is plagued with significant frame time variance spikes. This is most likely caused by loading chunks of the large game world as we travel through it in a speeding vehicle.

Increase the resolution to 3640x2160, though, and we need to settle for the medium detail preset. Even so, the frame time variance spikes increase and impact the player's experience. The issue isn't distracting enough to make the game unplayable, though.

Far Cry 3

The final game in today's benchmark tests, Far Cry 3 remains a sterling example of a beautiful graphics engine with lush foliage that is affected by your avatar as you walk through the jungle.

The new GeForce cards stand tall here, as they have throughout the rest of our benchmark suite. You can see that Radeon graphics cards demonstrate considerably more frame time variance than their competitors, which can manifest as micro stutter and be an annoyance in this game.

With the resolution increased to 4K, details must be dropped to the medium preset in order to maintain playability with even the fastest single-GPU cards. The GeForce GTX 970 and 980 distinguish themselves yet again, although the Radeon frame time variance issue we saw at 1080p has curiously become less of a problem.

  • Vivecss
  • lancear15
    I was waiting for Tom's review to make my final decision, the 980 is definitely going into my current 5960x build! I cant wait.
    so how long before you do a round up?i mean this time i've seen some pretty crazy looking cards (Zotac's Extreme AMP! edition looks crazy and the Inno3D too)and EVGA has shown off ACX 2.0 which they claim to be the most efficient GPU air cooler in the world...so many to choose from also EVGA FTW has been nicely overclocked i've seen it performing almost on par with 980
  • realibrad
    byt he way... Last page 2nd sentence after the graph of Avg game performance.

    I was hoping for more performance but the efficiency is quite nice. They just put pressure on the top end and gave us a price reduction, instead of overall performance gains.
  • balister
    Very nice, but I still want to see what the power consumption along with what might be possible with the drop to 20nm (since this is still 28nm).

    Likely, we're going to see a Maxwell Titan equivalent come in the next year or so as these are a x04 much like Kepler with the 670/80s were and we're still going to be waiting to see what the x10 will be with the Maxwell architecture.
    Why didn't you include an overclocking comparison? Why didn't you include the 780, but included the 770? Doesn't make much sense...
  • vertexx
    970 is the real story until the 980ti comes out - what a value proposition with the 970!

    Good stuff here - but you guys were a bit slow on this one. Tom's Hardware is the first site I visit every morning. But with the delay of this article, I've been all over the net this morning on other sites that got their stuff out sooner.
  • daveys93
    Will there be a follow-up article about overclocking these cards? Other sites are showing results that both of the new cards are capable of 1500+ MHz on air (aftermarket coolers and even a few with stock coolers), which is a massive overclock. Looks like NVIDIA left the door open for some decent voltage increases, but many results have been in the 1450-1500 MHz range at stock voltage. I am a big fan of the thoroughness of Tom's articles so I am very interested in seeing overclocking results and analysis from this site.
  • nikolajj
    I need this...
  • tobalaz
    I want a 970, wow!
    That's some flat out insane price / performance ratio right there!