Nvidia GeForce GTX 970 And 980 Review: Maximum Maxwell

Temperatures And Noise

Temperatures During Normal Operation

Lower power consumption should result in lower GPU temperatures under load, which in turn should necessitate a simpler and quieter cooling solution. That’s the theory anyway, so let’s have a look at the GeForce GTX 980 in reality. We’re focusing on its behavior in a closed case, given the number of reader requests we've received about this topic.

Interestingly, we’ve identified a method to confirm what our sensors tell us and to spice up our usual temperature graphs a bit in the form of the PI450 by Optris. This piece of equipment is an infrared camera that was developed specifically for process monitoring.

It supplies real-time thermal images at a rate of 80 Hz. The pictures are sent via USB to a separate system, where they can be recorded as video. The PI450’s thermal sensitivity is 40 mK, making it ideal for assessing small gradients.

No Biggie: 15 Minutes at Idle

Let’s first take a look at the system’s state after the motherboard and graphics card warm up for 15 minutes at idle. We keep the chassis' side panel closed during this test, of course, only opening it briefly to snap a quick picture with our infrared camera.

Barbeque: 1-Hour Demanding Gaming Loop

Our second scenario changes the infrared picture significantly, really driving home differences between each graphics card's cooling solution. We begin with Nvidia's reference GeForce GTX 980.

The direct heat exhaust (DHE) cooler does its job and exhausts thermal energy from the case. The hottest part of the card’s shroud is above the voltage converters, which can hit 90 degrees Celsius or more inside of an enclosure. There’s really no thermal impact on the motherboard, though. It heats up mostly due to its own voltage converters and platform controller hub.

On Gigabyte's GTX 970 WindForce OC, the voltage converters are in the same spot (on the left) as the reference card. Consequently, the hottest spot is in the same place. Gigabyte’s board is a bit shorter than that of the reference design, too.

It’s plain to see that there’s a different cooling solution at work here. The motherboard gets its share of waste heat due to the graphics card’s axial fans, positioned above the cooler's fins. These temperatures don't endanger the motherboard in any way, though they can affect overclocking of other components in your system, particularly if you use multiple cards in SLI.

The factory-overclocked Gigabyte GTX 980 WindForce OC sports a redesigned board as well. The voltage converters are located to the right of the GPU, where they were located in the past. It’s easy to spot them in the infrared picture. Greater power consumption results in a higher measured temperature.

Overall, Maxwell’s cooling solutions don’t pose any problems in a closed case, which a lot of enthusiasts will be glad to hear (since that means slower-spinning fans and a quieter PC).

Temperatures During Gaming Loop
Open Bench Table
Closed Case
VRM
Gigabyte GTX 970 Windforce OC
61-62 °C
64-66 °C
91 °C
GeForce GTX 980 Reference
80-81 °C (Limit)
80-81 °C (Limit)98 °C
Gigabyte GTX 980 Windforce OC60-61 °C
64-65 °C
93 °C

Noise

Our noise measurements are performed using a calibrated high-end studio microphone positioned perpendicular to the middle of the graphics card in question at a distance of 50 cm. This distance, in conjunction with the microphone's very strong cardioid directionality, represents a compromise between avoiding noise due to fan turbulence and avoiding ambient noise, which can never be completely eliminated. We like to perform our noise measurements at night for this reason.

So how do the GeForce cards perform, acoustically?

Noise Level (Open Bench Table)
Idle
Gaming Loop
Gigabyte GTX 970 Windforce OC
31.8 dB(A)
41.8 dB(A)
GeForce GTX 980 Reference
31.4 dB(A)
43.6 dB(A)
Gigabyte GTX 980 Windforce OC30.4 dB(A)
40.2 dB(A)

The bottom line is positive when it comes to noise as well. No matter if you’re looking at Gigabyte’s card or the reference model, Maxwell can be cooled safely and quietly without resorting to liquid cooling during gaming.

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364 comments
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  • Vivecss
    Wow.......
  • 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.
  • HKILLER
    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.
  • MANOFKRYPTONAK
    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!
  • cleeve
    671978 said:
    Why didn't you include an overclocking comparison? Why didn't you include the 780, but included the 770? Doesn't make much sense...


    Same answer to both... no time.

    We literally got the 970 for testing yesterday. The 980, we got the day before. We barely got the article out by this morning.

    For those of you who want more info, we'll be spending more time with the GeForce GTX 980 and 970 in the weeks to come, don't you worry. ;)
  • BigMack70
    Since we know this is only the mid-size Maxwell chip (just like GK104 vs GK110), shouldn't this article title be "Medium Maxwell"?

    I'm waiting for the real Maximum Maxwell myself. Unimpressed with these xxx04 launches from Nvidia.
  • EnkiduW
    Wonder what dual 970's would look like, the price is not that bad...
  • MANOFKRYPTONAK
    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
    1765452 said:
    Wonder what dual 970's would look like, the price is not that bad...


    http://www.techpowerup.com/reviews/NVIDIA/GeForce_GTX_970_SLI/

    Depending on resolution, dual 970's are roughly equal to the 295x2 at only 2/3's the price.
  • Novuake
    Performance aside, which OBVIOUSLY is stellar for current price/performance consideration.

    The features that Nvidia has been rolling out constantly has been quite impressive, while many of them do not appeal to me at all, the sheer amount and in most cases quality of them is insane.

    Well done Nvidia. Let's see what AMD responds with, my next main gaming machine purchase as of now are 2 x Nvidia GTX970.

    EDIT : Im sure that its a good upgrade to my 2 x HD7950s :D
  • Novuake
    21257 said:
    671978 said:
    Why didn't you include an overclocking comparison? Why didn't you include the 780, but included the 770? Doesn't make much sense...
    Same answer to both... no time. We literally got the 970 for testing yesterday. The 980, we got the day before. We barely got the article out by this morning. For those of you who want more info, we'll be spending more time with the GeForce GTX 980 and 970 in the weeks to come, don't you worry. ;)


    Thank you! That answered a question I had in a previous GTX980/970 tease on the live news feed.

    Do you guys have this problem often with Nvidia? You always seem to have fewer Nvidia board partner variaty and slower review releases on Nvidia GPUs.
    More so than other websites.
  • vertexx
    554342 said:
    21257 said:
    671978 said:
    Why didn't you include an overclocking comparison? Why didn't you include the 780, but included the 770? Doesn't make much sense...
    Same answer to both... no time. We literally got the 970 for testing yesterday. The 980, we got the day before. We barely got the article out by this morning. For those of you who want more info, we'll be spending more time with the GeForce GTX 980 and 970 in the weeks to come, don't you worry. ;)
    Thank you! That answered a question I had in a previous GTX980/970 tease on the live news feed. Do you guys have this problem often with Nvidia? You always seem to have fewer Nvidia board partner variaty and slower review releases on Nvidia GPUs. More so than other websites.


    My bets are that no NVidia GPUs on the best GPU's for the $$ for the past several months earned Tom's a slight delay in the delivery of these GPUs. :ouch:
  • Novuake
    1293856 said:
    My bets are that no NVidia GPUs on the best GPU's for the $$ for the past several months earned Tom's a slight delay in the delivery of these GPUs. :ouch:


    Nah, doubt Nvidia is that petty.

    More publicity is exactly that, more publicity.

    Tom's has been around a long time and is trusted by A LOT of people.
    Doubt Nvidia would compromise the user base.
  • Nossy
    Nvidia and Intel are so way ahead of AMD...
  • oxiide
    671978 said:
    Why didn't you include an overclocking comparison? Why didn't you include the 780, but included the 770? Doesn't make much sense...


    Agreed that overclocking would have been interesting to see. But would including the 780 have added anything to this? The GTX 970 is already faster than an R9 290X.

    The 770, at least, allows us to see the direct improvement from one x70 card to its replacement. Especially when they're approximately the same price.
  • Novuake
    Just read some of the benches again, dear lord those number at that price. Can not get over it...

    Now lets see if they can satisfy my overclocking needs.

    Hurry up with that portion Cleeve!
    When can we expect it?
  • legokill101
    and just to add on while I am very excited about the better price/performance and performance per watt I would honestly say that while the increased efficiency is great, most enthusiast run a single gpu in a full atx case with ample airflow and because of that, I feel like features and price/performance, tend to dictate most purchases of gpu, not performance for watt (which isn't to say its not a good thing)
  • Novuake
    118801 said:
    Nvidia and Intel are so way ahead of AMD...


    Don't count AMD out of the GPU world yet, they still need to respond with their release.

    As for AMD CPUs, I have given up in the enthusiast market, but still have high hopes for low cost and low power APUs bringing affordable gaming to mobile devices.