Skip to main content

Nvidia GeForce GTX 980 Ti 6GB Review

Conclusion

In retrospect, I almost wish I hadn’t given Nvidia’s GeForce GTX Titan X our Tom’s Hardware Editor Recommended award back in March. But how were we to know that GeForce GTX 980 Ti would follow just two and a half months later? Given the Titan card’s use of GM200 in its entirety, we would have guessed that a 980 Ti version would almost necessarily have to be slower. Still, though, Nvidia does a good job of limiting the damage to a handful of percentage points.

And then there’s the price tag. At $650, the company is asking $150 more than a GeForce GTX 980, and $50 less than where it launched GeForce GTX 780 Ti. If the 980 is within your budget, it’d be silly not to splurge on 980 Ti instead. Why? Well, at 2560x1440, the 980 Ti averages just under 25% more performance across the games in our benchmark suite. At 3840x2160, it’s the difference between playable and not under taxing detail settings. You don’t often see gains like that in the high-end space for a 30% premium (it was just 18% before Nvidia's price cut on the 980).

So why not dust off our highest-of-the-high Editor’s Choice award? Call it the Fiji factor. AMD’s HBM-equipped answer to GM200, or at least what we’re expecting to contend with Nvidia’s flagship GPU, is purportedly imminent. Without knowing how it’ll affect the enthusiast graphics space, we’re reluctant to declare a victor, as much as like the GeForce GTX 980 Ti. Though that might sound unfair to the star of today’s show, rest assured, a winner will be declared soon.

In the meantime, we’ll stand vigil for retail availability of GeForce GTX 980 Ti (Nvidia tells us it’ll surface within a week), paying particular attention to market pricing. After all, GeForce GTX Titan X didn’t appear as quickly as Nvidia promised, and, to this day, it costs more than the expected $1000.

Update: Nvidia let us know that the 980 Ti is already available on geforce.com, though, at the time of writing, it's sold out. We'll keep an eye out for additional stock and let you know how the situation plays out in our Best Graphics Cards for the Money column. 

What about that Titan X, anyway? Our averages show it to be about 1% faster than 980 Ti at 2560x1440 and just over 3% faster at 3840x2160. Its biggest advantage is in Middle-earth, where the lead grows to more than 7%. Still, that’s not enough to justify a $400-higher price. We’re told the Titan X will continue appealing to CUDA developers needing the extra 6GB for large datasets and gamers compelled to buy the best of the best. At this point, though, the smarter money is on GeForce GTX 980 Ti.

The other elephant in the room is Radeon R9 295X2. A couple of models are available in the $630 range. That’s like a $900 discount compared to the card’s launch price. And we’ve seen just how potent a couple of Hawaii GPUs are in CrossFire. But does it deliver a knock-out punch? I’d call it the right tool for some jobs, but not all of them. It’s big, it’s hot, it’s power-hungry and as The Witcher 3 illustrates, it’s still subject to the limitations of CrossFire and the expediency of a company that’s slow on driver updates as of late. If you’re cool with the caveats, R9 295X2 is a beast that can’t be beat by any modern single-GPU solution. Its drawbacks are deal-breakers for other enthusiasts, though. We’re arming you with the data—use it to guide your own purchase.

MORE: Best Graphics Cards For The MoneyMORE: All Graphics Articles

MORE: Graphics Cards in the ForumMORE: How Well Do Workstation Graphics Cards Play Games?

Chris Angelini is a Technical Editor at Tom's Hardware. Follow him on Twitter, Facebook and Google+.

Follow Tom's Hardware on Twitter, Facebook and Google+.

  • Larry Litmanen
    How important is gaming to you if you spend $500 on GPU and $500 on a monitor?

    I guess i am the only one paying for rent out there.
    Reply
  • alidan
    How important is gaming to you if you spend $500 on GPU and $500 on a monitor?

    I guess i am the only one paying for rent out there.

    i personally find 4k at sub 48 inch stupid... but than again, i had 800x600 monitors at 15 inches and played some games at 640x480 on 17 inch screens, i also played ps1 games, so once hd came around and was single gpu at 1080p i had no issues whatsoever with jaggies any more.

    im not paying 500+$ for AA
    im also not sacrificing that much processing power for AA
    hell im 1920x1200 at 24 inch... i dont use aa.

    granted, a monitor could last you 5+ years if you get a good one so you can see it as an investment, and a gpu, im learning more and more if you sell your high end gpu the moment a new high end gpu comes out, you can get a sizeable upgrade every year for under 100$ and you over all come out ahead.

    sorry im tired as hell, i just realized i dont know which way to meant your comment to be taken.
    Reply
  • Shankovich
    I'm writing this as seriously as I can, not being a fanboy: What is the purpose of the Titan X at this point? It lost its DP performance that made it a fantastic workstation-gaming hybrid. Also, it really sucks for people who bought a Titan X just a little over a month ago? That's ~$350 down the drain pretty much. Yea the Titan X has all that extra VRAM, but for what? 3 4K displays maybe, at which point a 980ti SLI would probably lose by about ~5% due to a few less CUDA cores.

    Again though, for most customers, the 980ti is the obvious choice. I just feel like nVidia totally screwed over most of their Titan X customers now. And why? Well, I really think the 980ti will be the cheaper answer to AMD's Fury or whatever Fiji will be called, Really interested to see how it will do. If Fiji beats the Titan X/980ti, it's rumored $800 price point would make the 980ti a somewhat compelling offer depending on how well it does.

    In the end, I'm loving this competition!
    Reply
  • wedouglas
    How important is gaming to you if you spend $500 on GPU and $500 on a monitor?

    I guess i am the only one paying for rent out there.
    How important is gaming to you if you spend $500 on GPU and $500 on a monitor?

    I guess i am the only one paying for rent out there.
    How important is gaming to you if you spend $500 on GPU and $500 on a monitor?

    I guess i am the only one paying for rent out there.

    If you don't have $1000 of discretionary income each year, you need a better job. Better question would be, what adult doesn't have $1000 for a graphics card and a monitor?
    Reply
  • SkyBill40
    And this is exactly why I've been waiting to buy a new vid card and display.

    Wowza.
    Reply
  • Eggz
    SOOOOO glad you're finally including the 780 ti in the graphs again! There were a lot of people with this card, and excluding it from the Tom's graphs made things harder to assess. Thanks!
    Reply
  • damric
    This GTX 980 Ti seems significantly better price/performance than the GTX 980. I will be recommending these for higher end builds.
    Reply
  • photonboy
    My first considered card since my GTX680 2GB. My only complaint is:

    NVidia only reference model? (sigh)

    I get the reasons. Minimal competition plus overclocking with better cooler beats Titan X hands down (for gaming). Plus, maybe we'll see non-reference later.

    FYI, the EVGA 980 Hybrid got 1600MHz on GPU. That's a fan on main card for VRM's etc and Liquid cooler loop just for GPU with 12cm rad/fan. Even if it "only" got 1300MHz for 980Ti that's still a 30% boost over stock 1000MHz but maybe 1500MHz is actually possible?

    So.. I'll wait a bit longer thanks.
    Reply
  • turkey3_scratch
    This really seems like a great card! Those frame charts show fantastic improvements over the 980. I was expecting more of a middle-ground between the Titan X and the 980 but it practically matched the Titan X's performance spot-on! All for $375 less.
    Reply
  • Knicks2012
    So whats the point of having a Titan X now?
    Reply