ASUS ROG Poseidon Platinum GTX 980 Ti Graphics Card Review

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Have you ever considered purchasing a graphics card with the idea of adding it to your water cooling loop at a later time? Do you shudder at the thought of disassembling a graphics card to to install a water block? The ASUS ROG Poseidon Platinum GTX 980 Ti gives you the best of both worlds with its proprietary DirectCU H2O cooler. The DirectCU H2O cooler combines an effective air cooling solution with a GPU water block all in one package. This gives you the flexibility to use water cooling from the start or add it to your loop whenever you’re ready. The NVIDIA GTX 980 Ti GPU is a gaming powerhouse at reference speeds, but ASUS applied a pretty stout factory overclock to increase performance even further. Have we caught your attention? It certainly caught ours, so let’s go check it out!

Specifications and Features

Here are the specifications as pulled from the ASUS press deck we were provided. Right from the start, we can see the Poseidon GTX 980 Ti comes with two different overclock modes – Gaming and OC. The OC mode provides an overclock of 140 MHz over the reference design, while the gaming mode provides an additional 114 MHz over reference. The card is equipped with 6 GB of GDDR5 memory, which runs at 7010 MHz (effective). Display connectivity stays true to the reference design and provides three DisplayPort 1.2, one HDMI 2.0, and one Dual-Link DVI-I.

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The GPU-Z image below gives us a few other details not mentioned above. Here we can see the the 6 GB of GDDR5 is reported to be SKHynix brand, sits on a 384-bit Bus, and provides 336.6 GB/s of bandwidth. The Unified Shader count is 2816, and the ROPs and TMUs come in at 96 and 176 respectively. Also worth noting is that the slower Gaming Mode speeds are the default, meaning you’ll have to apply the OC mode’s faster speeds using the GPU Tweak II software. The actual boost clock when using the default Gaming Mode held steady at 1266 MHz during our testing.

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The first set of slides below gives you an exploded view and details on several of the high-level features.

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Obviously, one of the main features is the DirectCU H2O cooler, which doubles as an air or water cooling solution. The water channels use standard G1/4 fittings for greater flexibility when choosing the fittings you need. The custom vapor chamber makes direct contact with the GPU core, and the water channel forms a “U” shape around the GPU core to quickly remove any heat. On the air cooling side, we see ASUS uses a pair of dust-proof fans, a large aluminum fin array, and copper heatpipes to keep things cooled off. ASUS touts 30° C cooler temperatures when the water cooling option is used when compared to a reference design card. Even the air cooling option is said to offer up to 10% better performance than the reference design cooler. To no one’s surprise, the water cooling option will result in a much quieter experience compared to an air cooling solution, which is illustrated in the last slide.

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Because of the factory applied overclock, the ASUS in-house game testing shows substantial performance gains for the Poseidon GTX 980 Ti over the reference design cards. GTA V, Witcher 3, and 3DMark Fire Strike were tested and show up to a 11.6% performance gain.

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We touched on the ASUS Auto-Extreme feature in a previous review, but it’s worth mentioning here also. It entails a 100% automated flux free production process, component and PCB design innovation, fortified components, and a stringent quality control process.

This brings us to the PCB itself where you’ll find the Super Alloy Power II (SAP II) components. These components include the SAP II capacitors that offer 2.5X longer lifespan, the SAP II chokes that decrease mechanical noise, the SAP II DrMOS MOSFETs that operate at a lower temperature and increased power efficiency, and the SAP II POSCAPs located at the back of the PCB.

To add a little flair to the aesthetics, ASUS outfitted the Poseidon GTX 980 Ti with a pulsating ROG LED light at the top of the card.

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The ASUS GPU Tweak II software has evolved into much more than a desktop GPU overclocking and monitoring utility. It now includes a utility called Gaming Booster that can be used optimize Windows for the best gaming experience. Gaming Booster can adjust Windows visual effects and Windows services. It even defragments system memory. You also get a free 1-year XSplit Gamecaster premium license, so you can record and stream your game play.

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Packaging/Accessories/First Look

Being a part of the ROG family, it’s no surprise the retail box is comprised of a mostly red theme. The front and back of the box give several high-level features similar to what we discussed above. The box sides have addition product information and branding. There is a liftable flap on the box front that makes mention of the Auto Extreme Technology and ROG LED Light. Once the flap is lifted, you can see the top of the graphics card through a plastic window. The retail packaging as a whole does an excellent job of explaining the product’s features and capabilities.

Box Front

Box Front

Box Back

Box Back

Box Sides

Box Sides

Box Sides

Box Sides

Flap Lifted

Flap Lifted

Under the Flap

Under the Flap

Seethrough Window

See-Through Window

Inside the retail box is another black box that houses the Poseidon GTX 980 Ti and the accessories. The card is protected with a plastic insert covering the top and bottom Styrofoam beds. The card fits snug in the lower Styrofoam bed, which insures the card does not get damaged during shipping. The accessories include the basics, which are a power adapter cable, user manual, and driver/software support DVD.

The Inner Black Box

The Inner Black Box

Plastic Cover on Top

Plastic Cover on Top

Plastic Cover and Top Styrofoam Bed Removed

Plastic Cover and Top Styrofoam Bed Removed

Accessories

Accessories

Documentation and Support DVD

Documentation and Support DVD

Before we take an up-close look at the Poseidon GTX 980 Ti, here is a series of pictures taken at various angles once the card was removed from the packaging. The fan shroud is mostly black, but includes ROG red along the top and rear. The ROG logo and Poseidon branding are also printed on the fan shroud. You’ll see the factory installed back plate, which is always a nice value add to any graphics card.

Side View

Side View

Side View #2

Side View #2

Back Plate Side View

Back Plate Side View

Overhead View

Overhead View

Overhead View #2

Overhead View #2

Back Plate Overhead View

Back Plate Overhead View

The ASUS ROG Poseidon Platinum GTX 980 Ti Up Close

Starting with a look around the outside edges of the card, we first land at the display connection area. ASUS uses the reference design options here, which include a Dual Link DVI-I, HDMI and three DisplayPort. Up to four simultaneous displays are supported.

Power to the card requires a pair of 8-pin PCI-E power leads from the PSU. The 8-pin power connectors are turned 180° from what we normally see, which makes installing and removing the power leads much easier. There is an LED light below each connector to indicate if the power lead is installed correctly or not.

The pictures below also give you a look at the PCI-E 3.0 slot connection area and the two SLI bridge connectors. The Poseidon GTX 980 Ti supports up to 4-way SLI if you have a motherboard that can support it.

The last picture below shows the two G1/4 threaded holes. There is plenty of open area around the threaded holes, which means you’ll have no problem using straight fittings, 90° fittings, 45° fittings, or just about anything really.

Display Connections

Display Connections

Dual 8-Pin Power Connectors

Dual 8-Pin Power Connectors

Easy Access Power Connectors w/LED Lights

Easy Access Power Connectors w/LED Lights

PCI-E Slot Connection

PCI-E Slot Connection

SLI Bridge Connections

SLI Bridge Connections

G1/4 Threaded Holes

G1/4 Threaded Holes

After removing the back plate and DirectCU H2O cooler, we can get a better look at the PCB and cooler itself. There are strategically placed thermal pads to cover the MOSFETs, memory, and VRM areas. The TIM applied to the GPU core was a little on the heavy side, but was adequately applied for the task at hand. The last two pictures below show the thermal pad locations and give you an idea of where the water channel enters and exits the cooling block.

Back Plate Removed

Back Plate Removed

DirectCU H2O Cooler Removed

DirectCU H2O Cooler Removed

DirectCU H2O - View From Rear

DirectCU H2O – View From Rear

DirectCU H2O - View From Front

DirectCU H2O – View From Front

The air cooling option is aided by a series of three copper heatpipes that weave their way through the aluminum fin array. The largest heatpipe travels through the forward area of the fin array, and the two smaller ones engage the rear portion. The two 9-blade fans measure right at 90 mm and have ASUS branded stickers applied to them.

Three Heatpipes

Three Heatpipes

Two Smaller Heatpipes Through Fin Array

Two Smaller Heatpipes Through Fin Array

Larger Heatpipe Through Fin Array

Larger Heatpipe Through Fin Array

90 mm Fan

90 mm Fan

The Poseidon GTX 980 Ti uses a stout 10-phase SAP II power design that we discussed in the features section above. Incorporated here are the SAP II capacitors, Chokes, and MOSFETs. Decreased temperatures, lower noise, and extended lifespan are the key advantages here. Voltage regulation is provided by an ASP 1500U for the GPU power phases and a uP1641P for the memory phases. If you look at the bottom part of the second picture below, you’ll see six solder points. They support the ASUS Hotwire feature, which allows additional voltage control and monitoring from within the BIOS of a supporting ROG Extreme motherboard.

10-Phase Power Design

10-Phase Power Design

10-Phase Power Design

10-Phase Power Design

ASP

ASP 1500U GPU VRM controller

uP1641P Memory VRM Controller

uP1641P Memory VRM Controller

Just as we’ve seen on all the GTX 980 Ti graphics cards we’ve reviewed to date, 6 GB of SKHynix GDDR5 memory is used here. H5GQ4H24MFR-R2C ICs are used and are rated for 1750 MHz (7000 MHz effective) at 1.5 V. The last picture below is a close-up of NVIDIA’s GM200-310-A1 GPU core.

SKHynix Memory

SKHynix Memory

NVIDIA GM200-310-A1 GPU Core

NVIDIA GM200-310-A1 GPU Core

Performance and Overclocking

Test System

Test System Components
Motherboard ASUS Maximus VII Formula
CPU Intel i7 4790K Devil’s Canyon @ 4.0 GHz
Memory G.SKill TridentX DD3-2400 MHz 2x8GB @ 1866 MHz 9-9-9-24
SSD Samsung EVO 500 GB SSD
Power Supply Corsair HX1050 Professional Series
Video Card ASUS ROG Poseidon Platinum GTX 980 Ti (Driver 355.60)
Cooling EKWB Supremacy EVO Water Block/360 mm Radiator/MCP35X Pump
OS Window 7 64-bit
Ready to Rock!

Ready to Rock!

Our comparison samples include the previously reviewed EVGA GTX 980 Ti Classified, EVGA GTX 980 SC, EVGA GTX 780 Ti Classified, and an entry from the Red Team in the ASUS Matrix R9 290X. We set the Poseidon GTX 980 Ti to higher OC Mode speed as we have with other cards that offer two different speed settings. This means the stock testing was performed with the GPU at 1140 MHz base/1228 MHz boost, which resulted in an actual boost clock of 1292 MHz when the card was under load. All of the benchmarks were performed with the Poseidon GTX 980 Ti hooked into our water cooling loop.

Although it’s likely to change in the near future, we’ll continue to use our Overclockers.com GPU test procedure that’s been in place since the Haswell platform was released. If you’re not yet familiar with our methodology, then click the provided link for additional information. For quick reference, below is the down and dirty version of what we do.

Minimum System Requirements

  • i7 4770K or i7 4790K @ 4 GHz
  • Intel Z87 or Z97 Chipset Motherboard
  • Dual Channel DDR3 @ 1866MHz 9-9-9-24
  • GPU @ stock and overclocked
  • Monitor capable of 1920×1080

Synthetic Tests

  • 3DMark Vantage – DirectX 10 benchmark running at 1280X1024 – Performance preset.
  • 3DMark 11 – DirectX 11 benchmark running at 1280X720 – Performance preset.
  • 3DMark Fire Strike – DirectX 11 benchmark running 1920X1080 – Standard test (not extreme).
  • Unigine Heaven (HWBot version) – DX11 Benchmark – Extreme setting.

Game Tests

  • Batman: Arkham Origins – 1920X1080, 8x MSAA, PhysX off, V-Sync off, The rest set to on or DX11 enhanced.
  • Battlefield 4 – 1920X1080, Ultra Preset, V-Sync off.
  • Bioshock Infinite – 1920X1080, Ultra DX11 preset, DOF on.
  • Crysis 3 – 1920X1080, Very high settings, 16x AF, 8x MSAA, V-Sync off.
  • Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn – 1920X1080, Maximum preset.
  • Grid 2 – 1920X1080, 8x MSAA, Intel specific options off, Everything else set to highest available option.
  • Metro Last Light – 1920X1080, DX11 preset, SSAA on, Tessellation very high, PhysX off.

Using the GPU Tweak II utility and adding some voltage, we were able to get the GPU core overclocked to 1275 MHz base/1363 MHz boost, which provided an actual boost clock of 1464 MHz. The memory was able to overclock to 2000 MHz (8000 MHZ effective), even with no voltage options available. We’d consider this overclock 24/7 stable as it flew right through our test suite with no artifacting.

HWBot Heaven Overclock Stable

HWBot Heaven Overclock Stable

3DMark Fire Strike Overclock Stable

3DMark Fire Strike Overclock Stable

As you look through the benchmark results below, keep in mind the EVGA GTX 980 Ti Classified is factory overclocked 50 MHz higher than the Poseidon GTX 980 Ti. So, you’ll see the EVGA sample winning out on our suite of tests. Once the Poseidon GTX 980 Ti is overclocked, you’ll see the scores scale extremely well with some very nice scores being the end result.

Starting off with the synthetic benchmarks, we see the pecking order described above unfold. Even with a 50 MHz GPU core speed disadvantage, the Poseidon held tight to the EVGA GTX 980 Ti Classified.

HWBot Heaven Results

HWBot Heaven Results

3DMark Fire Strike Results

3DMark Fire Strike Results

3DMark Vantage Results

3DMark Vantage Results

3DMark 11 Results

3DMark 11 Results

Our game benchmarks show much the same pecking order as we see above. Here again, we see the Poseidon holding tight to the higher clocked EVGA GTX 980 Ti Classified.

Batman: Arkham Origin Results

Batman: Arkham Origin Results

Battlefield 4 Results

Battlefield 4 Results

Bioshock Infinite Results

Bioshock Infinite Results

Crysis 3 Results

Crysis 3 Results

Final Fantasy XIV: ARR Results

Final Fantasy XIV: ARR Results

Grid 2 Results

Grid 2 Results

Metro: Last Light

Metro: Last Light Results

We use five of our more popular game titles to test NVIDIA Surround/AMD Eyefinity performance with the in-game settings still maxed out. The Poseidon GTX 980 Ti was over the minimum 30 FPS we like to see on all the tests, except for Crysis 3. Another good showing for the Poseidon GTX 980 Ti here.

NVIDIA Surround/AMD Eyefinity Results

NVIDIA Surround/AMD Eyefinity Results

Temperatures and Power Consumption

Before hooking the Poseidon GTX 980 Ti into our water cooling loop, we tested the air cooling performance of the DirectCU H2O. Idle temperatures are right in line with what we’ve typically seen on GTX 980 Ti graphics cards. With the card overclocked and the fan speed left on its auto setting, the highest temperature recorded was 76° C. On the auto setting, the fans will spin right at 28% and work their way up to 50% or so as the GPU core gets warmer. At those percentages, the cooler is extremely quiet. With the fans ramped all the way up to 100%, the highest temperature recorded was just 59° C. You definitely hear the fans at 100% speed, but nothing like those blower coolers on the reference design cards, that’s for sure.

Once hooked up to our water cooling loop, temperatures dropped dramatically. You still have the ability to control the fans with the card hooked to a water cooling loop, and they do make a bit of difference. Our suggestion would be to just leave the fans set on auto, and let the DirectCU H2O take it from there. Doing that will provide an extremely quiet experience, and our testing never recorded anything over 49° C when taking that approach – even when overclocked.

The DirectCU H2O is a very capable air cooler in its own right, but it obviously shines its best when its water cooling option is taken advantage of.

 

Temperature Testing

Temperature Testing

Power consumption is what we’d expect from a graphics card in this class. Right at 400 watts was the maximum total system power draw recorded with the card overclocked and under load. Pretty impressive stuff there.

Power Consumption Test Results

Power Consumption Testing

Pushing the Limits

For the Pushing the Limits section, I like to see how far the GPU’s overclock can be pushed and complete a run of 3DMark Fire Strike. Just for good measure, we’ll toss in a CPU overclock of 4.8 GHz and set the system memory back to its rated speed of 2400 MHz. We weren’t able to get a whole lot more than our previous overclock, but we managed to get the GPU core to 1290 MHz base/1379 boost, which gave us an actual boost clock of 1464 MHz. The memory did a little better and topped out at 2050 MHz (8200 MHz effective). With all these overclocks in place, we ended up with a 3DMark Fire Strike score of 17204.

Pushing the Limits

Pushing the Limits

Conclusion

ASUS has a very intriguing offering in the Poseidon GTX 980 Ti that should reach a wide audience of enthusiast gamers. The flexible cooling options are very unique and can save the potential buyer both the cost of purchasing an aftermarket water block and the hassle of installing it. While the GPU core isn’t factory overclocked as high as other options on the market, it still comes with a substantial overclock that’s receptive to overclocking even further. We have a feeling if ASUS added the expense of selectively binning these cards coupled with adding the DirectCU H2O cooler, the price could have quickly gotten out of hand. As it stands, ASUS tells us the MSRP for the Poseidon GTX 980 Ti will be $709.99 with availability coming very soon. EVGA and ZOTAC both offer a water cooled GTX 980 Ti, but both are clocked a bit slower and cost substantially more than the Poseidon GTX 980 Ti. We feel the pricing is excellent when compared to similar offerings.

In the end, we have a graphics card that performs great, overclocks very good, and offers the flexibility of both air and water cooling. Couple that with a good supporting cast of software, and you have a GTX 980 Ti that’s well worth consideration if you’re in the market for one.

What Does This Mean? Click to Find Out!

What Does This Mean? Click to Find Out!

Dino DeCesari (Lvcoyote)

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Discussion
  1. You can use the OC Mode just fine using the air cooling. The difference between the two clock speeds is only about 30 MHz or so. Most GPU water blocks only cover the front of the card.
    I just want to make sure I understand this correctly, this card can be run (without water cooling) on air and you use the "gaming" specifications. If you connect it with water cooling, you can use the "OC" specifications. Is it normal with water cooling to water cool the back of a graphics card as well, or is it only the front.