ASUS STRIX GTX 980 Ti Graphics Card Review

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ASUS recently announced the release of their highly anticipated STRIX GTX 980 Ti graphics card, and we were lucky enough to snag a sample to review. The STRIX line of products are aimed at the gaming enthusiast and rapidly becoming an industry favorite for headphones, keyboards, graphics cards, etc. With this release, ASUS ups the ante with the introduction of their new DirectCU III cooler and a promise of even better cooling performance than before. There are plenty of other things to explore with this latest ASUS offering, so let’s dive in and find out what the STRIX GTX 980 Ti is all about.

Specifications and Features

The specifications below are provided by the ASUS product page and reveal some impressive stats. There are two different base and boost clocks referenced – OC Mode and Gaming Mode. Both of which are substantially higher than the reference design’s 1000/1075 MHz. The OC mode speeds of 1216 MHz base and 1317 MHz boost are the highest we’ve seen to date. Not only are the GPU speeds overclocked at the factory, but the 6 GB of GDDR5 memory is as well. ASUS bumps the GDDR5 memory to 1800 MHz (7200 MHz effective), which is roughly a 50 MHz increase. That might not sound like a whole lot of memory overclocking, but we rarely see GPU manufacturers touch the memory speeds on their overclocked cards. The card also supports OpenGL 4.5, the latest PCI-E 3.0 interface, and up to four simultaneous monitors through an abundance of display connections.

Asus STRIX GTX 980 Ti Specifications
Product Number STRIX-GTX980TI-DC3OC-6GD5-Gaming
Graphics Engine NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980 Ti
Bus Standard PCI Express 3.0
Video Memory GDDR5 6GB
OpenGL OpenGL 4.5
Engine Clock OC Mode
GPU Boost Clock 1317 MHz
GPU Base Clock 1216 MHz
Gaming Mode (Default)
GPU Boost Clock 1291 MHz
GPU Base Clock 1190 MHz
CUDA Core 2816
Memory Clock 7200 MHz (Effective GDDR5)
Memory Interface 384-bit
Resolution Digital Max Resolution 4096×2160
Interface DVI Output : Yes x 1 (DVI-I)
HDMI Output : Yes x 1 (HDMI 2.0)
Display Port : Yes x 3 (Native) (Regular DP)
HDCP Support : Yes
Power Consumption Up to 375W Additional 8+8 pin PCIe Power Required
Accessories 1x Power Cable
1x STRIX Laser Sticker
Software ASUS GPU Tweak II & Driver
Dimensions 12” x 6” x 1.57 ” Inch
30.5 x 15.22 x 3.98 Centimeter

A quick look at GPU-Z provides a few additional details not covered in the specifications above. The first thing to note is that the GPU clock defaults to the OC Mode values of 1216 MHz base/1317 MHz boost. We know that once the card is put under load, the actual boost clock gets much higher. During our testing, the actual boost clock held steady at 1417 MHz as long as the GPU temperature stays below 60 °C. Once that temperature threshold was breached, it’ll fall back to 1404 MHz. Either way, the actual boost clock speed is quite impressive. If you prefer to reduce the clock speeds a little bit and opt for the Gaming Mode speeds, that can be done within the GPU Tweak II utility. The 6 GB of GDDR5 memory is reported to be SKHynix, which sits on a 384-bit bus and provides 345.6 GB/s of bandwidth. The Unified Shader count comes in at 2816, and the ROPs and TMUs stand at 96 and 176 respectively.

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An overview of the features gives us an idea of the overall design and a few new items that make their debut. As mentioned, the triple fan DirectCU III cooler is a new addition to select ASUS graphics cards. Also included is an updated software package, which is now called GPU Tweak II with XSplit Gamecaster. Auto-Extreme Technology is something new that ASUS is touting, which promises production process improvements and the use of only premium materials.

• 1317MHz GPU boost clock in OC mode with 7200MHz factory-overclocked memory speed for outstanding gaming experience.
• DirectCU III with Patented Triple Wing-Blade 0dB Fan Design delivers maximum air flow with 30% cooler and 3X quieter performance.
• AUTO-EXTREME Technology with 12+2 phase Super Alloy Power II delivers premium delivers premium quality and best reliability.
• Pulsating STRIX LED makes a statement while adding style to your system.
• STRIX GPU-Fortifier relieves physical stress around the GPU in order to protect it.
• GPU Tweak II with XSplit Gamecaster provides intuitive performance tweaking and lets you stream your gameplay instantly.

Below is an exploded view of the card that shows the high-level components and descriptions. All images and descriptions below courtesy ASUS.

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ASUS in-house testing shows pretty impressive FPS results on a couple popular game titles. The comparisons they make are versus the reference design GTX 980 Ti.

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The DirectCU III cooler is outfitted with several direct contact heatpipes, two of which are 10 mm in size. According to ASUS, the cooler promises up to 30% cooler and 3X quieter performance. If they are comparing it to the reference cooler, then those claims are very believable. The Triple Wing-Blade 0dB fan design is something new for the DirectCU family of coolers, as this is the first time we’ve seen three fans being used. The Wing-Blade design is said to create more air pressure and increase air flow.

Game Cool

DirectCU III with Dual 10mm Heatpipe – 30% Cooler and 3X Quieter Performance

Exclusive DirectCU III cooling technology features two exclusive 10 mm direct-GPU contact heat-pipes that transports 40% more heat away from the GPU and outperform reference designs, achieving up to 30% cooler gaming performance.

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Play Silent

Patented Triple Wing-Blade 0dB Fans – Max Air Flow with 105% More Air Pressure

DirectCU III features triple 0dB fans engineered with a patented, new wing-blade design that delivers maximum air flow and improved 105% static pressure over the heat sink, while operating at 3X quieter volumes than reference cards. The 0dB fans also let you enjoy games like League of Legends® and StarCraft® in complete silence — because the fan stops completely when the GPU temperature remains below a set level. This makes DirectCU III the coolest and quietest graphics card in the market.

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So, what’s this Auto-Extreme Technology all about? Well, it actually encompasses several different things. In order to remove human error from the production process, a 100% automated scheme has now been implemented at the factory. ASUS has also incorporated a more stringent quality control standard and a flux-free production environment to reduce chemical use and power consumption at the factory. Auto-Extreme Technology also ensures the use of premium components, which are found in the new Super Alloy Power II power delivery design.

Auto-Extreme Technology

All ASUS graphics cards are now produced using AUTO-EXTREME Technology, an industry-first, 100% automated production process that incorporates premium materials to set a new standard of quality. AUTO-EXTREME Technology ensures consistent graphics card quality as well as improved performance and longevity. This new manufacturing process is also environmentally friendly, eliminating harsh chemicals and reducing power consumption by 50%.

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14-Phase Super Alloy Power II

ASUS engineers have integrated premium components into their graphics card designs to reinforce overall reliability. Super Alloy Power II components greatly enhance efficiency, reduce power loss, provide 2X reduced component buzzing while under full load, and achieve thermal levels that are approximately 50% cooler than previous designs.

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ASUS usually adds a bit of bling to their STRIX products, and you’ll find that here in the pulsating light effects. To protect the card, ASUS includes a factory installed backplate and a GPU fortifier. Both of these not only look good, but provide rigidity and an additional aesthetic value to the card.

Gamer Style

STRIX graphics cards exceed your performance expectations while looking amazing. Pulsating light effects add cool style to your system.

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Armor Protection

An advanced backplate prevents PCB bending over time, and now includes STRIX GPU-Fortifier, which relieves physical stress around the GPU in order to protect it.

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ASUS provides useful software that features the revamped GPU Tweak III with XSplit Gamecaster. Game Booster is another useful tool that can help you configure your Windows installation for better gaming performance by giving you control over visual effects, system services, and memory defragmentation.

Game Your Way

GPU Tweak II with XSplit Gamecaster – Tweak Till Your Heart’s Content

Redesigned with an intuitive, all-new UI, GPU Tweak II makes overclocking easier and more visual than ever, while still retaining advanced options for seasoned overclockers. With one click, the new Gaming Booster function maximizes system performance by removing redundant processes and allocating all available resources automatically. XSplit Gamecaster lets you easily stream or record your gameplay right from a convenient, in-game overlay.

Gaming Booster – On-click Performance Up

Visual Effects – Boost your performance by turning off windows visual effects.
System Services – Automatically or manually turn off windows services or process.
Memory Defragmentation – Re-arrange & free your system memory without closing any processes.

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asus_strix_gtx980ti (10)

Retail Packaging/Accessories/First Look

That familiar STRIX Owl stares you down as you look at the front of the box and doesn’t look very happy having to share the box front with additional ASUS product branding. Around back, you’ll find a list of specifications and features similar to what we discussed above, but with the addition of a display connection diagram. The box sides are home to additional product branding and a multilingual list of system requirements.

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Once inside the retail box, we come to another box with an attractive STRIX emblem printed on top. Inside that box is yet another box that houses the accessories. Once the accessory box is removed, we find the STRIX GTX 980 Ti sitting securely in a foam bed and wrapped in an anti-static bag. The included accessories are pretty light, but you don’t need much for a graphics card. What you do get is a power adapter cable, support DVD, ASUS product brochure, installation guide, and a transparent STRIX sticker.

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Here are a few pictures of the STRIX GTX 980 Ti once removed from the retail packaging. As is the case with most ASUS enthusiast-level products, it’s comprised of a red and black theme. So, if you’re into that kind of thing, there shouldn’t be much difficulty finding other components to match.

Side View

Side View

Alternate Side View

Alternate Side View

Back Side View

Back Side View

Overhead View

Overhead View

The ASUS STRIX GTX 980 Ti Up Close

Taking a look around the outside edges of the STRIX GTX 980 Ti, we first come to the available display connections. Here you’ll find three DisplayPort, one HDMI, and one DVI-I. At the bottom of the card is the PCI-E 3.0 slot connection. At the top-front of the card are the dual SLI bridge connectors, which support up to 4-way SLI. At the top-back area are the two 8-pin PCI-E power connectors needed to power the card. These power connectors are flipped 180° from what you normally see, which makes relieving the power lead’s lock clips much easier. There is also a pair of small LEDs on the PCB that will shine white when the power leads are correctly installed or shine red if not. The top-middle area of the card is where you’ll find the illuminated STRIX emblem that pulsates when the system is on.

Display Connections

Display Connections

PCI-E Connection

PCI-E Connection

SLI Bridge Connections

SLI Bridge Connections

Two PCI-E 8-Pin Power Connectors

Two PCI-E 8-Pin Power Connectors

Pulsating STRIX Emblem

Pulsating STRIX Emblem

With the DirectCU III cooler separated from the PCB, we see a nice application of the TIM and the thermal pad that covers the MOSFET area. Everything was making excellent contact with their target points. The five direct contact heatpipes consist of two 10 mm, two 8mm, and one 6 mm. All five heatpipes bend around and weave their way through the large aluminum fin stack where the three fans will whisk away the heat. The fans measured just a tad under 90 mm each, so they’re probably classified as 90 mm. As mentioned earlier, the fans use the 0 dB feature, which keeps them from starting up until the GPU temperature reaches roughly 60 °C. It’s a nice feature to have when performing less intensive tasks with your PC as the card will stay silent under those conditions.

DCU III Removed

DCU III Removed

DCU III Cooler Front Angle

DCU III Cooler Front Angle

DCU III Rear Angle

DCU III Rear Angle

DCU III Side Angle

DCU III Side Angle

DCU III Heatpipes Up Close

DCU III Heatpipes Up Close

Triple Fan Setup

Triple Fan Setup

The back of the PCB uses a backplate and a plate around the GPU to add rigidity to the card. At the top edge is an additional layer of rigidity in the form of a support bracket that runs along the PCB’s outer edge. The PCB feels extremely sturdy with this design, and the red plate around the GPU looks cool too!

Backplate

Backplate

GPU Support Plate

GPU Support Plate

Backplate Removed

Backplate Removed

Back of PCB

Back of PCB

Top Edge Support Bracket

Top Edge Support Bracket

What ASUS calls a 12+2 power phase design, we would actually call a 12+2+1. Twelve phases for the GPU, two for the memory, and one for PLL. Anyway you slice it, it’s a massive array of power that feeds this beast. ASUS uses what they call their Super Alloy Power II design here, which they say enhances efficiency, reduces power loss, and provides 2X less component buzzing while under full load. Voltage regulation for the GPU is handled by an ASP1500U controller, and the memory uses a uP1641P controller.

The memory of choice for the STRIX GTX 980 Ti is the SKHynix H5GQ4H24MFR-R2C, which is rated for 1750 MHz (7000 MHz effective) and uses 1.5 V. And finally, the last picture below is a close-up of NVIDIA’s GM200-310-A1 GPU.

SAP II Power Phase Design

SAP II Power Phase Design

SAP II Power Phase Design

SAP II Power Phase Design

Two Memory Power Phases

Two Memory Power Phases

GPU Power Phase VRM Controller

GPU Power Phase VRM Controller

Memory Power Phase VRM Controller

Memory Power Phase VRM Controller

SKHynix GDDR5 Memory

SKHynix GDDR5 Memory

NVIDIA's GM200 GPU Core

NVIDIA’s GM200 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 Strix GTX 980 Ti (Driver 353.30)
Cooling EKWB Supremacy EVO Water Block/360 mm Radiator/MCP35X Pump
OS Window 7 64-bit

Our comparison samples include the EVGA GTX 980 Ti Classified, EVGA GTX 980 Superclocked, EVGA 780 Ti Classified, and an AMD offering in the ASUS Matrix R9 290X. We’re hoping to have an AMD Fury or FuryX in the near future, so we’ll provide those comparisons once we get our hands on one.

We’ll 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.

Overclocking was pretty easy to accomplish using the GPU Tweak III utility. I ended up at the same 24/7 stable overclock as with the EVGA GTX 980 Ti Classified, but with a couple minor differences. First, it took about 10mv more on the STRIX to stabilize the same overclock settings. The good news is that the STRIX allowed up to +87mv of voltage increase, whereas the Classified topped out at +50mv. One other difference was the power target limit, which was limited to 110% on the STRIX versus the 115% that was available on the Classified. Give a little, take a little it seems! In the end, we got the GPU core set to 1300 MHz base/1401 MHz boost, but the actual boost clock held pretty steady at 1527 MHz… Impressive stuff there!

HWBot Heaven Overclocked

HWBot Heaven Overclocked

3DMark Fire Strike Overclocked

3DMark Fire Strike Overclocked

Starting off the benchmark show, we’ll begin with our four synthetic tests. Keep in mind, the STRIX GTX 980 Ti’s GPU and memory are clocked a tad higher than the EVGA GTX 980 Ti Classified, which is why you see slightly higher scores for the STRIX during the stock testing. The overclocked EVGA GTX 980 Ti Classified scores aren’t in the graphs below, but I can tell you there was basically no difference between the STRIX and Classified as each card won a few and lost a few when I compared them.

As expected, the STRIX GTX 980 Ti led the way in our synthetic tests, and the scores scaled nicely with the card overclocked. What catches your eye is the huge performance improvement over the GTX 980, which up until now was the “king of the hill” GPU.

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 as above with the STRIX GTX 980 Ti leading the pack and edging out the EVGA GTX 980 Ti Classified by just a tad. Here again, we see the game benchmarks were very responsive to the overclock we put in place and scaled very well. It wasn’t that long ago when some of our game titles struggled to reach playable frame rates at maximum in-game settings, even with high-end graphics cards. Those barriers no longer exist with the GTX 980 Ti GPU as you can see below. Good stuff for sure!

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 Results

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 STRIX GTX 980 Ti again led the way across the board here. It edged out the EVGA GTX 980 Ti Classfied by a small amount in all the tests, which in most cases was a single FPS or so. Other than the Crysis 3 benchmark, all games showed playable frame rates of well over 30 FPS.

Surround/Eyefinity Results

Surround/Eyefinity Results

Temperatures and Power Consumption

The DirectCU III cooler performed quite well under all testing scenarios with the maximum temperature never exceeding 84 °C. When you ramp the fan speed up to 100%, things are kept extremely cool. When the fans are left at the auto setting and the card being overclocked, things will get a bit warm. There is a happy medium at around 60% fan speed that will keep the GPU cool under all conditions, and it’s very quiet at that speed too. At 100%, the three fans produce a good amount of noise, but acceptable given the extremely low temperatures that setting produces.

Temperature Testing Results

Temperature Testing Results

Power consumption numbers were equally impressive, as is normally the case with any graphics card using NVIDIA’s Maxwell GPU. Total system draw recorded was 430 Watts with the card overclocked. If you combine CPU and GPU overclocking together, we’d venture to say a quality 650 Watt power supply would be plenty… key word, QUALITY!

Power Consumption Results

Power Consumption Results

Pushing the Limits

For the Pushing the Limits section, I like to see just how far the overclock can be pushed and complete a run of 3DMark Fire Strike. Even with the little extra voltage available, I wasn’t able to get any farther than the EVGA GTX 980 Ti Classified was able to. We pretty much topped out at 1325 MHz base/1426 MHz boost/1552 MHz actual boost on the GPU and 2050 MHz (8200 MHz effective) on the memory. I added a 4.8 GHz overclock to the CPU and came up with a 17697 result in 3DMark Fire Strike.

3DMark Fire Strike - Pushing the Limits

3DMark Fire Strike – Pushing the Limits

Conclusion

The NVIDIA GTX 980 Ti graphics cards in general are top notch performers, power efficient, and bring a gaming experience never before seen. With the ASUS STRIX GTX 980 Ti, you get the added bonus of a stout factory applied overclock, the DirectCU III cooler, a pre-installed backplate, and a good supporting software package. Now days, aesthetics play a big role when choosing a PC component, and the STRIX GTX 980 Ti does a nice job with that as well. From the pulsating STRIX emblem to the backplate and red GPU support bracket, it has just the right amount of bling without being over done.

As far as price is concerned, ASUS told us the MSRP will be $679.00, which is $20 less than the EVGA Classified making the price very competitive indeed. We were told they should be readily available at the usual places within a week or so.

If you’ve been thinking about grabbing a GTX 980 Ti, it’s going to be hard to beat the performance of the ASUS STRIX offering. It’s certainly well worth consideration and well worth being Overclockers approved!

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. Pretty good Wow factor. Thanks Dino. I've read a couple of reviews of 980ti cards and it looks like NVidia continues enjoying their work. My R9 290X became a second tier contender in very little time since I bought it. Amazing.

    Did you have a chance to run any folding on it? Just curious.