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Asus GTX 980 Ti Strix OC Graphics Card

The Asus GTX 980 Ti Strix OC is a double threat as it’s one of the fastest single GPU video cards on the market outfitted with a substantial triple fan heatsink. It’s a strong option for gamers striving for better performance at ultra high resolutions without compromising on noise.

November 16, 2015 by Lawrence Lee

Product
Asus Strix GTX 980 Ti OC
Graphics Card
Manufacturer
Asus
Street Price
US$710

Last winter we published a series of quiet gaming PC build guides featuring Maxwell-based GPUs from Nvidia. When it came to component selection, the GTX 970 and GTX 980 were the easiest choices we had to make given their substantially lower power demands compared to their AMD counterparts. The Zotac GTX 970 AMP! Extreme Core and Asus GTX 980 Strix were particularly impressive as they were equipped with excellent cooling solutions — silencing most of the builds was fairly simple. At the time, the GTX 980 was the fastest single GPU graphics card on the market and a great choice for high-end, quiet gaming. That being said, the card could still struggle, especially at 4K and multi-monitor resolutions, but to get more performance, the only option was an undoubtedly louder multi-GPU configuration.

High-End GTX 900 Series Comparison
Model
GTX Titan X
GTX 980 Ti
GTX 980
GTX 970
Transistor Count
8.0 billion
8.0 billion
5.2 billion
5.2 billion
ROPs
96
96
64
56
CUDA Cores
3072
2816
2048
1664
Core Frequency
1000 MHz
1000 MHz
1126 MHz
1050 MHz
Boost Frequency (max)
1089 GHz
1076 GHz
1216 MHz
1178 MHz
Memory Frequency
7010 MHz
Memory Size
12GB
6GB
4GB
3.5+0.5GB
Memory Bus
384-bit
384-bit
256-bit
224+28-bit
TDP
250W
250W
165W
145W
Starting Price
US$990
US$650
US$490
US$320

For hardcore gamers hoping to stick to a single GPU, some help arrived in the spring in the form of the new performance leader, the GTX Titan X, which current costs almost US$1000. In the summer, the similarly-capable GTX 980 Ti appeared, which currently occupies the ~US$700 price-point. This is the more pragmatic choice, a relative bargain by comparison. The 980 Ti is significant upgrade over the 980, sporting substantially more ROPs and cores, higher clock speeds, and an extra 2GB of video memory on a wider memory bus. With these enhancements comes a much higher TDP, though the 85W disparity may not be indicative of how much additional power and heat will be generated in real world operation. From a silencing perspective, we want to know how big this difference actually is and whether the cooling solution is sufficient to tame it quietly. Like the GTX 980, our first GTX 980 Ti sample is from Asus, the Strix OC edition.


The GTX 980 Ti Strix OC.


Packaging.


Contents.

This time around Asus offers two different Strix models, ours being the faster of the two, though they are both outfitted with the same formidable looking DirectCU cooler. The heatsink is substantially sized, has thick nickel-plated heatpipes visible on both sides, and is cooled by a trio of 92 mm fans. A premium cooling solution is a necessity as the Strix OC is faster than the reference GTX 980 Ti by about 100 and 200 MHz respectively in GPU boost clock speed and memory frequency. It ships with plenty of foam padding but not too many accessories. The card requires a pair of 8-pin power connectors which some power supplies may lack, so they’ve included one dual 6-pin to 8-pin adapter along with the software disc, documentation, and sticker. Buyers of this model, along with many of Asus’ current video cards, can also receive a free one year subscription to XSplit Premium, a recording/streaming service.

Specifications: Asus GTX 980 Ti Strix OC
(STRIX-GTX980TI-DC3OC-6GD5-GAMING)
(from the
product web page
)
Graphics Engine NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980 TI
Bus Standard PCI Express 3.0
OpenGL OpenGL®4.5
Video Memory GDDR5 6GB
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
Memory Interface 384-bit
Resolution Digital Max Resolution : 4096×2160
Interface DVI Output : Yes x 1 (Native) (DVI-I)
HDMI Output : Yes x 1 (Native) (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 1 x Power cable
1 x 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
Note • To have the best cooling performance, ASUS STRIX-GTX980TI-DC3OC-6GD5-GAMING extends the fansink to 2 slots. Please double check you Chassis and Motherboard dimension prior to purchase to make sure it fits in your system!
• Note that the actual boost clock will vary depending on actual system conditions. For more information, please visit http://www.geforce.com/

PHYSICAL DETAILS

Though the Asus GTX 980 Ti Strix OC Edition is a sizable card, it is not particularly long compared to other 980 Ti models, with a circuit board measuring 27.3 cm across and the cooler adding an additional 2.6 cm for a total length of 29.9 cm (11.8 inches). Given the total area and weight of the card, the PCB is braced by a 0.9 mm thick backplate. The card tips the scales at a substantial 1090 grams (2.4 lb) with the cooler responsible for 660 grams of the total.


Its width is more of a compatibility concern than its length. Compared to a typical video card, the board/backplate juts out by an additional 2.6 cm. There’s also an exposed heatpipe that adds another 1.4 cm. The red accents on the cooler have a slick metallic look to them but they’re plastic, like the rest of the fan shroud.


There are five sprawling heatpipes, varying in diameter between 6 and 9 mm. Each fan has a proper removable connector, all daisy-chained together and plugged into a single 6-pin header on the board. There’s an additional 2-pin plug to power the lighting.


The back panel is stocked with single DVI-I and HDMI ports and a trio of DisplayPorts. With so many connectors there’s only room for a small exhaust port on the bracket.


Space has been carved out for side-mounted dual 8-pin power connectors.


The backplate has a brush finish and a series of holes exposing some of the circuitry as well as the back of the GPU core.


The board layout is quite tidy with plenty of room around the core. Most of the capacitors, inductors, and MOSFETs are arrayed in neat rows to the side. The cooler weighs 660 grams and uses direct-touch heatpipes like previous Asus models. VRM cooling is built-in rather than being handled by a separate heatsink. The heatsink fins run parallel with the length of the card are about 0.40 mm thick and spaced 1.5 mm apart.


Despite the backplate, the card still sags considerably, drooping down by about 13 mm at the far end. The Strix logo/strip on the outside is illuminated with white lighting that pulses in and out, taking about 3.5 seconds to complete each cycle.

TEST METHODOLOGY

Test Platform

  • Intel Core i3-2100 processor, Sandy Bridge core, dual core 3.1 GHz, integrated HD 2000 graphics, TDP of 65W
  • Scythe Kotetsu CPU coolerScythe
    Slip Stream
    500RPM 120mm fan
  • MSI Z77A-G43 motherboard, Z77 chipset, ATX
  • Kingston HyperX Genesis memory, 2x4GB, DDR3-1600
  • Kingston HyperX 3K solid state drive – 120GB, 2.5-inch, SATA 6 Gbps
  • Kingwin Lazer Platinum
    power supply, ATX v2.2, 80 Plus Platinum, 1000W total output, 83A on +12V rail
  • Fractal Design Define R5 case – ATX, stock 140mm fans
  • Microsoft
    Windows 7 Ultimate
    operating system – 64-bit


Our GPU test system.

Measurement and Analysis Tools

Testing Procedures

Our test procedures are designed to determine the power consumption, noise, and heat produced by the card/cooler with the system in various states. In addition to testing under “normal” conditions, we also perform a torture test consisting of FurMark running in conjunction with Prime95 to stress both the graphics card and processor simultaneously. This combination is more demanding on the CPU and GPU than any real gaming session. This final result is not indicative of a real-world situation, but rather a worse-case scenario; If it can cool the card and its components adequately it means there will be some degree of thermal headroom when deployed in a more conventional situation.

By adequately cooled, we mean cooled well enough that no misbehavior
related to thermal overload is exhibited. Thermal misbehavior in a graphics
card can show up in a variety of ways, including:

  • Sudden system shutdown, reboot without warning, or loss of display signal
  • Jaggies and other visual artifacts on the screen.
  • Motion slowing and/or screen freezing.

Any of these misbehaviors are annoying at best and dangerous at worst —
dangerous to the health and lifespan of the graphics card, and sometimes to
the system OS.

Aftermarket coolers are installed on an ASUS GeForce GTX 680 DirectCU II OC, a factory-overclocked single GPU card that draws 226W by our estimates. The stock VRM heatsink is left on if possible. The cooler’s fan(s) is connected to the motherboard (if possible) and its speed is changed to various levels to represent a good cross-section of its airflow and noise performance.

Ambient Noise Level

For noise measurements, our mic is positioned at a distance of one meter from the center of the case’s left side panel at a 45 degree angle.

Our test system’s CPU fan is a low speed Scythe that is set to full speed at all times while the two Fractal 140 mm case fans are connected to case’s integrated fan controller. Three standard speed settings have been established for testing.

GPU Test System:
Anechoic chamber measurements
Case Fan Setting
System SPL@1m
High
24 dBA
Med
15 dBA
Low
12~13 dBA

When testing video cards and coolers with active cooling, the low setting will be used. For passive cards and heatsinks, all three settings will be tested to determine the effect of system airflow on cooling performance.

Estimating DC Power

The following power efficiency figures were obtained for the
Kingwin LZP-1000
used in our test system:

Kingwin LZP-1000 Test Results
DC Output (W)
22.2
41.9
65.5
90.7
149.0
199.6
251.2
300.3
400.9
AC Input (W)
35
56
81
105
166
211
265
322
426

This data is enough to give us a very good estimate of DC demand in our
test system. We extrapolate the DC power output from the measured AC power
input based on this data. We won’t go through the math; it’s easy enough
to figure out for yourself if you really want to.

TEST RESULTS

System Measurements: GPU Test System with Asus Strix GTX 980 Ti OC
State
Idle
Prime95
Resident Evil 6 (Peak)
Prime95 + FurMark
GPU Fan Speed
Off
1280 RPM (40%)
880 RPM (35%)*
2070 RPM (52%)
2170 RPM (54%)*
CPU Temp
20°C
41°C
46°C
48°C
63°C
64°C
MB Temp
24°C
33°C
39°C
41°C
46°C
47°C
GPU Temp
42°C
47°C
72°C
80°C
82°C
80°C
GPU Core Clock
135 MHz
1418 MHz
1405 MHz
1227 MHz
System Power (AC)
44W
83W
262W
265W
368W
367W
System SPL@1m
12~13 dBA
17~18 dBA
15 dBA
28 dBA
29~30 dBA
*fan speed adjusted manually to hit 80°C target
CPU fan at 500 RPM, system fans at 580 RPM.
Ambient noise level: 10~11 dBA
System noise level (on int. graphics): 12~13 dBA
Ambient temperature: 21°C

The Strix GTX 980 Ti OC, like previous members of the Strix line, shuts its fans off completely when they’re not needed. As a result, the same minuscule level of noise is produced as when the video card is not present, a mere 12~13 dBA@1m. Prime95 only stresses the CPU, warming it up by 21°C compared to idle, but also affects the motherboard and GPU temperatures by a moderate amount.

Our Resident Evil 6 benchmark puts a greater combined load on the system, more than tripling system power draw to 262W AC during the most demanding portions of the test.. The GPU fans kick into gear here, peaking at 1280 RPM, increasing the total noise output by 5 dB. The fan control system is a bit aggressive, pushing the fan hard enough to keep the core temperature at 72°C. Manually relaxing the fan speed to allow for an 80°C temperature brings the noise level down to a very quiet 15 dBA@1m.

Prime95 + FurMark, a full synthetic torture test, is considerably more demanding, putting the GPU over the 80°C mark, heating the CPU to north of 60°C and the motherboard temperature sensor by a lesser degree. In this state, the fans ramp up to over 2000 RPM, making the machine a noisy 28 dBA@1m. The temperature is high enough that the GPU downclocks significantly, dropping it by 180~190 MHz compared to the Resident Evil 6 benchmark.

The GPU fans aren’t great acoustically but inside a case like the Define R5 with noise damping, the resulting output is quite tolerable. At lower speeds (under ~1500 RPM), they produce a dull low pitched hum which is noticeable but not really unpleasant when observed in our anechoic chamber from a distance of one meter. At higher speeds, they’re louder of course, but the resulting noise is more balanced with a greater high frequency distribution. It sounds fairly smooth, verging on whiny, but doesn’t quite get there. The card also emits some faint coil whine that is more prominent during Resident Evil 6 than FurMark.

On a side note, at the fans’ lowest fan speed setting of 30%, they spin at about 470 RPM which is not fast enough to make any measurable noise impact on our test system.

Comparison: GPU Test System, Resident Evil 6 (Peak, 80°C Target Temp)
GPU Model
CPU Temp
GPU Temp
Clock Speed
GPU Fan Speed
SPL @1m
System Power (AC)
Zotac GTX 970 Extreme Core
46°C
72°C
1418 MHz
1090 RPM (minimum)
14 dBA
215W
Asus GTX 980 Strix
45°C
80°C
1304 MHz
810 RPM
14~15 dBA
234W
Asus GTX 980 Ti Strix OC
48°C
80°C
1405 MHz
880 RPM
15 dBA
265W
AMD R9 290X (reference)
40°C
80°C
1000 MHz
3680 RPM
37~38 dBA
318W
CPU fan at 500 RPM, system fans at 580 RPM.
Ambient noise level: 10~11 dBA
System noise level (on int. graphics): 12~13 dBA
Ambient temperature: 21°C

As individual video cards are equipped with fan control systems of varying aggressiveness, comparing physical characteristics is unfair without controlling for a single factor. The comparison table above has been taken into consideration using results obtained by manipulating the fans to achieve the same 80°C GPU temperature (at 21°C ambient) during our Resident Evil 6 test. Note, that one card, the Zotac GTX 970 Extreme Core actually cannot attain the 80°C mark as it’s so well cooled that the minimum fan speed keeps it closer to 70°C.

Under these conditions, the GTX 980 Ti Strix operates similarly to the GTX 980 Strix, running a bit hotter, and just barely noisier. All three GTX 900 models are orders of magnitude quieter than the reference R9 290X, which has a TDP of 290W, 40W higher than the 980 Ti. It’s equipped with a blower style cooling solution that gets incredibly loud but is more effective at dumping exhaust out of the case, resulting in a cooler running CPU.

Comparison: GPU Test System, Prime95 + FurMark (80°C Target Temp)
GPU Model
CPU Temp
GPU Temp
Clock Speed (% vs. RE6)*
GPU Fan Speed
SPL @1m
System Power (AC)
Zotac GTX 970 Extreme Core
57°C
74°C
1001 MHz (70.6%)
1090 RPM (min)
14 dBA
228W
Asus GTX 980 Strix
57°C
80°C
1088 MHz (83.4%)
980 RPM
16~17 dBA
260W
Asus GTX 980 Ti Strix OC
64°C
80°C
1227 MHz (87.3%)
2170 RPM
29~30 dBA
367W
AMD R9 290X (reference)
46°C
80°C
905 MHz (90.5%)
3560 RPM
48 dBA
373W
*Percentage of clock speed compared to Resident Evil 6 test (peak, auto fan control).
CPU fan at 500 RPM, system fans at 580 RPM.
Ambient noise level: 10~11 dBA
System noise level (on int. graphics): 12~13 dBA
Ambient temperature: 21°C

Comparing Prime95 + FurMark using the same parameters yields different results and comes with complications due to the way modern GPUs adjust their clock speed in response to temperature, something that can’t be changed without hacking the BIOS. However, the difference in clock speeds between this test and the Resident Evil 6 test is shown, so you can see exactly how much each card slows down.

The 980 Ti’s theoretical power draw is much higher than in actual games, so its fans have to spin more than twice as fast as the GTX 980 Strix and Zotac GTX 970 Extreme Core, resulting in a noise output of close to 30 dBA. As for the clock speed, it doesn’t throttle as hard as the GTX 980 and GTX 970, operating about 13% slower than in the Resident Evil 6 test.

Energy Efficiency Comparison (Default Fan Control)

Under light load, the GTX 980 Ti Strix uses 3~5W more than the GTX 980 Strix, so you give up a little bit of energy efficiency with the higher performing card.

The GTX 980 Ti’s specified TDP is 85W higher than the GTX 980, but in actual gaming tests, the difference is substantially lower. Running Lost Planet 2 with low detail levels, the GTX 980 Ti uses only 25W more. Resident Evil 6 rendered at high detail is more of a challenge, pushing the system peak power draw to 262W, 35W more than the GTX 980, and similar to what the 980 pulls running Prime95 + FurMark, an incredibly demanding synthetic combination. When the 980 Ti is stressed in this fashion, power consumption skyrockets to a similar level as the R9 290X.

Converting the AC system power draw to DC and comparing the figures to those we obtained running on integrated graphics allows us to form a rough estimate of the absolute power consumption of the graphics cards we’ve tested over the past few years, regardless of the changes in our GPU test system over time.

The GTX 900 series is among the most efficient cards at idle but the 980 Ti uses a moderate amount more than its little brothers. On full load, the 980 Ti can draw almost 100W more than the 980, though it should be noted that this is what it is capable of consuming, not what it consumes on a regular basis.

Software

The 980 Ti Strix ships with the second iteration of Asus’ GPU Tweak II utility which is endowed with mostly the same functionality but with a revised look. The main difference is the default UI doesn’t offer any controls aside from some preset profiles that automatically apply changes to the GPU boost clock, power target, and GPU temperature target. There is also a link to XSplit’s streaming/recording service and a “Gaming Booster” button which provides links to change Windows’ visual effects and services settings, and a system memory defragmenter, to eke as much phantom performance out of the machine as possible.

The main tuning features appear to be identical as the older version of the application except the ability to hide individual settings has been moved from the settings menu to the primary interface, and profiles are available on the left side and can be labeled. Aesthetically, the design is flatter and slimmer. While the program can bump the the boost clock rate by 263 MHz, the memory frequency by 1440 MHz, and the GPU voltage by 88 mV, the power target is restricted to 110%, limiting its overclocking potential somewhat.

The graphing function unfortunately is a disappointment due to its smaller, nonadjustable size. On the old version of GPU Tweak, you can keep track of five attributes without scrolling down compared to just three in this updated version.

The user defined fan control hasn’t changed at all, though that’s not a bad thing. The fan speed curve is fully customizable with up to nine plot points. The default curve reveals that the fans do not kick in until 63°C, starting at 35% speed.

MP3 Sound Recordings

These recordings were made with a high resolution, lab quality, digital recording
system inside SPCR’s own 11 dBA ambient anechoic chamber, then converted to
LAME 128kbps encoded MP3s. We’ve listened long and hard to ensure there is no
audible degradation from the original WAV files to these MP3s. They represent
a quick snapshot of what we heard during the review.

Each recording starts with ambient noise, then 5~10 second segments of product
at various states. For the most realistic results,
set the volume so that the starting ambient level is just barely audible, then
don’t change the volume setting again while comparing all the sound files.

FINAL THOUGHTS

Considering the level of performance it offers, the noise output of the Asus GTX 980 Ti Strix is stellar. The fans are shut off when the GPU is not being taxed so it’s completely silent during 2D operation. The fan control is a bit aggressive but if it’s relaxed, it’s extremely quiet under normal gaming conditions. The sound quality of the fans aren’t great and there is some faint coil whine, but neither should bother you if the card is installed properly in a case with the side panel in place. Outside of synthetic loads, its power draw is only moderately higher than the GTX 980 Strix, but the 980 Ti’s substantial triple fan cooler is enough of an upgrade that there’s little effective difference. And even if you’re not particularly noise conscious, the hefty heatsink/fan combination offers some additional overclocking headroom.

Consensus among other review sites pegs the reference GTX 980 Ti’s performance at about 30% higher than the GTX 980 and just slightly lower than the GTX Titan X. However, the latter is overtaken by 10% or more by overclocked retail versions of the GTX 980 Ti, with the Strix model being one of the fastest of the bunch. The actual difference isn’t that important as the Titan X’s US$300 premium makes it a seriously poor value. On the other side of the aisle, AMD’s R9 Fury X isn’t quite competitive as it is priced similarly to the 980 Ti but slower by 5~10%. It’s also water-cooled by default which means higher idle noise and there have been many user complaints concerning high pitched whining generated by the pump. All in all, the Asus GTX 980 Ti Strix OC is a superb option for high performance gaming at QHD/UHD resolutions without compromising on noise.

Our thanks to Asus for the GeForce GTX 980 Ti Strix OC video card sample.


The Asus GTX 980 Ti Strix OC wins the SPCR’s Editor’s Choice Award

* * *

Articles of Related Interest

Zotac GTX 970 AMP! Extreme Core Noise Review

Quiet SLI Gaming PC Build Guide

Quiet Mini-ITX Gaming Build Guide: NCASE M1 Edition
Quiet Miini-ITX Gaming Build Guide: BitFenix Prodigy Edition

Arctic Accelero Hybrid II-120 Liquid GPU Cooler

NZXT Kraken G10 Graphics Adapter

* * *

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