MSI GTX 980 Gaming 4GB Review

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Introduction

It’s quite clear that NVIDIA have made an impact in AMDs sales with the release of the GTX 970 and GTX 980’s as simply, they offer more performance than any single GPU AMD offering on the market; the 295×2 doesn’t count!  NVIDIA have introduced some pretty interesting features with Maxwell such as DSR (Dynamic Super Resolution) which effectively allows you to upscale to resolutions not currently capable on your monitors; if you are expecting to down sample to 4K, be expected to have performance issues on single card set ups.  Another feature is G-SYNC which is of course well known by now but for those who don’t know, it offers an un-rivalled latency/tear free gaming experience; you must have a monitor that supports it and those are pretty expensive, the only kicker there!

So here we are, the NVIDIA GTX 980 and what better way to mould such an advanced architecture with than the MSI Gaming series; you all know exactly what I’m talking about!  MSI’s Gaming range has been improving ever since their introduction on the market a few years ago and oh boy have they made waves; tons of gaming hardware themed products with plenty of performance to go round.  So with that being said, we have seen what the MSI GTX 970 Gaming 4GB card has to offer but today it’s time for the GTX 980 version to make an impression on me; the MSI GTX 970 won best graphics card of 2014 in our end of year awards so it has a lot to live up to.

The MSI GTX 980 Gaming 4GB card features the GM204 core with out of the box clock speeds of 1114MHz (1253MHz boost) on the core with 1753MHz on the 4GB of GDDR5 memory; the memory is complimented with a 256-bit bus.  In terms of connectivity, the MSI GTX 980 Gaming 4G features 1 x DVI-I port, 1 x HDMI and 3 x DisplayPort connections; lots of ports for even the most hardcore of multi-monitor setups!

 

 

Review

 

Conclusion

It isn’t even questionable really, the GTX 980 is the best gaming orientated single core graphics card currently on the market; sorry AMD fans!  That being said, it isn’t only a question of performance but of course cost, design and other factors including temperatures; no-one wants a card with all the performance in the world without having the capabilities to keep it cool.  My experience with the MSI GTX 980 4G has been a fantastic one overall as it is probably the best GTX 980 currently on the market (at time of review); a pretty bold claim but the figures in the video review speak for themselves.

Performance wise, the ZOTAC GTX 980 AMP! Extreme might edge out the MSI card at stock but the table turn very quickly when overclocked; the ZOTAC having such high clocks out of the box didn’t give much headroom at all for overclocking whereas the MSI GTX 980 had bucket loads of overhead to play with.  With the overclock, it makes a solid difference in games, especially 1440p in which some cards would be unplayable; below 60fps of course which is what most “gamers” use as a rule of thumb.  The only game on test which didn’t have an effect on performance was World of Warcraft: Warlord of Draenor which is notably more reliant on CPU; it’s handy to know that 1440p at maximum settings is more than playable as it is currently one of the most popular MMO’s in existence.

Design wise it’s hard to ignore the latest rendition of the Twin FROZR V cooler; being semi-passive is a good thing even at the cost of temps in idle.  I would rather have a silently operating card than a wind turbine but with the semi-passive design implemented by MSI, this card is silent when idle; it isn’t much louder when the card is under full load showing what the Twin FROZR V is capable of.  The red and black aesthetic is starting to feature in EVERY brands collection these days but MSI do a good job; I especially love the MSI logo’s illumination when powered up; this can be turned off in the NVIDIA GPU Experience control panel for those who hate LED’s.

Now the price of a top performing NVIDIA graphics card is never going to win value awards but given the power the GTX 980 has and not forgetting the card it shelves in the EOL bin (the GTX 780Ti) was at least £100 more expensive on release, I find it hard to fault the current price.  Yes the GTX 970 offers much better value for money and that’s why it won GPU of the year in our awards, but for those who demand the best have to always bear in mind that they pay for the privilege; a Ford Fiesta and a Ferrari both get you from A to B but the Ferrari does it in style, the MSI GTX 980 Gaming is the Ferrari in this anecdote of course!  £450 isn’t too much of an unreasonable price to pay for the best so thumbs up from me!

Overall the MSI GTX 980 Gaming 4G does enough to win our Gold award but given the impeccable overclocking performance demonstrated, it is a clear winner of our performance award too!  Another plus point is that I would do anything to have 2 of these in every system I own (ANYTHING) so I would like to also award the Gaming 4G editor’s choice too; it’s currently my favourite graphics card and it will take something special to make me reconsider; MSI GTX 980 Lightning “wink wink”.

If you are looking for a top performing gaming graphics card and have a budget of around £450, pick this card up, you won’t regret it! The MSI GTX 980 Gaming 4GB graphics card combines performance, style, features and of course a reasonable price considered, a definite purchase.

Huge thanks to MSI for sending the GTX 980 Gaming 4G graphics card in for review and I look forward to seeing more in the near future.

  • Performance
  • Design
  • Value

Summary

Pros:

- Fantastic performance
- Tons of overclocking headroom
- Looks fantastic
- Semi-passive cooler design with the new Twin FROZR V cooler
- Price is reasonable based on previous launch prices from NVIDIA

Cons:

- Not as bang for buck as the GTX 970
- 3 x DisplayPorts featured but no adapters provided in the box

4.3

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