PC gaming goes from strength to strength. Sat behind and backing up this sort of bold statement is the continued release of incredible PC hardware. £550 / $680 in today’s hardware market can realistically get you a very competent gaming PC. Obviously it will be bottom end in comparison to the rest of the available hardware out there but nevertheless that £550 / $680 gaming PC would be able to play all of today’s games.
However, we are also able to spend that same amount on a single component. And this is where the juggernaut GPU we are reviewing today steps in. We will be breaking down the MSI GTX 980 ti Gaming 6G into its constitute gaming components to help you understand where the GTX 980 ti could fit into a gamer’s life and why you might, or might not, decide to pick one up.
Specs and Features
The GTX 980 ti is right at the top end of the new Nvidia 900 Series. It’s not quite a Titan X but it's right up there and easily comparable, while being much better value for money. The MSI GTX 980 Ti Gaming 6G that we’re looking at today is a boosted version of the stock GTX 980 ti.
The MSI variant we’re testing has a core speed of 1178 MHz (the base GTX 980 ti has 1000MHz) and a Boost speed of 1279 (the base GTX 980 ti has 1076MHz). This is in the region of an 18% clock speed overclock right out of the box.
Those MSI GTX 980 Ti Gaming 6G stats basically mean that it’s an even tastier version of the native card. Our own GD analysis puts this as an 11% performance increase.
The GTX 980 Ti has 6GB GDDR5. So when an occasional game like Shadow of Mordor turns up, saying you can only run the special HD patch if you have a super powerful GPU, this is not an issue with this card. In fact, with the GTX 980 ti you can run that HD patch on Shadow of Mordor while enjoying it in 4K resolution, and still achieve strong frame rates.
The proof of the MSI GTX 980 ti Gaming 6G’s power though is of course in its game benchmarks. In order to make some sense of what cost this sort of GPU offers we booted up a bunch of top end titles from the past year or two. We then ran them through a 144hz Nvidia Gsync monitor that natively delivers 1440p screen resolution. As a side note, we recorded our benchmark videos using the Nvidia supplied Shadowplay recording software that modern Nvidia GPUs have access to through the GeForce Experience suite. This is a fairly lossless form of gameplay video capture (somewhere in the region of 1-2% impact on frame rates), so it worked well for our tests.
Oh and if you haven't seen some of the Pixel Perfection articles surrounding this top end GPU then pop over and check them out.
- Pixel Perfection - UBER Fidelity Mod Tries To Get The Witcher 3 Looking Even Better
- Pixel Perfection - Is 4K Screen Res Gaming Good Enough On A Single GPU
- Pixel Perfection - Run Ultra Graphics Settings On Every Game
Pushing each game’s graphics settings up to Ultra and displaying at 144hz 2560x1440 screen resolution, you can see below just what sort of cost you are likely to pay to achieve top end Ultra gaming frame rates.
Compare that to the previously reported GTX 970 figures and you can see that there’s a significant difference.
IMPORTANT, I really want to draw your attention to the fact that the cost comparisons are 1440p (GTX 980 ti) vs 1080p (GTX 970) and that all the games for the GTX 980 Ti were completed at Ultra graphics, whereas the GTX 970 includes some lower graphics settings.
So the cost per frame rate figures, in the graphs above, indicate what a gamer has to pay for top end visuals/resolutions/frame rates via the GTX 980ti. Compared to the lower resolution, but still very good gaming performance of the GTX 970.
Here are some GTX 980 ti vs GTX 970 comparison videos
GTX 980 Ti Temperatures
One of our members requested some temperature readings from the GTX 980 ti MSI Gaming 6G graphics card so I thought I would oblige and update the article here. First off I will display some temp readings of the card taken while the computer had been on but it had been idle for some time. The temperature of the room that the PC resides is currently 25 degrees C.
Ok now I will display the GPU temperature readings after cranking up some 5K gaming for 20 mins. I booted up GTA V and got in a helicopter and tore the place up with its guns, getting chased by the police and so on. You can see the GPU core was operating at 99% apparently.
You may care to know that GTA V was still getting around 32 FPS at that resolution. So there you have it, when idle the GPU runs at around 53 degrees centigrade. And after taking a thrashing for a fairly short gaming session (about 20 mins) the GTX 980 ti base temperature jumps to 76 degrees centigrade.
For those of you wondering whether you need to upgrade your PSU, if you want to get this sort of graphics card, we have a 650 Watt PSU comfortably running our top end PC. This rig includes an Intel i7 5820K CPU, 16GB RAM, and of course the GTX 980 Ti itself. Something to note is that this MSI GTX 980 ti version needs two 8-pin power connectors from your power supply. Regular GPUs normally need a single 6 or 8 pin connector, sometimes two 6 pins, while the reference GTX 980 Ti model uses a 6 + 8 pin. The reason for the 8 + 8 pin power connector for the MSI model is the out of the box overclock, which sucks on a little more juice. In this case MSI included an adapter that converts one of your more common 6 pin straight into an 8 pin. So if you only have a single 8 pin coming out of your PSU, dont panic. As long as you have a spare 6 pin you can just add the supplied converter.
As a side note, always make sure you get a good quality PSU. Don't skimp or your PC will be blue screening or just turning off every time you put your gaming PC under pressure.
The GTX 980 ti runs relatively quietly, considering the performance it can pump out. If you have everything cranked up, and you will, then the dual GPU fans will get busy doing their thankless task of cooling your hardware. But assuming your CPU fan is also buzzing away you likely wont hear it beyond that system fan, providing the case is sealed up. They also stay idle when they are not required. Although I occasionally heard them pinging a single rotation, for seemingly no purpose.
Interlude: Wait, I didnt realise this review was for the top end GTX 980 ti GPU. Have you got something a little more affordable, for the modest gamer? Why, yes we do, friend. Check out our GTX 950 review. That card released just last week.
Right, back to the GTX 980 ti MSI Gaming 6G video benchmark section.
Unigine Valley Extreme HD 1080p Ultra Benchmark
Buying a GTX 980 ti
There is more to this than just picking up a great graphics card. It’s a long term commitment you are making to yourself, often unknowingly. It's like buying a Porsche. Once you have owned one, what will you do in 3 years time when your finance payment scheme expires and you need a new car? You re-mortgage your house again and get another Porsche, right? Because anything else is a step away from what you are use to.
Buying a top tier GPU like the GTX 980 Ti pushes your game benchmarks up but it also pushes up the expectations you put on your hardware. Setting everything to Ultra can only last for so long and when the day comes that your mighty GTX 980 ti can’t run something at Ultra, you might think it’s time for a new GPU, instead of what the rest of us do, which is, tweak the settings to enable a good enough performance. There’s nothing wrong with either. It’s your PC gaming prerogative and that choice brings PC gamers together, to discuss our options. But if you haven't ventured into the heady heights of top tier GPUs before then heed my warning.
I can’t afford a GTX 980 ti. But MSIs variant, that currently sits snuggly in my PC, knows my inner turmoil. I have seen gaming nirvana and the looming prospect of removing the GPU known as The Ultra Giver is not something I wish on any gamer. My eyes are already accustomed to huge screens of glorious colour. I can tell when games drop below 60FPS and it jars me back into the gloomy reality of real life, which now seems strangely pixelated.
Which GTX 980 ti version do you go for? Its nice to have options and so the way I see it, you are already in the upper echelons of gaming performance. So if you have that sort of cash, pay the extra handful of bucks to get whichever overclocked GPU suits your 980 ti requirements. But far far more importantly you should go for a card that has style.
And let’s face it, you might as well discard everything I have written above, as MSI have an abundance of style. You just can’t beat the powerful red/black double colour super combo, am I right GD?