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NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980 4GB Video Cards in SLI

Today Shawn puts together two NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980 4GB video cards worth around $1100 in SLI mode to see how they compete against AMD's top offerings.

@ShawnBakerTW
Published Fri, Sep 26 2014 8:12 AM CDT   |   Updated Tue, Nov 3 2020 6:59 PM CST

Introduction and Package

Introduction of the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980 4GB in SLI

NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980 4GB Video Cards in SLI 100 | TweakTown.com
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To say that we're impressed with what the new GTX 900 series from NVIDIA would be an understatement. While the GTX 980 4GB did a fantastic job of impressing us with some fantastic performance at an aggressive price point, it was the MSI GTX 970 4GB Twin Frozr V Gaming OC that really stood out, due to its performance at an even more impressive price point.

It's clear that NVIDIA know exactly what they want to do coming into the 2014 holiday season, and that is ultimately get your money. At launch, we got a pair of GTX 980 4GB cards that we had planned to run in SLI as quickly as possible. With a couple of retail versions coming in, though, and our first GTX 970 4GB in the form of the MSI we just mentioned, the SLI article had to take a back seat for a couple of days.

Having got those few cards out the way, it was time to finally throw the two cards together to see just what kind of performance we could get out. With a recent price drop to the AMD R9 295X2 8GB, the $1,000 market becomes a whole lot more interesting. The Radeon R9 295X2 8GB sees a price point of around $999, while a pair of GTX 980 4GB cards are going to cost you around the $1100 mark.

Since we've already looked at the GTX 980 4GB in detail and the fact that we're dealing with a reference card that has no bundle, we'll be going from here into our test system setup. The main thing we want to know, though, is that SLI is indeed working. So with everything said and done, let's get into it and see just what we've got on our hands here today with this $1100 setup.

Test System Setup & FPS Numbers Explained

Test System Setup

NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980 4GB Video Cards in SLI 99 | TweakTown.com

We would like to thank the following companies for supplying and supporting us with our test system hardware and equipment: Intel, ASUS and Corsair.

We've added a few setups into our graphs today that haven't been in our other GTX 900 series coverage. While the NVIDIA side hasn't changed much with our GTX 980 4GB SLI setup, you'll see the MSI GTX 970 4GB Twin Frozr V Gaming OC, reference GTX 980 4GB and the Zotac GTX 980 4GB AMP! Omega Edition OC that we looked at the other day.

As for the AMD side, we've got the HIS R9 290 4GB IceQ X2 Turbo and heavily overclocked HIS R9 290X iPower IceQ X2 Turbo 4GB which is running at 1100MHz on the core and 5700MHz QDR on the memory. We've also got the Sapphire R9 285 2GB Dual-X CrossFire setup and AMD R9 295X2 8GB that did a great job of impressing us when it launched.

NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980 4GB Video Cards in SLI 01 | TweakTown.com

Before we get into the performance, we just want to quickly take a look at GPU-Z to make sure everything looked right. Taking a look above, you can see at the bottom of the screenshot, we indeed have SLI enabled and it is enabled via 2 GPUs. So with everything looking good, let's get into it and see just what's going on with performance of the GTX 980 4GB SLI setup.

The FPS Numbers Explained

When we benchmark our video cards and look at the graphs, we aim to get to a certain level of FPS which we consider playable. While many may argue that the human eye can't see over 24 FPS or 30 FPS, any true gamer will tell you that as we climb higher in Frames Per Seconds (FPS), the overall gameplay feels smoother. There are three numbers we're looking out for when it comes to our benchmarks.

30 FPS - It's the minimum number we aim for when it comes to games. If you're not dropping below 30 FPS during games, you're going to have a nice and smooth gaming experience. The ideal situation is that even in a heavy fire fight, the minimum stays above 30 FPS making sure that you can continue to aim easily or turn the corner with no dramas.

60 FPS - It's the average we look for when we don't have a minimum coming at us. If we're getting an average of 60 FPS, we should have a minimum of 30 FPS or better and as mentioned above, it means we've got some smooth game play happening.

120 FPS - The new number that we've been hunting down over recent months. If you're the owner of a 120 Hz monitor, to get the most out of it you want to get around the 120 FPS mark. Moving from 60 FPS / 60 Hz to 120 FPS / 120 Hz brings with it a certain fluidity that can't really be explained, but instead has to be experienced. Of course, if you're buying a 120 Hz monitor to take advantage of 3D, an average of 120 FPS in our benchmark means that in 3D you will have an average of 60 FPS, which again means you should expect some smooth gameplay.

Why are some graphs incomplete?

Adding new game benchmarks is a long, tedious and time consuming task as every video card has to be re-tested in those new benchmarks. Because of that reason we have always just evaluated our benchmark line up every six months. To stay up to date and current with the latest benchmarks and games available, we've changed our approach to adding new benchmarks.

Our benchmark line up will progress and be updated as newer more intensive games with benchmarks comes to light. While this will mean that initially you may only see a single video card in those particular graphs, as the weeks go on and we test more and more video cards, the results will grow quickly. This will help keep our benchmark line up as up to date as possible as we introduce and remove games on a constant basis.

Benchmarks - 3DMark

3DMark 11

Version and / or Patch Used: 1.1

NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980 4GB Video Cards in SLI 20 | TweakTown.com

Starting off with 3DMark 11, we can straight away see the GTX 980 4GB SLI setup has no problem out performing everything else here. At the higher resolution Extreme preset, you can see the R9 295X2 8GB manages to score 8638 points. The SLI NVIDIA setup on the other hand shoots past the 10,000 point mark with a massive 10,807 points being seen.

3DMark Fire Strike

Version and / or Patch Used: 1

NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980 4GB Video Cards in SLI 21 | TweakTown.com

3DMark Fire Strike again sees some awesome performance across the board. While the gains aren't as strong here as we saw under 3DMark 11, you can see looking above that the NVIDIA setup, though, has no issue separating itself from the top AMD offering.

Benchmarks - 3DMark Sky Diver & Catzilla

3DMark Sky Diver

Version and / or Patch Used: 1.1

NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980 4GB Video Cards in SLI 22 | TweakTown.com

While we have seen under Sky Diver a lot of these high-end setups score quite closely to each other because the focus on the benchmark is mainly for mid-range offerings, looking above, you can see that the GTX 980 4GB SLI setup has no problem separating itself from the other setups here by a solid 30%.

Catzilla

Version and / or Patch Used: 1.3

NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980 4GB Video Cards in SLI 23 | TweakTown.com

Catzilla numbers are just massive and you can see we see some awesome gains against the single card solution. Compared to the single overclocked R9 290X 4GB, you can see that performance is just over double from this setup here.

Benchmarks - Unigine Heaven & Phantasy Star Online 2

Unigine Heaven Benchmark

Version and / or Patch Used: 3

NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980 4GB Video Cards in SLI 24 | TweakTown.com

Moving into Heaven, you can again see that the GTX 980 4GB SLI setup just has no problems outperforming the top AMD video card here in both resolutions. It's a good start for the GTX 980 4GB SLI setup - let's get into some games now to see what's really going on.

Phantasy Star Online 2

Version and / or Patch Used: Standalone Benchmark

NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980 4GB Video Cards in SLI 25 | TweakTown.com

PSO 2 performance is just ridiculous. The performance here is just off the chart and you can see that a setup as high-end as this just isn't going to have a problem under PSO 2. More importantly, you don't see the same issues under SLI as CrossFire sees with really no extra performance seen.

Benchmarks - Lost Planet 2 & Just Cause 2

Lost Planet 2

Version and / or Patch Used: Standalone Benchmark

NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980 4GB Video Cards in SLI 26 | TweakTown.com

Lost Planet 2 numbers are also unbelievable with the highest resolution being just over 250 FPS. We must admit that you don't really need these kind of numbers, no matter what monitor, resolution or Hz you're gaming at.

Just Cause 2

Version and / or Patch Used: Latest Steam Update

NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980 4GB Video Cards in SLI 27 | TweakTown.com

Just Cause 2 numbers are just like we saw under Lost Planet 2. Huge numbers across the board and numbers that are easily ahead of the top AMD offering.

Benchmarks -Metro Last Light & Nexuiz

Metro Last Light

Version and / or Patch Used: Latest Steam Update

NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980 4GB Video Cards in SLI 28 | TweakTown.com

Everything becomes a bit closer under Metro Last Light as the GTX 980 4GB SLI setup manages to get just a single FPS on the R9 295 X2 8GB at the highest resolution. More importantly, though, you can see playable FPS at all resolutions here.

Nexuiz

Version and / or Patch Used: Latest Steam Update

NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980 4GB Video Cards in SLI 29 | TweakTown.com

Nexuiz numbers are just massive here. Under SLI, the performance just jumps significantly. For starters, you don't see the negative performance like you see with the CrossFire setup, and more importantly, you see playable FPS at all resolutions.

Benchmarks - Sniper Elite V2 & Sleeping Dogs

Sniper Elite V2

Version and / or Patch Used: Standalone Benchmark

NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980 4GB Video Cards in SLI 30 | TweakTown.com

Sniper Elite V2 numbers are again just huge here and easily ahead of the top AMD offering. You can continue to see that NVIDIA has really no trouble separating itself from all the other setups.

Sleeping Dogs

Version and / or Patch Used: Latest Steam Update

NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980 4GB Video Cards in SLI 31 | TweakTown.com

Sleeping Dogs continues the trend with just truly massive numbers at all resolutions. You can see, no matter what game or what resolution so far, this SLI setup just doesn't have any trouble dealing with the intensity of any game.

Benchmarks - Hitman Absolution & Tomb Raider

Hitman Absolution

Version and / or Patch Used: Latest Steam Update

NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980 4GB Video Cards in SLI 32 | TweakTown.com

Due to an FPS wall, you can see that performance isn't much higher than the AMD offerings. With that said, though, it is indeed higher at all resolutions, and more importantly, is playable at all resolutions.

Tomb Raider

Version and / or Patch Used: Latest Steam Update

NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980 4GB Video Cards in SLI 33 | TweakTown.com

Tomb Raider is one of the most intensive games on the market at the moment which sees our reference card struggle a little at the highest resolution. Throwing a second card into the mix, though, sees massive performance gains making sure our numbers are extremely playable at all resolutions. Compared to AMD's top offering, you can see the SLI setup again manages to separate itself easily.

Benchmarks - BioShock Infinite & Battlefield 4

BioShock Infinite

Version and / or Patch Used: Latest Steam Update

NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980 4GB Video Cards in SLI 34 | TweakTown.com

BioShock performance is extremely strong at all resolutions and you can again see that our GTX 980 4GB SLI setup manages to outperform the AMD R9 295 X2 8GB with no issue. At the highest resolution, you can see comparing the two cards the GTX 980 4GB SLI setup manages to come out nearly 30% higher.

Battlefield 4

Version and / or Patch Used: Latest Origin Update

NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980 4GB Video Cards in SLI 35 | TweakTown.com

Battlefield 4 number are extremely strong across the board. You can see that any of our high-end setups really have no issue under this game.

Benchmarks - GRID Autosport

Grid Autosport

Version and / or Patch Used: Latest Steam Update

NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980 4GB Video Cards in SLI 36 | TweakTown.com

GRID Autosport continues the trend with fantastic performance across the board. You can see that gaming at any resolution here is clearly not an issue.

Benchmarks - High Quality AA and AF

High Quality AA and AF Testing

While we test all our games with maximum in-game settings, turning on Anti-Aliasing (AA) and Antistrophic Filtering (AF) helps take the intensity of our testing to another level.

Here we see video cards go from playable FPS to unplayable FPS and the real power houses continue to help break that 60 FPS mark we always aim for to provide a smooth gaming experience.

NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980 4GB Video Cards in SLI 37 | TweakTown.com

Turning on AA and AF, you can see that the AMD R9 295 X2 8GB and GTX 980 4GB SLI setup perform very closely to each other with the NVIDIA setup managing to just sneak out ahead. More importantly, though, while Metro Last Light might be getting on a bit in age, you can see at the highest resolution all setups here can't hit that 60 FPS number we want for a solid gaming experience.

NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980 4GB Video Cards in SLI 38 | TweakTown.com

GRID Autosport doesn't have the same issue and you can see our GTX 980 4GB SLI setup manages to get over 100 FPS at both resolutions when AA and AF is turned on.

NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980 4GB Video Cards in SLI 39 | TweakTown.com

Sleeping Dogs shows performance that is not only playable at both resolutions, but also numbers that are ahead of the AMD R9 295 X2 8GB. At the highest resolution, you're talking about gains of around 15%.

Benchmarks - 4K - 3840 x 2160 Testing

4K - 3840 x 2160 Testing

4K monitors are the next step for gamers demanding the best in image quality. With 4x the pixels of a standard 1920 x 1080 monitor (meaning 4x the intensity); 3840 x 2160 brings with it a new level of intensity to video cards.

Wanting to make sure that you're buying the right video card for a monitor that offers such a large resolution, we test the latest and greatest video cards in a couple of benchmarks to give you an idea of just what kind of setup you require.

NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980 4GB Video Cards in SLI 40 | TweakTown.com

Cranking up the resolution, you can see that the AMD R9 295 X2 8GB and GTX 980 4GB SLI perform quite closely to each other. With that said, you can see that the lead the NVIDIA setup gets is still 10% higher.

NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980 4GB Video Cards in SLI 41 | TweakTown.com

4K isn't an issue for the GTX 980 4GB SLI setup with a massive 141 FPS average being seen here.

NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980 4GB Video Cards in SLI 42 | TweakTown.com

Looking above, you cans see that the AMD and NVIDIA setups perform extremely closely to each other with the same minimum being seen. The only difference is that the NVIDIA setup manages to get a couple of FPS in the average. More importantly, though, the numbers are playable at this resolution, and that is the most important thing.

NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980 4GB Video Cards in SLI 43 | TweakTown.com

Under Tomb Raider, you can see we just fall short of the 60 FPS average we want when at 4K. With that said, the 58 FPS average when combined with the 46 FPS minimum is a very playable setup. Compared to the R9 295 X2 8GB, you can see that while the averages are similar, the NVIDIA setup manages a 15% stronger minimum.

NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980 4GB Video Cards in SLI 44 | TweakTown.com

Finishing up with GRID Autosport, we see some great numbers the 60 FPS minimum and 69 FPS average is mighty impressive at this resolution.

Temperature & Sound Testing

Temperature Test

The temperature of the core is pulled from MSI Afterburner with the max reading used after a completed run of 3DMark Vantage at the Performance preset.

NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980 4GB Video Cards in SLI 50 | TweakTown.com

When it comes to the temperature, throwing the second card into the mix does cause an increase in our overall load number. At 81c, though, the hottest card isn't at a number that we're worried about, especially when you consider the performance here.

Sound Test

Pulling out the TES 1350A Sound Level Meter, we find ourselves quickly yelling into the top of it to see how loud we can be.

After five minutes of that we get a bit more serious and place the device two CM away from the fan on the card to find the maximum noise level of the card when idle (2D mode) and in load (3D mode).

NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980 4GB Video Cards in SLI 51 | TweakTown.com

Noise levels on the setup are really impressive here when you consider the performance that is on offer.

Power Consumption Testing

Power Consumption Test

Using our PROVA Power Analyzer WM-01--or "Power Thingy" as it has quickly become known as to our readers--we are now able to find out what kind of power is being used by our test system and the associated video cards installed. Keep in mind that it tests the complete system (minus LCD monitor, which is plugged directly into AC wall socket).

There are a few important notes to remember, though. While our maximum power is taken in 3DMark06 at the same exact point, we have seen in particular tests the power being drawn as much as 10 percent more. We test at the exact same stage every time, so tests should be very consistent and accurate.

The other thing to remember is that our test system is bare minimum--only an SSD hard drive is used with a single CD ROM and minimal cooling fans.

So while the system might draw 400 watts in our test system, placing it into your own PC with a number of other items will result in a higher draw.

NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980 4GB Video Cards in SLI 52 | TweakTown.com

As you'd expect, power draw jumps up with the load number coming in at 637 watts. For a setup like this, we'd recommend a quality, branded power supply in the 800 watt plus region.

Pricing, Availability, and Final Thoughts

At the moment it doesn't seem to matter what I do with the GTX 900 series, I find myself extremely impressed with what NVIDIA is offering over and over again. The biggest competition for this setup is the AMD Radeon R9 295 X2 8GB that comes in a little bit cheaper than what a pair of GeForce GTX 980 4GB video cards cost. The AMD card is great, and it's slightly cheaper, and is a single card solution.

But! Forever long as we've been testing SLI and CrossFire, it's always felt like SLI is just that bit more mature than CrossFire. CrossFire doesn't run into a lot of problems, but it does run into problems. SLI, on the other hand, just works perfectly in everything. NVIDIA is also so on top of drivers that if there's an issue, they're often quite fast to release a new beta driver version for you that fixes the issue.

The other thing you might remember is when we tried to overclock the R9 295 X2 8GB initially, we ran into nothing but problems. While we're yet to test overclocking on any GTX 900 series cards, we know from what's happening around us that overclocking on these cards is an absolute dream.

As I was testing this setup today, the MSI GTX 980 4GB Twin Frozr V Gaming OC arrived and that will be sliding into our testbed for some overclocking to be done. NVIDIA really just have got an awesome pair of cards going on at the moment. It's going to be really exciting to see how they fill out the rest of the GTX 900 series as time goes on.

For now, though, if you're looking for a setup that is going to set you back at around the $1,100 mark, the decision to go with this over anything else is pretty easy. Keep an eye out on future GTX 900 series coverage as we look at more cards in more ways. There's clearly just a ton of performance to be had here from these new cards and we intend to examine every way possible.

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Shawn takes care of all of our video card reviews. From 2009, Shawn is also taking care of our memory reviews, and from May 2011, Shawn also takes care of our CPU, chipset and motherboard reviews. As of December 2011, Shawn is based out of Taipei, Taiwan.

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