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NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980 4GB Video Cards in SLI & Overclocked

With our NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980 4GB SLI video card setup running perfectly, we overclock it to see just how much performance we can get out of it.

@ShawnBakerTW
Published Thu, Oct 16 2014 4:02 PM CDT   |   Updated Tue, Nov 3 2020 6:59 PM CST

Introduction

Introduction of the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980 4GB in SLI & Overclocked

NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980 4GB Video Cards in SLI & Overclocked 02 | TweakTown.com
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The past few months have been crazy when it comes to core components. The release of the new X99 platform from Intel bought with it new motherboards, CPUs, and RAM in the form of DDR4. If that wasn't enough to keep us busy, NVIDIA turned around and release their GTX 900 series video cards that have really grabbed the attention of enthusiasts in a big way.

One article that I had hoped to write, but just somehow hadn't gotten around to writing, was the GTX 980 4GB in SLI & Overclocked. Well, I've finally gotten around to writing it, and you just so happen to be reading it now!

So far we know a couple of things about this card. The first is that the GTX 980 4GB from NVIDIA is a fantastic card that offers some truly fantastic performance out of the box. On top of that, we also know that the overclocking ability on the model is strong along with the scaling ability. It's fairly safe to assume that thanks to these benefits, we'll be able to see some awesome performance out of the SLI setup when we overclock it.

Since we've already looked at the reference GTX 980 4GB cards in a couple of different ways, we'll be simply moving on from here into our test system setup, where we'll cover the cards that will be in our graphs today, and see what's going on with the overclock.

PRICING: You can find the ASUS STRIX-GTX980-DC2OC-4GD5 video card for sale below. The prices listed are valid at the time of writing but can change at any time. Click the link to see the very latest pricing for the best deal.

United States: The ASUS STRIX-GTX980-DC2OC-4GD5 video card retails for $579.99 at Amazon.

Test System Setup & FPS Numbers Explained

Test System Setup

NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980 4GB Video Cards in SLI & Overclocked 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 got a bunch of setups in our graphs here today that cover some fairly high-end setups. Sitting alongside our overclocked GTX 980 4GB SLI setup, we've got the older reference GTX 780 TI 3GB.

We also have our new GTX 900 offerings, which include the MSI GTX 970 4GB Twin Frozr V Gaming OC, the reference GTX 980 4GB, the Zotac GTX 980 4GB AMP! Omega Edition OC, and the MSI GTX 980 4GB Twin Frozr V Gaming OC, running at 1462MHz on the Core and 8112MHz QDR on the 4GB of GDDR5. Finally, we finish off our NVIDIA cards with the reference GTX 980 4GB in SLI running at its reference clocks.

As for the AMD side of things, we've got the HIS R9 290 4GB IceQ X2 Turbo, the HIS R9 290X iPower X2 Turbo 4GB running at 1100MHz on the core, and 5700MHz QDR on the memory clock. Lastly, we have the reference AMD R9 295X2 8GB.

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

Before getting into the performance, we need to take a quick look at the overclock. Looking above, you can see the core has been boosted from the default 1127MHz to 1330MHz. This translates from a boost clock of 1216MHz to 1419MHz. As for the 4GB of GDDR5, that's been pushed from the stock 7012MHz QDR to 8000MHz QDR. You can also see that SLI is enabled via two GPUs, as shown across the bottom of the GPU-Z image.

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 Second (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 - This is the newest 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. For that reason, we have always just reevaluated 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 quickly grow. 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 & Overclocked 20 | TweakTown.com

Looking at 3DMark 11 you can immediately see we're off to a great start. The reference clocked GTX 980 4GB SLI setup was able to come out ahead of everything else, and you can see when overclocking is thrown into the mix, the lead grows even further over the R9 295X2 8GB, which was the closest card.

3DMark Fire Strike

Version and / or Patch Used: 1

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

Taking a look at 3DMark Fire Strike, once again you can see the performance is extremely strong, and the gains are very solid. Looking above, you can see that overclocking helps extend the lead over the AMD R9 295X2 8GB, which was already trailing behind the reference clocked SLI setup.

Benchmarks - 3DMark Sky Diver & Catzilla

3DMark Sky Diver

Version and / or Patch Used: 1.1

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

While Sky Diver is aimed at mid-range video cards, we still manage to see a nice performance boost over the reference clocked cards.

Catzilla

Version and / or Patch Used: 1.3

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

Heading into Catzilla, you can see some great performance gains from our overclocked setup, with both resolutions seeing a really nice boost in performance. Hopefully we continue to see these kinds of gains when we get into the games.

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 & Overclocked 24 | TweakTown.com

When it comes to Heaven performance, we don't see the biggest gain when overclocking is thrown into the mix. Although, you can see the overclock does help extend the lead of the GTX 980 4GB SLI setup over the AMD R9 295X2 8GB, which was already trailing.

Phantasy Star Online 2

Version and / or Patch Used: Standalone Benchmark

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

Phantasy Star Online 2 normally responds quite well to overclocking, but as you can see above, there's only a slight performance boost when looking at our two SLI setups. With that said, you can see the performance is still massive here, and unlike the AMD setups, when moving to multi GPU setups, you don't get a negative impact on performance.

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 & Overclocked 26 | TweakTown.com

Overall, Lost Planet 2 performance is extremely strong with the overclocked SLI setup easily sitting ahead of the pack. Compared to the AMD offerings, you can see that the performance is extremely strong.

Just Cause 2

Version and / or Patch Used: Latest Steam Update

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At the lower resolutions, you can see that the top cards tend to hit an FPS wall here; that particular number comes later on the NVIDIA offerings, and then on the AMD. However, at the highest resolution, you can see some separation between the setups, which again shows the overclocked SLI GTX 980 4GB clearly ahead.

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 & Overclocked 28 | TweakTown.com

Metro: Last Light performance is fantastic across the board with strong gains seen at all resolutions. At the highest resolution, you can see that we manage to score a solid 99 FPS average on our overclocked SLI setup.

Nexuiz

Version and / or Patch Used: Latest Steam Update

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Nexuiz is another extremely intensive game. Looking above, you can see that when AMD moves to multi GPU options, the performance drops. The NVIDIA offerings, on the other hand, see some awesome gains with SLI, and overclocking helps push that performance even further with an average of over 100 FPS at the highest 2560 x 1600 resolution.

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 & Overclocked 30 | TweakTown.com

Sniper Elite V2 just sees some ridiculous gains when it comes to overclocking. You can see we have a FPS gain of 51 at the lowest resolution, which gives us an insane 406 FPS average at 1680 x 1050.

Sleeping Dogs

Version and / or Patch Used: Latest Steam Update

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

Looking at Sleeping Dogs performance, you can see that the overclock doesn't increase performance by too much. With that said, it does help extend the setup's lead over the AMD R9 295X2 8GB, which was already trailing.

Benchmarks - Hitman: Absolution & Tomb Raider

Hitman: Absolution

Version and / or Patch Used: Latest Steam Update

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

Getting into Hitman: Absolution performance, you can see we're pretty much bouncing off a wall at all resolutions. However, you can see performance is a little lower than the reference clocked cards. While this is never great, the fact that our minimum still sits in the 90 FPS range means we're not too concerned about it.

Tomb Raider

Version and / or Patch Used: Latest Steam Update

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

Moving on to Tomb Raider, we see some nice little performance gains at 1680 x 1050 and 1920 x 1200. As for 2560 x 1600, you can see the overclock really doesn't make an impact. The good news is that we do manage to get extremely strong FPS at this resolution with an 82 FPS minimum, and an average that tips into the 100 FPS range.

Benchmarks - BioShock Infinite & Battlefield 4

BioShock Infinite

Version and / or Patch Used: Latest Steam Update

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

Performance in BioShock Infinite sees some really nice gains, and just overall solid FPS. While you may feel that a 146 FPS average at 2560 x 1600 is a little pointless, the simple fact is that with the new 144Hz 2560 monitors, these kind of averages are fantastic for people seeking an ultra-smooth gaming experience.

Battlefield 4

Version and / or Patch Used: Latest Origin Update

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Numbers are strong across the board under Battlefield 4, and performance is no issue at any resolution here.

Benchmarks - GRID Autosport

Grid Autosport

Version and / or Patch Used: Latest Steam Update

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

At the lower resolutions, GRID Autosport sees our overclocked SLI setup pretty much hitting a FPS wall. Moving to the highest 2560 x 1600 resolution, you can see there's a bit of separation as the minimum get an increase of nearly 10%.

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.

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Metro: Last Light sees some awesome performance gains. Looking above, you can see the strong overclock on our SLI setup helps push our 2560 x 1600 number to a solid 60 FPS average. 60 FPS is a number that no other setup manages to achieve here, and it's a number that most other setups struggle to hit at the lower 1920 x 1200 resolution.

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With AA and AF on, you can see a slight performance increase under GRID Autosport, nothing too major, though. With that said, you can see performance is strong at both resolutions with the overclocked SLI setup managing to score a solid 103 FPS average.

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

Finishing up our AA and AF testing, Sleeping Dogs' performance is very solid at both resolutions, with a nice little performance boost over our stock clock cards. We also see a more solid separation in performance against the AMD R9 295X2 8GB that lags behind.

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 a new level of intensity to video cards.

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 & Overclocked 40 | TweakTown.com

After cranking up the resolution to 4K, you can see that overclocking gives us a nice little performance increase when compared to the SLI setup clocked at the reference speeds. Against the AMD R9 295X2 8GB, you can see that performance is solid with our overclocked setup coming in 20% higher.

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

Sleeping Dogs sees a solid performance gain at 4K, and overall, some very strong FPS from our overclocked GTX 980 4GB SLI setup.

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

Hitman: Absolution not only sees some solid performance gains at 4K, but also some awesome FPS, showing that 4K is really no problem for a setup like this.

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

Tomb Raider sees some fantastic gains from this setup. Looking above, you can see the reference clocked setup falls short of that 60 FPS average we want. Throw in the strong overclock, though, and not only do we pass the 60 FPS average, but we actually manage to achieve an awesome 70 FPS average.

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

Finishing up with GRID Autosport, you can see a nice little performance boot here with some solid FPS shown. However, you can see that we don't get those strong performance gains that you'd hope for over the single GTX 980 4GB.

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 & Overclocked 50 | TweakTown.com

With overclocking thrown into the equation, you can see that the temperature numbers are pretty strong, with the hottest card coming in at 80 C. Considering we're dealing with two cards here, and they're both overclocked with a voltage increase, the load and idle numbers are extremely solid.

Sound Test

Pulling out the TES 1350A Sound Level Meter, we quickly find ourselves 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 & Overclocked 51 | TweakTown.com

Noise levels on the setup are surprisingly impressive with the setup continuing to sit in the bottom half of the graph here. Considering the amount of power offered here, this is an impressive load number.

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 the power being drawn as much as 10 percent more in particular tests. 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 a SSD 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.

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At just over 650 watts at load, you can see the overall power draw numbers for this kind of setup aren't bad at all. We'd recommend something around the 800 watts mark, just to make sure everything is covered.

Pricing, Availability, and Final Thoughts

With a price tag near the $1,100 mark, the GTX 980 4GB SLI setup continues to be expensive. With the recent price drop to the AMD R9 295 X2 8GB, which now comes in at around $999, you would think you may have to start thinking twice about going with a GTX 980 SLI 3GB setup that costs about 10% more. The problem for AMD is you don't really have to think twice about it.

While the AMD R9 295X2 8GB may indeed look more attractive than it did prior to the price drop, it's not attractive enough for people to choose it over the GTX 980 4GB SLI setup. Of course, that is assuming you have the ability to run a dual card setup, versus the single card, dual GPU option that the AMD offering gives you.

Overclocking this setup yields some pretty cool results. You do see some nice performance gains. The increases under Tomb Raider at 4K, and Metro: Last Light at 2560 x 1600 with AA and AF turned on, are also extremely appreciated, as we move into averages that are in the 60 FPS+ range.

If you've got a bit more wiggle room in your budget, the ideal setup would involve two non-reference GTX 980 4GB cards that come pre-overclocked. Because the overclocking capabilities of these cards are so strong, companies really offer some fantastic out-of-the-box overclocks.

Grabbing a pair of the MSI GTX 980 4GB Twin Frozr Gaming OC cards would be appealing thanks to the new Twin Frozr V cooler, which has proved itself to do a great job so far. Additionally, since the fans won't spin with the card under 50c, you could end up with a computer that runs quite silent at idle.

If you're looking to spend around $1,000 on video cards, the GTX 980 4GB SLI setup is the most appealing. Although it is a bit more expensive, it does provide awesome performance. Ultimately, before you pull the trigger on your purchase, you should see if you can stretch the budget a little more to get one of the non-reference options with the out-of-the-box overclock. At the end of the day, though, the GTX 980 4GB SLI setup continues to be one of the best buys for people who are looking for a serious video card setup that isn't completely insane like the 3-Way and 4-Way options.

PRICING: You can find the ASUS STRIX-GTX980-DC2OC-4GD5 video card for sale below. The prices listed are valid at the time of writing but can change at any time. Click the link to see the very latest pricing for the best deal.

United States: The ASUS STRIX-GTX980-DC2OC-4GD5 video card retails for $579.99 at Amazon.

PRICING: You can find products similar to this one for sale below.

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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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