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ZOTAC GeForce GTX 980 4GB AMP! Omega Edition OC Video Card Review

We take a look at our first non-reference NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980 video card. Let's see just what the ZOTAC GTX 980 4GB AMP! Omega Edition OC can do.

@ShawnBakerTW
Published Wed, Sep 24 2014 7:56 AM CDT   |   Updated Tue, Nov 3 2020 6:59 PM CST
Rating: 94%Manufacturer: Zotac

Introduction and Package

Introduction of the ZOTAC GTX 980 4GB AMP! Omega Edition OC

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VIEW GALLERY - 39 IMAGES

It's Saturday evening here in Taipei as I write this, and I tend to make a habit of not working too often during the weekend after 5pm on a Friday afternoon. I don't usually get back to my computer to work until Sunday night, when I prepare for what I want to do the following day. So why is this Saturday different?

Well, it's different because the GTX 900 series from NVIDIA is freakin' awesome! I'll admit, I was initially excited to test the ZOTAC GTX 980 4GB AMP! Omega Edition that we have on hand today. However, after testing the MSI GTX 970 4GB Twin Frozr V Gaming OC, I was ecstatic, and I just had to get this pre overclocked GTX 980 4GB into my testbed to see what it could do.

I believe I truly found a card that is extremely special - something that we haven't seen in the video card market for the long time. Overclocking is meant to be extremely strong on the current crop of GTX 900 series cards; consequently, it seems companies are coming out of the gate extremely strong with these massive pre overclocks.

It's been so long since we've seen a video card from ZOTAC, but I can't deny that after what we've seen so far from the GTX 900 series, they've clearly picked the right time to start shipping samples to us again. The AMP! series cards from ZOTAC aren't new to us; we saw the series many, many moons ago. I find myself truly excited to see just what the series is about these days, though. If the clock speeds we saw out of the MSI GTX 970 4GB Twin Frozr V Gaming OC are anything to go by, then we should be expecting something special out of ZOTAC today.

Before we really get a chance to look at the card and see just what kind of clocks are offered, we need to dive into the package. The new GTX 900 series cards are off to an extremely strong start, and it feels like ZOTAC is going to continue that trend today. So, let's not delay any longer, and simply jump right into the ZOTAC GTX 980 4GB AMP! Omega Edition OC video card.

Package - What comes inside the box

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Looking at the front of the box, we've got the ZOTAC logo across the top, along with mention that this is an AMP! Omega Edition card. Across the bottom, we have mentions of the model, the OC Plus, Ice Storm cooler, and the extended warranty that is offered by ZOTAC. Turning the box over, we see some of the key features are shown on the left side, along with the minimum system requirements, and a look at the connectivity that is offered.

On the right hand side, we get our first look at the card, along with a bit of a blurb. Below that, we see mention of the OC Plus feature that is offered, along with information showing the FireStorm overclocking utility that ZOTAC offers to help increase performance with a simple click. Along with that information, we have some information on the Ice Storm cooler, and the Power+ setup, which provides highly customized GPU circuitry.

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Moving to the inside of the box, we have the normal line up of paperwork, along with the installation disc, which offers the driver, FireStorm overclocking software, and Boost Premium software. We also have a DVI to VGA connector, two dual six-pin PCIe to eight-pin PCIe convertors, and a USB cable.

Video Card Details and Specifications

Close up with the ZOTAC GTX 980 4GB AMP! Omega Edition OC

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Immediately upon pulling the card out of the package, we notice just how massive this card is with its cooler, which is just over two cards wide. The dual fan setup sits on top of a massive heat sink that has a huge shroud that comes over the top of the card. The card features ZOTAC orange highlights, and against what we would call a "gunmetal grey" shroud, the card looks great.

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Looking around the card, the one area that immediately stands out is the OC Plus Unit's mini USB cable, which is located near the bottom rear of the card. In conjunction with the provided cable, and the FireStorm overclocking software, overclocking is taken to another level; over 50 adjustment options are offered.

Within the FireStorm software, we can use the Quick Boost function to initially overclock the card by three, seven, or ten percent. We also have Advanced and Gamer Mode, which open the card up to even more adjustments.

Along with all the overclocking features, we have the ability to restore or flash the BIOS of the card here, as well as all the standard monitoring features that you'd expect out of overclocking software. The OC Plus feature is extremely cool, and it's undoubtedly something that we need to come back and take a better look at in the near future.

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Looking around the rest of the card, you can see that ZOTAC has chosen to kick the power connectivity up a notch, moving from the dual six-pin PCIe connector setup to a dual eight-pin PCIe connector setup. Here you can also see how the PCB is slightly larger, as it creeps just above those two connectors. Looking closer to the front of the card, you can see our two SLI connectors that give us the ability to run up to four of these cards together. With that said, due to the size of the cooler, running four of these cards together could be a little difficult.

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Looking at the I/O, I must admit that it's nice to see that ZOTAC has chosen to keep the default connectivity setup just like MSI. Looking above, you can see that means we've got a Dual-Link DVI connector, a single HDMI port, and three DisplayPort connectors to round things off. As I mentioned in our reference GTX 980 4GB review, I'm really happy to see that NVIDIA has made the move to multiple DisplayPort connectors; especially as the connectivity sees more and more interest these days.

Specifications

Of course, since this is an AMP! Edition card, that means that ZOTAC has already overclocked this bad boy. Out of the box, you'll see a reference clocked GTX 980 4GB come in with a base core clock of 1126MHz, which is the boosted to 1216MHz. As for the 4GB of GDDR4, that will come in at 7012MHz QDR.

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Looking above, you can see that ZOTAC has pushed the base clock to 1203MHz, which has increased the boosted clock speed to a very healthy 1304MHz. The 4GB of GDDR5 also has a slight increase in performance, as the 1762MHz clock translates to 7048MHz QDR.

Test System Setup & FPS Numbers Explained

Test System Setup

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

Looking at our graphs today, we've got a bunch of high-end video card setups from both AMD and NVIDIA. Sitting alongside our ZOTAC GTX 980 4GB AMP! Omega Edition OC video cards, we've got the older GTX 770 2GB reference card. Moving up, but staying with the GTX 700 series, we've got the ASUS GTX 780 ROG Poseidon Platinum 3GB OC, and the reference GTX 780 Ti 3GB.

Moving into the latest generation of NVIDIA cards, we've got the MSI GTX 970 4GB Twin Frozr V Gaming OC that left quite the impression on us, along with the reference GTX 980 4GB, which is clocked at those reference clock speeds.

The remainder of the cards you'll see in our graphs today include the HIS R9 290 3GB IceQ X2 Turbo, and the HIS R9 290X iPower IceQ X2 Turbo 4GB, which we've overclocked ourselves to an impressive 1100MHz on the core and 5700MHz QDR on the 4GB of GDDR5.

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

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Starting off with 3DMark 11, it comes as no surprise that the ZOTAC GTX 980 4GB AMP! Omega Edition OC has no problems taking our top spot, with solid performance in both presets. Looking above, you can see the ZOTAC offering is the only one here that manages to sneak into the 6000 point range.

3DMark Fire Strike

Version and / or Patch Used: 1

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Fire Strike really lets the ZOTAC GTX 980 4GB AMP! Omega Edition OC breathe, as its performance is easily ahead of everything else here. Just like we saw in 3DMark 11, you can see under Fire Strike, the ZOTAC offering is the only card to break into the 6000 point region.

Benchmarks - 3DMark Sky Diver & Catzilla

3DMark Sky Diver

Version and / or Patch Used: 1.1

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While Sky Diver doesn't see a ton of extra performance from these really high-end cards due to the fact this benchmark focuses on mid-range cards, thanks to the extra MHz that ZOTAC is offering, we're finally able to sneak ahead of the overclocked R9 290X 4GB.

Catzilla

Version and / or Patch Used: 1.3

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Catzilla continues the trend, with some really strong performance being seen from the ZOTAC GTX 980 4GB AMP! Omega Edition OC. You can see the extra MHz that ZOTAC offers really gives a solid boost in performance.

At the highest resolution, you can see it's nearly 700 points higher than the reference card, and around 1800 points higher than the overclocked R9 290X 4GB.

Benchmarks - Unigine Heaven & Phantasy Star Online 2

Unigine Heaven Benchmark

Version and / or Patch Used: 3

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Heaven also continues the trend, with some awesome performance gains that translate to numbers that are 10% higher than the reference clocked card. While the reference card just manages to outperform the overclocked R9 290X 4GB, the ZOTAC offering really shoots past it.

Phantasy Star Online 2

Version and / or Patch Used: Standalone Benchmark

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Phantasy Star Online 2 performance is just off the charts here. This benchmark has always loved the extra MHz offered by overclocking, and you can see the gains against the overclocked R9 290X 4GB are about 75%.

Benchmarks - Lost Planet 2 & Just Cause 2

Lost Planet 2

Version and / or Patch Used: Standalone Benchmark

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Lost Planet 2 numbers are fantastic across the board thanks to that strong overclock ZOTAC offers. At the highest resolution, you can see the ZOTAC GTX 980 4GB AMP! Omega Edition OC manages to get an extra 40% in performance over the overclocked R9 290X 4GB.

Just Cause 2

Version and / or Patch Used: Latest Steam Update

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While the gains aren't quite as extensive under Just Cause 2 when compared to the R9 290X 4GB, you can clearly see that the ZOTAC GTX 980 4GB AMP! Omega Edition OC has no problem separating itself from the rest of the pack. The FPS are extremely solid across the board.

Benchmarks -Metro: Last Light & Nexuiz

: Last Light

Version and / or Patch Used: Latest Steam Update

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Metro: Last Light numbers look good, with some solid FPS shown at all resolutions. While we get a much needed boost at 2560 x 1600, you can see we just fall short of that 60 FPS number we're on the hunt for. When we start to mess around with overclocking, this is one of the first numbers we expect to surpass, and by a few FPS at that.

Nexuiz

Version and / or Patch Used: Latest Steam Update

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Nexuiz performance is a little funny on the new GTX 900 series cards. 1680 x 1050 and 1920 x 1200 offer playable numbers, but 2560 x 1600 falls short, as you'd expect. However, it does feel that the new GTX 900 series should perform a little better than they do under Nexuiz.

Benchmarks - Sniper Elite V2 & Sleeping Dogs

Sniper Elite V2

Version and / or Patch Used: Standalone Benchmark

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Sniper Elite performance is outstanding across the board, and you can see that we get a nice gain over the reference card, and we also get numbers that leave the overclocked R9 290X 4GB for dead.

Sleeping Dogs

Version and / or Patch Used: Latest Steam Update

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Sleeping Dogs continues the trend with great performance shown at all resolutions, and strong gains over the reference GTX 980 4GB, which already had a lead on the AMD offerings. Thanks to the extra MHz that ZOTAC offers, you can see the lead extends even further.

Benchmarks - Hitman: Absolution & Tomb Raider

Hitman: Absolution

Version and / or Patch Used: Latest Steam Update

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Hitman: Absolution performance is great, but the overclocked R9 290X 4GB did manage to slightly outperform it at 2560 x 1600. Thanks to the extra MHz offered by our ZOTAC GTX 980 4GB AMP! Omega Edition OC, we manage to pretty much line up with it with some very playable FPS.

Tomb Raider

Version and / or Patch Used: Latest Steam Update

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Under Tomb Raider, we also saw at the highest resolution that the top AMD offering (when overclocked by a decent amount) could not only outperform the reference card, but it could also offer that 60 FPS average we're always-on the hunt for.

Improving on an already strong minimum, the ZOTAC GTX 980 4GB AMP! Omega Edition OC is able to sneak past that 60 FPS average, and also past that 61 FPS number the overclocked R9 290X 4GB puts out here.

Benchmarks - BioShock Infinite & Battlefield 4

BioShock Infinite

Version and / or Patch Used: Latest Steam Update

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BioShock Infinite sees some awesome performance out of the new GTX 900 series cards. While you can see our overclocked R9 290X 4GB manages to just sneak past that 60 FPS average with a solid 61 FPS, the ZOTAC GTX 980 4GB AMP! Omega Edition OC manages to sneak just past the 80 FPS average with an awesome 81 FPS average, thanks to its awesome out-of-the-box overclock.

Battlefield 4

Version and / or Patch Used: Latest Origin Update

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Across the board, Battlefield 4 performance is extremely strong from these new cards, and you can see the overclock really helps push the minimum FPS up when compared to the reference GTX 980 4GB here.

Benchmarks - GRID Autosport

Grid Autosport

Version and / or Patch Used: Latest Steam Update

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Comparing the two GTX 900s to each other, you can see that the gains seen with the overclock are greater than 10%, which is really fantastic. We have some awesome numbers at the highest resolution, with an 80 FPS minimum, and 104 FPS average.

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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While we do see some nice performance gains with the ZOTAC GTX 980 4GB AMP! Omega Edition OC, in comparison to the reference clocked card, the overall average FPS is just a little too low, as we see a 52 FPS average at 1920 x 1200, and a not-so-pretty 32 FPS average at 2560 x 1600.

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GRID Autosport numbers on the reference GTX 980 4GB where already very strong, with playable numbers being no issue for any of our high-end setups. However, the extra MHz that ZOTAC offers does give us some extra breathing room, which is always appreciated.

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The overclocked ZOTAC GTX 980 4GB AMP! Omega Edition OC sees the GTX 980 extend the lead over the AMD offerings, with playable numbers shown at 1920 x 1200. Although, moving to 2560 x 1600, you can see all of the cards fall short of that 60 FPS number we're on the hunt for to provide a solid gaming experience.

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.

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When it came to 4K testing, we saw the heavily overclocked R9 290X 4GB perform quite well against the NVIDIA offerings, taking out the win. However, here you can see the ZOTAC GTX 980 4GB AMP! Omega Edition OC manages to not only close the gap, but also surpass the performance of the R9 290X 4GB.

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Sleeping Dogs sees the ZOTAC GTX 980 4GB AMP! Omega Edition OC extend the lead over the overclocked R9 290X 4GB with an average FPS that hits 80.

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While we do see some nice gains under Hitman: Absolution, the overclocked R9 290X 4GB does continue to come out ahead in this case. With that said, we'd still prefer that the average FPS was a little higher.

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The extra MHz that ZOTAC offers on their GTX 980 4GB gives us a nice little performance boost that sees the card line up just behind the overclocked R9 290X 4GB. What really matters here, though, is that all our setups fall short of the FPS we need, making the game unplayable at these settings.

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GRID Autosport sees some awesome performance gains that help extend the GTX 980 4GB's lead over the overclocked R9 290X 4GB. More importantly, however, you can see that the extra MHz ZOTAC offers helps put us into playable FPS territory. That's why the ZOTAC GTX 980 4GB AMP! Omega Edition OC is the clear winner here.

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.

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At 77 C, the ZOTAC is running a little warm, but not at a level that would at all worry us. Compared to the reference card, we're a couple of degrees cooler while still adding a bunch of extra performance. We'd say that's a clear win for the cooler here.

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).

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Noise levels are strong, and the ZOTAC GTX 980 4GB AMP! Omega Edition OC sits towards the middle of the pack. Considering the performance of the card, this is a good number to be at.

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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Power draw on the ZOTAC GTX 980 4GB AMP! Omega Edition OC is really surprising. At 426 watts, it's actually two watts lower than the reverence card. While idle does sit a little bit higher, the overall number continues to be extremely impressive considering the performance of the card.

Pricing, Availability, and Final Thoughts

It's fair to say that NVIDIA will dominate in the next few months unless something major arises from the folks over at AMD. While it seems that AMD intends to respond with a price drop, this is an effect that will have a considerably bad snowball effect on all AMD models, mid-range and up. While the new GTX 980 4GB might've forced AMD to adjust the price slightly, like I mentioned in the MSI GTX 970 4GB Twin Frozr Gaming OC review, that model is going to force a much more considerable price drop, which is going to push the price of cards like the R9 280x, R9 285, and R9 280, to name just a few.

The best thing for NVIDIA partners right now is that NVIDIA has put together the perfect formula; then they told partners: "do what you want." Boy does it seem like they've done what they want! The ZOTAC GTX 980 4GB AMP! Omega Edition OC is a true beast of a card, and honestly, it's not something that we would expect to see this close to launch. This is the kind of card we would normally see four to six weeks down the track.

Of course, this is going to bring a premium with it, and at the moment, we don't know exactly what that is. Based on what we're seeing from other non-reference overclocked cards, we'd say this particular version should be seen at around the $600 mark. That's honestly a really fair price for what we've got here.

ZOTAC has put a card together that offers some awesome performance. Thanks to the great overclocking potential the new GTX 900 series is offers, partners have had the chance to offer these really amazing out-of-the-box overclocks that give us a significant performance increase over the reference card. It seems the days of an overclock that will only see an extra three or four percent performance are gone. Instead, we're seeing gains of ten or 15% thanks to the amount of headroom NVIDIA has given partners.

ZOTAC has improved on NVIDIAs already extremely strong formula with a solid cooling solution, and the OC Plus feature, which is something that we clearly need to take a closer look at. With word going around that overclocking potential on these cards is in the realm of 30%, I have to admit I'm truly excited to see the kind of performance gains we can get out of a card like the ZOTAC GTX 980 4GB AMP! Omega Edition OC.

If you thought NVIDIA had baked the cake and put the icing on top, then ZOTAC has turned around and put the cherry on top. Playing with so much hardware day in and day out, at times it does seem a little hard to get excited about some products, but NVIDIA has truly lit a fire under me. I really have the desire to test these new GTX 900 series cards in more ways than one. Keep an eye out for a ton more GTX 900 coverage as we cover SLI, and finally get down and dirty with overclocking to see just what NVIDIA is offering us here.

TweakTown award
Performance (including Overclocking w/a)95%
Quality including Design and Build93%
General Features97%
Bundle and Packaging90%
Value for Money95%
Overall94%

The Bottom Line: With some added features and an awesome out of the box overclock, the Zotac GTX 980 4GB AMP! Omega Edition OC is just a true beast of a video card. These GTX 900 series cards are causing issues to the AMD line up and it feels like it's not going to stop anytime soon.

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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