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MSI GeForce GTX 980 Ti Gaming 6G Video Card Review

MSI GeForce GTX 980 Ti Gaming 6G Video Card Review

MSI uses its always impressive Twin Frozr cooling technology on the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980 Ti, with it being yet another impressive GM200-based offering.

@anthony256
Published Mon, Aug 10 2015 9:12 AM CDT   |   Updated Thu, Jul 30 2020 4:20 PM CDT
Rating: 94%Manufacturer: MSI

Introduction, Quick Specs and Availability & Price

MSI is the latest brand in our non-stop coverage of the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980 Ti cards, with MSI's GTX 980 Ti Gaming 6G. MSI has just two cards in its GTX 980 Ti offerings, this card and the GTX 980 Ti 6GD5 V1, which is a slightly modified reference card.

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VIEW GALLERY - 57 IMAGES

The GTX 980 Ti Gaming 6G on the other hand features MSI's impressive Twin Frozr V cooling technology, and has an overclocked GM200 GPU, amongst other things. MSI has always impressed us with their offerings, with our most recent review on the MSI GeForce GTX 980 Gaming 4G leaving us more than impressed. But can MSI do it again with the GTX 980 Ti Gaming 6G? The answer is yes, yes they can.

Quick Specs

MSI has used its Twin Frozr V cooling technology, with the GTX 980 Ti Gaming 6G being a dual-slot card. This is a great way to start the review off, as it means MSI's card can be used in 3- and 4-way SLI setups for the serious enthusiast and multi-monitor gamers out there.

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When it comes to specifications, MSI has veered off of the reference design considerably. Not only do we have a much improved cooler, but the Core Clock has been increased from 1000MHz to 1178MHz (in MSI's 'OC Mode'), with the Boost Clock at 1279MHz, versus the 1075MHz on the reference design. There are two other modes to use, with 'Gaming Mode' seeing the Base Clock at 1140MHz and Boost at 1228MHz.

Finally, the 'Silent Mode' has MSI using the same clocks as the reference NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980 Ti.

Availability & Price

At the time of writing, the MSI GeForce GTX 980 Ti Gaming 6G can be purchased through Newegg for $679.99 (however, it's out of stock currently). You'll need to add on an additional $4.99 for shipping.

Packaging & Detailed Look

The Packaging

MSI doesn't stray too far away from the packaging on its other GAMING video cards, with the GTX 980 Ti Gaming 6G receiving the usual red and black styled box with a the MSI dragon on the front.

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The front of the box, with the aforementioned red and black style and MSI dragon.

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On the back, we have a rundown of all of the features to expect from the MSI GTX 980 Ti Gaming 6G, such as the Torx fans, SuperSU PIPE, Zero Frozr, and the Gaming App that MSI wants you to use to overclock the card.

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Here's the internal packaging, keeping your new video card nice and safe.

Detailed Look

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From the front of the card, we can see that MSI has used a new nickel-plated copper base plate that connects to the SuperSU PIPE underneath (behind the fans). The card is cooled by two Torx fans, which are beautifully silent under load.

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MSI continues the use of a back plate on the GTX 980 Ti Gaming 6G, using the MSI dragon once again. The back plate has holes on it, which will let out a fair amount of heat, too.

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Display connectivity is great, with 3 x DisplayPort, 1 x HDMI 2.0, and 1 x DVI.

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At the bottom of the card, we can see the elaborate heat sink and its various heat pipes running to the GM200 GPU and VRMs.

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Another shot of the card, this time from the top. We can see the heat pipes running from the GM200 GPU to the VRMs, as well as the 2 x 8-pin PCIe power connectors.

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A closer look at the 2 x 8-pin PCIe power connectors.

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The MSI GeForce GTX 980 Ti Gaming 6G has two SLI connectors for a maximum of 4-way SLI.

Card Specifications & Cooling Setup

Card Specifications

MSI has kept the 6GB of GDDR5 at stock clocks for the 'Gaming' and 'Silent' modes, but lets a little loose when it comes to the 'OC' mode. The stock RAM clock is 7000MHz, but when the 'OC' mode is enabled, this goes up to 7100MHz; a 100MHz overclock.

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Cooling Setup

MSI has quite a bit going on with the GTX 980 Ti Gaming 6G when it comes to the cooling setup, so let's take a deeper look at what keeps that GM200 GPU nice and cool. MSI's Twin Frozr V technology is smaller, features stronger fans, makes much less noise, and keeps your video card cooler than ever before.

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Here's a look at the beefy heat sink underneath the card, with the fans also in focus.

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A closer look at the chunky heat pipe running to the end of the card, keeping the VRMs cool.

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This is a shot from the end of the card, where we can see the VRMs being kept cool, as well as the fan cable being routed at the end of the card, to the bottom.

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Testing Method & Test System Configuration

Testing Method

I've played Battlefield 4 on a 64-player server to provide some real-world performance numbers. I've found this is one of the best ways to provide the most realistic performance numbers, as it involves actual gameplay in a large server that really strains most setups.

For now, I'm going to be using the same suite of benchmarks I've been using on my Tweakipedia articles, which uses a mix of synthetic benchmarks with Futuremark's 3DMark and Unigine Heaven. After that, we have a bunch of titles with built-in benchmarks (which does not represent actual in-game performance) but they are repeatable for you at home to gauge the performance of your PC or GPU.

Over time, I will be adding in new benchmarks and a new section that will concentrate solely on real-time gaming benchmarks. This will take more time per review, as I'll have to invest time into actually physically playing the games, but it'll be worth it in the long run. For now, let's get right into the synthetic benchmarks and see how this video card performs.

Test System Configuration

We only recently built our new X99-powered system, something you can read about here. As for the detailed specifications, this is what we're running:

  • CPU: Intel Core i7 5820K processor w/Corsair H110 cooler
  • Motherboard: GIGABYTE X99 Gaming G1 Wi-Fi
  • RAM: 16GB Corsair Vengeance 2666MHz DDR4
  • Storage: 240GB SanDisk Extreme II and 480GB SanDisk Extreme II
  • Chassis: Lian Li T60 Pit Stop
  • PSU: Corsair AX1200i digital PSU
  • Software: Windows 7 Ultimate x64
  • Drivers:: GeForce 336.52

We're running the system at stock CPU speeds, which will provide more of a 'real-world' feel to our benchmarks. Sure, this isn't an i7-5960X at 5GHz, but what person is going to team up an incredibly expensive CPU with a mid-range GPU? Not many.

Our GPU tests are changing, shifting toward more of a real-world feel. But don't worry, we will be doing some crazy balls-to-the-wall tests that will see serious overclocks, Extreme Edition processors, and much more in the coming months. For the most part, we will be doing more real-world testing by teaming up the right processor with the right GPU in its price category.

Benchmarks - Synthetic

3DMark Fire Strike - 1080p

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3DMark Fire Strike Extreme - 1440p

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3DMark Fire Strike Ultra - 4K

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Heaven - 1080p

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Heaven - 1440p

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Heaven - 4K

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MSI's overclocked GTX 980 Ti Gaming 6G is 10% faster in 3DMark at 1080p, which is a nice chunk of added performance at Full HD. Increasing the resolution to 2560x1440, we have an additional 14% performance. The Fire Strike Extreme benchmark at 4K has the MSI card beating out the reference card from NVIDIA by 10%.

The MSI card at 1080p is 14% faster than the reference GTX 980 Ti, while at 1440p we have 16% additional performance. At 3840x2160, the MSI GeForce GTX 980 Ti Gaming 6G is 17% faster, a great improvement for Heaven at 4K.

Benchmarks - 1080p

Battlefield 4

This is one game that we did differently, as it does not feature a built-in benchmarking feature. When it comes to Battlefield 4, there are countless ways you can benchmark it. Some find a spot in the single player campaign which is easily repeatable, and use that. For our testing, we've chosen to use a 64-player online multiplayer server for real-time performance statistics.

We joined a 64-player map and played for five minutes using FRAPS, pulling our minimum/average and maximum FPS. We did this for each test, we run the game for 5 minutes at 1080p/1440p and 4K. We are using a custom Ultra preset (disabling AA). It's time consuming, but it gives us a perfect look into true real-world performance.

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Grand Theft Auto V

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GRID Autosport

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Metro: Last Light

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Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor

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Thief

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Tomb Raider

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BioShock Infinite

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You can find our performance summary of all of our gaming tests later in the review.

Benchmarks - 1440p

Battlefield 4

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Grand Theft Auto V

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GRID Autosport

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Metro: Last Light

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Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor

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Thief

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Tomb Raider

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BioShock Infinite

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You can find our performance summary of all of our gaming tests later in the review.

Benchmarks - 4K

Battlefield 4

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Grand Theft Auto V

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GRID Autosport

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Metro: Last Light

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Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor

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Thief

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Tomb Raider

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BioShock Infinite

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You can find our performance summary of all of our gaming tests later in the review.

Performance Summary

How Does The MSI GeForce GTX 980 Ti Gaming 6G Stack Up?

Let's face it, you're not going to be buying a $650+ video card to game at 1080p, but some gamers will. We will always include 1080p results, but the MSI GeForce GTX 980 Ti Gaming 6G really comes into its own at 1440p and 4K.

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We run our 4K benchmarks at Medium/High settings for a more real-world feel, and at these settings, every single one of our games apart from Thief run at 60FPS. We have some kick ass results from MSI with the GTX 980 Ti Gaming 6G. We will be comparing the MSI GeForce GTX 980 Ti Gaming 6G directly against the reference GTX 980 Ti from NVIDIA.

Performance at 1080p

Kicking things off with Battlefield 4 at 1920x1080, the MSI GeForce GTX 980 Ti Gaming 6G is kicking some ass with 177FPS average, more than enough performance for any 1080p monitor on the market. Metro: Last Light enjoys a 13% boost in performance over the reference GTX 980 Ti. We have 12% more performance in Shadow of Mordor, while Thief and Tomb Raider have an additional 7% and 13% performance, respectively.

Performance at 1440p

Battlefield 4 has an additional 10% performance on the MSI card over the reference GTX 980 Ti at 2560x1440, while Metro: Last Light is 8% faster.

Shadow of Mordor enjoys another 12% performance on the GTX 980 Ti Gaming 6G from MSI, with Thief seeing an additional 14% in performance. Tomb Raider at 1440p is 15% faster on MSI's card, a nice improvement at 2560x1440.

Performance at 4K

4K is where the MSI GeForce GTX 980 Ti Gaming 6G really excels, but by how much? Starting with Battlefield 4, we have an additional 10% performance while Metro: Last Light has an extra 13% performance to play with.

Shadow of Mordor is always something pushing the boundaries on our testing, but the MSI card has an extra 12% performance in it, still losing to AMD's Radeon R9 Fury X. We have an extra 15% performance on Thief, while Tomb Raider excels on the MSI card by another 13%.

Overclocking, Power Consumption and Sound Testing

Overclocking - Let's See How Far We Can Go

With MSI having a factory overclock on its GTX 980 Ti Gaming 6G, I didn't expect to squeeze much more out of the card, but I did. I was able to drive the Boost Clock from 1279MHz on the OC Mode to 1299MHz.

Battlefield 4

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Metro: Last Light

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3DMark Fire Strike Extreme - 1440p

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Heaven - 1440p

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Power Consumption

The reference NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980 Ti consumes a very respectable 360W of power, with the overclocked and faster MSI GeForce GTX 980 Ti Gaming 6G not using any more power than that. Even when it was overclocked, the MSI card was only using 390W of power.

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Sound Testing

For all of our testing, the MSI GeForce GTX 980 Ti Gaming 6G didn't make a sound, and that's how we enjoy our cards lately. Of course for our testing we cranked the fans up manually to both 50% and 100%, but gaming at all resolutions the card is silent.

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What's Hot, What's Not & Final Thoughts

This is where you can fast forward to the final section of the review, and get a quick recap and points on the MSI GeForce GTX 980 Ti Gaming 6G.

What's Hot

It's Beautiful: MSI has such good looking cards with its black and red theme, and if you buy an MSI motherboard, you benefit from uniformity in the look and style of your hardware. This is something to think about when spending around $1000 on a video card and motherboard combo.

Great Performance: With performance that even rivals the insanely fast ZOTAC GeForce GTX 980 Ti AMP! Extreme Edition, MSI has quite the winner here. It beats the ZOTAC hands down when it comes to physical size, too.

Excellent Thermals: Our card was maxing out at 72C in a Heaven loop, so with silent performance, you're getting a kick ass card that won't make your gaming experience loud.

Great Long-Term Card: With the MSI GeForce GTX 980 Ti Gaming 6G, you won't need another card until you upgrade your monitor, or new games come out later in the future that really stress it. It handles 4K gaming without a problem, and has plenty of wiggle room for the future.

NVIDIA's Maxwell Architecture: NVIDIA created a champion when it designed the Maxwell architecture, so we have a power efficient card that runs cool, but it is also feature loaded. Things like HDMI 2.0, VR compatibility, triple DisplayPort outputs, GameStream, and so much more are included.

What's Not

There is absolutely nothing wrong with the MSI GeForce GTX 980 Ti Gaming 6G. From the box to the performance of the card, it's an enthusiasts dream.

Final Thoughts

Now that I've reviewed a few GeForce GTX 980 Ti cards from NVIDIA's partners, I'm beginning to see just how much NVIDIA has the game wrapped up in the video card market right now. AMD has the Fury X which simply cannot compete with this level of performance from NVIDIA - and while it beats the 980 Ti in some benchmarks - it's not enough.

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Second, the normal Fury is in such short supply that AMD's AIB partners cannot make it. I had one sample that I reviewed from SAPPHIRE, which I had for 48 hours before it went back. My second Fury X was taken from me, showing just how low the stock is right now. Whereas there are countless GTX 980 Ti cards on the market right now, with plenty of stock to go around.

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In MSI's case with its new GeForce GTX 980 Ti Gaming 6G, it's one of the best performing GTX 980 Ti cards out. ZOTAC's offering was faster in some benchmarks, but the MSI card is thinner, which wins a big deal of points from me. MSI's GeForce GTX 980 Ti Gaming 6G will fit into virtually any system, makes absolutely no noise, and for those with a case window; it's going to look killer.

Right now, MSI has one of the best GTX 980 Ti cards on the market, but we shouldn't expect anything less from the company at this stage. Kick ass work once again, MSI.

TweakTown award
Performance (overclocking, power)95%
Quality (build, design, cooling)95%
General Features (display outputs, etc)95%
Bundle, Packaging & Software95%
Value for Money90%
Overall94%

The Bottom Line: MSI has one of the best GeForce GTX 980 Ti cards on the market, with incredible performance, a slick design, and silent operation. Two of these in SLI are what you need Santa to give you for Christmas later this year.

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Anthony is a long time PC enthusiast with a passion of hate for games built around consoles. FPS gaming since the pre-Quake days, where you were insulted if you used a mouse to aim, he has been addicted to gaming and hardware ever since. Working in IT retail for 10 years gave him great experience with custom-built PCs. His addiction to GPU tech is unwavering.

We openly invite the companies who provide us with review samples / who are mentioned or discussed to express their opinion. If any company representative wishes to respond, we will publish the response here. Please contact us if you wish to respond.

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