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Gainward GeForce GTX 980 Ti Phoenix 'GS' Video Card Review

The very first Gainward video card we've reviewed this year comes in the form of the GeForce GTX 980 Ti Phoenix 'GS'. Let's take a close look.

@anthony256
Published Mon, Sep 14 2015 8:27 AM CDT   |   Updated Tue, Nov 3 2020 6:59 PM CST
Rating: 95%Manufacturer: Gainward

Introduction, Quick Specs and Availability & Price

I worked for a small computer retailer for just under 10 years before joining the ranks of TweakTown and I still fondly remember the brands of video cards that we would sell. One of the more popular ones at the time was Gainward, as they had some truly silent, passively-cooled cards that some of our customers loved.

Gainward GeForce GTX 980 Ti Phoenix 'GS' Video Card Review 04 | TweakTown.com
VIEW GALLERY - 59 IMAGES

These PCs were built with the passively-cooled Gainward cards as they were living room PCs that the customers didn't want making noise. I still remember the brand to this day, and in the nine months that I've been reviewing video cards for TweakTown now, this is my first time with a Gainward product. It just so happens that the first Gainward card I received was an enthusiast-grade GeForce GTX 980 Ti, the new Gainward GeForce GTX 980 Ti Phoenix 'GS' to be exact. GS, if you didn't already know, stands for 'Golden Sample', something that Gainward used to push a few years ago.

Quick Specs

All GeForce GTX 980 Ti cards are pretty much the same, with AIB partners like Gainward playing around with the cooling and the display output configuration. Gainward has kept the identical display output configuration that we know and love from the reference Maxwell-based GTX 900 series cards, which is nice to see.

The Gainward GeForce GTX 980 Ti Phoenix 'GS' has the same GM200 GPU, meaning we have the identical 2816 CUDA cores, 384-bit memory bus, and 6GB of GDDR5 that the rest of the GTX 980 Ti cards have. Gainward has pushed an 11% overclock on the GM200 GPU, up to 1152MHz on the Base Clock, resulting in a Boost Clock of 1241MHz.

Availability & Price

You can pick up the Gainward GeForce GTX 980 Ti Phoenix 'GS' in a few markets, including Australia, Vietnam, Malaysia, and Korea. The GTX 980 Ti Phoenix 'GS' has an MSRP of $799.

Packaging & Detailed Look

The Packaging

The box that the Gainward GeForce GTX 980 Ti Phoenix 'GS' comes in is something that surprised me, as it's actually kinda cool.

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We have a tall, but not wide box, that has a huge 'G' on the front of it. Gainward teases that this is a Golden Sample and that it is 'Born to Kill'.

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On the back, we get a detailed rundown of the features of NVIDIA's flagship gaming GPU, the GeForce GTX 980 Ti.

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Inside of the box, we have another box that the card itself is housed in, keeping it nice and safe.

Detailed Look

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The card itself has to be one of the most uniquely themed cards we've seen, with an off pink/peach colored cooler with three clear fans. The two large heat sink and heat pipe arrays can be easily seen through the fans, which I actually think looks great.

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Gainward has chosen to use backplate on the GTX 980 Ti Phoenix 'GS', as well as letting the cooling system run over the edge of the card.

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As we explained before, we have the usual display connectivity from the GTX 900 series: 3 x DisplayPort, 1 x HDMI 2.0 and 1 x DVI out.

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The Gainward GeForce GTX 980 Ti Phoenix 'GS' requires 1 x 8-pin and 1 x 6-pin PCIe power.

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If you want some insane performance, you can throw four cards into SLI. Thanks to the GTX 980 Ti Phoenix 'GS' being a dual-slot card, 4-way SLI is actually achievable here.

Card Specifications & Cooling Setup

Card Specifications

Gainward has the usual 2816 CUDA cores in the GTX 980 Ti Phoenix 'GS' thanks to it being powered by the GM200 GPU from NVIDIA. This is baked on the 28nm process, with 6GB of GDDR5 spread out on a 384-bit memory bus providing 336GB/sec of memory bandwidth.

The GTX 980 Ti Phoenix 'GS' has a Base Clock of 1152MHz, a Boost Clock of 1241MHz, and its 6GB of RAM is clocked at 3.5GHz (7GHz effective). The overclock that Gainward has used on the GTX 980 Ti Phoenix 'GS' is a decent 11% overclock, but it is much cooler than the reference GTX 980 Ti, thanks to its improved heat sinks and cooling technology.

Cooling Setup

Not only does the cooling on the Gainward GeForce GTX 980 Ti Phoenix 'GS' look great, it performs just as great as well.

Gainward GeForce GTX 980 Ti Phoenix 'GS' Video Card Review 04 | TweakTown.com

The triple-fan cooler that Gainward has deployed onto the GTX 980 Ti Phoenix 'GS' is an excellent piece of kit. The two-slot design makes it simple to use in SLI setups, but it is also super-silent during those all-night gaming sessions.

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Gainward has used a back plate on the back of the board which takes off some of the heat from the back of the card, and it also protects the back of the card from any accidental damage.

Gainward GeForce GTX 980 Ti Phoenix 'GS' Video Card Review 09 | TweakTown.com

Here we have a closer shot of the heat pipe system that Gainward has used on the GTX 980 Ti Phoenix 'GS'.

Gainward GeForce GTX 980 Ti Phoenix 'GS' Video Card Review 10 | TweakTown.com
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Once again, we have a closer look at the card, this time towards the end of the card. Gainward is only asking for 1 x 8-pin and 1 x 6-pin PCIe power connectors to power the card. We can see that the heat sink keeping the VRMs nice and cool hangs over the edge of the card.

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Peaking under the clear fans, we have that massive heat sink and heat pipe array keeping the GM200 GPU cool.

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.

Battlefield 4 Testing

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.

Test System Configuration

We are still using our X99-based Core i7-5820K processor, but we'll be replacing this soon with Intel's new Skylake processor and Z170 chipset. We just received our awesome new GIGABYTE Z170 Gaming 7 motherboard and have secured ourselves a shiny Skylake-powered 6700K in the last few days. Expect us to move over to that in the next few weeks.

The current X99-based system is something you can read about here. As for the detailed specifications, this is what we're running:

Anthony's Video Card Test System Specifications

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

Gainward GeForce GTX 980 Ti Phoenix 'GS' Video Card Review 53 | TweakTown.com

Heaven - 4K

Gainward GeForce GTX 980 Ti Phoenix 'GS' Video Card Review 72 | TweakTown.com

The Gainward GeForce GTX 980 Ti Phoenix 'GS' is 9% faster than the reference GeForce GTX 980 Ti from NVIDIA on the first 3DMark run at 1080p, while at 1440p the Gainward card is 14% faster. Lastly, at 4K, the Gainward card is 11% faster than the reference GTX 980 Ti.

Moving onto Heaven, the 1920x1080 resolution has the Gainward GeForce GTX 980 Ti Phoenix 'GS' clocking in at 14% faster than the reference card. Turning the resolution dial up to 2560x1440, the Gainward card is 15% faster, while at 4K the Gainward GeForce GTX 980 Ti Phoenix 'GS' is 13% faster.

Benchmarks - 1080p

Battlefield 4

Gainward GeForce GTX 980 Ti Phoenix 'GS' Video Card Review 61 | TweakTown.com

Grand Theft Auto V

Gainward GeForce GTX 980 Ti Phoenix 'GS' Video Card Review 69 | TweakTown.com

GRID Autosport

Gainward GeForce GTX 980 Ti Phoenix 'GS' Video Card Review 62 | TweakTown.com

Metro: Last Light

Gainward GeForce GTX 980 Ti Phoenix 'GS' Video Card Review 63 | TweakTown.com

Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor

Gainward GeForce GTX 980 Ti Phoenix 'GS' Video Card Review 64 | TweakTown.com

Thief

Gainward GeForce GTX 980 Ti Phoenix 'GS' Video Card Review 65 | TweakTown.com

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

Gainward GeForce GTX 980 Ti Phoenix 'GS' Video Card Review 89 | TweakTown.com

Grand Theft Auto V

Gainward GeForce GTX 980 Ti Phoenix 'GS' Video Card Review 87 | TweakTown.com

GRID Autosport

Gainward GeForce GTX 980 Ti Phoenix 'GS' Video Card Review 81 | TweakTown.com

Metro: Last Light

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Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor

Gainward GeForce GTX 980 Ti Phoenix 'GS' Video Card Review 83 | TweakTown.com

Thief

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Tomb Raider

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BioShock Infinite

Gainward GeForce GTX 980 Ti Phoenix 'GS' Video Card Review 86 | TweakTown.com

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

Gainward GeForce GTX 980 Ti Phoenix 'GS' Video Card Review 42 | TweakTown.com

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

Gainward Has One of the Thinnest GTX 980 Ti Cards Yet

After my days with the Gainward GTX 980 Ti Phoenix 'GS', I came to really enjoy the dual-slot design. Other cards are dual-slot, but they are either taller, or just - and I mean just, over the dual-slot space. The Gainward card, on the other hand, is a unique card as it sticks to the same size as the reference GTX 980 Ti, but with some factory overclocking.

But does that factory overclocking help? Let's take a look. We won't concentrate too much on 1080p, but we'll take a deeper look at 1440p and 4K instead - after all, that's why you're spending $650+ on a new video card, right?

Performance at 1080p

Starting off with Battlefield 4 at 1920x1080, we have a huge 180FPS average, up from the 170FPS from the reference GTX 980 Ti. We have an additional 12% performance from the Gainward GTX 980 Ti Phoenix 'GS' in Metro: Last Light, while Shadow of Mordor is 8% faster.

Performance at 1440p

Back to BF4, but this time at 2560x1440, the Gainward GTX 980 Ti Phoenix 'GS' pumps out a huge 147FPS average. This is enough to enjoy a 144Hz G-Sync panel; absolutely stellar results here.

We have another 5FPS, or 7% on Metro: Last Light, while Shadow of Mordor enjoys an additional 13% performance with 94FPS average at 1440p. The AMD Radeon R9 Fury X is second-fastest in SoM, with 86FPS versus the 83FPS on the reference GTX 980 Ti. Thief has an extra 12% performance on the Gainward card at 2560x1440, while Tomb Raider boosts up by 13%.

Performance at 4K

Finishing our Battlefield 4 performance runs at 3840x2160, with the Gainward GeForce GTX 980 Ti Phoenix 'GS' pulling up 9% faster than the reference GTX 980 Ti. Metro: Last Light has an extra 11% performance out of the Gainward card when put up against the reference GTX 980 Ti.

The Gainward GTX 980 Ti Phoenix 'GS' loses to the Fury X in Shadow of Mordor at 4K, with the Gainward GTX 980 Ti Phoenix 'GS' managing 73FPS average, while the Fury X pushed it away with 78FPS. That's High Bandwidth Memory for you, folks. We see similar results in Thief, with the Fury X and reference GTX 980 Ti sitting at the same level with 48FPS average, while the Gainward card is 12% faster with 54FPS average.

Overclocking, Power Consumption and Sound Testing

Overclocking - Let's See How Far We Can Go

We were able to reach 1322MHz on our Boost clock on the Gainward GTX 980 Ti Phoenix 'GS', which provided a little wiggle room when it came to our overclocking results. Does the OC help, though? Take a look at our results below.

Battlefield 4

Gainward GeForce GTX 980 Ti Phoenix 'GS' Video Card Review 151 | TweakTown.com

Metro: Last Light

Gainward GeForce GTX 980 Ti Phoenix 'GS' Video Card Review 152 | TweakTown.com

3DMark Fire Strike Extreme - 1440p

Gainward GeForce GTX 980 Ti Phoenix 'GS' Video Card Review 153 | TweakTown.com

Heaven - 1440p

Gainward GeForce GTX 980 Ti Phoenix 'GS' Video Card Review 154 | TweakTown.com

Power Consumption

When it comes to power consumption, I expected the Gainward GeForce GTX 980 Ti Phoenix 'GS' to come close to the other GTX 980 Ti cards that we've tested, and lo and behold it did, we have power consumption of around 390W for our full system when using Heaven.

Gainward GeForce GTX 980 Ti Phoenix 'GS' Video Card Review 777 | TweakTown.com

Sound Testing

During our game testing and most of our benchmarking, the Gainward GTX 980 Ti Phoenix 'GS' was silent. It was only during our sound testing where we manually cranked the fans to 50% and 100% that the card was making any noise.

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Software

Overclocking Software

Gainward has some overclocking software called 'Expertool II' which you can use to overclock the heck out of your card. We used Expertool II for the overclocking results in this review.

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Opening up Expertool II, you'll see that it features a nice design. It's not exactly the best-looking OC software out there, but it gets the job done. On the left, we have the current GDDR5 clocks, and on the right, we have the GPU clock.

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Clicking 'status' will pop up a bunch of stats on your GPU, which looks very similar to MSI Afterburner. We can keep a close eye on what our GM200-powered GTX 980 Ti Phoenix 'GS' is doing from here.

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 Gainward GeForce GTX 980 Ti Phoenix 'GS'.

What's Hot

Another Great GTX 980 Ti: We haven't tested a bad NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980 Ti yet, with the Gainward GeForce GTX 980 Ti Phoenix 'GS' being yet another great entry into the family of GTX 980 Ti cards on the market.

Two-Slot Design: This is a great point for Gainward, as it means the GTX 980 Ti Phoenix 'GS' can be used in crazy 4-way SLI setups without a problem. Other cards have bulky coolers which stop them from 4-way SLI, but the GTX 980 Ti Phoenix 'GS' will be fine in 4-way SLI.

Unique Look: The triple-fan cooler and color scheme definitely go hand-in-hand here with the GTX 980 Ti Phoenix 'GS', but I think Gainward has pulled it off. I would've liked to have seen some different colored models on offer, though.

Silent Gaming: Yet another NVIDIA video card that gamers can use for silence, with the GTX 980 Ti Phoenix 'GS' being completely silent during our gaming and benchmark sessions.

What's Not

Not Much New: There's not much that Gainward does to make it stand out from the crowd, apart from the dual-slot design and the great performance. But the thing is, nearly all GTX 980 Ti cards offer great performance because that's thanks to NVIDIA making a great GPU.

Final Thoughts

I've reviewed a decent amount of GTX 980 Ti cards so far, with the Gainward GeForce GTX 980 Ti Phoenix 'GS' not really offering much in the way of new. That's not Gainward's fault, as there's nothing that they've done wrong here.

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We have a card that is more than capable of 120FPS+ performance at 1080p, close to 100FPS average at 1440p and around 80FPS average at 4K. These results are great, giving you full confidence in the Gainward GTX 980 Ti Phoenix 'GS'. Not only that, but the Gainward GeForce GTX 980 Ti Phoenix 'GS' is a dual-slot card that wins it some big points. We've had a few cards that have edged very close to being over a dual-slot card, but the GTX 980 Ti Phoenix 'GS' comfortably fits right into the dual-slot category. It's not too long, or too tall either, so you'll have no issues fitting it into your system.

All in all, the Gainward GeForce GTX 980 Ti Phoenix 'GS' is yet another great GTX 980 Ti, something that you can feel confident in buying and installing into your gaming rig, especially if you're going to be gaming at 2560x1440 or 4K.

TweakTown award
Performance (overclocking, power)95%
Quality (build, design, cooling)99%
General Features (display outputs, etc)95%
Bundle, Packaging & Software95%
Value for Money90%
Overall95%

The Bottom Line: Yet another GTX 980 Ti that kicks ass, with Gainward putting some nice touches on their GTX 980 Ti Phoenix 'GS'. A dual-slot card that performs incredibly well, and is silent throughout those long gaming sessions.

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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.

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