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EVGA GTX 980 Ti Superclocked+ ACX 2.0+ Review

SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
Staff member
Joined
Feb 26, 2007
Messages
12,841
Location
Montreal
The GTX 980 Ti caught many by surprise. Its launch may have been a foregone conclusion since it follows NVIDIA’s cyclical naming conventions but very few expected it to match blows with the TITAN X while boasting a price of $649. Naturally, board partners are trying to capitalize upon the resulting popularity and today’s review highlights one that will likely make its way into many enthusiasts’ systems: the EVGA GTX 980 Ti Superclocked+ ACX 2.0+. Yeah, it’s a mouthful but once you see what this card can do, it could be called Purple Unicorn Bunny yet still sell like hotcakes.

With the GTX 980 Ti being such a hot commodity, one would think that NVIDIA’s board partners would have a wide variety of overclocked, custom cooled solutions ready to go. That isn’t happening quite yet and EVGA has thus far been one of the only non-reference options here in North America. Things may change now that AMD”s Fury X has launched. Another possibility is that NVIDIA effectively moved forward their launch date in an effort to preempt Fiji so most alternate designs just weren’t ready in time. With that being said, this is our first of many reviews of custom GTX 980 Ti’s as they begin tricking into the market.

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EVGA’s GTX 980 Ti lineup runs the gamut from reference cards to options that include All in One water coolers (the Hybrid series) and water cooling blocks (Hydro series). Currently, the Superclocked+ ACX+ is the highest clocked air cooled card EVGA has, though there will be a Classified version that includes even higher frequencies and features that directly target the extreme overclocking crowd. It basically sits above the standard Superclocked version but below the water cooled cards.

On-paper specifications put the Superclocked+ at about a 10% overclock over the reference card but as with all of NVIDIA’s latest cores, the GM200 residing within the GTX 980 Ti has more under its hood than what first meets the eyes. With GeForce Boost we already saw the reference GTX 980 Ti easily hit the 1200MHz mark despite its stated Boost clock of 1075MHz. Since this EVGA card has one of the best coolers on the market (more on that later), we expect the 1200MHz number to be easily eclipsed.

It seems like the hesitation to avoid memory overclocks has made its way over to custom GTX 980 Ti’s as well. We understand that it takes some serious binning to find GDDR5 modules that consistently run beyond spec without smashing into the error correction routines but it would still be nice to see a board partner move the goal posts here.

With all of this being implemented into a single card, we expect the GTX 980 Ti Superclocked+ ACX+ to at the very least be tied with the TITAN X, if not pull out ahead in pretty much every test scenario. Given EVGA’s card goes for $679 or a mere $30 more than the reference version, we certainly have some high expectations here. Given how AMD’s Fury X performed, we may also be seeing an excellent price / performance addition to the flagship lineup.

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At first glance the EVGA’s 980 Ti with its ACX 2.0+ heatsink may not look all that much different from the GTX 980 version but there are some subtle differences here. The slightly revised heat shroud includes champagne-colored highlights and sits a bit lower to the PCB, giving the whole affair a sleeker look than previous generations. Despite the changes, the card is still 10.5” long and compatible with almost every non-ITX enclosure on the market.

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EVGA’s ACX 2.0 cooler is arguably one of the better custom solutions around but in order to ensure low temperatures for the hot-running GM200 core while still offering room for overclocking, some revisions were necessary. The “+” in ACX 2.0+ is derived from the Memory MOSFET Cooling plate (MMCP), a new fan design and newly optimized straight heat pipes which all combine to provide about 5°C lower temperatures than the standard ACX 2.0. Naturally, there’s also an updated heatsink topping things off.

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The fans utilize double ball bearings for significantly improved lifespan and their dB Noise Inverter which powers them down when the GPU’s temperature is below 60°C. Another interesting feature is the high efficiency of these fans which allows them to consume up to four times less power than competitors’ solutions. This may not seem important but since NVIDIA’s Power Target takes into account all onboard components, saving some current here could hypothetically boost overclocking headroom.

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EVGA has also included a full-coverage backplate to this card, something that isn’t included on their other GTX 980 Ti SKUs. Not only does this addition give a much cleaner rear-facing look but it should also improve component temperatures.

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Power input is done through a standard 8+6 pin layout which should provide more than enough power for a heavily overclocked GM200 core.

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Meanwhile, the main I/O area utilizes a reference layout with a single DVI, an HDMI 2.0 output and three DisplayPort connectors.
 

SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
Staff member
Joined
Feb 26, 2007
Messages
12,841
Location
Montreal
Test System & Setup

Processor: Intel i7 4930K @ 4.7GHz
Memory: G.Skill Trident 16GB @ 2133MHz 10-10-12-29-1T
Motherboard: ASUS P9X79-E WS
Cooling: NH-U14S
SSD: 2x Kingston HyperX 3K 480GB
Power Supply: Corsair AX1200
Monitor: Dell U2713HM (1440P) / ASUS PQ321Q (4K)
OS: Windows 8.1 Professional


Drivers:
AMD 15.15 Beta
NVIDIA 352.90


*Notes:

- All games tested have been patched to their latest version

- The OS has had all the latest hotfixes and updates installed

- All scores you see are the averages after 2 benchmark runs

All IQ settings were adjusted in-game and all GPU control panels were set to use application settings


The Methodology of Frame Testing, Distilled


How do you benchmark an onscreen experience? That question has plagued graphics card evaluations for years. While framerates give an accurate measurement of raw performance , there’s a lot more going on behind the scenes which a basic frames per second measurement by FRAPS or a similar application just can’t show. A good example of this is how “stuttering” can occur but may not be picked up by typical min/max/average benchmarking.

Before we go on, a basic explanation of FRAPS’ frames per second benchmarking method is important. FRAPS determines FPS rates by simply logging and averaging out how many frames are rendered within a single second. The average framerate measurement is taken by dividing the total number of rendered frames by the length of the benchmark being run. For example, if a 60 second sequence is used and the GPU renders 4,000 frames over the course of that time, the average result will be 66.67FPS. The minimum and maximum values meanwhile are simply two data points representing single second intervals which took the longest and shortest amount of time to render. Combining these values together gives an accurate, albeit very narrow snapshot of graphics subsystem performance and it isn’t quite representative of what you’ll actually see on the screen.

FCAT on the other hand has the capability to log onscreen average framerates for each second of a benchmark sequence, resulting in the “FPS over time” graphs. It does this by simply logging the reported framerate result once per second. However, in real world applications, a single second is actually a long period of time, meaning the human eye can pick up on onscreen deviations much quicker than this method can actually report them. So what can actually happens within each second of time? A whole lot since each second of gameplay time can consist of dozens or even hundreds (if your graphics card is fast enough) of frames. This brings us to frame time testing and where the Frame Time Analysis Tool gets factored into this equation.

Frame times simply represent the length of time (in milliseconds) it takes the graphics card to render and display each individual frame. Measuring the interval between frames allows for a detailed millisecond by millisecond evaluation of frame times rather than averaging things out over a full second. The larger the amount of time, the longer each frame takes to render. This detailed reporting just isn’t possible with standard benchmark methods.

We are now using FCAT for ALL benchmark results, other than 4K.
 

SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
Staff member
Joined
Feb 26, 2007
Messages
12,841
Location
Montreal
Performance Consistency & Temperatures Over Time

Performance Consistency & Temperatures Over Time


While we don’t have any worries about the EVGA GTX 980 Ti Superclocked+ maintaining its sated clock speeds, NVIDIA’s GeForce Boost guarantees a combination of good cooling and adequate power headroom will lead to improved clock speeds. Officially, this card is supposed to top out around the 1190MHz mark.

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The ACX+ 2.0+ heatsink is a wonder to behold. NVIDIA’s GM200 core is anything but cool-running but its temperatures are held perfectly in check, even though EVGA has pre-overclocked it by a little over 10%.

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This just goes to prove that EVGA has rated this card quite conservatively as it can easily hit the 1291Mhz mark without even batting an eyelash. The reference card didn’t do all that bad either with its frequencies hovering around 1200MHz but this just shows a small snapshot of a single game and the behaviors may be different in other titles.

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Performance consistency was….well….consistent throughout testing We couldn’t have really asked for more.
 

SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
Staff member
Joined
Feb 26, 2007
Messages
12,841
Location
Montreal
Thermal Imaging / Acoustics / Power Consumption

Thermal Imaging


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Throughout our testing the EVGA GTX 980 Ti Superclocked+ didn’t exhibit any worrying thermal spikes on the front side. However, we did see some extremely hot areas between the EVGA letters on the backplate. This points towards the backplate being all show and no go since it doesn’t seem to be dissipating any heat. It sure looks pretty but EVGA hasn’t added any thermal pads to conduct head away from the PCB in at least one key area.


Acoustical Testing


What you see below are the baseline idle dB(A) results attained for a relatively quiet open-case system (specs are in the Methodology section) sans GPU along with the attained results for each individual card in idle and load scenarios. The meter we use has been calibrated and is placed at seated ear-level exactly 12” away from the GPU’s fan. For the load scenarios, Hitman Absolution is used in order to generate a constant load on the GPU(s) over the course of 15 minutes.

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Near-silence is the name of the game here which was expected considering the ACX 2.0+’s pedigree. At both idle and high load, the fans barely spin up. However, even though EVGA claims both fans should shut off in idle scenarios (under 65°C), every once in a while one of them would pulse for a few seconds, likely just offering enough air movement to keep temperatures in check. Even with this low-RPM pulse, this is one of the quietest cards we’ve tested.


System Power Consumption


For this test we hooked up our power supply to a UPM power meter that will log the power consumption of the whole system twice every second. In order to stress the GPU as much as possible we used 15 minutes of Unigine Valley running on a loop while letting the card sit at a stable Windows desktop for 15 minutes to determine the peak idle power consumption.

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Despite being quite a bit faster than AMD’s surprisingly efficient Fury X, the GTX 980 Ti Superclocked+ still consumes less power. The difference certainly isn’t a massive one but from a performance per watt standpoint, EVGA’s card is a clear winner.
 

SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
Staff member
Joined
Feb 26, 2007
Messages
12,841
Location
Montreal
1440P: AC:Unity / Battlefield 4

Assassin’s Creed: Unity


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Battlefield 4


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In this sequence, we use the Singapore level which combines three of the game’s major elements: a decayed urban environment, a water-inundated city and finally a forested area. We chose not to include multiplayer results simply due to their randomness injecting results that make apples to apples comparisons impossible.

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SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
Staff member
Joined
Feb 26, 2007
Messages
12,841
Location
Montreal
1440P: Dragon Age: Inquisition / Dying Light

Dragon Age: Inquisition


<iframe width="640" height="360" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/z7wRSmle-DY" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>

Dragon Age: Inquisition is one of the most popular games around due to its engaging gameplay and open-world style. In our benchmark sequence we run through two typical areas: a busy town and through an outdoor environment.

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Dying Light


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Dying Light is a relatively late addition to our benchmarking process but with good reason: it required multiple patches to optimize performance. While one of the patches handicapped viewing distance, this is still one of the most demanding games available.

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SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
Staff member
Joined
Feb 26, 2007
Messages
12,841
Location
Montreal
1440P: Far Cry 4 / Grand Theft Auto V

Far Cry 4


<iframe width="640" height="360" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/sC7-_Q1cSro" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>​

The latest game in Ubisoft’s Far Cry series takes up where the others left off by boasting some of the most impressive visuals we’ve seen. In order to emulate typical gameplay we run through the game’s main village, head out through an open area and then transition to the lower areas via a zipline.

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Grand Theft Auto V


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SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
Staff member
Joined
Feb 26, 2007
Messages
12,841
Location
Montreal
1440P: Hitman Absolution / Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor

Hitman Absolution


<iframe width="560" height="315" src="http://www.youtube.com/embed/8UXx0gbkUl0?rel=0" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>​

Hitman is arguably one of the most popular FPS (first person “sneaking”) franchises around and this time around Agent 47 goes rogue so mayhem soon follows. Our benchmark sequence is taken from the beginning of the Terminus level which is one of the most graphically-intensive areas of the entire game. It features an environment virtually bathed in rain and puddles making for numerous reflections and complicated lighting effects.

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Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor


With its high resolution textures and several other visual tweaks, Shadow of Mordor’s open world is also one of the most detailed around. This means it puts massive load on graphics cards and should help point towards which GPUs will excel at next generation titles.

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SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
Staff member
Joined
Feb 26, 2007
Messages
12,841
Location
Montreal
1440P: Thief / Tomb Raider

Thief


<iframe width="640" height="360" src="//www.youtube.com/embed/p-a-8mr00rY?rel=0" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>​

When it was released, Thief was arguably one of the most anticipated games around. From a graphics standpoint, it is something of a tour de force. Not only does it look great but the engine combines several advanced lighting and shading techniques that are among the best we’ve seen. One of the most demanding sections is actually within the first level where you must scale rooftops amidst a thunder storm. The rain and lightning flashes add to the graphics load, though the lightning flashes occur randomly so you will likely see interspersed dips in the charts below due to this.

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Tomb Raider


<iframe width="560" height="315" src="http://www.youtube.com/embed/okFRgtsbPWE" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>​

Tomb Raider is one of the most iconic brands in PC gaming and this iteration brings Lara Croft back in DX11 glory. This happens to not only be one of the most popular games around but it is also one of the best looking by using the entire bag of DX11 tricks to properly deliver an atmospheric gaming experience.

In this run-through we use a section of the Shanty Town level. While it may not represent the caves, tunnels and tombs of many other levels, it is one of the most demanding sequences in Tomb Raider.


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SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
Staff member
Joined
Feb 26, 2007
Messages
12,841
Location
Montreal
1440P: Total War: Attila / Witcher 3

Total War: Attila


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Witcher 3


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