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Zotac GTX 980 Ti AMP! Extreme Review

SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
Staff member
Joined
Feb 26, 2007
Messages
13,264
Location
Montreal
1440P: Total War: Attila / Witcher 3

Total War: Attila


Total War: Attila is the only strategy title in our benchmarking suite simply because it is one of the most resource-hungry. It gobbles resources with good reason too: this game happens to be one the best looking of the series thus far. Our benchmark sequence uses the in-game tool since, after hours of gameplay, it seems to show a perfect blend of in-game elements.




Witcher 3


<iframe width="640" height="360" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/EBSQMEqpqro?rel=0" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>​

Other than being one of 2015’s most highly regarded games, The Witcher 3 also happens to be one of the most visually stunning as well. This benchmark sequence has us riding through a town and running through the woods; two elements that will likely take up the vast majority of in-game time.


 

SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
Staff member
Joined
Feb 26, 2007
Messages
13,264
Location
Montreal
4K: AC: Unity / Battlefield 4

Assassin’s Creed: Unity


<iframe width="640" height="360" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/8V96SFIvFKg?rel=0" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>​

While it may not be the newest game around and it had its fair share of embarrassing hiccups at launch, Assassin's Creed: Unity is still one heck of a good looking DX11 title. In this benchmark we run through a typical gameplay sequence outside in Paris.




Battlefield 4


<iframe width="640" height="360" src="//www.youtube.com/embed/y9nwvLwltqk?rel=0" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>​

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.


 

SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
Staff member
Joined
Feb 26, 2007
Messages
13,264
Location
Montreal
4k: 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.





Dying Light


<iframe width="640" height="360" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/MHc6Vq-1ins" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>​

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.


 

SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
Staff member
Joined
Feb 26, 2007
Messages
13,264
Location
Montreal
4K: 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.




Grand Theft Auto V


In GTA V we take a simple approach to benchmarking: the in-game benchmark tool is used. However, due to the randomness within the game itself, only the last sequence is actually used since it best represents gameplay mechanics.


 

SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
Staff member
Joined
Feb 26, 2007
Messages
13,264
Location
Montreal
4k: 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.




Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor


<iframe width="640" height="360" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/U1MHjhIxTGE?rel=0" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>​

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.


 

SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
Staff member
Joined
Feb 26, 2007
Messages
13,264
Location
Montreal
4K: 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.




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.



 

SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
Staff member
Joined
Feb 26, 2007
Messages
13,264
Location
Montreal
4K: Total War: Attila / Witcher 3

Total War: Attila


Total War: Attila is the only strategy title in our benchmarking suite simply because it is one of the most resource-hungry. It gobbles resources with good reason too: this game happens to be one the best looking of the series thus far. Our benchmark sequence uses the in-game tool since, after hours of gameplay, it seems to show a perfect blend of in-game elements.




Witcher 3


<iframe width="640" height="360" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/EBSQMEqpqro?rel=0" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>​

Other than being one of 2015’s most highly regarded games, The Witcher 3 also happens to be one of the most visually stunning as well. This benchmark sequence has us riding through a town and running through the woods; two elements that will likely take up the vast majority of in-game time.


 

SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
Staff member
Joined
Feb 26, 2007
Messages
13,264
Location
Montreal
Overclocking Results; Yes, it Goes Further

Overclocking Results


When looking at the benchmarks on previous pages, you wouldn’t be forgiven for assuming Zotac pushed the AMP! Extreme to the bleeding edge in order to achieve such high out-of-box frequencies. That would mean overclocking would be limited at best. We thought the same thing and were proven wrong.

It seems like Zotac has done two things here: binned their GM200 cores extremely well and increased default voltages / power limit headroom so clock speed overhead scales in a linear fashion in comparison to other GTX 980 Ti cards. Using Zotac’s own very capable FireStorm tool, we fed the card the usual 87mV of extra voltage and boosted its Power Limit by 11%. The end result was….interesting.


We absolutely blew past our previous GTX 980 Ti overclocking achievements with the card running steady at 1480MHz while the memory topped out at 8022MHz. There were even some instances where we saw core frequencies inch past the 1500MHz mark. All of this was accomplished with the fan speed at 55% which was barely audible in a closed case.

What about performance? Well it looks like that memory overclock takes the AMP! Extreme to the next level.


 
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SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
Staff member
Joined
Feb 26, 2007
Messages
13,264
Location
Montreal
Conclusion

Conclusion


This is going to be an interesting conclusion since Zotac’s GTX 980 Ti AMP! Extreme is one of those rare graphic cards that come along every now and then which completely defy expectations. Granted, this may be among the most expensive GTX 980 Ti cards on the market right now but it also happens to offer some of the most enticing out-of-box performance numbers around. Zotac has created an absolute monster here.



Let’s cut right to the chase and talk about why someone would buy the AMP! Extreme over the numerous competing solutions: raw, unadulterated framerates. Whereas the vast majority of pre-overclocked offerings will offer very few, if any tangible performance benefits over the reference card and even EVGA’s awesome Superclocked+ topped out at around 7% higher real-world framerates, Zotac’s offering is wonderfully insane. At times the numbers had us starting a sentence with “Sweet merciful f….”. We’re talking about an average of 15% higher average performance than the reference design. That’s a difference you can actually feel in games. Oh, and that Fury X? AMD really needs to cut it loose and allow board partners or end users to overclock it more. If not, cards like this one will keep pounding on it.

Nearly every custom-cooled GTX 980 Ti can reach about this level of performance with some judicious manual overclocking but that’s not really the point here. What buyers get with the AMP! Extreme is a card that guaranteed to hit at the very least 1253MHz and an average of 1355MHz straight out of the box. Our sample was more than content to cruise along at 1393MHz in every single game which is actually just shy of what EVGA’s Superclocked+ reached when overclocked to its absolute limit.

Some may question the actual value of spending $50 more than a stock-clocked version on Zotac’s GTX 980 AMP! Extreme but we’re convinced these limited-edition cards will all find homes. The reason for this is simple: this extreme level of performance is completely covered by Zotac’s warranty in a plug-and-play format that guarantees insane speeds without the “hassle” of overclocking. For gamers who want to set it and forget it, this is a perfect fit and will end up being money well spent.

Aside from the obvious framerate benefits that come tied to this card, there are other high points as well. That somewhat ungainly-looking, 2.5-slot heatsink hides enough thermal mass to cool off a nuclear reactor as evidenced by the supremely low temperatures. There’s even more room for some manual overclocking and with a bit of coaxing the AMP! easily hit the 1480MHz mark with some games allowing enough power headroom for the core to hit 1503MHz.

If we had one slight critique about this card it would be the fan profile Zotac chose. While boasting the ability to go completely silent in idle situations is a blessing, the actual fan RPMs seem to be tied to GPU load rather than real-time temperatures. This means the fan speed doesn’t increase in a transparent linear fashion but rather pulses up and down. In a closed system this constant RPM variance will go complete unnoticed but if you use an open test bench and benchmark without any other in-game noise, it will be audible.

The GTX 980 Ti AMP! Extreme edition is one hell of a card, one that proves what NVIDIA’s board partners do when they let their hair down. It may be expensive but it demolishes pretty much everything on the market right now and does so while being cool, quiet, composed and still boasting additional headroom for overclocking. Count us impressed.

 
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