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.