ZOTAC Shows Us The Meaning of Extreme

The GTX 980 Ti is Nvidia’s top-end gaming oriented graphics card in the market to date, and there’s no hint from the company to stop manufacturing its chips anytime soon with its sheer gaming prowess. Able to drive games at extreme resolutions, the GTX 980 Ti is aptly named as the king of the single core gaming graphics of 2015, and every Nvidia AIB partners has to come up with their own solutions to crown their own.

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With that said, most of Nvidia’s AIB partners are eager to put their own GTX 980 Ti at the top, with some models even equipped with a Liquid Cooling Solution. Ours courtesy of ZOTAC, is the GTX 980 Ti AMP! Extreme Edition – a triple slot, non reference GTX 980 Ti  with a specifications sheet that puts the card right beside the top spot’s contenders. Basically, the ZOTAC AMP! Extreme is the company’s fastest card to date with a 1253 MHz core clock speed and an effective 1355 MHz boost clock. Memory capacity remains untouched but the memory clock remains faithful to the AMP! Extreme moniker which is up at 1805 MHz. The ZOTAC GTX 980 Ti AMP! Extreme is priced at 679.99 USD, with a PH equivalent SRP at  a whooping 35, 400 Pesos.

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The ZOTAC GTX 980 AMP! Extreme is the fastest GTX 980 Ti based graphics from the company so far, and the cooling solution must back it up. Thus, the ZOTAC Carbon ExoArmor was introduced with the IceStorm cooling system. It is basically a wrap around metal housing for the card itself. The card also sports the latest EKO Fan technology – which is a newly developed fan design that according to ZOTAC, eliminates the dead-zone next to the fan bearing housing – gaining 30% more airflow output. Our review of the GTX 980 Ti AMP! Extreme should put all of these performance crunching specifications to the test, so sit back and check out if this is the flagship that you have been waiting for.

FEATURES & SPECIFICATIONS: CLICK HERE

The GeForce GTX 980 Ti from Nvidia boasts the big boy of the Maxwell Architecture – which basically features better thermals, power efficiency, and memory management over its predecessors. Along with it comes the DirectX 12 support, Dynamic Super Resolution (4K on 1080P), VXGI (Lighting), and MFAA (Anti-Aliasing) to name a few. This card is a direct replacement for the GTX 780 Ti and is aimed at enthusiast and gamers who want to play the latest titles at their best settings and at higher resolutions. The card also supports Nvidia’s ShadowPlay and G-SYNC.

GRAPHICS SPECIFICATIONS
MAKE & MODEL
NVIDIA GTX 980 Ti
ZOTAC GTX 980 Ti AMP! EXTREME
GPU
GM200
GM200
CORES
2816 (CUDA)
2816 (CUDA)
CORE CLOCK
1000 MHZ – 1075 MHZ
1253 MHZ – 1355 MHZ
VRAM
 6 GB GDDR5
 6 GB GDDR5
MEMORY BUS
 384-BIT
 384-BIT
MEMORY CLOCK
 1750 MHZ
 1805 MHZ
PCI-E STANDARD
 PCI-E 3.0
 PCI-E 3.0
DISPLAY SUPPORT
4X DISPLAY
4X DISPLAY
DISPLAY OUTPUTS
3x DP 2.0, HDMI 2.0, DL-DVI
 3x DP 2.0, HDMI 2.0, DL-DVI
POWER OUTPUT
 250W
 258W
POWER INPUT
 6-PIN + 8-PIN
8-PIN + 8-PIN
DIMENSIONS
 10.5 X 4.4 INCHES
 12.9 X 5.2 INCHES
SLOT TYPE
 DUAL
TRIPLE
COOLER TYPE
 SINGLE FAN + NVTTM
 TRIPLE FAN + CUSTOM DESIGN
PRICING
 CHECK AT AMAZON
 CHECK AT AMAZON

There are more features to be discussed, but if you want to learn more, check out the GeForce GTX 980 Ti Overview from Nvidia.

UNBOXING & BUNDLED ACCESSORIES:

The ZOTAC GTX 980 Ti AMP! Extreme comes in a standard ZOTAC packaging that features the card’s strong points specifically the extended warranty – which we’d love to be emphasized a little bit better. The specifications are actually located at the side, rather than the back of the packaging.

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The back is well designed with graphics and contextually elaborated feature sets. As far as packaging goes, there isn’t much to complain here as ZOTAC used a foam-insert to cradle the card together with a corrugated internal packaging which is more than enough for the card’s protection.

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Accessories includes a quick installation guide, a ZOTAC Software DVD, a ZOTAC Case Badge, DVI to VGA adapter, and a sleeved 6+6-Pin to 8-Pin power connector in Twos. No SLI bridge here so you’re better off to purchase a board that comes with it – which is usually included on SLI compatible motherboards from Intel & AMD.

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THE ZOTAC GTX 980 Ti AMP! EXTREME:

Cool would be an understatement word to describe this GTX 980 Ti AMP! Extreme, as it looks quite menacing – in a positive way – with its thick gun metal shroud accompanied by a carbon fiber centerpiece, providing a perfect contrast between the major parts of the card’s housing. Undoubtedly, it is a premium product by looks and feel alone – with a weight to match too at around 1.4 Kilograms. Superb.

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No matter where you look at it, the GTX 980 AMP! Extreme just looks marvelous considering that it is a triple slot designed card to begin with. The shroud, again, looks really great and envelops the card well with a blending design that is not obtrusive or painful to the eyes. There isn’t much to complain actually, and if we’re nitpicking – I guess that would be the length of the card at almost 13 Inches long – so you better check out your enclosure’s clearance should you decide to pick this card up.

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The EKO fans are a thing of beauty on their own, and they are not design for aesthetics alone. There are 3 of these 90mm EKO fans cooling the card which are also 0dB complaint when the card is under light load or idling. They are accompanied by soft-glow white LEDs at each end of the shroud, with another one at the side – illuminating the ZOTAC logo.

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The back plate of the ZOTAC GTX 980 Ti AMP! Extreme is on a different league as well and when we mean different, it’s very-very thick and well designed. The back plate also serves as a brace for the card which is a heaven sent feature. You should never worry about the card bending on its own weight. It will never happen.

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Right next the to the back plate’s ZOTAC logo is the Power Boost technology which is basically a ceramic super capacitor that should reduce ripple noise, and minimize power fluctuation. This feature is present on most high end cards especially those that require more power than the norm. A novel feature I must say. Speaking of power, the card requires 258W according to ZOTAC – which is 8W away from Nvidia’s rated TDP. With Dual 8-Pin power connectors (300W capable), and an additional 75W from the PCI-E slot, there is an available 375W of power for the card. That’s more than plenty for extra overclocking headroom.

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The card is 4-Way SLI compatible, but there is no reason to go that far in all honesty. The card also features aplenty of display port options to choose from depending on your needs. We’ve got a Dual Link DVI, an HDMI 2.0 Port, and Three full sized Display Port that conforms to the Display Port 2.0 standard. An array of ventilation holes are visible here as well.

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TEST SYSTEM & SPECIFICATIONS:

Graphics cards are no strangers in our labs, but providing a precise result usually needs a lot of time and effort on our end. Helping us to do those things are hardware and software based measurement tools, an updated copy of Windows 7 Ultimate x64 SP1 for the OS, and wide selection of the popular games that most probably, will sate your appetite. The BIOS/UEFI, Chipset, and Video Card drivers of the test system will be updated too, as much as possible every review. Power Options is set to balanced.

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No third party background softwares should be executed while the benchmarks are on going unless it is needed or stated. As for the gaming benchmarks alone, tests should include 720P (1280 x 720), 1080p (1920 x 1080), 1440p (2560 x 1440), and 4K UHD (3840 x 2160) resolution results if permitted by the games, and benchmarking tools, or if necessary to the hardware being tested.

TEST SYSTEM SPECIFICATIONS
CPU
Intel Core i5 4670K
MOTHERBOARD
ASUS Z97-PRO WiFi AC
CPU COOLER
Cooler Master Seidon 120XL
MEMORY
CORSAIR Vengeance PRO @2133 MHz 16GB
GRAPHICS CARD
ZOTAC GTX 980 Ti AMP! EXTREME 6GB
INT. STORAGE
Kingston HyperX Fury SSD 240GB
PSU
BitFenix Fury 650G 650W
DISPLAY
27″ DELL U2715H WQHD IPS Panel
OS
Microsoft Windows 7 Ultimate x64 SP1 (Updated)
SOUND CARD
Realtek ALC1150
EXT. STORAGE
2TB Western Digital My Passport

HOW WE TEST: AVERAGE FRAMES PER SECOND & 1% MINIMUM

For refreshment purposes, let us talk for a moment about FPS or Frames Per Second. Also known as Frame Rate, FPS is the general unit of which we measure a graphics card’s performance. Generally, the higher value, the smoother the gameplay should be, since higher FPS means higher frames are rendered each second, except when high latency between frames are present (See Frame Time Variance). Please do note that Resolution and in-game settings has a huge effect in any system’s frame rate. Better yet, check out the difference of 30 and 60 FPS HERE & ON THIS LINK.

Frames Per Second will be recorded by FRAPS in game using a linear gameplay method at each titles for consistency. Results will include the Average FPS and 1% Minimum FPS – The most important things to check  out in any FPS related results. The 1% Minimum FPS is an important addition because it represents the negative spikes in FPS in-game which is sufficient enough for a gamer to notice.

HOW WE TEST: FRAME TIME VARIANCE & 99TH PERCENTILE

Frame Time Analysis is another thing worth diving into when it comes to testing games with GPUs, as FPS alone wont directly measure the smoothness of a game. Basically, what we are looking for here are the variances (in ms) between frames rendered inside a second and consistency between them is the key to a smooth gameplay experience. What we want to see are nice graphs of the Frame Times from start to finish, with little variances (less spikes) between each. Spikes from the graphs represents that it took more than enough time for a frame to render, and this is not bad if it’s not happening every now and then. Here’s a sample below using our Nvidia GeForce GTX 780 Ti:

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Another thing worth noting is the 99th Percentile Frame Time Variance which is basically the lowest Frame Time you should expect 99% of the time. Here’s an example below from the same results we gathered above:

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Based on the results above, you should expect the Nvidia GeForce GTX 780 Ti to render frames faster  than 21 ms 99% of the time at the Dragon Age: Inquisition. On our 1440P test above, that is already a good result.

SYNTHETIC/GPU COMPUTE PERFORMANCE:

3DMARK (2013) is a multi-platform benchmarking tool from FUTUREMARK, consisting of comprehensive tests that aims to gauge your gaming hardware. Fire Strike is our selected benchmark preset.

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CINEBENCH R15 is a real-world cross-platform test suite that evaluates the computer’s performance capabilities. The OpenGL benchmark is selected for this test.

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Kishonti’s CompuBench is an easy to use, no frills high performance suite of benchmarks. We selected the Face Detection & Vector Calculation tests as our benchmarks.

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RIght off the bat, the GTX 980 Ti AMP! Extreme showed us what a flagship card is all about – and that’s brute force performance with extreme gains over its predecessor. Now if we’ve got a reference GTX 980 Ti here, then we’d be happy to pit it against the AMP! Extreme.

GAMING PERFORMANCE:

Dragon Age: Inquisition an action role-playing video game developed by BioWare and published by Electronic Arts. It utilizes the Frosbite 3 Engine with the SpeedTree technology. VSync is off.

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The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt is an action role-playing video game set in an open world environment, developed by Polish video game developer CD Projekt RED. Nvidia HairWorks is disabled, and VSync is off.

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Battlefield 4 is one of EA & DICE‘s first person shooters utilizing the Frostbite 3 game engine. It features greater tessellation effects and destruction compared to its predecessor. VSync is turned off.

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DOTA 2 is a Multiplayer Online Battle Arena (MOBA) video game developed by Valve and is the stand-alone sequel to the Warcraft III based Defense of the Ancients (DotA) mod. VSync is off, and we are using DOTA 2’s OpenGL Engine for the benchmark.

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Counter-Strike: Global Offensive is a popular online tactical first-person shooter developed by Hidden Path Entertainment and Valve Corporation, utilizing the Source Engine. Vsync is off as well as FXAA.

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The GTX 980 Ti AMP! Extreme from ZOTAC undoubtedly demolishes everything else in our benchmarks with a performance that nothing could match. What’s surprising though, is the gap between the last gen’s flagship, the 780 Ti between the GTX 980 Ti from ZOTAC. On most cases, the GTX 980 Ti AMP! Extreme obliterates it with twice as much graphics horsepower across the games and resolutions tested. That’s just insane.

FRAME TIME ANALYSIS & 99TH PERCENTILE:

Our game of choice when it comes to Frame Time Analysis is Dragon Age: Inquisition. It’s basically a finished game and works quite nice with AMD & Nvidia cards despite the branding with AMD’s Mantle.

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The Frame Time Variance between each frames rendered are smooth with the GTX 980 Ti AMP! Extreme, and there hasn’t been any major anomalies between frames or skipping based on our analysis. Further more, the 99th Percentile, the card is expected to render frames below 15.4ms most of the time – which is more than enough to provide a smooth gaming experience.

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OVERCLOCKING PERFORMANCE:

The ZOTAC GTX 980 Ti AMP! Extreme comes bundled with the FireStorm overclocking utility which enables the users to fine tune their graphics for better gaming, and even thermal performance. That said, the utility offers so much for the card to unleash its full performance. However, we decided to go with the MSI Afterburner overclocking utility for comparison, and consistency across the tested cards. You could however, download the ZOTAC FireStorm utility LINK.

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The card easily clocks its core at 1353 MHz (+100 MHz), with an effective 1955 MHz memory clock (+300 MHz) increase too on the VRAM. Boost clock is reported at 1455 MHz – and for the record, it could maintain an extremely good 1530 MHz boost clock while gaming.

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A 6.4% increase in performance can be seen with our Witcher 3 benchmark, with another 8.7% increase on 3DMARK’s Fire Strike Extreme benchmark. Not bad, as the card is already factory overclocked, and we’re just happy that we could still squeeze more from it.

THEORETICAL & IN-GAME TEMPERATURE:

FurMark is a very intensive OpenGL benchmark that uses fur rendering algorithms to measure the performance of the graphics card. It’s not the best tool to measure a graphics card’s horse power, but it excels at displaying the theoretical heat output of the card using its stress test feature. To record the GPU’s maximum temperatures, I will run Furmark’s Fur Rendering Burn-in Test, and let it run for 30 Minutes. The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt is our chosen game for this task, and we will gather our temperature results roaming Velen’s (No Man’s Land) outskirts. 15 minutes of hacking and slashing should be enough for our Witcher senses. As always, we keep the results consistent by keeping the ambient temperature checked at 27ºC.

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The ZOTAC GTX 980 AMP! Extreme doesn’t just look cool, it’s also relatively cool too as far as temperatures are concerned. Furmark reported the card to attain 70 Degree Celsius, and the same could be said on a normal gaming load with a 70 Degree Celsius result. This is at the expense of a slightly higher noise output which we will discuss later.

THEORETICAL & IN-GAME POWER CONSUMPTION:

We also check to see how the GPU impacts power consumption using FurMark. The system is left to idle for 30 minutes before readings are taken, and load data is taken 30 minutes while FurMark is running. The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt is our chosen game for this task, and we will gather our power consumption results roaming Velen’s (No Man’s Land) outskirts. 15 minutes of hacking and slashing should be enough for our Witcher senses. Power readings are taken for the entire system from the socket.

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As expected, the Achilles’ heel of the GTX 980 Ti is its power consumption  – with a gaming load measured at 388W. Under Furmark, the card is actually a little bit less hungrier. It has to be expected, since the card’s boost clock is staying at a constant 1430MHz. In addition to the extra clock speeds being pumped up, we’ve also noticed the card’s EKO fans running at 73% which also introduced extra power and noise into the setup. Do note that by limiting the frames rendered on The Witcher 3 at 60 FPS (Not VSync), the card could maintain a pleasing power consumption at around 318.4W.

THEORETICAL & IN-GAME ACOUSTICS/NOISE:

Using FurMark, The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, and our handy Sound Level Meter, we will take sound level measurements while the system is idling and at load. Our rooms ambient noise levels are around 37 dBA (-1/+1) which is somewhat between a quiet library and a public library. Refer to the chart below for comparison.

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The cooling solution dictates a card’s cooling & noise levels,  and sometimes it breaks a consumer’s purchase if the card is proven to be noisy. The GTX 980 Ti AMP! Extreme isn’t that noisy at all. Certainly not obtrusive, but we felt like it could be better especially when it hits the area around 2820 RPM. We suggest you to limit the EKO fan’s RPM at around 60% for a better noise output. Luckily, it could be easily done via ZOTAC’s FireStorm utility, and MSI’s Afterburner.

AS EXTREME AS IT GETS:

First off, lets talk about the looks and build quality as this card is quite the looker and is proper to bear the flagship GTX 980 Ti under its wings. For an instance, the shroud is made out of metal, with only the fans and the carbon-esque center piece are actually not. The back plate is almost as thick as the shroud, and by holding it alone, you will actually feel how resilient it is. It not only looks good, it also embraces the card with style and functionality. This is one thing that I’d like most manufacturers to employ, especially when we’ve tested cards with back plates that doesn’t actually protect the card from additional stress – where they actually add stress to the card and not the other way around, sadly.

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Every bit of performance is a key even at the enthusiast level cards, and if you want to take a peek at what the Nvidia Titan X could offer, without spending a ridiculous extra to enjoy the same levels of gaming performance. We were practically astonished by its gaming performance across the benchmarks be it on 1080P, 1440P, and 4K UHD. There’s actually nothing on our labs that comes close to it. Heck, even Two reference GTX 970s wont stand a chance against this monster if practicality between an SLI or a single card setup is the case. We’d also like to note that the card could maintain its designated boost clock without even dipping below it at a constant 1430 MHz. Impressive.

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With a great build quality and extremely great performance, the ZOTAC GTX 980 AMP! Extreme must have come at a price and that arguably the size of the card. I might be profane, but its size doesn’t give a single f*ck about other GTX 980 Ti models out there. As if ZOTAC forgot to put the words “standard form factor” on its very description. Another worth noting is its price which is around 679 USD or at 35, 400 PHP (+3, 000 Pesos compared to INTL pricing). It is certainly not cheap in the Philippines, and by the gods you ain’t getting a cheap product neither so there that for your peace of mind – Take note that most GTX 980 Ti models are also within, if not at a higher price bracket. Luckily, ZOTAC have, as always, extended the warranty of their cards at 5 years maximum which is quite nice of them. Plus, there’s a promotion with Nvidia that lets you choose a free game between Rainbow Six Siege and an Assassin’s Creed Syndicate. Not that it matters a lot but you still saved quite a ton especially if the extended warranty period is thrown into the equation.

The ZOTAC GTX 980 Ti AMP! Extreme is as extreme as it gets. It is by far one of the best GTX 980 Ti models at the market to date with a rock solid build quality, extremely great performance, and a 5 year extended warranty for that extra peace of mind while pushing the limits.

THE ZOTAC GTX 980 TI AMP! EXTREME 6GB RETAILS FOR AROUND 35, 400 PESOS OR 679 USD INTL AND IS BACKED BY A 5 YEAR EXTENDED WARRANTY.

THE VERDICT
PROS:
  • INCREDIBLY WELL BUILT
  • IMPRESSIVE FACTORY OC PERFORMANCE
  • AESTHETICALLY APPEALING
  • COOLING PERFORMANCE UNDER HEAVY LOAD
  • 5 YEAR EXTENDED WARRANTY
CONS:
  • HUGE TRIPLE SLOT COOLER
2016-Gold

2016-Performance