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MSI GTX 980 Review (Twin Frozr V OC / Gaming 4G)

MSI GTX 980 Review (Twin Frozr V OC / Gaming 4G)

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MSI GTX 980 Review – Packaging and Bundle

msi-gtx-980-review-box msi-gtx-980-review-bundle

MSI go with their Gaming/Dragon branding on this card and on the front of the box we get some information on the key features as well as specifications. Inside the box we get some documentation, a software CD, DVI to VGA dongle and power cable. Retail customers should also get a MSI branded mouse pad in their box.

MSI GTX 980 Review – The Gaming 4G / Twin Frozr V OC

msi-gtx-980-review-card msi-gtx-980-review-back

Shown above is the MSI GeForce GTX 980 Gaming 4G and it uses a black and red colour scheme, just like many of their boards. The shroud is plastic and on top we find a blue LED lit MSI logo (which can be turned off) along with two SLI connectors. The back of the card is reasonably plain but we can clearly see the protective covers MSI apply on the various connectors to ensure they arrive with us in perfect condition… and that the outputs remain dust free during prolonged use. This is a 279x140x36mm card.

msi-frozer-v-2014

In terms of build quality we get the usual high level of MSI components which include testing to military stability/quality standards. That includes the use of Hi-c CAP, Solid Caps and super ferrite core chokes. Where the card really looks to excel though is the cooler. That starts with heatsinks on the VRM and memory and continues on through the aluminium heatsink with copper GPU block and heat pipes (nickel plated, 2x8mm and 2x6mm). On top of those we find two 10cm fans which run on independent profiles AND in the case of this card tend to turn off when using the desktop. So silent operation when not gaming (less than 50c).

msi-fans

Fan control software available here.

These fans are branded TORX and MSI note that they offer 19% more airflow than propeller blade models while offering 5% lower noise vs. older Twin Frozr models. The shape of the blades also more effectively targets the heatpipes and through the use of multiple thermal sensors our RPM profiles for each individual fan are activated. Finally, MSI also note that their heatsink design covers 90% of the fan area for maximum dissipation and that their card isnt quite 2 slots wide so minimises issues with multiple GPU setups and larger coolers.

msi-gtx-980-review-top msi-gtx-980-review-io

Looking at the top edge, along to the left are two 8pin power connectors which help to provide the card with its 178w. Turning round to the card outputs we see a perforated area which allows air to exhaust from our system and beside those holes are our outputs. Here we see quite a change from the norm with a single DVI being accompanied by three DisplayPort connectors and HDMI. NVIDIA do allow multi-screen configurations to create resolutions such as 5760×1080 across varied output types however the card is very much geared to 4K support (including over HDMI 2.0).

In terms of core configuration the Maxwell GPU used on the GTX 980 features 2048 Cuda Cores with a reference speed of 1126MHz. The GPU boost spec is 1216MHz and our memory configuration is 4GB of GDDR5 (1750MHz) on a 256-bit bus. MSI go with 1216MHz standard, 1317MHz boost and 1750MHz memory. Also worthy of note, as well as the usual NVIDIA support of PhysX, 3DVision and the like is support for DirectX 12 on this GPU.

msi980gpuz

MSI GTX 980 Review – G-Sync Display

g-sync-asus-front g-sync-asus-back

g-sync-asus-control1 g-sync-asus-controls2

g-sync-asus-inputs

Before we talk about the user experience of the new GTX cards we also wanted to take a moment to discuss one other hardware items we have been having a play with while reviewing the new 900 series cards. That is a PG278Q. The key feaure of this screen is that it works with NVIDIA cards to create an environment which offers smooth framerates without tearing which is historically a problem in gaming.

This screen has a resolution of 2560×1440 with 1ms response time and 144Hz refresh rate. There are also plenty other nice features such as plenty of tilt and swivel on the various joints and a USB 3.0 hub built in.

How did we find the experience? In short, the experience was awesome. Crisp, clear, plenty of brightness and silky smooth gaming… anyway, back to the MSI card…

MSI GTX 980 Review – User Experience and Conclusion

FULL PERFORMANCE FIGURES CAN BE FOUND AFTER THE AWARD

Starting with the build quality of the MSI GTX 980 we have a card which, as expected for this brand, does well. The black PCB looks great, the choice of components on it are of a high quality so should ensure long term stability and of course the memory chips are quality branded parts. Stand out for this model though is the cooler used. We were a little disappointed that the cover is plastic, metal always feels nicer even if it makes little difference when in the case, but other than that it is hard to fault the design. It is more compact than the competition and has the excellent hybrid mode which makes this HIGH END  gpu run SILENT when not gaming. The LED on top adds a nice touch for those with windows and overall if we pair it with a MSI gaming board we can start to build a nice red/black based system.

In terms of performance the factory overclock used by MSI helps the Gaming 4G/Twin Frozr V card hit framerates well in excess of AMDs single GPU offerings and the GTX 970. We also get a decent bump over the GTX 980 reference card and gaming at 4K is achievable. Power use is also good with the MSI card using less power than NVIDIAs reference design, even with the OC but thermals are where we were most impressed. This card at load, like the reference, runs very quiet but the temperatures are much improved here, with the card running nearly 10c cooler than the NVIDIA version.

With a RRP of 470 pounds in the UK it is also very competitively priced and therefore worthy of our Gold Award.

Gold Award

MSI GTX 980 Review – Test System and Performance

MSI GTX 980 Twin Frozr V OC (Gaming 4G)
NVIDIA GTX 980
Gigabyte GTX 970 Windforce
Zotac GTX 970 AMP! Edition
XFX R9-290X Black Edition
Gigabyte GTX 780 Ti OC GHz Edition

Intel Core i7-5960X Gigabyte X99-Gaming 5
16GB Corsair Vengeance LPX DDR4-2800
Samsung 850 Pro 512GB 
Corsair AX1500i Antec Kuhler 1250

Installed on a Dimastech EasyXL Test Bench

Intel Wireless AC 7260
Razer DeathAdder
Razer BlackWidow Ultimate
ASUS 120Hz/3D Display

Windows 8.1 64-bit
AMD Drivers: 14.7
NVIDIA Driver 344.07
Battlefield 4
DOTA 2
GRID Autosport
Rome 2: Total War
WatchDogs
3DMark

The test system was built from scratch, a format of the hard drive was performed (NTFS) and then Windows 8.1 was installed. Following the completion of the installation, the video drivers were installed. All windows updates were then installed as were the latest builds of the benchmarking tools. Finally, the hard drives were de-fragmented (where appropriate). For each test, the video drivers were set to default quality/optimizations (unless otherwise stated).

Good Benchmarking Practice

Where possible, each benchmark was performed three times and the median result for each resolution/setting is shown in the tables that will follow. All applications had their latest patches applied and all hardware features the latest BIOS/Firmware.

1920×1080 + Thermals and Power

3DMark FireStrike Extreme
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DOTA2 1920×1080 Ultra
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GRID Autosport 1920×1080 Ultra 4xAA
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Rome 2: Total War – 1920×1080 Extreme
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4K

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DOTA2 4K Ultra
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http://axemplate.com/?how-to-make-an-easy-resume How To Make An Easy Resume GRID Autosport 4K Ultra 4xAA
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How To Do A Dissertation Quickly Rome 2: Total War – 4K Very High
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WatchDogs 4K fxaa
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About Author

Stuart Davidson

Stuart Davidson is Senior Editor at HardwareHeaven having joined the site in 2002.

11 Comments

  1. allhands

    Has a release date for the MSI GTX 980 Twin Frozr V been announced yet? Any idea when it will be available at etailers? I’m showing it either hasn’t been released yet or is out of stock everywhere.

  2. Danny

    Cool review, good to see the back of the card which i can’t see on many stock images.

    Just purchased this MSI variant of the 980, can’t wait to install it and see how things go

  3. why in the test only gigabyte g1 970, you guys thinking it’s normal? if you put competitor of giga, why 970 not 980?

    • Hi, we tested the relevant cards which were available to us at the time. The reference 980 is present, the fastest single GPU AMD, a comparable 780Ti from the last generation and two 970s with different clocks so that you can make an informed decision.

  4. jon

    You say it uses 2 x 8 pin power connectors.. Wrong 2x 6

  5. Ian

    Hey,
    Is that an actual picture of the card you used or a supplied photo? I looked at the picture and it appears as 1X8/1X6. You can see 4 legs on the first and 3 on the second. Doesn’t really matter, more just curiosity.

  6. Ian

    Hey again,
    Sorry, my mistake. Looking at wrong picture. The back of the card is 2X8. The MSI photo is 1X6/1X8.