In late 2015, GIGABYTE introduced a new line of graphics cards dubbed the Xtreme Gaming series. Other than the misguided circa-2004 spelling of extreme, this line of GPUs has further refined the already established G1 line of products. The refresh via the new offerings brought GIGABYTE up to the level where they should have always been, not only in performance, but cooling, aesthetics and of course electronics.
There’s little to no need to go over the details of the GTX 980 Ti GPU once more, but suffice to say it remains the fastest GPU on the market, especially when it ships with a massive overclock like this card does. GIGABYTE’s G1.Gaming GTX 980 Ti was the first 980 Ti GPU we reviewed over a year ago, and it may seem strange to see the company release such a component when we are this close to the launch of Pascal GPUs (Q2 2016). However, that is the name of the game. Other vendors have caught up with the G1 card and it’s time for a refresh.
The GTX 980 Ti Xtreme Gaming card is one such refresh product that makes me wish it was made available all the way back when the GTX 980 Ti was initially released. As always though, the best of any series comes towards the end of its lifespan. This model has a few notable differences, mainly the cooling solution employed and its performance. For what is essentially a refresh, GIGABYTE has redesigned most of the card, upgrading the VRM/PWM circuit and giving a nod to extreme overclocking via an LN2 mode. This isn’t just in the form of an overclocker’s BIOS which you may switch to via a button. It also comprises an additional six-pin PCIe power connector that is only utilized when the graphics card is set to LN2 or “Xtreme” mode. What you should note about this mode over and above the expansion of the power draw limit is that the clock speeds are returned to the NVIDIA reference. This facilitates overclocking and in conjunction with locked (turbo-free clocking via a third-party tool) frequencies allows for more precise control over clock speeds.
Over and above that, the most impressive part of the card is the heatsink cooling complex and the RGB LED lighting. GIGABYTE’s 600 watt-capable WindForce cooler was an already impressive assembly, but it has been further beefed up and it weighs even more, providing better cooling than before. As far as air coolers are concerned, this is probably the best on the market as it manages to keep the temperatures low even under the most intense conditions.
The fans have a new trick where the central fan spins first, then the two on either side follow as more load is placed on the GPU. The central fan has the ability to spin in the reverse direction as well, not only eliminating dust build up, but aiding in cooling proficiency as well. When all the fans are set to the maximum rotation, it is actually a little quieter than what GIGABYTE has offered in the past. This is completely subjective testing, but with two cards next to each other, the Xtreme Gaming seems quieter than the G1.Gaming.
If the cooling doesn’t move you, then perhaps the new programmable lighting solution will. Using OC GURU II, you may adjust the LED colours to just about any colour you desire and set various effects as well. This system isn’t usable with NVIDIA’s own GeForce Experience LED visualization, but that is simply because NVIDIA’s solution is largely made for reference cards and just isn’t as flexible as what GIGABYTE delivers with OC GURU II.
As far as component aesthetics go, the Xtreme Gaming works incredibly well and makes for undoubtedly the best-looking graphics card GIGABYTE has ever produced. With that look it would be disappointing if it didn’t have the go as well. Fortunately it does, with this particular sample boosting as high as 1,417MHz. As is often the case with boost clocks, they fluctuate all over the place, but with the Xtreme Gaming they stayed above the 1,404MHz mark, which is why for the most part it delivered the highest performance we have seen to date from any graphics card. This is also helped slightly by the 200MHz frequency boost to the memory which sees the card operating at 7,200MHz instead of the default 7,004MHz.
As you might expect, everything we tested with the card delivered fantastic results and even 4K gaming is possible, for the most part. We’ll soon switch to new gaming benchmarks for 2016, but compared to previous GPUs, the GIGABYTE GTX 980 Ti is always the fastest, once again securing itself as the best bang-for-buck GPU on the local market.
Despite the unpredictable nature of the rand and its unprecedented lows, the GIGABYTE card in comparison to other Tier 1 vendors offers not only the fastest performance, but the best value for money. The next generation of GPUs from both NVIDIA and AMD are due this year, but while you wait and are in need of a graphics card that will last you at least for the next two years, this is the one to buy. Missing is the Flex display technology that we saw on the G1.Gaming, but that aside, this is probably the best GTX 980 Ti money can buy at any price locally. As such, it deserves our Dream Machine award.