Nvidia GeForce GTX 980 review

The green team drops its Maxwell GPU bomb

The new Nvidia Geforce GTX 980
The new Nvidia Geforce GTX 980

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Well, that would have to be AMD's Radeon R9 290X. The GTX 980 is consistently much faster than AMD's fastest single-GPU card, but then it is also much more expensive too, by some £100 in general.

And then you ought to factor in that the 290X is also liable to run at 93ºC if left unchecked by a decent third-party GPU cooling array and draw more system power than even a seriously overclocked GTX 980.

The real competition for the beleaguered R9 290X though is the new GeForce GTX 970. We'll have a full review of the other new Maxwell card very soon, but suffice to say it's also capable of given the 290X a bit of a spanking in gaming performance terms and manages to do so while being cheaper, quieter, cooler and less power hungry too.

Considering the GTX 780 Ti is currently retailing, stock-clearing Zotac cards aside, for around £460 in the UK, the price of the new GTX 980 really isn't bad. The reference card is suggested to retail at £430 / $549, making it a little cheaper than the top Kepler card.

Nvidia is now retiring the consumer-class GK 110 cards in favour of the new GTX 980 and GTX 970. That means the GTX 780 and GTX 780 Ti cards out in the wild right now are all there is.

Once they're gone that's it.

That makes sense for Nvidia, because the smaller, less complicated GM 204 must be cheaper for it to produce than the massive GK 110 GPU. And that also means Nvidia is going to be making a lot more money on each GTX 980 it sells compared with the GTX 780 Ti.

But it also makes sense for us consumers too, because the cooler, quieter, less power-hungry Maxwell card still outperforms the GTX 780 Ti. This is the high-end graphics card you'd buy right now if you could afford it.

That's got to make tough reading for AMD though. It doesn't have a single-GPU card that can cope with the might of this top Maxwell GPU, and there's also the fact that Nvidia's current Maxwell line has a lot of room to grow.

There's a big price gap between the pricey GTX 980 at £430 / $549 and the GTX 970 at £260 / $329 and I wouldn't be surprised to see Nvidia fill in that gap with a GTX 970 Ti or similar in the next few months.

But even above the GTX 980 there is space because there will definitely be an equivalent Maxwell version of the hefty GK 110 GPU in the works for the workstation crowd. And because Nvidia will likely be making a considerable margin on the production of each GM 204 GPU it's got room to cut prices if the market gets seriously shaken up by a surprise GPU from the Texan-based competition.