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Pros: + Card performs exactly as you would think a 980 Ti to. Destroys games at 1080, 1440, and can even run some games at 4K (if you cherry-pick settings).
+ Decent overclocker (check other thoughts)
Cons: +- The stock cooler is terrible, but this is not the fault of PNY. The reference design is made to look cool, and do an OK job at cooling. Do not expect load temps under 80C.
+- Fancy lifetime warranty voids if anything is done to affect thermals, but that is to be expected
- ASIC quality is a little low for a card at this price point
- NO BACKPLATE
Other Thoughts: This card isn't bad. It runs exactly how you would expect a reference 980 Ti to run. With the stock cooler, I was able to almost reach 1400MHz. After installing the EVGA Hybrid Cooler (and a custom BIOS), I was able to go a bit crazy with this card. At 121% power limit, and 1.205V, I was able to reach 1450MHz on the core, and just shy of 4000MHz on the memory. This is my day-to-day overclock. However, for bench clocks, it went a little crazy. I set my voltage to 1.25, and was able to reach 1520MHz on the core. That is INSANE. Surprisingly, all of this was done with an ASIC quality of only 68%. Absolutely crazy.
And for those wondering why I subtracted points for not having a backplate, it DOES affect temps. You will see about a five degree C drop when using a backplate on a blower cooler. With a water cooler or an open air cooler, it doesn't make as much of a difference. In my testing with the stock cooler, I was able to squeeze out an extra 15MHz with a backplate, with no extra volts or power.
Pros: + Looks great
Cons: - Board was DOA, and confirmed by Gigabyte support. More info in other thoughts
Other Thoughts: OK. I really, REALLY, wanted to like this board, and give Gigabyte one final try. Needless to say, it didn't go as plan. First a bit of backstory. I have ran Gigabyte since my first true build. However, I started getting a little bit of a bad taste for them starting with my first Gigabyte graphics card, the 6870. The card failed after a month of use, and their RMA department did not want to accept the return on the card. They were fighting, stating that Newegg would allow for an RMA directly, and that I needed to attempt to get a replacement that way. That would be fine, except that Newegg told me I needed to RMA it back to the manufacturer. After emailing them a copy of the email stating this, I was finally able to get a replacement. Strike one.
My next build was another Gigabyte-based build. First, the graphics card, the 7970 GHz edition, had a voltage lock that could not be bypassed. Then, when I received the board, it was DOA, and the tech I talked to from Gigabyte about this was unbelievably lacking in knowledge. He initially said that it was because my processor was incompatible. However, it was posting. It was just failing on the PCI initialization. I confirmed it was the board by swapping in my old 1055T, and it continued to fail. Finally, after escalating the issue, I was able to get an RMA. Strike two.
With this board, I wanted to give them one final chance. I saw the "server-grade testing" that they said each board went through, and thought that this would be a great board. It should be reliable, and it will be great. Opened the box to see the "certification letter" front and center. Great sign. Built the machine out of the case, powered it on, and nothing. No screen what-so-ever. Went through the typical diagnosing, and it just refused to post. Called customer support, and they were completely clueless again. They told me that it had to be my processor. Again, I told them that everything benched fine on another system. Fought for about an hour to finally confirm that the board was DOA. With this board, I was able to get a refund from Newegg. Bought an Asus board and worked perfectly fine.
I know that DOAs can happen on any piece of hardware, but with the sheer number of issues I have had these past couple of years with Gigabyte products, it is obvious that they have a QA problem. I gave them three chances, but each one they came up short. I will not be purchasing Gigabyte for any of my equipment again. This is disappointing. Visually, their boards are phenomenal, and the layout is nearly perfect. But the sheer number of DOAs is unacceptable.
Pros: + Unbelievable performance. I replaced my 7970 GHz Edition, which was already a pretty good card, with this card. I thought it had to be a joke at first, considering how huge my old card was in comparison, but man was I wrong! Sizable FPS increase and I can now max out AA on games that I couldn't before. Absolutely beast.
+ Overclocks like crazy! I was able to get 1423MHz core and 4000MHz (effectively 8GHz) on the memory without tweaking the voltage or power percentage. I plan on pushing this card more once I get it on water, but for right now, this is great!
+ Power consumption. This card draws significantly less than my old 7970, while destroying it.
+ Tiny. This card could easily be used in a small form factor machine and still maintain that high level of performance. Of course, this could be a negative as well (see cons).
Cons: - Thermal performance. Now, I know some people are getting really lucky with their cards, but I was not one of them. At stock, I was hitting over 80C while testing in Metro. I ended up building a custom fan curve to try and prevent it from going above 70C, but this requires some pretty aggressive fan speeds. After a long gaming session, my rig sounds like a jet. Of course, this will be resolved once I put it on water, but for the average gamer this can be annoying. This could have been resolved if they used a larger fin array, and extended the card a bit.
- Voltage cap. There seems to be a voltage cap. Afterburner will not let you push the power draw above 106%. I would assume that this is due to them using lesser-quality chokes, but I have no way to test this. Of course, this could just be a simple BIOS limitation. We will need to wait and see.
- FireStorm is laughable. I had frequent crashes when just trying to monitor temps. Of course, this is the first iteration of it, so it will get better over time. Right now, Afterburner is leaps and bounds above anything, and not using FireStorm does not take away from anything.
Other Thoughts: In the end this card has a few hiccups with it, but every card has something. The performance of this card still outweighs any of the negatives. If you are playing at 1080P, this IS the card to get, hands down.
AMD FX-8320 at 4.3GHz
16GB Corsair Vengeance RAM
Zotac GTX 970
120GB OCZ Vertex SSD
2TB Seagate 7200RPM HDD