The NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980 Ti Reviewby Ryan Smith on May 31, 2015 6:00 PM EST
Bringing this video card review to a close, through the last 14 pages of benchmarks we have seen the same result time and time again. While on paper the GeForce GTX 980 Ti should trail the GeForce GTX Titan X by several percent, what we get in the real world is much, much closer. With an average performance deficit of just 3%, GeForce GTX 980 Ti is for all intents and purposes GTX Titan X with a different name.
Typically NVIDIA engineers a wider gap between their cards, and while there is plenty of room for speculation here as to why they’d let GTX 980 Ti get so close to GTX Titan X – and make no mistake, it is intentional – at the end of the day none of that changes the final result. With a launch price of $649, the GTX 980 Ti may as well be an unofficial price cut to GTX Titan X, delivering flagship GeForce performance for 35% less.
As it stands GTX Titan X does have one remaining advantage that precludes it from being rendered redundant: its 12GB of VRAM, versus GTX 980 Ti’s 6GB. However without any current games requiring more than 6GB of VRAM – and any realistic workload running out of GPU throughput before running out of VRAM – the GTX Titan X’s place in this world now hinges on an uncertain degree of future-proofness. For this reason GTX Titan X isn’t going anywhere, it will still be around for buyers who need the very best, or even compute users after a cheap 12GB card, but for everyone else the GTX 980 Ti is now going to be the card all other high-end video cards are measured against.
Meanwhile for prospective high-end buyers who haven’t already picked up a GTX Titan X, GTX 980 Ti comes at an interesting time for new buyers and upgrades alike. NVIDIA’s previous $649 card, the GTX 780, has just turned two years old, which is about the bare minimum for upgrading a video card these days. Gamers looking to replace the GTX 780 will find that the GTX 980 Ti offers around a 70% performance improvement, which compared to the gains we saw with GTX Titan X and NVIDIA’s other Titan cards is actually ahead of the curve. It’s still not enough to double GTX 780’s performance, nor are we going to get there until 16nm, but it’s a bright spot for those who may want to upgrade a bit sooner than 2016. On the other hand GTX 780 Ti owners will almost certainly want to hold off for the next generation, despite the name.
That said however, today’s launch is just the first part of a larger battle between NVIDIA and AMD. With AMD scheduled to launch their next-generation high-end card in June, the launch of the GTX 980 Ti is in many ways NVIDIA striking first and striking hard. By pushing GTX Titan X-like performance down to $650, NVIDIA has set the bar for AMD: AMD needs to either beat GTX 980 Ti/Titan X if they want to take back the performance crown, or they need to deliver their card for less than $650. It goes without saying that NVIDIA has given AMD a very high bar to beat, but AMD has proven to be quite resourceful in the past, so it shall be interesting to see just what AMD’s response is to the GTX 980 Ti.
As for this moment, the high-end video card market is essentially in a holding pattern. The GeForce GTX 980 Ti is a fine card for the price – a GTX Titan X for $649 – however with AMD’s new flagship card on the horizon buyers are likely better off waiting to see what AMD delivers before making such a purchase, if only to see if it further pushes down video card prices.