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Nvidia's GeForce GTX 980 Ti graphics card reviewed

The Ti is for Titan

You knew it was coming. When Nvidia introduced the GeForce GTX Titan X back in March, it was only a matter of time before a slightly slower, less expensive version of that graphics card hit the market. That's pretty much how it always happens, and this year's model is no exception.

Behold, the GeForce GTX 980 Ti:

Drawing on my vast reserve of historical knowledge, I can tell you that the "Ti" at the end of that name ostensibly stands for "Titanium." Look a little closer at the specs for this product, though, and you'll notice that it might as well stand for "Titan." The GTX 980 Ti is more of a slightly de-tuned Titan X than a hopped-up GeForce GTX 980.

The GTX 980 Ti is based on the GM200 graphics chip, just like the Titan X, and the spec sheet lists the same base and boost clock speed for both cards. The 980 Ti comes with two modest reductions: only 22 of the GM220's possible 24 shader multiprocessor units are enabled, and the card has "only" 6GB of GDDR5 memory onboard. That's it for the cuts, and they're mostly painless. The 980 Ti still has the same polygon throughput and memory bandwidth as a Titan X, with only a tad less texture filtering and computational power.

Well, kinda. You see, Nvidia has further tuned the GM200 GPU on the 980 Ti, and it expects slighty higher operating clock speeds (~20Hz out of ~1000MHz) as a result. So the difference between the first run of Titan X cards and this newcomer is even smaller in practice than the specs sheet suggests.

Not to worry, rich kids: brand-new Titan X cards now ship with this same tuning, so you can still be ultimate by ordering a new Titan X. (Or, you know, pushing the little slider around in an overclocking utility.)

GTX 960 1126 1178 32 64 1024 128 7 GT/s 2 GB 120W $199.99
GTX 970 1050 1178 56 104 1664 224+32 7 GT/s 3.5+0.5GB 145W $329.99
GTX 980 1126 1216 64 128 2048 256 7 GT/s 4 GB 165W $499.99
GTX 980 Ti 1002 1075 96 176 2816 384 7 GT/s 6 GB 250W $649.99
Titan X 1002 1075 96 192 3072 384 7 GT/s 12 GB 250W $999.99

The table above shows the revised GeForce lineup, and you'll notice that the GTX 980 Ti lists for $649.99. That's a nice discount from the one-grand price of the Titan X, especially considering how similar the two products really are. The GTX 980 Ti will come with a copy of Batman: Arkham Knight, as well. That's not exactly a bargain, but it's a way better deal than the $1K flagship.

Speaking of which, to make room for the 980 Ti, Nvidia has also dropped the price of the vanilla GeForce GTX 980 by 50 bucks to $499.99.

Beyond that basic info, there's not much more to say about this new GeForce. The board is rated for 250W of peak power draw, so Nvidia recommends a 600W PSU for the host system. You'll need one eight-pin PCIe aux power lead and one six-pin lead in order to power the card.

As you can see, our review unit comes with Nvidia's standard silver-and-black reference cooler with light-up green lettering across the top. I still like the looks of it, and the cooler's performance is pretty solid, although the Titan X's black-out paint job is easier on the eyes, in my estimation.

Nvidia is releasing a little bit of other news today to go along with the GTX 980 Ti's introduction. Among those tidbits is an update on G-Sync and some new software tech for virtual reality game development, which I've covered separately. Now, let's see how this puppy performs.