MSI GTX 980 Ti Gaming 6G
MSI video cards are easy to spot with their distinctive red-and-black color schemes, dragon-themed iconography, and more pipes than a Colorado dispensary.
The GTX 980 Ti Gaming 6G will currently set you back $679 at Newegg, yet it has one of the most aggressive combinations of cooling and clock speed in this bunch. The Gaming 6G's base and boost clocks are 1178 and 1279MHz, respectively, and its memory runs at 7.1Gbps, a tick above the stock 7Gbps speed.
Heat removal comes courtesy of the flashy Twin Frozr V cooler. The two fans on this puppy are independently controlled, so each one only spins as fast as needed—and they stop rotating entirely when not required. Notice that there's a shiny area with a kink in it in every other fan blade. MSI says the mix of two blade types allows for better dispersion of air across the heatsinks. Makes sense, I suppose.
Both the Gaming 6G board and the Twin Frozr cooler are larger than the 980 Ti reference design. The heatpipes curve up above the PCIe slot cover tops by about 1.25", and the board's about a half-inch longer than the reference one at roughly 11". This combination of length and height ought to fit well in the majority of today's popular mid-tower ATX cases, but it could prove difficult to squeeze into mATX enclosures or anything that's less than spacious.
Pull off the cooler, and you'll see that MSI's card "only" has four heatpipes, but a couple of those pipes make an S-curve and snake into the heatsink fins in two places. I don't want to give away too much, but this arrangement and the dual blade types really do seem to work well together, as we'll soon see.
The entire rear expanse of the Gaming 6G is covered by a protective backplate. That little MSI dragon logo you can see peeking up between the SLI connectors and the heatpipes is illuminated by a white LED, and MSI's Gaming app lets users choose from a range of lighting effects like "breathing," flashing, and static illumination.
In addition to that Gaming app, MSI offers its excellent Afterburner tweaking utility for overclocking, a six-month subscription to XSplit Gamecaster for live streaming via Twitch, and that familiar MGS V bundle at select retailers.
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