NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980 Review: Does Maxwell Bring Maximum Gameplay?

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by Rob Williams on September 18, 2014 in Graphics & Displays

NVIDIA’s next-gen GeForce series is here, and it brings with it a slew of new features and enhancements worth knowing about. Based on Maxwell, the GTX 900 series delivers much-improved performance-per-watt, with the GTX 980 in particular performing better than the 780 Ti – but with a TDP of 85W less. You read that right. Let’s dig in.

Best Playable: Multi-Display

With the results seen on the previous page, we learned that all three of the cards included can handle today’s games at the resolution of 2560×1440 without much issue. In most cases, the detail levels in each game can be cranked right up, and I think it’s safe to say that you’ll probably get liveable framerates by doing that with any modern game (let’s ignore Crysis 3 at Very High detail for a moment).

As great a resolution as 1440p is, though, it’s only 3.68 megapixels. Contrast that to our multi-monitor resolution of 5760×1080, which is 6.22 megapixels. Clearly, that will require even more GPU horsepower to tear through, so let’s see how all of these cards – especially the GTX 980 – fare.

 Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag
MinimumAverage
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 9805260
Graphics Settings
& Ingame Screenshot
Resolution: 5760×1080
Environment:Very HighShadow:High
Texture:HighReflection:High
Anti-aliasing:FXAAGod Rays:Low
Ambient Occlusion:OffVolumetric Fog:On
Motion BlurOn 
Assassin's Creed IV Black Flag - Best Playable Multi-Monitor - NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 780 Ti4859
Graphics Settings
& Ingame Screenshot
Resolution: 5760×1080
Environment:HighShadow:Normal
Texture:HighReflection:Normal
Anti-aliasing:FXAAGod Rays:Low
Ambient Occlusion:OffVolumetric Fog:On
Motion BlurOn 
Assassin's Creed IV Black Flag - Best Playable Multi-Monitor - NVIDIA GeForce GTX 780 Ti
AMD Radeon R9 290X4456
Graphics Settings
& Ingame Screenshot
Resolution: 5760×1080
Environment:HighShadow:Normal
Texture:HighReflection:Normal
Anti-aliasing:FXAAGod Rays:Low
Ambient Occlusion:OffVolumetric Fog:On
Motion BlurOn 
Assassin's Creed IV Black Flag - Best Playable Multi-Monitor - AMD Radeon R9 290X

Right off the bat, we see proof of just how much more power the GTX 980 can avail when pushed hard. While with the 290X and 780 Ti, I had to drop some of the detail levels, I was able to largely retain them with the GTX 980. The exception is with AO, which had to be turned off, and God Rays, which was dropped from High to Low (there’s no Medium, for some reason). Not only did the GTX 980 manage to run with higher detail levels, it even gives us better framerates overall.

 Battlefield 4
MinimumAverage
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 9805163
Graphics Settings
& Ingame Screenshot
Resolution: 5760×1080
Texture Quality:HighTexture Filtering:High
Lighting:HighEffects:High
Post Processing:HighMesh:High
Terrain:HighTerrain Decoration:High
Anti-aliasing Deferred:OffAnti-aliasing Post:High
Ambient Occlusion:HBAO  
Battlefield 4 - Best Playable Multi-Monitor - NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 780 Ti4355
Graphics Settings
& Ingame Screenshot
Resolution: 5760×1080
Texture Quality:HighTexture Filtering:High
Lighting:HighEffects:High
Post Processing:HighMesh:High
Terrain:HighTerrain Decoration:High
Anti-aliasing Deferred:OffAnti-aliasing Post:Medium
Ambient Occlusion:HBAO  
Battlefield 4 - Best Playable Multi-Monitor - NVIDIA GeForce GTX 780 Ti
AMD Radeon R9 290X4961
Graphics Settings
& Ingame Screenshot
Resolution: 5760×1080
Texture Quality:HighTexture Filtering:High
Lighting:HighEffects:High
Post Processing:HighMesh:High
Terrain:HighTerrain Decoration:High
Anti-aliasing Deferred:OffAnti-aliasing Post:Medium
Ambient Occlusion:SSAO  
Battlefield 4 - Best Playable Multi-Monitor - AMD Radeon R9 290X

In Battlefield 4, the GTX 980 retains the same detail levels of the GTX 780 Ti, but tosses 8 FPS extra onto the average. Where an FPS and the 60 framerate mark is concerned, that’s a very good thing.

 Crysis 3
MinimumAverage
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 9804058
Graphics Settings
& Ingame Screenshot
Resolution: 5760×1080
Anti-aliasing:FXAATexture:Medium
Effects:MediumObject:Medium
Particles:MediumPost Processing:Medium
Shading:MediumShadows:Medium
Water:MediumAnisotropic Filtering:x16
Motion Blur:MediumLens Flares:Yes
Crysis 3 - Best Playable Multi-Monitor - NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 780 Ti4257
Graphics Settings
& Ingame Screenshot
Resolution: 5760×1080
Anti-aliasing:FXAATexture:Medium
Effects:MediumObject:Medium
Particles:MediumPost Processing:Medium
Shading:MediumShadows:Medium
Water:MediumAnisotropic Filtering:x16
Motion Blur:MediumLens Flares:Yes
Crysis 3 - Best Playable Multi-Monitor - NVIDIA GeForce GTX 780 Ti
AMD Radeon R9 290X3755
Graphics Settings
& Ingame Screenshot
Resolution: 5760×1080
Anti-aliasing:FXAATexture:Medium
Effects:MediumObject:Medium
Particles:MediumPost Processing:Medium
Shading:MediumShadows:Medium
Water:MediumAnisotropic Filtering:x16
Motion Blur:MediumLens Flares:Yes
Crysis 3 - Best Playable Multi-Monitor - AMD Radeon R9 290X

Crysis 3 has proven to be a bit too much for the GTX 980, disallowing us to go higher than Medium. Sticking to that setting, we just about scratch the 60 FPS mark. Interestingly enough, the 780 Ti doesn’t fall far behind here, nor does the 290X for that matter. This game, along with this huge resolution, begs for a second GPU.

 GRID 2
MinimumAverage
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 9805561
Graphics Settings
& Ingame Screenshot
Resolution: 5760×1080
Multisampling:4x MSAANight Lighting:High
Shadows:UltraAdvanced Fog:On
Particles:UltraCrowd:Ultra
Cloth:HighAmbient Occlusion:Ultra
Soft Ambient Occlusion:OnGround Cover:High
Vehicle Details:HighTrees:Ultra
Objects:UltraVehicle Reflections:Ultra
Water:HighPost Process:High
Skidmarks:OnAdvanced Lighting:On
Global Illumination:OnAnisotropic Filtering:Ultra
GRID 2 - Best Playable Multi-Monitor - NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 780 Ti5763
Graphics Settings
& Ingame Screenshot
Resolution: 5760×1080
Multisampling:4x MSAANight Lighting:High
Shadows:UltraAdvanced Fog:On
Particles:UltraCrowd:Ultra
Cloth:HighAmbient Occlusion:High
Soft Ambient Occlusion:OnGround Cover:High
Vehicle Details:HighTrees:Ultra
Objects:UltraVehicle Reflections:Ultra
Water:HighPost Process:High
Skidmarks:OnAdvanced Lighting:On
Global Illumination:OffAnisotropic Filtering:Ultra
GRID 2 - Best Playable Multi-Monitor - NVIDIA GeForce GTX 780 Ti
AMD Radeon R9 290X5460
Graphics Settings
& Ingame Screenshot
Resolution: 5760×1080
Multisampling:4x MSAANight Lighting:High
Shadows:UltraAdvanced Fog:On
Particles:UltraCrowd:Ultra
Cloth:HighAmbient Occlusion:Ultra
Soft Ambient Occlusion:OnGround Cover:High
Vehicle Details:HighTrees:Ultra
Objects:UltraVehicle Reflections:Ultra
Water:HighPost Process:High
Skidmarks:OnAdvanced Lighting:On
Global Illumination:OffAnisotropic Filtering:Ultra
GRID 2 - Best Playable Multi-Monitor - AMD Radeon R9 290X

The 290X had to see global illumination dropped in order to bring us to 60 FPS, while the 780 Ti saw that, as well as AO decreased a tad. The GTX 980, by contrast, ran just fine with everything maxed-out.

 Sleeping Dogs
MinimumAverage
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 9807085
Graphics Settings
& Ingame Screenshot
Resolution: 5760×1080
Anti-aliasing:NormalHigh-res Textures:On
Shadow Resolution:HighShadow Filtering:High
Ambient Occlusion:HighMotion Blur:High
World Density:Extreme 
Sleeping Dogs - Best Playable Multi-Monitor - NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 780 Ti5178
Graphics Settings
& Ingame Screenshot
Resolution: 5760×1080
Anti-aliasing:NormalHigh-res Textures:On
Shadow Resolution:HighShadow Filtering:High
Ambient Occlusion:HighMotion Blur:High
World Density:Extreme 
Sleeping Dogs - Best Playable Multi-Monitor - NVIDIA GeForce GTX 780 Ti
AMD Radeon R9 290X5973
Graphics Settings
& Ingame Screenshot
Resolution: 5760×1080
Anti-aliasing:NormalHigh-res Textures:On
Shadow Resolution:HighShadow Filtering:High
Ambient Occlusion:HighMotion Blur:High
World Density:Extreme 
Sleeping Dogs - Best Playable Multi-Monitor - AMD Radeon R9 290X

With so few graphics options to work with, it’s probably not much of a surprise that all of these Best Playable settings match. Despite the fact that the GTX 980 peaked at 85, the performance hit from putting AA on High was too much.

 Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell: Blacklist
MinimumAverage
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 9805672
Graphics Settings
& Ingame Screenshot
Resolution: 5760×1080
Texture Detail:UltraShadow:Ultra
Parallax:OnTessellation:On
Texture Filtering:16xAmbient Occlusion:Field AO
Anti-aliasing:FXAA 
Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell Blacklist - Best Playable Multi-Monitor - NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 780 Ti5371
Graphics Settings
& Ingame Screenshot
Resolution: 5760×1080
Texture Detail:UltraShadow:Ultra
Parallax:OnTessellation:On
Texture Filtering:16xAmbient Occlusion:Field AO
Anti-aliasing:FXAA 
Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell Blacklist - Best Playable Multi-Monitor - NVIDIA GeForce GTX 780 Ti
AMD Radeon R9 290X5065
Graphics Settings
& Ingame Screenshot
Resolution: 5760×1080
Texture Detail:UltraShadow:Ultra
Parallax:OnTessellation:On
Texture Filtering:16xAmbient Occlusion:Field AO
Anti-aliasing:FXAA 
Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell Blacklist - Best Playable Multi-Monitor - AMD Radeon R9 290X

Similar to what we saw with our Crysis 3 results, there really is no difference at the top-end between the 780 Ti and GTX 980 with Blacklist.

Rob Williams

Rob founded Techgage in 2005 to be an 'Advocate of the consumer', focusing on fair reviews and keeping people apprised of news in the tech world. Catering to both enthusiasts and businesses alike; from desktop gaming to professional workstations, and all the supporting software.

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