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Thread: GTX 980 Reference Card worth the money?

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    Default GTX 980 Reference Card worth the money?

    So I have been advised with my rig that I can support and overclock a 980 GTX Reference card. What is the difference and would it be necessary to get one over a regular 980 or 970 card?

    EVGA GeForce GTX 980 4GB Superclocked Video Card (04G-P4-2982-KR) - PCPartPicker
    ^ That is what was advised. $600+

    EVGA GeForce GTX 970 4GB FTW ACX 2.0 Video Card (04G-P4-2978-KR) - PCPartPicker
    ^ That is what I was originally going to purchase. $360+

    Questions:
    What is a reference card? vs a Super-clocked or FTW card?
    How would this benefit me? (Quieter, better FPS, etc?)

    the extra $200 can buy me an additional SSD card, but if the 980 Reference card benefits me more then I can wait for the ssd and spend a little more for the card.

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    Default Re: GTX 980 Reference Card worth the money?

    Short answer: a reference card is one that is identical to the "reference" circuit board design that nVidia or AMD produce to show to the AIB (add-in board) partners when they go to make their own variant; it typically also has a "reference" cooler on it like the one you tend to see in initial advertising for the cards.

    The Details:

    This can be of benefit to you if you plan to water cool the cards at any given point in time since these will be the version sold the most, and water block manufacturers have to make blocks that cater to the greatest common denominator; too pricey to produce a water block for a card that only sells in tiny quantities. You also get a blower-type cooler design typically, which means that you will have an easier tome keeping ambient temps in your computer down since all heat is directed out the back of the case should you keep it air cooled.

    A downside is that sometimes reference coolers are pretty bad, like the R9 series reference coolers that AMD had on the R9 290 and 290X: noisy and inefficient. If they're alright then they still tend to be louder than aftermarket solutions at the very least.

    Custom PCB cards (like the EVGA GTX 980 Classified or the Asus Strix 980) have specialized voltage regulation and delivery, as well as a fully custom cooling solution and a custom circuit board layout to accommodate what is supposed to be a more premium product out of the box, but sometimes at the expense of the card not being compatible with full cover water blocks and occasionally exhibiting a noise known as "coil whine" (think electric white noise that doesn't sound quite like anything that is "moving," per say... like a ringing in your ear only scratchier). Coil whine is just something that higher end products tend to do because of all the power they tend to want to consume relative to their lower tier counterparts.

    Custom PCB cards tend to come with higher clock speeds than a reference card, which will typically ship with OEM-based solutions. The likes of EVGA, however, will also ship reference-designed cards that DO have a factory overclock on them for added performance out of the box. This is done within the card BIOS by the manufacturer and typically involves more careful selection of the GPU cores for their product (this is known as "speed binning"). These cards are the more sought after solutions by many since they will be compatible with damn near any cooling solution you could throw at it and the card will tend to behave very consistently across the board for most users since there is less margin for error on these.

    As for FPS in games... well that all comes down to clock speeds. Higher clock speeds within the same range of cards typically nets higher frame rates in games, barring any card-specific issues (the PowerColor PCS+ R9 290 was PLAGUED with black screen issues until they released a BIOS update for the card).

    Go for the most powerful card you can reasonably afford and that your PC can power and go to town. If the 970's price is more your speed then that card will serve you extremely well for up to 1440P gaming. The GTX 980 will clobber 1440P gaming and even offer solid framerates with many titles running at 4K... though if you have a 4K capable monitor already then chances are you have the scratch to afford the 980 anyway.

    This got lengthy I know, but I like to be thorough and not leave people wondering with short, overly simplified answers that do them no good at all. Hope this helped!

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    Default Re: GTX 980 Reference Card worth the money?

    Quote Originally Posted by Mgutierrez33 View Post
    Short answer: a reference card is one that is identical to the "reference" circuit board design that nVidia or AMD produce to show to the AIB (add-in board) partners when they go to make their own variant; it typically also has a "reference" cooler on it like the one you tend to see in initial advertising for the cards.

    The Details:

    This can be of benefit to you if you plan to water cool the cards at any given point in time since these will be the version sold the most, and water block manufacturers have to make blocks that cater to the greatest common denominator; too pricey to produce a water block for a card that only sells in tiny quantities. You also get a blower-type cooler design typically, which means that you will have an easier tome keeping ambient temps in your computer down since all heat is directed out the back of the case should you keep it air cooled.

    A downside is that sometimes reference coolers are pretty bad, like the R9 series reference coolers that AMD had on the R9 290 and 290X: noisy and inefficient. If they're alright then they still tend to be louder than aftermarket solutions at the very least.

    Custom PCB cards (like the EVGA GTX 980 Classified or the Asus Strix 980) have specialized voltage regulation and delivery, as well as a fully custom cooling solution and a custom circuit board layout to accommodate what is supposed to be a more premium product out of the box, but sometimes at the expense of the card not being compatible with full cover water blocks and occasionally exhibiting a noise known as "coil whine" (think electric white noise that doesn't sound quite like anything that is "moving," per say... like a ringing in your ear only scratchier). Coil whine is just something that higher end products tend to do because of all the power they tend to want to consume relative to their lower tier counterparts.

    Custom PCB cards tend to come with higher clock speeds than a reference card, which will typically ship with OEM-based solutions. The likes of EVGA, however, will also ship reference-designed cards that DO have a factory overclock on them for added performance out of the box. This is done within the card BIOS by the manufacturer and typically involves more careful selection of the GPU cores for their product (this is known as "speed binning"). These cards are the more sought after solutions by many since they will be compatible with damn near any cooling solution you could throw at it and the card will tend to behave very consistently across the board for most users since there is less margin for error on these.

    As for FPS in games... well that all comes down to clock speeds. Higher clock speeds within the same range of cards typically nets higher frame rates in games, barring any card-specific issues (the PowerColor PCS+ R9 290 was PLAGUED with black screen issues until they released a BIOS update for the card).

    Go for the most powerful card you can reasonably afford and that your PC can power and go to town. If the 970's price is more your speed then that card will serve you extremely well for up to 1440P gaming. The GTX 980 will clobber 1440P gaming and even offer solid framerates with many titles running at 4K... though if you have a 4K capable monitor already then chances are you have the scratch to afford the 980 anyway.

    This got lengthy I know, but I like to be thorough and not leave people wondering with short, overly simplified answers that do them no good at all. Hope this helped!


    Great answer Mike. Thanks for helping him with a complete picture.
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    Default Re: GTX 980 Reference Card worth the money?

    Quote Originally Posted by Mgutierrez33 View Post
    Short answer: a reference card is one that is identical to the "reference" circuit board design that nVidia or AMD produce to show to the AIB (add-in board) partners when they go to make their own variant; it typically also has a "reference" cooler on it like the one you tend to see in initial advertising for the cards.

    The Details:

    This can be of benefit to you if you plan to water cool the cards at any given point in time since these will be the version sold the most, and water block manufacturers have to make blocks that cater to the greatest common denominator; too pricey to produce a water block for a card that only sells in tiny quantities. You also get a blower-type cooler design typically, which means that you will have an easier tome keeping ambient temps in your computer down since all heat is directed out the back of the case should you keep it air cooled.

    A downside is that sometimes reference coolers are pretty bad, like the R9 series reference coolers that AMD had on the R9 290 and 290X: noisy and inefficient. If they're alright then they still tend to be louder than aftermarket solutions at the very least.

    Custom PCB cards (like the EVGA GTX 980 Classified or the Asus Strix 980) have specialized voltage regulation and delivery, as well as a fully custom cooling solution and a custom circuit board layout to accommodate what is supposed to be a more premium product out of the box, but sometimes at the expense of the card not being compatible with full cover water blocks and occasionally exhibiting a noise known as "coil whine" (think electric white noise that doesn't sound quite like anything that is "moving," per say... like a ringing in your ear only scratchier). Coil whine is just something that higher end products tend to do because of all the power they tend to want to consume relative to their lower tier counterparts.

    Custom PCB cards tend to come with higher clock speeds than a reference card, which will typically ship with OEM-based solutions. The likes of EVGA, however, will also ship reference-designed cards that DO have a factory overclock on them for added performance out of the box. This is done within the card BIOS by the manufacturer and typically involves more careful selection of the GPU cores for their product (this is known as "speed binning"). These cards are the more sought after solutions by many since they will be compatible with damn near any cooling solution you could throw at it and the card will tend to behave very consistently across the board for most users since there is less margin for error on these.

    As for FPS in games... well that all comes down to clock speeds. Higher clock speeds within the same range of cards typically nets higher frame rates in games, barring any card-specific issues (the PowerColor PCS+ R9 290 was PLAGUED with black screen issues until they released a BIOS update for the card).

    Go for the most powerful card you can reasonably afford and that your PC can power and go to town. If the 970's price is more your speed then that card will serve you extremely well for up to 1440P gaming. The GTX 980 will clobber 1440P gaming and even offer solid framerates with many titles running at 4K... though if you have a 4K capable monitor already then chances are you have the scratch to afford the 980 anyway.

    This got lengthy I know, but I like to be thorough and not leave people wondering with short, overly simplified answers that do them no good at all. Hope this helped!
    lengthy ? This was perfect!!! Thank You!

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    Default Re: GTX 980 Reference Card worth the money?

    Quote Originally Posted by Mgutierrez33 View Post
    This got lengthy I know, but I like to be thorough and not leave people wondering with short, overly simplified answers that do them no good at all. Hope this helped!
    Yeah it did! This thing went FOREVER!

    On a serious note, that was an awesome explanation and cleared some questions up I never knew I had.

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    Default Re: GTX 980 Reference Card worth the money?

    I went ahead and narrowed this down, the 980 is to expensive right now so taking that off my list. Here is my options, which would be the best?

    EVGA 04G-2974-KR GeForce GTX 970 Superclocked 4GB 256-Bit GDDR5 ACX 2.0 PCI Express 3.0

    http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16814487076&nm_mc=AFC-C8Junction&cm_mmc=AFC-C8Junction-_-na-_-na-_-na&cm_sp=&AID=10446076&PID=3938566&SID=

    EVGA 04G-2978-KR GeForce GTX 970 FTW 4GB 256-Bit GDDR5 ACX 2.0 PCI Express 3.0

    http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16814487077&nm_mc=AFC-C8Junction&cm_mmc=AFC-C8Junction-_-na-_-na-_-na&cm_sp=&AID=10446076&PID=3938566&SID=

    NVIDIA GeForce GTX 970 4GB Video Card

    http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16814132038&nm_mc=KNC-GoogleAdwords-PC&cm_mmc=KNC-GoogleAdwords-PC-_-pla-_-Desktop+Graphics+Cards-_-N82E16814132038&gclid=Cj0KEQiAhvujBRDUpomG5cq_mI0B EiQA7TYq-tFbGJZE79y8encEJWtIPOx67RjnJ48QFKuh-Uve1JAaAr2b8P8HAQ

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    Default Re: GTX 980 Reference Card worth the money?

    I could well be mistaken, but I have this nagging memory telling me that the FTW cards use the reference board but have an upgraded power delivery system. I need to see if I can find confirmation one way or the other.

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    Default Re: GTX 980 Reference Card worth the money?

    Quote Originally Posted by Ciarlatano View Post
    I could well be mistaken, but I have this nagging memory telling me that the FTW cards use the reference board but have an upgraded power delivery system. I need to see if I can find confirmation one way or the other.
    I belive your right the SC FTW is a reference design

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    Default Re: GTX 980 Reference Card worth the money?

    Quote Originally Posted by ali500mph View Post
    I went ahead and narrowed this down, the 980 is to expensive right now so taking that off my list. Here is my options, which would be the best?

    EVGA 04G-2974-KR GeForce GTX 970 Superclocked 4GB 256-Bit GDDR5 ACX 2.0 PCI Express 3.0

    EVGA 04G-2974-KR GeForce GTX 970 Superclocked 4GB 256-Bit GDDR5 ACX 2.0 PCI Express 3.0 - Newegg.com

    EVGA 04G-2978-KR GeForce GTX 970 FTW 4GB 256-Bit GDDR5 ACX 2.0 PCI Express 3.0

    EVGA 04G-2978-KR GeForce GTX 970 FTW 4GB 256-Bit GDDR5 ACX 2.0 PCI Express 3.0 - Newegg.com

    NVIDIA GeForce GTX 970 4GB Video Card

    NVIDIA GeForce GTX 970 4GB Video Card (Require Min. 500W Power Supply) - Newegg.com
    Of those cards, IF you can swing the cash for it I would go for the FTW edition card. It performs admirably right now, and in the near future EK is going to be producing a full cover waterblock for this card for the purposes of water cooling. This block should also be compatible with the standard SC model. The reason it's taking them a bit longer with this card is because even though it's using mostly stock silicon, it still utilizes what I refer to as a "semi-custom" PCB in that it's a full length PCB rather than the shorty PCB that the "reference design" (which didn't actually exist for the 970 except from Overclockers UK as a unique partnership) utilizes. Even if you don't water cool the card, EVGA cards are some of the strongest examples of nVidia cards that you can find, and I recommend those over damn near every other variant. Another awesome nVidia AIB partner is Galax (formerly Galaxy). My fiance uses one of their reference model GTX 670 cards and the thing is a monster in it's own right. It actually keeps up with my 280X because it overclocks itself so damn well out of the box (1105 MHz core on it's own). For a reference card that is pretty rare for a 670.

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    Default Re: GTX 980 Reference Card worth the money?

    @Mgutierrez33
    That was a Great explanation Mike, very detailed and complete.

    Always look beyond the limits...

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