NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980 Overclocking Video Card Review

Author:Brent Justice

Editor:Kyle Bennett

Date: Wednesday, October 08, 2014

The new NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980 makes overclocking GPUs a ton of fun again. Its extremely high clock rates achieved when you turn the right dials and sliders result in real world gaming advantages. We will compare it to a GeForce GTX 780 Ti and Radeon R9 290X; all overclocked head-to-head.


On September 18th, 2014 NVIDIA launched two GPUs based on its new Maxwell architecture. At the high-end is the GeForce GTX 980 with an MSRP of $549 and right beneath that lies the GeForce GTX 970 at $329. In our initial evaluation of the GeForce GTX 980 we compared it to the then previous champ, the GeForce GTX 780 Ti. We also compared it to AMD's competition the AMD Radeon R9 290X.

The GeForce GTX 780 Ti was the flagship from NVIDIA until the GeForce GTX 980 supplanted it and showed us that it does perform better than the GTX 780 Ti at stock clock speeds. The AMD Radeon R9 290X is AMD's current flagship video card, and the GeForce GTX 980 also gave it a run for its money.

In our initial evaluation we hinted at the fact that NVIDIA claimed the GeForce GTX 980 and 970 would both be excellent overclockers. NVIDIA had quoted to us at its NVIDIA Editors Day clock speeds possibly hitting or exceeding 1450MHz out of the GeForce GTX 980. In this evaluation we are going to show you what we have achieved out of the reference GeForce GTX 980 video card.

MSI GeForce GTX 970 GAMING Overclock

Before we drive into the GeForce GTX 980's overclock we need to look back at how the GeForce GTX 970 overclocked since we have reviewed a retail MSI GTX 970 recently. In our MSI GeForce GTX 970 GAMING evaluation we found that indeed the GeForce GTX 970 does overclock very well. We managed to overclock the video card from 1366MHz (which is already an overclock compared to NVIDIA's reference spec) to 1506MHz!

Never before had we seen such high GPU frequency numbers on a GPU before. 1.5GHz on a GPU is amazing, to add on to that amazing the memory also overclocked extremely well up to 8GHz, a frequency again never seen yet on video card RAM. The overclock paid off too, we saw a large boost in performance that made the video card own its competition.

Power Delivery

Before we begin, note that there is a power delivery system difference between the GeForce GTX 980 and GTX 970 we have discussed. It is important to read the above document again so that you know the GeForce GTX 980 does have a more intelligent power delivery system compared to the GeForce GTX 970. Whether this helps us achieve a better overclock is unknown. As we look at custom retail card overclocks in the future, employing even better components than this reference video card, we may see even better overclocks, something to keep in mind.

Goals of this Evaluation

With the high overclock we achieved out of the GeForce GTX 970 we had high hopes for the GeForce GTX 980. Do note however, we are using a reference GeForce GTX 980 as sent to us by NVIDIA for these overclocks today. This is not a retail card. We have a full retail GTX 980 review lined up where we will also look at overclocking. However, just because this is a reference video card don't let that dissuade you from thinking it won't overclock well, or doesn't have potential. You are about to be surprised.

This entire evaluation is a complete "overclocking focused" review. The competing cards are fully overclocked, and we are comparing overclock-to-overclock. If you want to see what the GeForce GTX 980 looks like compared to the GeForce GTX 780 Ti and AMD Radeon R9 290X at default clock speeds, read our launch evaluation of the GeForce GTX 980.

This review takes all the cards, and overclocks these head-to-head. We are using an ASUS GeForce GTX 780 Ti DirectCU II OC video card and overclocking it to it best stable clock during gaming. We are taking an ASUS Radeon R9 290X DirectCU II OC video card and also overclocking it to its best stable gaming clock. We do have the default GeForce GTX 980 information included so that you can compare and see how the overclock improves the gameplay experience and performance of the GTX 980 itself. The main idea behind this evaluation is just to take all three video cards, overclock these as much as possible and see how performance compares.