ASUS GTX 980 STRIX OC Review
Months after its launch the GTX 980 remains one of the most popular cards around, especially now that its inventory situation has largely cleared up. While there are now plenty of options out there at various price and performance points, ASUS’ GTX 980 STRIX OC is typically one of the first options gamers turn towards.
The reason for this dedication should be evident: despite including a raft of advanced features, the STRIX OC is one of the more “affordable” options right now. While many competing cards go for $590 and more, ASUS is focusing on attaining market share by hitting the $570 price point. Granted, that’s $20 more than a reference card goes for but in this case the premium gets you a lot more than a basic blower-style setup and baseline components.
ASUS may give the “OC” designation to this particular card but that doesn’t necessarily mean that it has been overclocked to an extreme amount. That’s the domain of their Matrix and Matrix Platinum models. In this case the STRIX hits a modest 1178MHz Base Clock and 1279MHz for its average Boost frequency. As we’ve seen in the past these are likely underrated somewhat since the DirectCU II heatsink should provide ample thermal overhead for even higher frequencies without any user overclocking.
As usual the memory hasn’t been touched since binning GDDR5 modules for consistency above and beyond their rated spec is a time consuming and expensive process. That would have caused the GTX 980 STRIX OC’s price to spiral out of control in relation to its competitors.
We’ve already reviewed ASUS GTX 970 STRIX OC and the GTX 980 version is a literal carbon copy in many ways. It uses the same DirectCU II heatsink, the same expanded PCB and boasts the same 11” length. For those of you who want to install this graphics card into smaller SFF cases, make note of its portly girth of 5.3” which may make compatibility impossible in some situations.
Past the obvious size difference between a reference card and the STRIX, ASUS has included their DirectCU II heatsink which is equipped with a pair of 92mm fans and a metric ton of thermal mass. Some of you may be wondering why the card is so large when compared to other options but there’s a method to the madness; due to the heatsink’s size, the STRIX is able to completely shut its fans off and operate silently provided temperatures remain under 65°C. While this threshold can be modified within ASUS’ GPU Tweak utility, when playing under light gaming loads or idling in many workspace applications, the fans remain silent.
That heatsink is a large affair that makes use of a direct-contact base for its heatpipes and quick heat dissipation via a large fin array. There are also secondary heatsinks covering the memory modules and certain components of the expanded 10-phase all digital PWM.
ASUS has also gone to great lengths to reduce coil whine on these cards by housing their chokes in high density material. Unfortunately, it is impossible to completely eliminate coil noise in every conceivable situation but strides have been made in an effort to at least minimize the likeliness it will be a widespread phenomenon.
ASUS has implemented a large-scale backplate on their STRIX OC in an effort to better dissipate any built up heat in some key zones. It includes several small perforations to insure the actual PCB receives a bit of airflow. There’s also an aluminum stiffening strip that runs from just behind the SLI connectors to the rearmost portion of the card and is supposed to prevent the PCB from flexing under the cooler’s substantial weight.
In the previous photo you may have noticed a cutout on the backplate. This area houses the voltage read points for the GPU’s core, memory and PLL. Not many gamers will use these but overclockers with access to custom BIOSes will appreciate their inclusion.
While the reference card receives a basic 6+6 pin layout, ASUS has decided to go with a 6+8 pin power layout which concentrates input current directly from the power supply. This is also supposed to minimize the amount of power coming directly through the PCI-E interface, thus guaranteeing a “cleaner” profile. There are also small LEDs on each connector which glow red to indicate it’s not plugged in while a green flow points to a good connection.
The SLI connector on this card certainly looks odd due to its long projection out past the PCB’s typical boundaries but like all other things on the STRIX, this is a design feature rather than an oddity. Due to the heatsink’s width, it would be almost impossible to connect two cards together once they’re installed into a case. Hence ASUS has pushed the connector outwards, making access all that much easier.
The rear-facing connector layout follows the path taken by the reference design. There’s a trio of DisplayPort 1.2 connectors, a HDMI output and a single legacy DVI-D output.
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