Graphics Cards

ZOTAC GTX 980 Ti ArcticStorm Graphics Card Review

Price / Where to Buy:

US –  US$769 – ZOTAC GTX 980 Ti ArcticStorm on Amazon
PH – Approx. Php36,500

Graphics card cooling has been mostly a air-cooling affair. Those who do jump to watercooling need to purchase separate waterblocks which tend to cost a good fraction of the price of your GPU. This alone is one of the reasons some people forego watercooling their GPUs or custom watercooling loops altogether. Recently though we’ve seen attempts from companies to integrated liquid cooling with their graphics cards. This has been done in two ways: AIO cooling where a closed-loop cooler is attached to the GPU or via an hybrid cooling solution. The latter has been more scarce with ASUS’ ROG Poseidon-class cards being the most notable models possessing such cooling solutions but ZOTAC has decided to join the hybrid-cooling with their new lineup of ArcticStorm GPUs starting with the one we have right now for this review: the ZOTAC GTX 980 Ti ArcticStorm. Read on to find out more about this card:

  • 2816 CUDA cores. 384-bit memory bus. Engine clock (base): 1025 MHz, (boost): 1114 MHz Memory clock: 7010 MHz
  • 3 x Display Port 1.2 (4k at 60 Hz). 1 x HDMI (4k at 60 Hz). 1 x Dual-link DVI (2560×1600). Quad simultaneous display capable.
  • NVIDIA GeForce driver. Microsoft DirectX 12. OpenGL 4.4. Open CL. Microsoft Windows Vista/7/8 x86/x64.
  • 600-watt power supply recommended. 250-watt max power consumption. 6-pin PCI Express power connectors. 8-pin PCI Express power connectors.
  • Arctic Storm hybrid cooling system. All Copper Water block. Carbon Exo Armor. FREEZE Technology. Triple 90mm fans. NVIDIA PhysX technology. NVIDIA SLI ready. NVIDIA Surround technology.
  • Package Contents : ZT-90502-10P, DVI-to-VGA Adapter Dual 4-pin MOLEX-to-6-pin PCIe adapter, Dual 6-pin MOLEX-to-8-pin PCIe adapter, Driver Disk, and User Manual Card Supporter.
  • Extended warranty included with every graphics card purchase. User registration required on ZOTAC website.

Official product page

About the ZOTAC GTX 980 Ti ArcticStorm

zotacgtx980ti_arcticstormWe checked out the ZOTAC GTX 980 Ti ArcticStorm during Computex and really noted and beefy it was. Not only was it the first integrated waterblock cooler from Zotac, it was also the heaviest they had. Aside from its physically imposing weight and size, the Zotac GTX 980 Ti ArcticStorm features the same appearance as its AMP! Omega brethren with a few distinct differences, the primary being the integrated waterblock and fittings that lead to it to connect with your existing loop. Specs wise, ZOTAC has been a bit conservative with a 1114Mhz boost clock and an practically untouched 7010Mhz memory clock.

ABOUT THE GTX 980 Ti

GeForce_GTX_980Ti_PCB_resize

The Maxwell architecture is NVIDIA’s greatest achievement as of late given its efficiency compared to the last generation. While it doesn’t serve as a great leap in terms of performance, many people are still convinced by the excellent performance-per-watt ratio. Both the GTX 980 and GTX 970 have been largely in-demand primarily for the efficiency but the Maxwell-based GTX GPUs also introduced some new features including NVIDIA Voxel Global Illumination (VXGI), Multi-Frame sampled AA (MFAA), and Dynamic Super Resolution (DSR). Maxwell GPUs also support Microsoft’s upcoming DirectX 12 API.

In our review of the 12GB NVIDIA TITAN X, we noted how large the gap is jumping from the 980 to the Titan X. For some people, seeing the full GM200 GPU flex its muscle meant its inevitable it will be the precursor a comparable mainstream release. Enter the GTX 980 Ti.

The TITAN X boasts 3072 CUDA Cores, running at 1Ghz base clock complemented by a 12GB of VRAM wired to a 384-bit wide bus. The GeForce GTX 980 Ti sports 2816 CUDA cores, running 1000Mhz with a boost clock of 1075Mhz similar to the Titan X. Also similar with the Titan X is the memory clock also running at  7010Mhz wired to a 384-bit bus but VRAM is halved at 6GB on the GTX 980 Ti compared to the overly generous 12GB of the TITAN X.

NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980 Ti Reviewer's Guide

NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980 Ti Reviewer's Guide

The GTX 980 Ti is shows vast improvements from its predecessors as seen in the graph above. Maxwell has really been a solid achievement for NVIDIA and it shows as they continually advance the technology to improve performance especially at higher resolutions.

NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980 Ti Reviewer's Guide

DirectX 12 is one of the main highlights of the GeForce GTX 980 Ti, providing full support for advanced DX12 features like Volume Tiled Resource aand Conservative Raster which are exclusive to the DX12_1 feature set. This is in addition to the normal feature set provided by DX12.

NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980 Ti Reviewer's Guide

With its vast 6GB VRAM, NVIDIA is pushing heavily into 4K territories and are making it a point to market games for 4K playability. With the 980 Ti and Titan X, it is now possible to have a smoother 4K gaming experience with a single card with games like GTA V and Witcher 3 providing FPS numbers upwards of the 40s. NVIDIA is also betting on the popularity of virtual reality offering full support for VR headgears providing unique technologies to enhance performance on these platforms.

Product Gallery – ZOTAC GTX 980 Ti ArcticStorm

ZOTAC has mostly kept their packaging in the conservative side but the ArcticStorm deserves a bit of flare and ZOTAC knows this. The ZOTAC GTX 980 Ti ArcticStorm is packaged in a metallic-print, cardboard box with a nebula artwork in the front. The back of the package shows the features and details of the graphics card. Holding the box you’ll immediately feel how hefty the card is inside. Its really got some weight to it.

 

Here is the card by itself. Looking down on the card with the fans on top we can see the triple fan cooling that ZOTAC has employed to keep this card cool. Couple that with the dense heatsink inside the ExoArmor carbon-fibre shroud and you got a rather mean-looking card. From the other side though, we get a flashy, stylized backplate. ZOTAC is presumably one of the few brands that actually color-prints on their backplates, similar to what we saw on the GTX 960 MGS GZ edition. The ArcticStorm backplate features the same box art artwork with the giant PUSH THE LIMIT print in bold text emblazoned in the slotted surfaced.

The Zotac GTX 980 Ti ArcticStorm features a 2 slot design but the actual cooler is taller than that and might take up some more space. If your board doesn’t support wide spacing between cards, you might be limited to what SLI configuration you can run with multiples of this card.

ZOTAC GTX 980 Ti ArcticStorm 6GB Graphics Card Review
ZOTAC GTX 980 Ti ArcticStorm 6GB Graphics Card Review

The most unique aspect of this card is the integrated waterblock sitting on top of the GPU. This allows you to add the GTX 980 Ti ArcticStorm to an existing loop or expand it to one when you upgrade. While its not an original idea, ZOTAC does have the cooling potential advantage given its larger surface compared to the Poseidon hybrid cooling from ASUS. Advanced users can opt to change the orientation of their fittings with the help of some tools as seen above.

ZOTAC GTX 980 Ti ArcticStorm 6GB Graphics Card Review
ZOTAC GTX 980 Ti ArcticStorm 6GB Graphics Card Review

You’ll need to remove these fittings and it does take some hardware know-how. If you’ve worked on a bike or some plumbing before, you should be fine.

ZOTAC GTX 980 Ti ArcticStorm 6GB Graphics Card Review
ZOTAC GTX 980 Ti ArcticStorm 6GB Graphics Card Review

Here’s a close-up shot on the ArcticStorm barb fitting and a normal G1/4 3/8″ 5/8″ compression fitting.

ZOTAC GTX 980 Ti ArcticStorm 6GB Graphics Card Review
ZOTAC GTX 980 Ti ArcticStorm 6GB Graphics Card Review

The fittings also connect to a non-standard thread holes so you can’t use your G1/4 fittings on this one.

ZOTAC GTX 980 Ti ArcticStorm 6GB Graphics Card Review
ZOTAC GTX 980 Ti ArcticStorm 6GB Graphics Card Review

The pre-installed fittings on the ArcticStorm take 3/8 ID tubing. Here’s a 3/8″ 5/8″ tubing for example. Make sure to clamp those tubes down for a sure seal.

The ZOTAC GTX 980 Ti ArcticStorm is one heavy card. So heavy its support stand is a screw-on brace that needs to mount to a pole. This is a nifty addition but limits the cards usability. In watercooling applications though, its alright but for those sticking to fan cooling its a bit restrictive and you’ll need a large case for it. Otherwise you can use other ways of supporting the card’s weight.

ZOTAC GTX 980 Ti ArcticStorm 6GB Graphics Card Review
ZOTAC GTX 980 Ti ArcticStorm 6GB Graphics Card Review

Overclocking the ZOTAC GTX 980 Ti ArcticStorm

Overclocking any graphics card is pretty straightforward nowadays provided you know what to do and given that most companies also have their own overclocking software, makes it so much more approachable. We use the latest ZOTAC FireStorm for this test.

watercooled_temps

To see the most we can get from this card we put it in our loop first and see how far it goes under the best conditions. Thanks to the better thermal conditions, we get higher OC headroom and given NVIDIA Maxwell cards’ feature Boost capabilities which drive the core clocks higher when below thermal limits, we see the Zotac GTX 980 Ti ArcticStorm can boost up to 1215Mhz out of the box. That’s already well above the 1026Mhz factory OC we get from this card. But let’s see how far we can push this card further.

watercooled_temps_oc

We actually wanted to push this card further and went with a 1300Mhz core clock but it just wasn’t stable enough even with additional voltage. We reverted back to stock voltages and searched for our maximum stable OC which dropped us to 1266Mhz and but kept our memory clock to 8000Mhz which is our target memory for all GTX 980 Ti we’ve tested. Boost clocks for this gave us a peak of 1455Mhz but we felt we could do more on a better chip. We reached out to ZOTAC and asked if they cherry-picked GPUs for their high-end cards and we were told that they don’t. So for those hoping to get higher OCs, its all luck in the draw for this line.

PERFORMANCE

Test Setup

Processor: Intel Core i7 3770K 4.4Ghz
Motherboard: MSI Z77 Mpower
Memory: Kingston HyperX Beast DDR3-2400 16GB
Storage: Kingston HyperX FURY 240GB
PSU: Seasonic P1000
Cooling: Custom loop (XSPC Raystorm block, XSPC D5 Dual Bayres, BlackIce Stealth GT 240 rad)
Monitor: LG 42UB820T UltraHD TV
VGA: ZOTAC GTX 980 Ti Arctic Storm

For a full-hardware workout, visit http://www.futuremark.com for our benchmarks of choice.

We test our graphics card with a full-level playthrough of our selected game or the games’ built-in benchmark tool. We record the run with Fraps. Game settings are indicated in the charts. Resolutions are shown in the charts. Unlike our standard benchmarks. For this tests, we’ve changed a few things so some of games that we follow built-in options we’ve retained results from other results but for those other games that we’ve changed options, we’ve provided newer results and indicated settings also.

We basically run two configurations for our reviews: for high-end cards (980/Titan X/290X/780Ti) we run maximum in-game settings, for mainstream (GTX 960/970) and last generation cards we run default presets. AA is turned off in all 4K HD results unless defined by settings or indicated in graph. We will start including The Witcher 3 starting with our launch day review of the GTX 980 Ti so please bear with us as we grow that chart. Results may vary due to driver optimizations for newer releases.

FullHD (1920×1080)

Battlefield 4 is one of the hottest titles of 2013 and continues to prove itself a worthy game. Based on DICE’s Frostbite Engine 3, this game’s lush details and visuals are just stunning but can really stress any modern GPU. Level tested is the escape from Baku with wide open space and collapsing building showing what the Frostbite 3 engine can do.

ZOTAC_GTX980Ti_ArcticStorm_Review_1080p0006

The most visually intense game to ever been made. Prophet is back to take on the Ceph and Cell after a long sleep and the world isn’t what it was when before he got frozen. CryEngine 3 is behind this beautiful beast that will put a lot of systems to their knees. The opening level shows off the particle and water rendering of the engine.

ZOTAC_GTX980Ti_ArcticStorm_Review_1080p0007

The reboot of the gaming phenomenon Tomb Raider puts players in Lara Croft’s hiking boots as she explores the ruin of Yamatai in this origins game. Powered by a modified Crystal Engine, the game features TressFX which creates beautifully rendered hair animation.

ZOTAC_GTX980Ti_ArcticStorm_Review_1080p0010

The most popular game on Steam and the biggest competition in eSports; DOTA 2 is powered by the Source engine. The game is fairly light on low to medium settings but maxed out with heavy action on screen especially during clashes can really stress some systsems.

We use the built-in timedemo and benchmarking tool. DOTA2 only shows average FPS so we will be reflecting that in this test. Our timedemo features a heavy clash in the bottom lane for the maximum real-world system load the game can generate. With the recent visual update, DOTA2 has received some graphic makeover that adds a bit of hit for the system and all our datas are updated to reflect this. Driver optimization may cause results to vary.

ZOTAC_GTX980Ti_ArcticStorm_Review_1080p0011

Ubisoft’s hacker action puts you in the shoes of Aiden Pearce as you piece together a crime that has been haunting you since its occurrence. Rage through Chicago as presented by Ubisoft with its Disrupt engine utilizing vast video memory for high-resolution textures for visually stunning graphics.

ZOTAC_GTX980Ti_ArcticStorm_Review_1080p0009

CD Projekt Red’s latest installment in the Witcher saga features one of the most graphically intense offering the company has to date. As Geralt of Rivia, slay monsters, beasts and men as you unravel the mysteries of your past. Vast worlds and lush sceneries make this game a visual feast and promises to make any system crawl at its highest settings.

ZOTAC_GTX980Ti_ArcticStorm_Review_1080p0008

2560×1440

Battlefield 4 is one of the hottest titles of 2013 and continues to prove itself a worthy game. Based on DICE’s Frostbite Engine 3, this game’s lush details and visuals are just stunning but can really stress any modern GPU. Level tested is the escape from Baku with wide open space and collapsing building showing what the Frostbite 3 engine can do.

ZOTAC_GTX980Ti_ArcticStorm_Review_quadHD_0006

The most visually intense game to ever been made. Prophet is back to take on the Ceph and Cell after a long sleep and the world isn’t what it was when before he got frozen. CryEngine 3 is behind this beautiful beast that will put a lot of systems to their knees. The opening level shows off the particle and water rendering of the engine.

ZOTAC_GTX980Ti_ArcticStorm_Review_quadHD_0008

The reboot of the gaming phenomenon Tomb Raider puts players in Lara Croft’s hiking boots as she explores the ruin of Yamatai in this origins game. Powered by a modified Crystal Engine, the game features TressFX which creates beautifully rendered hair animation.

ZOTAC_GTX980Ti_ArcticStorm_Review_quadHD_0016

The most popular game on Steam and the biggest competition in eSports; DOTA 2 is powered by the Source engine. The game is fairly light on low to medium settings but maxed out with heavy action on screen especially during clashes can really stress some systsems.

We use the built-in timedemo and benchmarking tool. DOTA2 only shows average FPS so we will be reflecting that in this test. Our timedemo features a heavy clash in the bottom lane for the maximum real-world system load the game can generate.

ZOTAC_GTX980Ti_ArcticStorm_Review_quadHD_0012

 

Ubisoft’s hacker action puts you in the shoes of Aiden Pearce as you piece together a crime that has been haunting you since its occurrence. Rage through Chicago as presented by Ubisoft with its Disrupt engine utilizing vast video memory for high-resolution textures for visually stunning graphics.

ZOTAC_GTX980Ti_ArcticStorm_Review_quadHD_0014

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CD Projekt Red’s latest installment in the Witcher saga features one of the most graphically intense offering the company has to date. As Geralt of Rivia, slay monsters, beasts and men as you unravel the mysteries of your past. Vast worlds and lush sceneries make this game a visual feast and promises to make any system crawl at its highest settings.

ZOTAC_GTX980Ti_ArcticStorm_Review_quadHD_0010

4K UltraHD

Battlefield 4 is one of the hottest titles of 2013 and continues to prove itself a worthy game. Based on DICE’s Frostbite Engine 3, this game’s lush details and visuals are just stunning but can really stress any modern GPU. Level tested is the escape from Baku with wide open space and collapsing building showing what the Frostbite 3 engine can do.

ZOTAC_GTX980Ti_ArcticStorm_Review_4K_0006

The most visually intense game to ever been made. Prophet is back to take on the Ceph and Cell after a long sleep and the world isn’t what it was when before he got frozen. CryEngine 3 is behind this beautiful beast that will put a lot of systems to their knees. The opening level shows off the particle and water rendering of the engine.

ZOTAC_GTX980Ti_ArcticStorm_Review_4K_0008

The reboot of the gaming phenomenon Tomb Raider puts players in Lara Croft’s hiking boots as she explores the ruin of Yamatai in this origins game. Powered by a modified Crystal Engine, the game features TressFX which creates beautifully rendered hair animation.

ZOTAC_GTX980Ti_ArcticStorm_Review_4K_0013

The most popular game on Steam and the biggest competition in eSports; DOTA 2 is powered by the Source engine. The game is fairly light on low to medium settings but maxed out with heavy action on screen especially during clashes can really stress some systsems.

We use the built-in timedemo and benchmarking tool. DOTA2 only shows average FPS so we will be reflecting that in this test. Our timedemo features a heavy clash in the bottom lane for the maximum real-world system load the game can generate.

ZOTAC_GTX980Ti_ArcticStorm_Review_4K_0012

 

Ubisoft’s hacker action puts you in the shoes of Aiden Pearce as you piece together a crime that has been haunting you since its occurrence. Rage through Chicago as presented by Ubisoft with its Disrupt engine utilizing vast video memory for high-resolution textures for visually stunning graphics.

ZOTAC_GTX980Ti_ArcticStorm_Review_4K_0010

CD Projekt Red’s latest installment in the Witcher saga features one of the most graphically intense offering the company has to date. As Geralt of Rivia, slay monsters, beasts and men as you unravel the mysteries of your past. Vast worlds and lush sceneries make this game a visual feast and promises to make any system crawl at its highest settings.

ZOTAC_GTX980Ti_ArcticStorm_Review_4K_0014

TEMPERATURE & POWER CONSUMPTION

To measure both power consumption and heat, we stress the video card and record the peak values for heat and wattage. We use default values on the cards and stress test them using a Kombustor 3’s Lake of Titans X64 test at 1080p fullscreen.

ZOTAC_GTX980Ti_ArcticStorm_Review_1080p0012

ZOTAC_GTX980Ti_ArcticStorm_Review_1080p0013

At a glance: The ZOTAC GTX 980 Ti Arctic Storm is sucks just a bit more peak power than the MSI Lightning model but given that it does like to bump itself to higher clocks on stock because of its beefier cooling, its reasonable that both cards do hover near each other in the power draw department. On fan only mode, the ZOTAC GTX 980 Ti ArcticStorm sits on the same level as many of the 980 Ti in our list particularly its primary rival, the ROG 980 Ti Poseidon. Watercooled, both card lead the pack as expected.

CONCLUSION

ZOTAC GTX 980 Ti ArcticStorm 6GB Graphics Card Review
ZOTAC GTX 980 Ti ArcticStorm 6GB Graphics Card Review

Let’s break down the verdict:

Performance. To be perfectly honest, the ZOTAC GTX 980 Ti ArcticStorm was a bit underwhelming in terms of performance. It sat just beside the reference NVIDIA GTX 980 Ti in our charts which made us reach-out to ZOTAC to check if these were cherry-picked GPUs to which the response is that they do not cherry-pick GPUs. Our sample was a pure retail sample taken from the store shelves which gives us the picture that these cards are intended to perform cooler rather go faster. That said, the card is no slouch and still performs like a GTX 980 Ti which is inherently faster than anything else right now for single GPU performance besides its Titan X brother.

Build Quality.  ZOTAC has went all-out with the ArcticStorm cooler: its one beefy cooler and ZOTAC has really made it one solid cooler. Given its performance and build quality, there’s really nothing to say bad about it and ZOTAC does compensate for the weight with an adjustable stand. Still, the choice of fittings does limit the capability of this card but ZOTAC has stated that a potential refresh of this line will feature traditional G1/4 threaded holes.

Functionality. The card isn’t limited in performance by any means so you’ll be able to play pretty much anything up to 4K as with any GTX 980 Ti. The main issue you’d face is weight and compatibility as the card is quite lengthy and needs the support stand which also has its requirement of needing a roomy case.

Bundle. Depending on when you bought this card, you might have a GeForce promotion going on where you’re entitled to a free game. Our card wasn’t but we’re not ruling this out and give NVIDIA some props for it. ZOTAC on the other hands gets some props also for the weight-support stand.

Value. The card retails for around $769 or around Php36500, its main competitor being the ROG GTX 980 Ti Poseidon which costs so much more and is limited in availability. Street prices for this card could go for a bit less making it compete with more conventional high-end cards like the GIGABYTE 980 Ti Xtreme Gaming or the older G1 GAMING variant. Still, its inclusion of a watercooling block for nearly the same price gives it an advantage in terms of inclusion. While we did not note this in the bundle in the segment above because its a necessary inclusion rather than an extra, we will state that this is a nice bonus for those who, at the moment of their purchase, are not using watercoling yet. This gives the card flexibility on which type of cooling the user may use.

While the Titan X packs more power than the GTX 980 Ti, it goes without saying that performance in 4K is still excellent and a bit of tweaking and detail setting changes will yield FPS improvements across the boards should you need a smoother visual experience. That said, the GTX 980 Ti is an incredibly versatile card which can easily take on any modern game at 1080p. The biggest surprise here is the price which starts at $649, displacing the GTX 980 which now moves to the $499 spot, making the GTX 980 Ti an extremely attractive upgrade for UltraHD or VR adopters, multi-monitor gamers or 144hz screen users.

The ZOTAC GTX 980 Ti ArcticStorm out-of-the-box won’t shatter performance records and ZOTAC doesn’t intend it to. What the card is though is a flexible and powerful GPU where you can fully unleash its potential either by maxing out the fans or dipping it in a full watercooling loop. While the option for 3/8 ID tubing might be a bit restrictive for some, I’m sure many custom DIY modders out there will have enough knowledge to get this card some custom fittings.

The ZOTAC GTX 980 Ti ArcticStorm gets some points for being a good well-rounder and a decently cooled one at that. We do hope ZOTAC tries to go bolder with their future products but if the ZOTAC GTX 980 Ti ArcticStorm is anything go by, its one serious attempt at competing into the high-end GPU space for extreme gamers and is definitely one to look out for if you’re looking for great deal on a graphics card without having to spend more once you upgrade to watercooling or integrating it to your existing one.

ZOTAC gives the GTX 980 Ti ArcticStorm a 3-year warranty. We award the ZOTAC GTX 980 Ti ArcticStorm our B2G Silver Award and B2G Value Award!

Price / Where to Buy:

US –  US$769 -ZOTAC GTX 980 Ti ArcticStorm on Amazon
PH –  Php33,690 ZOTAC GTX 980 Ti Reference on Lazada

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BossMac Suba

Owner and lead reviewer for Back2Gaming. More than 10-year of corporate IT experience as well as consumer IT journalism. His extensive skill set and experience in communicating complicated technical details into easily understandable bits. He's been with you since dial-up and the ISA slot. His favorite animal is the scapegoat.

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