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Wrap Up: What to Buy?
Just to recap, the GeForce GTX 980 is priced at $550 which makes it a bit more expensive than the Radeon R9 290X and slightly cheaper than the now discontinued GTX 780 Ti.
We found that on average the GTX 980 was 20% faster than the R9 290X and 31% faster than the card it is replacing.
However it is interesting to note that the GTX 980 does cost more than the GTX 970 and yet we found it was just 18% faster. This makes the GTX 970 the card to watch, as its $330 price tag places it in a league of its own.
The GeForce GTX 970 was 16% faster than the Radeon R9 290 and it should cost at least 12% less, though with most R9 290s pegged at $400 that makes it a little over 20% cheaper.
We could also say (at least until AMD updates prices) that the GTX 970 is 10% more expensive than the R9 280X, but gamers can expect on average 48% more performance. That's a huge gap that assures us we'll see price updates for Radeons in the short term.
Along with the GTX 780 Ti, the GeForce GTX 780 and GTX 770 are also being discontinued and phased out by the Maxwell-based GTX 970, which is 35% and 14% faster, respectively.
In terms of power efficiency, Maxwell is a beast as it manages to do a heck of a lot more work with less cores. The GTX 750 Ti hinted at this back in February, but we never expected that a 2048 core version of Maxwell could wipe the floor with 2880 core Kepler GPU so hard, up to 20% in some cases.
Apart from savings, Maxwell's efficiency boost also translates to cooler operation and easier overclocking. The 600w WindForce cooler on the G1 Gaming GTX 980 kept the card at 57 degrees under load, which allowed us to achieve a 17% core overclock netting around 10% more performance.
Overall we are amazed with the efficiency of the GeForce GTX 980 and GTX 970, and are equally impressed with how cool Gigabyte's WindForce X3 is able to keep them under load. But as impressed as we are with the GTX 980, it still feels a bit overpriced. $500 would have been a more suitable price tag we feel.
Certainly, you won't hear us complaining about a $330 GTX 970, particularly when it's faster and cheaper than the competing R9 290.
GeForce GTX 980 Scorecard
Pros: Maxwell's impeccable performance per watt along with Gigabyte's custom cooler allow for big overclocks, solid temps and quiet operation. A great GPU for uncompromised performance.
Cons: A tad too expensive. Single GPU 4K gaming is still off the table.
GeForce GTX 970 Scorecard
Pros: The GTX 970 brings top notch value and performance. This is the card to have when price is at least some kind of factor. There's even more to see if you plan on overclocking
Cons: Honestly, it is hard to complain about a graphics card that is faster and cheaper than the competition.