PNY GeForce GTX 980 OC2 Pure Performance 4GB Review

Manufacturer: PNY
UK price (as reviewed):
£503.80 (inc VAT)
US price (as reviewed): $589.99 (ex Tax)

Nvidia currently has free reign on the high-end graphics market, with both the GTX 980 and Titan X effectively without competition from AMD until the R9 300 series launches. As such, the GTX 980 doesn't offer good value compared to the R9 290X and GTX 970 below it, but it's certainly a very fast and desirable card, and the only one in Nvidia's 900 series to have access to a full 4GB frame buffer all the time, rather than a segmented 3.5GB/0.5GB arrangement as with the GTX 970 – only time will tell if this proves advantageous in the future.

PNY GeForce GTX 980 OC2 Pure Performance Review
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It's been some time since we've seen something from PNY, the last card being its GTX 780 XLR8 OC. For the GTX 980, PNY has revamped its cooling solution, and the result is a trio of cards sold under the Pure Performance moniker. The OC2 version here is the fastest of the bunch, featuring solid overclocks to both the core and the memory. The core is overclocked by just over 100MHz, or 9 percent, to 1,228MHz, with a rated boost clock of 1,329MHz. This is the same as both the Gigabyte G1 Gaming card and the Galax SOC edition, but PNY's effort uniquely includes a memory overclock and is the first GTX 980 we've reviewed to do so. It ships with the GDDR5 running at 7.2GHz, a modest 3 percent bump, but one that's appreciated nonetheless.

PNY GeForce GTX 980 OC2 Pure Performance Review
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The dual-slot card measures 280mm long; some small form factor cases may have trouble, but it will still fit into most mid-tower models and above without issue. The dual-SLI connectors enabled up to 4-way SLI, and the card draws juice from an 8-pin/6-pin PCI-E power combination – a dual 6-pin to 8-pin PCI-E power adaptor is supplied as well.

PNY GeForce GTX 980 OC2 Pure Performance Review
Click to enlarge

PNY has re-jigged the video outputs slightly as well. The connections are the same as the reference design, but the trio of DisplayPorts as well as the HDMI output have been shrunk down to mini versions, while the dual-link DVI-I remains as well. The benefit presumably is greater ventilation through the rear I/O panel, but we're not convinced this is a smart move. Firstly, the cooler will exhaust most of its heat into your chassis, not through the rear I/O, thanks to the open shroud. Also, the reference rear I/O panel already had a decent amount of ventilation. Thus, while it's unlikely to make a big difference (if any) to cooling, it will leave most consumers having to fork out for a mini-DisplayPort or mini-HDMI adaptor, since they are not the norm and none are supplied – all you get in the box is the standard DVI-VGA converter.

PNY GeForce GTX 980 OC2 Pure Performance Review
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The GTX 980 OC2 Pure Performance is fitted with a black metal backplate to brace the PCB against the weight of the cooler. With the PNY logo and perforated sections, it also has the benefit of looking far more stylish than a bare PCB. In fact, the card generally looks great in our opinion and worthy of high-end builds – we especially like the rounded-off end of the cooler shroud. Thankfully, it's not all style without substance, as build quality is universally high. There are no loose or overly flexible parts, and the metal casing is rigid and securely fixed.

PNY GeForce GTX 980 OC2 Pure Performance Review
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Two fans, each about 90mm across, blow down onto the heatsink below which is divided into two aluminium fin stacks. These are connected by five thick copper heat pipes, which all draw their heat away from the GPU via a large copper baseplate. Furthermore, all memory chips and MOSFETs are directly cooled using metal contact plates and thermal padding, meaning PNY has left no critical part neglected.

PNY GeForce GTX 980 OC2 Pure Performance Review
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The custom PCB means that, at least for now, there's no waterblock compatibility. The GM204 GPU is surrounded on three sides by the usual Samsung memory chips, and these components are fed by a beefy 8+2 phase power configuration. This suggests the card is built to deal with even higher frequencies, as do the GPU, memory and PLL voltage monitoring solder points at the front edge. Finally, both fans run at the same speed, powered by the single 4-pin connector which keeps them always on – there's no semi-passive operation here.

PNY GeForce GTX 980 OC2 Pure Performance Review
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Specifications

  • Graphics processor Nvidia GeForce GTX 980, 1,228MHz (boost 1,329MHz)
  • Pipeline 2,048 stream processors, 128 texture units, 64 ROPs
  • Memory 4GB GDDR5, 7.2GHz effective
  • Bandwidth 224GB/sec, 256-bit interface
  • Compatibility DirectX 12, OpenGL 4.5
  • Outputs/Inputs Dual Link DVI-I, 3 x Mini DisplayPort, Mini-HDMI
  • Power connections 1 x 8-pin PCI-E, 1 x 6-pin PCI-E, top-mounted
  • Size 280mm long, dual-slot
  • Warranty Three years

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