Performance Summary: We knew coming into this piece that the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980 was the fastest, single-GPU available. The custom, factory overclocked MSI and Zotac cards we looked at simply cemented that fact. Overall, thanks to a higher default GPU-clock, the MSI GTX 980 Gaming 4G was the best performing card in our tests. The Zotac GeForce GTX 980 AMP! Omega edition, however, was right behind it and both easily outperformed the reference card.
The EVGA GeForce GTX 970 FTW was also a relatively high performing product. As expected, it couldn’t quite catch the higher-end (and more expensive) GeForce GTX 980s, but occasionally outpaced the Radeon R9 290X and it was clearly faster than the reference GTX 970.
All of the cards were relatively quiet and power-friendly as well, and all proved to be good overclockers.
The MSI GTX 980 Gaming 4G - Find It @ Amazon
We want to be clear that we liked all three of the cards featured here quite a bit. They’re all strong, high-quality products that will serve you well. As of this writing, pricing for the three cards is as follows:
Looking back at the numbers, the $10 premium for the MSI GTX 980 Gaming 4G is easily justified over the Zotac card. MSI’s offering is only 2-slots wide, it’s quieter, slightly faster, and it’s highly-configurable thanks to the multiple performance profiles and individual fan controls. The $190 - $200 premium for the 980s versus a card like the EVGA GeForce GTX 970 FTW is a bit tougher to justify, considering how strong the 970’s performance is, but enthusiasts that want no-compromise, flagship products have always had to pay-to-play—it’s the nature of the beast. Even with all of the hoopla surrounding the GeForce GTX 970’s memory controller and ROP configuration at the moment, we have no problem recommending them for the vast majority of gamers. If you’ve got a 4K display and like to run with all eye-candy cranked up, you may have to contend with some issues depending on the game, but in the overwhelming majority of situations, the GeForce GTX 970 offers great performance for its price.
All things considered, the MSI GTX 980 Gaming 4G seems to hit all of the right notes, and while pricey, it’s not unjustifiably so. The MSI GTX 970 Gaming 4G is a great graphics card and earns an Editor’s Choice in our opinion. If I personally had a choice of graphics cards for my next build, a pair of these MSI cards would be leading contenders. With that said, the Zotac GeForce GTX 980 AMP! Omega is awesome. If you’re an overclocker and tweaker and prefer the more robust three-slot cooling solution and power circuitry on the card, the Zotac GeForce GTX 980 AMP! Omega is also great—we recommend it, actually. And if you’re on a tighter budget, but still want to get in on NVIDIA’s Maxwell, the EVGA GeForce GTX 970 FTW is another winner from EVGA.
MSI GTX 980 Gaming 4G
Zotac GeForce GTX 980 AMP! Omega
EVGA GeForce GTX 970 FTW