MSI GTX 980 GAMING 4G Video Card Review

The MSI GTX 980 GAMING 4G video card has a factory overclock and the new Twin Frozr V cooling system. We'll push it to its highest custom overclock and pit it against the ASUS ROG R9 290X MATRIX Platinum overclocker, and determine the gaming bang for your buck. May the best card win.


Microstar International AKA MSI is a Taiwan-based computer hardware manufacturer founded in 1986. Primarily a designer and manufacturer of PC motherboards, MSI has expanded its business into barebones PCs, servers and workstations, communications devices, consumer electronics, Notebooks, Netbooks, graphics cards, and other various electronic products. Its company motto, "Quality Products Create Faithful Customer," believes its underlying corporate strategy of designing and manufacturing quality devices for various markets and letting its high-quality reputation earn it the trust and respect of electronics consumers worldwide.

On our test bench today is the MSI GTX 980 GAMING 4G video card.

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In today's evaluation we are looking at a GeForce GTX 980 GPU from NVIDIA, which is the current generation Maxwell architecture. MSI has applied its vision to this GPU, and we will examine each aspect of it.

The MSI GTX 980 GAMING 4G is geared for 1600p gaming, but also supports 4K resolution and can be arranged in a quad SLI configuration. The GPU contains 2048 CUDA cores and 16 SM units. The memory is 4GB of 3GDDR5 memory on a 256-bit bus configured to run at 7GHz. There are 64 ROPs on this GPU, 128 texture units, and the video card has a TDP of 165W. It should be noted this is a factory overclocked video card, and operates with a boost clock 101MHz faster than the reference model. This video card is currently available for $589 and includes a free game. Choices of games includeFar Cry 4 and Assassins Creed Unity.

The only video card that AMD has to offer to compete with this beast is the Radeon R9 290X. Due to the extreme price drops at online retailers in regards to R9 290X video cards it was hard to lineup this video card with a price competition from AMD. AMD doesn't offer anything in that realm that the GTX 980 now sits, the R9 290X has dropped to near GTX 970 GPU levels. Therefore we chose to go with a heavily customized and overclocked ASUS ROG R9 290X MATRIX-P. Basically, the most expensive R9 290X we have on hand. This has custom cooling and performs well, and is the relative competition the MSI GTX 980 GAMING 4G will perform against. It is currently much less expensive at a price of $439. This is the closest competition we have to this GTX 980 that we have here.

MSI GTX 980 GAMING 4G Video Card

This is a factory overclocked custom GTX 980. By default the video card ships with the GPU Clock operating at 1216MHz with the Boost clock reaching 1317MHz. The actual frequency in-game varies by conditions, but can go beyond the card’s normal Boost clock. The memory comes set to the reference speed of 7GHz.

MSI has been evolving its cooling system over the years, and has developed a reputation for delivering quiet gameplay while removing excess heat. MSI’s products have largely diminished heat saturation through superior cooling strategies. The MSI GTX 980 GAMING 4G features the new Twin Frozr V cooling system.

This new cooling system includes a brand-new Torx fan design, which is aimed at reducing noise from air resistance while still removing sufficient heat. The card also features MSI's SuperSU heatpipe technology. This S-shaped heatpipe spreads from the GPU to each side of the heatsink to dissipate the most relevant source of heat. The fans are also hybrid, meaning when the video card is idling at the desktop and low heat is generated, fans won't run if these aren't needed. This saves on power and reduces ambient noise.

The Twin Frozr V cooling will play a vital role in our overclocking, by keeping the card and GPU temperatures as low as possible. This will allow GPU boost to work its magic and help us achieve the boards highest stable overclock. We will use MSI's own MSI Afterburner to manually overclock the video card. This program makes overclocking simple, quick, and easy to understand.

MSI always uses top class components when designing its high-end gaming hardware. The MSI GTX 980 GAMING 4G is equipped with "Military Class 4 Components" which is actually based on a military specification. These include Hi-C CAPs, which have 93% better energy efficiency than standard capacitors. There are also solid capacitors which provide efficient energy, and lower Equivalent Series Resistance (ESR). MSI has also included new Super Ferrite Chokes. These Super Ferrite Chokes operate at 35 degrees Celsius lower temperature, 30% higher current capacity, and 20% improvement in power efficiency. This ensures better overclocking and power stability.

The MSI GTX 980 GAMING 4G can be yours for $589 and includes a free game, choices of games includeFar Cry 4 and Assassins Creed Unity. MSI also offers a 3-year limited parts and 2-year limited labor warranty. You can read more about the MSI GTX 980 GAMING 4G here.

MSI GTX 980 GAMING 4G Pictures

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The MSI GTX 980 GAMING 4G ships safely packaged in a box that highlights the video cards features. There was no driver CD or installation kit with our video card. We did receive a performance qualification page that details the video card from the factory.

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The MSI GTX 980 GAMING 4G has a black and red color scheme that looks fierce. It is well designed, compact, and streamlined. The overall design is aesthetically pleasing. The structure of the card is also very secure and sturdy. Dragon Army is also marked on part of the aluminum that covers the I/O player and the dragon is also on the video card and the middle of a fan.

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The rear I/O panel houses a dual-link DVI-I connector, an HDMI connector, and 3 DisplayPort connectors. MSI recommends only a 500 watt power supply to run this video card properly, and it requires two 8-pin PCIe power connectors. It measures 11 inches in length, 1.5inches wide, and 5.5 inches in height.