As a hardware enthusiast, you will no doubt know that Nvidia introduced the GeForce GTX 980 and 970 a few weeks ago. Within our extensive review, we wrote that Nvidia let us know that all GeForce 980 boards initially available for purchase would simply be reference models. Nothing could be further from the truth, as ASUS was able to provide us with their GeForce GTX 980 Strix, a GTX 980 with a custom cooler and PCB design, just a week after the GTX 980's initial release. Is this video card a better choice than the reference model?
As is indicated by its name, ASUS' first non-reference GTX 980 belongs to the Strix series, a relatively new line of gamer-oriented video cards and game accessories. As with previous Strix boards, the cooler should more or less remind you of the eyes of an owl.
Said cooler incorporates five heat pipes: one 10mm model, which is backed up by two 8mm and two 6mm heat pipes. Additionally, the cooler utilizes two 9cm fans. As with other graphics cards from the Strix series, the fans will not activate until a certain temperature threshold has been reached. In practice, this means that the video card will be completely silent when you're only running a few simple 2D applications on the Windows desktop. It should be noted that the heat sink does not cover the board's memory chips.
The PCB of the Strix board clearly differs from that of the reference model. ASUS utilizes a 10-phase power design which incorporates super alloy mosfets, coils, and capacitors. Furthermore, where a reference GTX 980 has to make do with two 6-pin PEG power connectors, the Strix comes equipped with a 6-pin and an 8-pin one. According to ASUS, this ensures that overclockers will not be restricted by power delivery limitations.
Another way in which the PCB differs is its suitability for VGA Hotwire. Overclockers can use this to connect the board to recent Republic of Gamers motherboards, allowing them to read and adjust voltages.
The GM204 GPU on the Strix board features a modest factory overclock: it has a base clock speed of 1178 MHz with a boost clock speed of 1279 MHz, whereas the reference GTX 980 has a base speed of 1178 MHz and a boost speed of 1216 MHz. In their official presentation, ASUS proudly announces that their Strix GTX 980 is on average some 3.8% faster than a reference GTX 980, but as we have already mentioned numerous times, the performance delta has to be at least 10% before you begin to notice it in the first place.
Just like the reference board, the Strix offers a total of 4 GB GDDR5 memory clocked at 1753 MHz. There are no differences regarding connectivity either, with the Strix providing 3x DisplayPort 1.2, 1x Dual-link DVI, and 1x HDMI 2.0.
While ASUS was unable to quote a specific price the GeForce GTX 980 Strix, the manufacturer told us that it would be safe to assume that the card will be slightly more expensive than the reference model, which currently retails for about € 610 on average. Furthermore, it is currently unclear when the Strix will actually be available for purchase.