Nvidia unveils ‘Big’ Maxwell Mark 2, the GeForce GTX 970 and 980


If you’ve been watching Nvidia’s “Game” 24 Hour PC gaming marathon, you’re well aware of the “Titanic” announcements made over the past day by one of the world’s top GPU manufacturers. If you’ve been unable to catch the stream over at Twin Galaxies, then we’ve got you covered!

Let’s begin with the big one. Nvidia’s new “Big Maxwell” chipset is, in my opinion, the star of this show. NVIDIA is back in the spotlight with the first of the second generation Maxwell GPUs, GM204.

maxwell_gm204_die_3d_v17_fi-100442239-origSignificantly changing the GPU game yet again, the mounting brackets on cards following Nvidia’s reference design will have one dual-link DVI connector, three DisplayPort 1.2 interfaces, and one HDMI 2.0 port. HDMI 2.0 support is particularly important because it supports 4K resolution at a refresh rate of 60Hz. We’ve yet to see any card run 4k smoothly, but have high hopes for this new architecture.

Nvidia has also announced four new awesome features for all of its GPUs moving forward, Dynamic Super Resolution, Multi-Frame-Sampled Anti-aliasing (MFAA), Voxel Global Illumination, and VR Direct. This does include both the 980 and 970. Let’s see what Nvidia has to say about these.

DSR – Our new Maxwell architecture introduces a raft of innovative, exciting technologies that make your games better in dramatic ways. Of these new features, Dynamic Super Resolution (DSR) is most immediately impactful, enhancing any game that supports resolutions above 1920×1080. What does DSR do? Simply put, it renders a game at a higher, more detailed resolution and intelligently shrinks the result back down to the resolution of your monitor, giving you 4K-quality graphics on any screen.

MFAA – Previous-generation GPUs include fixed sample patterns for anti-aliasing (AA) that are stored in Read Only Memory (ROM). When gamers selected 2x or 4x MSAA for example, the pre-stored sample patterns were used. With Maxell, we have introduced programmable sample positions for rasterization that are stored on Random Access Memory (RAM), creating opportunities for new, more flexible, more inventive AA techniques that uniquely address the challenges of modern game engines, such as the increased performance cost of high-quality anti-aliasing.
Maxwell’s new RAM-based sample position technology can still be programmed with standard MSAA and TXAA patterns, but now the driver or application may also load the RAM with custom positions that are free to vary from frame to frame, or even within a frame. And it is with this technology that we have developed Multi-Frame Sampled Anti-Aliasing (MFAA).

Voxel Global Illumination – In 2011, NVIDIA engineers developed and demonstrated an innovative new approach to computing a fast, approximate form of global illumination dynamically in real time on the GPU. This new GI technology uses a voxel grid to store scene and lighting information, and a novel voxel cone tracing process to gather indirect lighting from the voxel grid.

VR Direct – To put it bluntly, Nvidia suggests/claims that GeForce will be the best way to go for anybody planning on playing games with the Oculus Rift.

As for GPUs, the 980 and 970 have the following specs –

NVIDIA GPU Specification Comparison
GTX 980 GTX 970 GTX 780 Ti GTX 770
CUDA Cores 2048 1664 2880 1536
Texture Units 128 104 240 128
ROPs 64 64 48 32
Core Clock 1126MHz 1050MHz 875MHz 1046MHz
Boost Clock 1216MHz 1178MHz 928Mhz 1085MHz
Memory Clock 7GHz GDDR5 7GHz GDDR5 7GHz GDDR5 7GHz GDDR5
Memory Bus Width 256-bit 256-bit 384-bit 256-bit
FP64 1/32 FP32 1/32 FP32 1/24 FP32 1/24 FP32
TDP 165W 145W 250W 230W
GPU GM204 GM204 GK110 GK104
Transistor Count 5.2B 5.2B 7.1B 3.5B
Manufacturing Process TSMC 28nm TSMC 28nm TSMC 28nm TSMC 28nm
Launch Date 09/18/14 09/18/14 11/07/13 05/30/13
Launch Price $549 $329 $699 $399


GTX980GTX980 3Quite impressive for a GPU under $600. The 980 should definitely make it on some enthusiast’s Christmas lists this year. With some of the best specs we’ve seen to date on a GPU, we look forward to testing one of these bad boys out as soon as we can get our grubby, Cheeto-stained hands on one. With CES around the corner in January, will AMD have an answer to the new line of GTX? Only time and overclocking will tell.

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