With the new Pascal architecture from nVidia out its virtually pointless to review an older generation card not because they are old but simply because they are outperformed by the newer ones in terms of price to performance ratio rendering most of them not worth the money, to put it lightly.
But that's for most of them and not for a few like the one we have with us today. Today I have with me the Inno3D GeForce GTX 980 4GB DDR5 iChill Black Accelero Hybrid S Graphics Card for review, man! that's one mouthful for a name!
The GTX 980 have always been a sweet-spot for a majority of a gamer due to its competitive price tag and this particular model from Inno3D not only stands out from the rest due to its looks but also because of its out of the box OC nature which is the highest factory clocked GTX 980 out in the market today!
The GTX 980 iChill is based on the Maxwell architecture and carved out of the same old 28nm GM204 silicon chip at heart. Going all out with 2048 CUDA Cores, 128 texture mapping units, 64 raster operation units along with a 4 GB GDDR5 memory that operates along a 256-bit bus the Inno3D GTX 980 Accelero Hybrid S is factory clocked at a massive 1304Mhz with boost clock at 1418Mhz giving it an effective 7.28GB/s on the memory!
This is not only the fastest GTX 980 but is 15.8% faster than the reference model. Now you know why I had to review this marvelous card before we moved on to the Pascal cards.
Packing and Accessories
The GTX 980 iChill Black comes in a box that's the biggest we've ever seen for a graphics card, one word its huge! With no actual product image we instead get a golden outlined framework of the card in the center surrounded by the product name, nomenclature and the freebies you get along with the card. The bottom enlists all the exclusive features of the card such as liquid cooled design, LED indicators etc.
Open the box and you have a bunch of accessories with the card which amount to way more than normal. The accessories include a installation guide, driver CD, a power supply guide, PCIe power cable, a DVI to VGA adapter, Inno3D case batch, gaming mouse pad and a set of screws. Of-course the graphics card along with its entire cooling setup is also there.
If you think that the inclusion of a gaming mouse pad, which is surprisingly of a good quality, is an oddity then take a look at this. Inno3D provides you with a a serial key for 3D Mark benchmarking suite so that one can himself compare the actual performance of the card with that of the competitors!
Closer Look & Features
Looking at the card itself we see that a lot is coming out of the main unit. Since its a hybrid cooling system so air and liquid cooling is equally present with a 120mm radiator cooling the GPU chips and a 80mm fan cooling the power delivery system! Noticeably the fan for the radiator is permanently attached to the card by a sleeved cable and cannot be removed/unplugged.
A molex wire even comes outwards which one has to connect directly to the PSU to power the water pump.
The card measures in at 266mmx111mm occupying three slots. The shroud is quite sleek and light decorated by metallic grey color scheme giving it the looks of a Space Ship. Inno3D did a nice job in making the shroud look appealing which could've otherwise been quite bland since there isn't multiple fans or heat-pipes sticking out due to the AIO Liquid Cooler.
At the I/O we’ve got the standard Maxwell setup. This sees a single Dual-Link DVI connector, HDMI 2.0 port and three DisplayPort 1.2 connectors.
This behemoth runs off a 8+6 PCIe power connector rating the possible power consumption at 300W which is a standard configuration for the GTX 980
The iChill logo on the top side is LED backlit along with the Accelero Hybrid S marque on the front. It glows blue when idle, blue for mild load and red for full load.
Flip the card and we have the HerculeZ Design backplate which is nicely perforated for enhanced ventilation and cooling. Also with a water pump increasing the weight of the unit its a must to avoid warping of the card under its own weight!
SLI connectors are also present and while dual SLI is easily possible I'm not certain if anyone will go for a tri SLI due to the card's thickness and the three raditor mounts that one will require.
Pop the hood open and we have the Inno3D GTX 980 Accelero Hybrid S lying in front of us in three layers, namely as the backplate, the shroud attached to the water pump and the PCB.
The AIO Liquid Cooler is by ARCTIC Cooling USA and is extremely efficient in cooling the overclocked GM204 GPU.
PCB measure in at 265mm and is the same layout as that of the Inno3D GTX 980 HerculeZ x4 AirBoss. While the entire PCB looks normal the right side boasts a massive MOSFET heatsink to effectively cool the power delivery system.
The card is powered by a 6+1 phase power delivery system accompanied by ferrite chokes and solid black cap capacitors for a stable power delivery to the GPU.
The GTX 980 iChill Black uses a API 35151 voltage controller which control voltage delivery to the GPU aswell as to the 80mm fan and water pump.
The GM204 Maxwell based 28nm GPU sits right in the center surrounded by memory chips.
While others have opted to use Samsung GDDR5 chips Inno3D has used SK Hynix memory chips for their offering. The model no is SKHynix H5GQ4H24MFR-R2C and are rated at 1750Mhz (7000Mhz effective) at 1.5V. These chips are great when it comes to overclocking but due to the already applied factory overclock I'm not sure how much headroom is still left for us to play around.
Test Setup and Benchmarks
Since we use an open test bench installing the GTX 980 Black was not an issue. Once plugged in the system booted up perfectly without any hick-up.
GPUZ reported the exact specifications and we can see that the card is highly overclocked out of the box in contrast to the reference 980s.
For this benchmark we used the following configuration --
CPU: Intel Core i7 6900K 3.2Ghz Octa-Core Broadwell-E
Motherboard: Gigabyte X99 Ultra Gaming
RAM: Kingston HyperX Predator 16GB DDR4 (4x4) 3000Mhz Memory Kit
Cooler: Corsair H110 280mm Liquid Cooler
Graphics Card: Inno3D GeForce GTX 980 4GB DDR5 iChill Black Accelero Hybrid S
Storage: Corsair Neutron GTX 480GB SSD
Power Supply: Corsair AX860i 860W 80+ Platinum
OS: Windows 8.1 Pro 64-bit
GPU Driver: NVIDIA ForceWare 355.60
Overclocking the GTX 980 iChill Accelero S is not easy since not much of headroom is left to do so after the factory OC that it already comes with. Still we went ahead and using our reliable MSI AfterBurner for overclocking we managed to attain an extra 50Mhz both on the memory as well as the clock. This came with a 112% power limit which is 2% higher than what we usually use.
AIDA64 Extreme Edition GPGPUThe AIDA64 GPGPU test not only calculates the read, write and copy speed of the graphics card and processor but is also very useful in observing the SHA-1 Hash and AES-256 score. These are indications of how well the GPU can handle number crunching or real life image or video rendering. Higher score shows a better card.
Clearly the Inno3D GTX 980 is compatible not only for gaming but also for 4K video and image rendering/editing.
Unigine Heaven 4.0 and Unigine Valley 1.0A compilation of 26 beautiful scenes rendered and run via the raw GPU power of the system. It emulates any game or graphical work that you'll perform on the system scoring it on various parameter. We ran the test on Custom preset and settings at 1920x1080 resolution, quality to ultra and extreme tessellation.
The benefit of using this benchmark is that they utilizes the entire 4GB VRAM of the card giving us a clear idea of the raw power that the card possesses.
3D Mark Fire StrikeFire Strike by 3D Mark is a test suit that plays a cinematic scene to determine the FPS, GPU temperature and CPU temperature scaling everything via a cumulative score. It is a great tool to benchmark your GPU since the render is GPU dependent.
Even though the card has 4GB VRAM it still manages to perform nicely in the Ultra setting suite which emulates 4K performance. This shows that the GTX 980 iChill can handle 4K playback at respectable settings.
3D Mark 11 Professional EditionAnother variant of the Fire Strike by 3D Mark, used mainly for scoring the GPU performance.
An excellent set of scores can be seen over here in all three suits indicating towards the real potential of the card.
I can't start gaming benchmarks without running my all time favorites Crysis 3 but its a game that no system loves! The CryEngine 3 behind this scenic beauty can bring down any system to its knees and I mean any system. I set everything to Ultra at 1920x1080 resolution with MSAA 4X and motion blur high.
Tomb Raider 2013
The reincarnation of Lara Croft in the spectacular Tomb Raider 2013 with stunning graphics and TressFX makes it a great game to benchmark with especially on Nvidia cards and also to enjoy in the due course! Settings were at Ultimate with TressFX enabled on full HD resolution.
Its a great game for people, like me, who love to hunt down Xenomorphs or aliens with guns blazing all over the place. The game is highly optimized for PC and supports DirectX 11 with Tessellation, real-time Direct Compute radiosity, and shadows making it an ideal game to benchmark with settings at Ultra.
Batman Arkham Origins
Since the game is powered by Epic's Unreal Engine 3 and supports DX11 tessellation so playing this game on 1920x1080 resolution with all settings maxed out can be any modern system's 'worst nightmare'! Wonder if they were drunk while creating the Arkham Knight *wink*
In this case I dared to set hardware acceleration physx to high and even anti-aliasing to GeForce TXAA high!
Based on the DICE's Frostbite Engine 3 this game not only taxes a CPU and GPU both by reproducing lush details on the screen but also utilizes the DX11 and DX11.1 features coupled with 64-bit binaries! Settings were at Ultra with antialiasing deferred at 2x MSAA and ambient occlusion enabled.
Far Cry 4
A bit poorly optimized game for the PC port adds up to its taxing nature on systems! Powered by the latest version of the Dunia 2 engine, Far Cry 4 takes advantage of DirectX 11 and is extremely resource heavy. Optimized for Nvidia GPUs this game can be taxing on AMD cards on higher settings. Settings at Very High on 1920x1080 resolution with Fur on, Godrays, Volumetric fog and ambient occlusion enabled.
Powered by the Havok engine you find yourself in the shoes of a man struggling for survival on a post apocalyptic earth. A beautiful game that we tested at everything cranked up to maximum on full HD resolution.
Assassin's Creed 4 - Black Flag
A beautiful creation by Ubisoft that can be severely punishing on most of the GPUs since it has a lot of water texture to render and rich distant objects to reproduce on the screen. God rays were enabled at high and details were set at High. Anti-aliasing was at TXAA 4X along with ambient occlusion to HBAO+ (High). Keep in mind that this game is optimized for Nvidia GPUs and not neutral.
I know you were missing this in the list, don't worry I've got your back. Rock Star Games made the PC port of this game so well optimized that by utilizing the CPU and GPU alike it produces scenes that can put any console to shame, to put it mildly. We tested the game at Very High settings at 2xMSAA, Grass, Reflection and Post FX at Ultra. Anisotropic Filtering was at x16 and reflections MSAA off.
Noise & Temperature
The fan on the Inno3D GTX 980 Accelero S doesn't spin under low to no load but the fan on the radiator keeps spinning wrt to the load, you can see the MOSFET fan spinning only when the card crosses 60°C. We recorded the maximum temperature in Celsius that our card hit during extensive gaming & sound was measured in decibels from a distance of 3 feet. This was performed for both stock and overclocked speeds.
My VerdictWhen the Inno3D GTX 980 iChill Black Accelero Hybrid S hit my table all I could think of it was just another card which is overclocked and has a fancy liquid cooler hanging out of it but as soon as we put it to test this thing blew our minds away! At £452 or Rs. 55,000 Inno3D has managed to produce the most powerful GTX 980 out there today and its been designed and tweaked as such that it even exchanges blows with its elder sibling the GTX 980Ti in most of the cases especially where the extra 2GB VRAM doesn't come into play. Not to mention the price is quite reasonable for a liquid cooled graphics card.
The design is solid and different making it stand out of the crowd. Arctic Cooling has always been great with their products and the AIO liquid cooler for this card is no exception, keeping it cool and quite all the time even under full loads. It does tend to hiss & buzz a bit when the pump gradually slows down wrt the decreasing load but in a closed case its barely audible.
The room for further OC is limited but the out of the box configuration is more than enough for any user today. A highly recommended graphics card for those who want the meanest looking and fastest performing graphics card in the sub 55K range to build a PC that makes their neighbors go green with envy!
I give it 8.5/10