Custom GeForce GTX 980 Ti, GTX 980 & GTX 970 Roundup

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Overview

You can never go wrong by picking up a GeForce GTX 970, GTX 980 or a GTX 980 Ti. These GPUs let you play just about any game at higher resolutions, even with pumped-up graphics settings. In addition to their exceptional speeds, these reference cards run cool and silent, and their power requirements are incredibly forgiving. Plus, their superior designs allow for respectable amounts of overclocking and modding, which is where custom manufacturers tend to shine.

Almost all of the cards on this list use higher clock speeds compared to a reference 980 Ti, 980, or 970, and all of them have their own unique cooling systems as well. Naturally, more cooling means more room for overclocking, and more overclocking means more framerates. All of that boils down into a wonderful gaming experience.

Since there are so many cards to choose from (there are loads of NVIDIA partners worldwide, and each one of them makes cards for just about any setup), it’s a good move to isolate a few of your requirements to narrow the options. For example, the reference GTX 980 Ti, 980, and 970 GPUs are all compact and quiet, so they work well inside mid-sized chassis and up, and in rigs where limiting fan noise is a necessity. In contrast, some of the custom cards can be a bit louder (albeit quicker) and route the cards’ exhaust directly into the case, so they work better in full-tower cases with strong airflow. You could also be looking for a card with liquid cooling options, or a GPU with the most overclocking potential, or perhaps a card that doesn’t require much power.

Make no mistake, there are plenty of custom cards to peruse, which is just the way it should be—PC gaming is all about choice! Under each GPU, we list out important info such as memory speed, base clock frequency, boost clock frequency, the custom manufacturer’s home page, the price, and even reviews, when possible. Not too surprisingly, the online prices are usually more attractive compared to the same cards sold in local stores. Sometimes certain websites run specials and rebates as well, so it’s always beneficial to do some research before hitting the buy button.

Speaking of specials, from a limited time only, you can get Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain for free when you pick up select GTX 980Ti, GTX 980, or GTX 970 GPUs from participating e-tailers and retailers. The Phantom Pain has some gorgeous graphics and is the perfect companion for your shiny new GeForce GPU.

GTX 980 Ti Custom GPUs

EVGA GeForce GTX 980 Ti Hydro Copper
Base Clock: 1140 MHz
Boost Clock: 1228 MHz
Memory Speed: 7010 MHz
MSRP: $800

EVGA’s Hydro Copper version of the 980 Ti is a great choice for those who want top-end overclocks without excessive fan noise or oversized air-coolers. You’ll need a liquid cooling loop inside your PC to make this one a reality, but it’s well worth it. The low-profile waterblock and slim design make the card a cinch to install, and the dark, brushed-metal materials are pleasing to the eye. EVGA also included a custom back-plate to further reinforce the PCB.

Like the reference 980 Ti, the Hydro Copper only requires a 600 Watt PSU with a 6-pin and an 8-pin power connector, so you likely won’t need to upgrade to get one running. If 4K is your aim, you can likely push the Hydro Copper’s overclocks even higher without much trouble.

EVGA GeForce GTX 980 Ti Hybrid
Base Clock: 1140 MHz
Boost Clock: 1228 MHz
Memory Speed: 7010 MHz
MSRP: $750

All-in-one liquid GPU coolers are incredibly easy to setup, yet they typically offer all the benefits of those installed into a full-fledged cooling loop. EVGA’s GTX 980 Ti Hybrid is precisely that type of card. That means no filling, no leak testing, and no worries about expensive pump cavitation. All you have to do is plug it in the mobo, screw the radiator and fan onto the back of your case, and power it up. And just like its Hydro Copper counterpart, it comes with a notable 1140 MHz base clock and a 1228 MHz boost clock.

As an added bonus, the 980 Ti Hybrid’s fan speed is controlled dynamically in relation to the card’s temperature, and it operates nice and quietly. The VRM and memory are also cooled separately from the card, making the GPU that much more dependable under high strains.

EVGA GeForce GTX 980 Ti Classified ACX 2.0+
Base Clock: 1190 MHz
Boost Clock: 1291 MHz
Memory Speed: 7010 MHz
MSRP: $700
Reviews: Overclockers

ACX 2.0+ is EVGA’s latest cooling tech, and it’s potent enough to allow for some serious clock speeds (hence the card’s 1190 MHz/1291 MHz out-of-the-box settings). The ACX 2.0+ configuration includes a memory cooling plate which EVGA claims bumps down the MOSFET temps by 13%. It also has a duo of swept-bladed fans and straight heat pipes that keep the card nice and frosty. The GTX 980 Ti Classified even has dual BIOS support and 14+3 power phases.

EVGA also offers their ACX 2.0+ cooling on GTX 980 Ti cards such as the Superclocked+, the Superclocked, and the ACX 2.0+. Each of these GPUs have different speeds than the Classified, but since they have the same cooling system, you can probably push their clocks up a few more notches with some minor elbow grease.

EVGA GeForce GTX 980 Ti K|NGP|N
Base Clock: 1203 MHz
Boost Clock: 1304 MHz
Memory Speed: 7010 MHz
MSRP: $850
Reviews: Hardware Luxx

Designed for obsessive overclockers, EVGA’s 980 Ti K|NGP|N has a digitally controlled VRM that can send up to 600A total, combined with a 14+3 power phase setup. Additionally, the 12-layer PCB on the GPU contains a wealth of extra copper (which means better power efficiency), and EVGA’s MMCP+ cooling plate directly contacts the memory and MOSFET which helps keep the heat levels down. EVGA claims that this configuration, in concert with the card’s ACX 2.0+ cooler system, results in an average operating temperature of 28° C better than a reference GTX 980 Ti.

The top and side areas of the card’s cooler contain brightly lit LEDs, which glow in a color of your choosing, tweakable through EVGA’s PrecisionX software. There’s even a quick-switch on the GPU that lets you swap between three different BIOS settings.

If you have ambitions towards liquid cooling, but you’re sticking with good old fashioned air for now, the K|NGP|N comes with a single-slot card bracket so you attach a water-block down the road. It’s worth pointing out that you’ll absolutely need two 8-pin power cables and an additional single 6-pin cable to get this 980 Ti rumbling, but that just means you’ll have more energy for higher and more stable overclocks.

ASUS GeForce STRIX GTX 980 Ti Gaming
Base Clock: 1190 MHz(Gaming Mode)
Boost Clock: 1291 MHz(Gaming Mode)
Memory Speed: 7200 MHz
MSRP: $740

Armed with the brand spanking new DirectCU III cooling system (which has a trio of wing-bladed 0db fans), the ASUS STRIX 980 Ti means business. ASUS claim that the DirectCU III results in 30% cooler temps and 3x more silent operation compared to a reference 980 Ti card. There’s also the option to swap to OC Mode, which ratchets the clock speeds up to 1216 MHz base and 1317 MHz boost; the memory clock stays at a potent 7200 MHz regardless.

On top of the extra cooling, the STRIX 980 Ti Gaming uses ASUS’s Auto-Extreme tech to help curtail dust bunnies, and it has a back-plate that’s totally smooth to the touch—no more poked fingers when removing or installing the GPU! The back-plate also prevents the PCB from warping as time goes by, and it incorporates a GPU-Fortifier, which ASUS claims further protects the hardware.

MSI GeForce GTX 980 Ti Gaming 6G
Base Clock: 1140 MHz (Gaming Mode)
Boost Clock: 1228 MHz (Gaming Mode)
Memory Speed: 7010 MHz
MSRP: $679
Reviews: Guru3D, Kit Guru, Bit-Tech, HiTech Legion, Overclockers, Tweaktown, Hardware Canucks, Real Hardware Reviews

MSI’s take on the GTX 980 Ti comes with three distinct profiles, each with its own preset clock speeds and fan speeds. You can select which mode you want by booting up the Gaming App, and simply clicking the appropriate button. Silent mode, as you might expect, runs at a whisper, and is best suited for light duty. Gaming mode is the standard configuration, and it provides plenty of overclocked power for most situations. Hardware Canucks’ review puts it best: “The card remains absolutely silent in idle scenarios, during HD movie playback and low-load games. Even when in the most extreme situations its massive fans spin leisurely along without making a noticeable amount of noise. Temperatures were pretty eye-opening as well.”

To really kick things into high gear, you can opt for OC mode, which pushes the base clock to 1178 MHz and the boost clock to 1279 MHz—perfect for running intense graphics on panels with high resolutions. MSI incorporates their Twin Frozr V cooling system onto this card, which comes with independent fan control, customizable LED lights (with five preset modes), and staggered dispersion fan-blades, which MSI claims creates 19% more airflow.

Gigabyte GeForce GTX 980 Ti Gaming-6GD (GV-N98TG1)
Base Clock: 1152 MHz (Gaming Mode)
Boost Clock: 1241 MHz (Gaming Mode)
Memory Speed: 7010 MHz
MSRP: $690

Gigabyte’s GTX 980 Ti Gaming-6GD comes equipped with the mighty Windforce 3X 600W cooling system, and some respectable overclocks as well. There are two different modes you can use—Gaming and OC. Gaming mode has the base clock at 1152 MHz and the boost clock at 1241 MHz, while OC mode cranks the base clock to 1190 MHz, and the boost clock to 1291 MHz (putting it right on par with EVGA’s Classified clocks).

The top of the card’s fan baffle lights up differently depending on whether or not the fans are spinning, which is easily noticeable in rigs with side-panel windows. You can also tweak the colors of the LED to your liking. You’ll need a pair of 8-pin power connectors to get the Gaming-6GD going, but most mid- to high-end machines shouldn’t have trouble with that.

Zotac GeForce GTX 980 Ti AMP! Extreme
Base Clock: 1253 MHz
Boost Clock: 1355 MHz
Memory Speed: 7220 MHz
MSRP: $700
Reviews: Guru3D

Zotac’s monstrous IceStorm cooler on the GTX 980 Ti AMP! Extreme takes up three card slots, but it paves the way for some pretty insane speeds: 1253 MHz on the base clock, 1355 MHz on the boost clock, and 7222 MHz on the memory clock. That means you’ll have no problem whatsoever playing graphics-heavy games at 4K, as Guru 3D’s review reports: “All ranges from 1080P to Ultra HD are very playable…Up to WQHD (2560x1440) this card seems to be a true sweet-spot, however it is really capable of rendering games in that whopper of a resolution Ultra HD as well.” You may even be able to push the card’s clocks higher with some experimentation and superior in-case cooling.

Not surprisingly, the AMP! Extreme includes a meaty back-plate to support the oversized cooler’s weight. Also not surprisingly, you’ll need a duet of 8-pin power cables to get it going. The AMP! Omega is the AMP! Extreme’s doppelganger, but because of its 1178 MHz base clock and a 1279 MHz boost clock, it’s priced somewhat lower.

If a triple-slot GPU is too much for your current rig, consider picking up the Zotac 980 Ti AMP! Instead—it’s $650 and remarkably similar to the Extreme edition, except that its cooler is only a double-slot (thanks to the toned-down heat sink), and its clock speeds come in at 1051 MHz base and 1140 MHz boost, along with the more common 7010 MHz memory.

Zotac GeForce GTX 980 Ti Arctic Storm
Base Clock: 1025 MHz
Boost Clock: 1114 MHz
Memory Speed: 7010 MHz
MSRP: $780
Reviews: Tech Radar, Overclock3D, Hardware Luxx, Ecoustics, Techmobile2014

The Arctic Storm is a mighty hybrid of air and liquid cooling. It harnesses a dual-slot, three-fan aluminum-finned cooler that rests on top of an all-copper water block. On the back of the PCB is a solid metal backplate covered in stylized grey and blue graphics.

The whole array is fully ready for your liquid cooling setup, complete with two threaded 10mm fittings and preinstalled caps. Zotac also claims that all their Arctic Storm water blocks get stress-tested numerous times for potential leaks before the cards leave the factory floor. But what if you don’t have a cooling loop configured? No problem—keep those fitting caps secured and run the card as-is.

Zotac keeps the fans nice and quiet when they’re unneeded, and they’ll only kick on when the card leaps over a set temperature. You can also use the bundled FireStorm utility to overclock the GPU to your heart’s content—especially if you opt for the liquid cooling angle.

Galax/KFA2 GeForce GTX 980 Ti HOF LN2
Base Clock: 1203 MHz
Boost Clock: 1304 MHz
Memory Speed: 7010 MHz
MSRP: $900

For those aiming to take a crack at liquid nitrogen (LN2) overclocking, GALAX’s 980 Ti HOF LN2 is designed for just that. GALAX claims that this card enjoys a plethora of world records in 3DMark as the speediest 980 Ti in existence. The HOF LN2’s PCB is completely overhauled compared to a reference 980 Ti. It houses three 8-pin power slots, a 16+3 Phase design, and a max capacity of 960 amps. All of that extra power helps ensure that your cryogenic overclocks will soar.

The HOF LN2 is a limited edition GPU, and you can even have your name laser-etched onto its bright white backplate. You’ll also have access to a thermal shutdown switch and a one-click OC button. While the HOF LN2’s factory clocks noticeably higher than a reference 980 Ti, they’re still more of a foundation to start your overclocking adventures.

Be sure to browse GALAX’s alternative GTX 980 Ti HOF as well, especially if you’re not planning on using liquid nitrogen. While the HOF LN2 runs for about $900, the HOF retails for about $700, and it harnesses a core clock of 1190 MHz and a boost clock of 1291 MHz. Both the HOF LN2 and HOF are also available in Europe under the KFA2 brand.

Galax/KFA2 GeForce GTX 980 Ti OC
Base Clock: 1025 MHz
Boost Clock: 1114 MHz
Memory Speed: 7010 MHz
MSRP: $650


Is that a race car attached to your motherboard? Nope, it’s GALAX’s GTX 980 Ti OC. This GPU’s cooler grabs your attention right away, thanks to its flashy red stripes and matte black casing with silver accents. The whole enclosure contains three fans and six heat pipes. KFA2’s GTX 980 Ti OC—a carbon copy of this card—is also available, but only in Europe.

Inno3D GeForce GTX 980 Ti iChill X4 Ultra
Base Clock: 1152 MHz
Boost Clock: 1241 MHz
Memory Speed: 7200 MHz
MSRP: N/A (EU import only)

Available only to those in Europe and Asia, The Inno3D iChill X4 Ultra stands out right away due to its 3-slot, gothic-inspired cooler; it wouldn’t look out of place inside a Warhammer 40,000 game. Dubbed the HerculeZ X4 Air Boss, Inno3D claims that the GPU’s active-power cooling system is configured to optimally move heat from the PCB to the upper heatsink and fans. And while on the topic of fans, the iChill X4 Ultra has quite a few of them. Aside from the three on the side of the cooler, there’s also an additional one on top. Inno3D claims that this setup reduces the average PCB temps by 11° C and the average component temps by 15° C (compared to a reference GTX 980 Ti).

Awesomely, the HerculeZ cooler is modular, which makes disassembling the pieces to clean them much easier than normal. (Spray-dusting your GPU’s after-market cooler regularly—especially the fans and heatsink—is a wonderful way to extend the hardware’s lifespan, and maintain stable overclocks.)

In addition to the iChill X4 Ultra, Inno3D also has the iChill x3 Ultra, which has the same clock and memory speeds (and 3-slot profile), but without the fourth, top-mounted fan on the cooler.

Inno3D GeForce GTX 980 Ti HerculeZ X3 OC
Base Clock: 1038 MHz
Boost Clock: 1127 MHz
Memory Speed: 7010 MHz
MSRP: N/A (EU import only)

Three powerful fans and an easy-to-remove cooler cover Inno3D’s 980 Ti HerculeZ X3 OC, making cleaning the inside of the GPU less time-consuming than usual. The card’s speeds are modestly overclocked at 1038 MHz base and 1127 MHz boost. Unlike the majority of other custom 980 Ti’s, the HerculeZ X3 OC only requires the standard 6-pin and 8-pin power cables. Similar to many of Inno3D’s graphics cards, the 980 Ti HerculeZ X3 OC is only available in Europe and Asia

Inno3D GeForce GTX 980 Ti iChill Black
Base Clock: 1203 MHz
Boost Clock: 1304 MHz
Memory Speed: 7200 MHz
MSRP: N/A (EU import only)
Available only in Europe, the GTX 980 Ti iChill Black is one mean-looking card. The all-in-one liquid cooler, coupled with an oversized Mosfet heatsink on the PCB, allows for some awesome overclocking potential, as evidenced by the 1203 MHz base clock and 1304 MHz boost clock. Inno3D claims that this setup creates 30% better performance compared to a reference card, as well as making it 5dB quieter when running. The iChill Black also incorporates Inno3D’s HerculeZ backplate for additional support.

For those with a windowed side panel on your case, you’ll be able to see the iChill Black’s logo light up in three different colors depending on how hard the GPU is churning away—red for a heavy load, green for low power, and purple for idle.

Gainward GeForce GTX 980 Ti PHOENIX GS
Base Clock: 1152 MHz
Boost Clock: 1241 MHz
Memory Speed: 7010 MHz
MSRP: N/A (EU import only)

Available only in Europe, Gainward’s 980 Ti Phoenix GS (Golden Sample) rocks a newly developed dual-slot cooler with three generously sized fans. The system is designed to run the air-cooling only when the card hits temps of 60° C or above, so there should be noise at all (aside from whatever fans are inside your case) when the card is subjected to light duties. Gainward claims that their cooler results in 11% or more performance when stacked up against a reference 980 Ti.

If you’re really into tweaking your GPU, you can use the EXPERTool utility to adjust items such as fan curve and BIOS saving functions. You can also increase the card’s factory overclocks as well, though the 1152 MHz/1241 MHz defaults should be plenty quick.

Palit GeForce GTX 980 Ti Super Jetstream
Base Clock: 1152 MHz
Boost Clock: 1241 MHz
Memory Speed: 7010 MHz
MSRP: N/A (EU import only)
Reviews: Hexus, Guru3D, KitGuru

Available only in Europe, Palit’s Super Jetstream is one massive and capable GPU. The double-fanned air cooler is encased in classy silver metal with black accents. The card is technically a dual-slot-and-a-half, as the whole cooling enclosure pops up over the bracket a bit, creating an awesomely intimating sight inside your PC. And while the Super Jetstream is a monster of a 980 Ti, it still only requires a 6-pin and an 8-pin power connector.

The fans also run smooth and quiet, even during normal gaming sessions with the factory overclocks. According to Hexus, “The Super JetStream is overclocked, runs fast, keeps cool, and crucially makes very little noise. The fans turn off at low load, meaning the card is practically silent until you start gaming, and when you do load up a game it never really gets loud.” Plus, due to the power of the air cooler, higher overclocks are likely well within your reach.

GTX 980 Custom GPUs

EVGA GeForce GTX 980 Hybrid
Base Clock: 1291 MHz
Boost Clock: 1393 MHz
Memory Speed: 7010 MHz
MSRP: $650
Reviews: The PC Enthusiast

If you're looking for some hot rod-level overclocking, but you're a little wary of installing a liquid cooling loop in your PC, the GTX 980 Hybrid is a fine choice. It's an all-in-one system, so all you have to do is plug in the card like normal and attach the 120mm radiator and fan to the back of your case. Even without extra overlocking, the Hybrid comes with some pretty impressive speeds, with a 14% bump in both the core clock and the boost clock (compared to a reference GTX 980).

EVGA claims that the water block's copper base works wonderfully for stealing away all the extra heat from the GPU. The variable controlled fans go up and down depending on the temp of card, which should mean less noise. If you'd like to upgrade to a different fan for the radiator though, you can easily swap it out for a new one of your choosing (sold separately).

EVGA claims that this liquid-cooled beauty can run at temperatures 43% lower than the reference 980 card. For hardcore enthusiasts looking for a speedy but quieter solution, the Hybrid should suit your needs well.

EVGA GeForce GTX 980 K|NGP|N ACX 2.0+
Base Clock: 1304 MHz
Boost Clock: 1418 MHz
Memory Speed: 7010 MHz
MSRP: $630

Feeling the urge to shatter some overclocking world records? The K|NGP|N ACX 2.0+ might just be your dream card. Right out of the gate, it comes stock with insanely high clock speeds—1304 MHz on the base and 1418 MHz on the boost. Those numbers should just be the beginning though. EVGA claims that Vince Lucido, the man that the GPU is named after, was able to rocket this bad boy over 2200 MHz. While that speed is going to be tough to hit for mere mortals, it does go to show just what this card is capable of.

So how come the K|NGP|N ACX 2.0+ stays stable under such high settings? Well, EVGA uses a 14+3 phase design (a digital VRM) which sends up to 600A of raw energy. Of course, to get such results, the GPU relies on two 8-pin power connectors as well as an additional 6-pin connector.

If you'd rather explore the K|NGP|N ACX 2.0+'s overlocking potential with a water block, you can easily convert the card to a single-slot mount by removing the ACX 2.0+ cooler and attaching the included single-slot bracket. If you opt to keep the ACX 2.0+ on though, you can customize its numerous LEDs to match the color scheme of your rig.

EVGA GeForce GTX 980 Hydro Copper
Base Clock: 1291 MHz
Boost Clock: 1393 MHz
Memory Speed: 7010 MHz
MSRP: $650

EVGA's GTX 980 Hydro Copper is built almost exactly the same as their GTX 980 Ti Hydro Copper, which we highlighted in the custom 980 Ti section. So long as you've got a liquid cooling loop preconfigured (or you're in the process of installing one), this water-block GPU should make a wonderful resident inside your rig.

ASUS GeForce GTX 980 20th Anniversary Gold Edition (P-4GD5)
Base Clock: 1317 Mhz
Boost Clock: 1431 MHz
Memory Speed: 7010 MHz
MSRP: $750

ASUS’ 20th Anniversary Gold Edition GTX 980 comes out of the packaging with the highest overclocks on this list. According to ASUS, you can expect up 15% more frames-per-second in Assassin’s Creed Unity (at high settings) compared to a reference GTX 980, and up to 9.6% more frame-per-second in Battlefield 4 (at ultra settings).

In addition to its obscenely fast speeds, this GPU’s fans can run totally silent in such games as League of Legends and Starcraft. ASUS also claims that combining those same fans with ASUS’ DirectCU II heatsink and 10mm heat pipe results in the 20th Anniversary Gold Edition operating 15% cooler than a reference GTX 980. It even has a built-in memory defroster for those looking to take a stab at sub-zero overclocking.

ASUS STRIX GeForce GTX 980 (DC2OC-4GD5)
Base Clock: 1178 Mhz
Boost Clock: 1279 MHz
Memory Speed: 7010 MHz
MSRP: $555
Reviews: Guru3D, [H]ard|OCP, TechPowerUp, Hardware Canucks, Hexus, Geeks3D, TweakTown, OCAholic

Named after the Roman and Greek word for “owl,” the STRIX comes with the same DirectCU II cooling device as the 20th Anniversary Gold Edition. That means there should be plenty of wiggle room for extra overlocking, and the card should noticeably quiet when it’s not under a heavy strain. According to TechPowerUp’s review: “The fans will turn off completely in idle and during light gaming. Once the card reaches 67° C, the fans will spin up, but do so in a very quiet way that's barely noticeable. Even with full-on gaming, the card stays extremely quiet, running at only 30 dBA, which is barely audible when installed in a normal case with other noise sources, like the CPU cooler, HDD, and PSU.”

The STRIX also comes equipped with a DIGI+ VRM for accurate delivery of power, so the GPU stays stable even at higher clock speeds. If you happen to own a voltage reader, the rear of the STRIX has a voltage monitoring port, so you can read values such as memory and PLL voltages directly. There’s also a thick, solid back-plate affixed to the PCB to keep the whole GPU sturdy and safe from damage.

ASUS GeForce GTX 980 Matrix Platinum
Base Clock: 1241 Mhz
Boost Clock: 1342 MHz
Memory Speed: 7010 MHz
MSRP: $580
Reviews: TechPowerUp, Guru3D, Tom’s Hardware, HardOCP, KitGuru, Hardware Canucks, Tweaktown, OCaholic, TechCritter

The Matrix Platinum comes equipped with ASUS’ stand-out DirectCU II cooler with 10mm copper cooling pipes, similar to the one found on their 20th Anniversary Gold Edition GTX 980. This card also spins up the company’s CoolTech technology, which uses dust-proof, multi-directional fans to whisk away harmful heat. Because of this design, ASUS claims that that the Matrix Platinum runs 13% faster than a reference 980.

The Matrix Platinum has quite a few extra features stored under the hood as well. There’s a memory defroster, a one-press VBIOS restore button, a DIGI+ VRM with 14-phase super alloy power, and a four-color load level LED (green for safe, blue for light, yellow for medium, and red for heavy). Topping off the whole gamut is a solid-black aluminum backplate to keep the GPU durable and dependable. Perhaps not too shockingly, you’ll need a pair of 8-pin power cables to keep the card’s sky-high overclocks running happily.

To overclock the Matrix Platinum even more, you can use ASUS’ GPU Tweak. And if you’ve got some respectable air-cooling inside your case, you should find the results rather pleasing. Tom’s Hardware reports: “In the end, a 1329 MHz base clock, 1430 MHz GPU boost setting and 2038 MHz memory with a 110% power limit yielded the highest stable overclock with ASUS’ included cooling solution.”

MSI Geforce GTX 980 Gaming 4G
Base Clock: 1190 MHz (Gaming Mode)
Boost Clock: 1291 MHz (Gaming Mode)
Memory Speed: 7010 MHz
MSRP: $550
Reviews: TechPowerUp, Guru3D, OverclockersClub, [H]ard|OCP, pcGameware

MSI’s GTX 980 Gaming 4G uses the same Twin Frozr V cooling system as their GTX 980 Ti Gaming 6G (take a peek at the GTX 980 Ti section for more info). Along the same lines, this card also has three pre-set clock options, including OC, Gaming, and Silent mode.

MSI Geforce GTX 980 4GD5 OCV1
Base Clock: 1152 MHz
Boost Clock: 1252 MHz
Memory Speed: 7010 MHz
MSRP: $530

The sleek-looking 4GD5 OCV1 contains solid capacitors and an aluminum core, which MSI claims results in a 10-year lifespan under a full load, less overall heat, and more stability. This card also uses GPU Boost 2.0, which MSI claims aids in ensuring performance. GPU Boost 2.0 additionally includes the ability to tweak the unlocked voltage and set the GPU’s target temp. Combine that with MSI’s Afterburner overclocking software and you’ve got a truck-load of potential extra framerates. (Afterburner even comes with an embedded DX11.2 benchmark so you can track your results.)

Gigabyte GeForce GTX 980 Windforce 3X (GVC-N980WF3OC-4GD
Base Clock: 1203 MHz
Boost Clock: 1304 MHz
Memory Speed: 7012 MHz
MSRP: $630

The Windforce 3X GV-N980WF3OC-4GD is cooled by copper heat-pipes that run through the heat sink and by three sizable fans. Plus, Gigabyte doubled the copper layer inside the card’s PCB, which Gigabyte claims drops the temperatures considerably on the GPU and memory, and also makes for quieter overall operation.

Like other Gigabyte GTX cards, the Windforce 980 is equipped with the manufacturer’s patent-pending Flex display technology. Gigabyte claims that this unique programming can automatically recognize up to four monitors plugged in at once, allowing for some truly immersive gaming sessions on a single GPU. Unlike a reference GTX 980, this card needs two 8-pin power connectors to run, so make sure your PSU is up to snuff beforehand.

While you’re in the neighborhood, take a look at Gigabyte’s GV-N980G1 GAMING-4GD (rev. 1.0/1.1) and their GV-N980WF3-4GD. Both of these cards enjoy the same Windforce 3X cooler as the OC version, but have slightly lower clock speeds, and as a result, lower prices.

Gigabyte GTX 980 Waterforce 3-Way SLI
Base Clock: 1228 MHz
Boost Clock: 1329 MHz
Memory Speed: 7010 MHz
MSRP: $2600
Reviews: Guru3D, Kit Guru, Hardware LUXX, Hexus

If you’re a hardcore enthusiast looking for dizzying framerates in all of today’s most demanding games, Gigabyte’s Waterforce kit is the perfect choice. It contains not one, not two, but three heavily overclocked GTX 980’s. And thanks to the system’s self-contained liquid cooling loop, you should be able to push each of the cards’ already impressive clocks to even higher speeds. Hexus’ review reports that: “Using Gigabyte's bundled OC Guru software, we were quickly able to increase base and boost clocks to 1,378 MHz and 1,479 MHz, respectively. That's an 11% hike in peak speed, and memory was happy to operate at an effective 7,910 MHz, representing a 13% gain.”

Even if you don’t know a thing about water-cooling, installing the Waterforce kit is incredibly simple—just plug in the cards, drop the radiators into the cooling box, and connect your cables (we were fortunate enough to get a hands-on session with the hardware to test it). Of course, a ferocious 3-way SLI system such as this does have some important prerequisites. For one, you’ll need a minimum of a 1,200 watt PSU. Secondly, your motherboard must be able to take three double-slot GPUs. So long as your PC is ready, you’ll be in for one great experience.

Zotac GeForce GTX 980 AMP! Edition
Base Clock: 1165 MHz
Boost Clock: 1266 MHz
Memory Speed: 7010 MHz
MSRP: $550
Reviews: pcGameware, ThePCEnthusiast

Zotac’s Amp! Edition makes quite an entrance with its three orange fans contrasting against the gun-metal enclosure. It’s a bold color scheme, which makes sense considering the overclocked nature of the card. Despite the colossal motif of the card’s cooling system, Zotac claims that the fans actually produce fairly little noise.

Plus, since Zotac didn’t deviate too heavily from the standard GTX 980, you’ll only need two 6-pin power connectors to run it. If you’re in the market for a modestly overclockable card that’s priced a little lower than some of the others on this list, the AMP! Edition is a fine choice.

Zotac GeForce GTX 980 AMP! Omega Core
Base Clock: 1216 MHz
Boost Clock: 1317 MHz
Memory Speed: 7046 MHz
MSRP: $588

Zotac’s AMP! Omega Core has the same effective cooler as the GTX 980 AMP! Edition, albeit without the orange-colored fans. Its clock speeds are pumped up even more than its sibling though, with a base of 1216 MHz and a boost of 1317 MHz. But Zotac didn’t stop there, they also increased the memory to 7046 MHz, making this GPU a strong and affordable option for those looking to get as much extra performance as possible without needing to overlock anything themselves. Despite its zippy speeds, the Omega Core only requires the standard two 6-pin power cables.

Zotac GeForce GTX 980 AMP! Extreme Edition
Base Clock: 1291 MHz
Boost Clock: 1393 MHz
Memory Speed: 7200 MHz
MSRP: $610
Reviews: Hardware LUXX, Play3r

At almost 12 inches long and about six inches high, the Zotac GTX 980 Extreme Edition is as magnificently colossal as they come for a two-and-a-half-slot card (its triple fan IceStorm cooler pushes out past the mounting bracket). But all this size isn’t just for show, as the Extreme Edition packs on some superb overclocks: 1291 MHz base, 1393 MHz boost, and 7200 MHz on the memory. That’s a lot of power for the price, and should be enough muscle to conquer games running at high resolutions with ease. Hardware LUXX review states: “In terms of performance, the Zotac GeForce GTX 980 AMP! Extreme Edition sets new standards. So far, no card was faster in our tests.” Zotac also claims that their Carbon ExoArmor minimizes turbulence, lowers vibration, and reduces extra heat, making the card last longer and more stable under intense loads.

For enthusiasts who like their rigs lit up on the inside, the Extreme Edition won’t disappoint. Its LIGHT.id tech covers the front and back fans, and extends up above the middle fan. When the GPU is running in 3D mode, the cooler glows red; when in in 2D mode, it shines green.

Zotac also built in solid capacitors, ripple noise elimination, and an independent power regulation controller that can interface directly to FireStorm (the company’s OC software) via an external USB cable. You’ll need two 8-pin power connectors to get the AMP! Extreme Edition running.

Zotac GeForce GTX 980 AMP! Omega Edition
Base Clock: 1202 MHz
Boost Clock: 1304 MHz
Memory Speed: 7046 MHz
MSRP: $580
Reviews: Tom’s Hardware, TweakTown, Bjorn3D

This three-slot GTX 980's flat black paint, yellow hazard stripes, and huge cooler make it appear as though it was combat-dropped into your mobo by a military helicopter. That might not be far from the truth, because its clock speeds appear ready to pulverize just about any game that gets in their way, even at high resolutions. In Bjorn3D's review, they were able to achieve above 40 frames-per-second at Very High settings in Shadow of Mordor.

For under $600, you're getting your hands on one fast, LN2-capable card (there's a handful of DIP switches on the back of the PCB to disable temperature protection override for that purpose). As you might expect, the AMP! Omega Edition needs two 8-pin power cables for proper installation.

PNY GeForce GTX 980 OC Pro
Base Clock: 1228 MHz
Boost Clock: 1329 MHz
Memory Speed: 7200 MHz
MSRP: $540
Reviews:Hardware Canucks, Bit-Tech, Hexus

The OC Pro is a darn nice-looking GPU. But looks aren’t everything—this GTX 980 also has the brains to back it up. With a boost clock of 1329 MHz and a base clock of 1228 MHz, this card is more than ready for action. Hexus’ review sums it up nicely as: “Beautifully presented and well-overclocked on both the core and memory, benchmark performance is suitably sharp.”

To further bolster its beefy status, the OC Pro’s memory speed clocks in at a hotrod-fast 7200 MHz (compared to the already impressive 7010 MHz of many of the other custom GTX 980s here). Of course, that extra muscle does require a single 8-pin power cable as well as a 6-pin connector, but that’s to be expected. Considering the strength of this card’s overclocks (as well as a lifetime warranty after filling out an online registration form), the asking price of $540 is pretty enticing.

GALAX/KFA2 GeForce GTX 980 HOF
Base Clock: 1304 MHz (Secondary Mode)
Boost Clock: 1418 MHz (Secondary Mode)
Memory Speed: 7010 MHz
MSRP: $560
Reviews: Guru3D, Hexus, Hardware-Boom, Overclock 3D

The GALAX GTX 980 HOF (Hall of Fame) comes with two distinct clock settings to choose from: 1266/1304 MHz base and 1367/1418 MHz boost. The secondary set of speeds are geared for those pushing the boundaries in super-sized resolutions with maxed graphics, but even the primary settings are plenty powerful. GALAX/KFA2 were able to push past the intimidating 1400 MHz spectrum by installing a two-and-a-half slot cooler with three fans—two 80 mm and one 90 mm—as well as seven nickel-plated heat pipes with a copper contact plate.

The whole device is brought to life by two 8-pin power connectors, which send the current through a 10-phase delivery system (two memory phases and eight GPU phases). Near the upper right-hand portion of the installation bracket rests a big black OC button which, when pressed, sends the cooler’s fans into the highest speeds possible. If you’d like to take a crack at going past the preset 1304 MHz/1418 MHz secondary mode, this button will become your best friend.

For those happy with GALAX’s preconfigured clock speeds though, you won’t have to worry about any extra fan noise. “The card itself is quiet compared to others we tested,” said Guru3D. “Fans will spin at idle, and under gaming load you can hear a little airflow. It's all good and not at all noisy though.”

KFA2 also offers the same card for those in Europe, as well as a triple-slot 8Pack HOF for even more cooling muscle, which is also only available in Europe.

GALAX/KFA2 GeForce GTX 980 HOF Watercooled
Base Clock: 1304 MHz
Boost Clock: 1418 MHz
Memory Speed: 7010 MHz
MSRP: $800

If you'd like partake of GALAX's GTX 980 HOF, but your system is connected to a liquid cooling loop, consider the HOF Watercooled edition. Since it has a waterblock already installed, you don't have to worry about ordering any extra parts to get it singing (aside from any addition pipes, fittings, or pumps inside your PC, that is). Plus, it comes setup with the same 1304 MHz/1418 MHz clock speeds as the air-cooled version, so you're ready to rock right from the get-go. KFA2 also has this card for sale, but only in Europe.

GALAX/KFA2 GeForce GTX 980 SOC
Base Clock: 1228 MHz
Boost Clock: 1329 MHz
Memory Speed: 7010 MHz
MSRP: $570
Review: Guru3D, Bit-tech, Overclockers, Hardware-Boom

The weaponized-looking GTX 980 SOC is bolstered by three red fans that resemble razor-sharp shurikens, surrounded by a gray and black enclosure. While the card’s visual style is certainly noteworthy, the clock speeds are nothing to shake a stick at either—1228 MHz base and 1329 MHz boost. Those numbers are even more attractive when you factor in the $570 asking price, which is fairly comparable to a reference GTX 980 (a fantastic GPU in of its own right).

Despite its high overclocks and rugged construction—including a PCB-covering backplate—the 980 SOC is a straight-forward dual-slot card, and it should fit well in most mid-sized cases with decent cooling. Two 8-pin power cables are required, as per most custom GTX 980s. The 980 SOC is also available in Europe through KFA2.

Inno3D GeForce GTX 980 iChill Black
Base Clock: 1304 MHz
Boost Clock: 1418 MHz
Memory Speed: 7200 MHz
MSRP: N/A (EU import only)

Inno3D’s GTX 980 iChill Black is a spitting image of their GTX 980Ti iChill Black, and similarly, it’s only available in Europe. It’s got all the same cooling awesomeness, which includes the same self-contained water cooler.

Inno3D GeForce GTX 980 iChill HerculeZ X4 AirBoss Ultra
Base Clock: 1266 MHz
Boost Clock: 1367 MHz
Memory Speed: 7200 MHz
MSRP: N/A (EU import only)
Reviews: Kitguru

If the GTX 980 iChill HerculeZ X4 AirBoss Ultra looks stunningly similar to Inno3D’s GTX 980 Ti version, you’re not seeing double. Both of the cards are of the two-and-a-half slot variety, and both use the same custom cooler, complete with three side fans and smaller top fan.

Inno3D commands an impressive number of other GTX 980’s built off of the cooler’s basic design (some with different clock speeds), such as the AirBoss X4 DHS, AirBoss X4 4GB, and X3 AirBoss.

Inno3D GeForce GTX 980 iChill HerculeZ X3 OC
Base Clock: 1152 MHz
Boost Clock: 1253 MHz
Memory Speed: 7010 MHz
MSRP: N/A (EU import only)

The steel-themed GTX 980 HerculeZ X3 OC comes armored with a copy of Inno3D's GTX 980 Ti cooler. It's available only in Europe, and it's best suited for full-tower cases due to its gargantuan and heat-trouncing three-slot footprint.

Gainward GeForce GTX 980 Phantom
Base Clock: 1203 MHz
Boost Clock: 1304 MHz
Memory Speed: 7010 MHz
MSRP: N/A (EU import only)
Reviews:Legion Hardware

Gainward’s two-and-a-half slot cooler has a unique twist. Rather than placing the fans on top of the heatsink, the Phantom’s three 80mm PWM fans are instead tucked away inside the enclosure, away from sight. Underneath the cooler are five 8mm pipes which send the hot air gathered from the card evenly across the heatsink’s metal fins. One of the neat things about having the fans on the inside of the cooler is that they’re simple to remove and clean. Just loosen the thumb screw, pull on the fan of choice, and you’re set. (No cables needed!)

The Phantom has an 8-phase power design, and Gainward claims that this makes overclocking much easier and safer than usual. Or, as Legion Hardware puts in their review: “Gainward includes two extra phases for power delivery to the GPU, which should improve performance under heavy loads and aid in the card's overclocking abilities. Speaking of overclocking, Gainward has done a little bit of the heavy lifting by pushing the core clock from 1126MHz to 1203MHz, a decent 7% increase.”

The GTX 980 Phantom is only available in Europe, and you’ll need a 6-pin and an 8-pin power connector to get its engine running.

Gainward GeForce GTX 980
Base Clock: 1127 MHz
Boost Clock: 1216 MHz
Memory Speed: 7010 MHz
MSRP: N/A (EU import only)

Gainward’s GTX 980 comes with a sleek-looking black cooler with three red fans, which should let you overclock the boost and base clocks to respectable values. Of course, a well-ventilated case is always a good bet if you’re heading in the OC direction.

Palit GeForce GTX 980 Super Jetstream
Base Clock: 1203 MHz
Boost Clock: 1304 MHz
Memory Speed: 7200 MHz
MSRP: N/A (EU import only)
Reviews: Guru3D, Hexus, PCgameware, Kitguru

A Europe-only option, The GTX 980 Super Jetstream has a 2.5 slot cooler that’s very similar to the GTX 980 Ti super Jetstream’s, although the majority of this one is coated in a luxurious candy-red paintjob. Residing comfortably in the GPU itself are a pair of healthy overclocks: 1203 MHz on the base, 1304 MHz on the boost. Alternatively, there’s also the GTX 980 JetStream, which comes configured with a base clock of 1127 MHz and a boost clock of 1216 MHz.

GTX 970 Custom GPUs

EVGA GeForce GTX 970 Superclocked ACX 2.0
Base Clock: 1165 MHz
Boost Clock: 1317 MHz
Memory Speed: 7010 MHz
MSRP: $345
Reviews: Tom’s Hardware, Hexus, TechPowerUp

Nope, those base and boost clock speeds aren’t typos—EVGA really did manage to overclock the GPU that high. EVGA claims that their ACX 2.0 cooling system is largely responsible for the stable speeds, and they also claim that the ACX 2.0 design results in the card being 26% cooler, 36% quieter, and 250% lower in required fan power compared to the reference GTX 970.

With these specs, you should be able to run your games at higher resolutions (such as 2560x1440) without much difficulty, even with many of the graphics options turned up. The price is also attractive, averaging in at about 345 bucks online.

If you’d like to check out EVGA’s other GTX 970 options (which have varying clock speeds and prices), try the FTW + ACX 2.0+, FTW ACX 2.0, Superclocked+ ACX 2.0, Superclocked ACX 2.0+, Superclocked, and the SSC ACX 2.0+.

ASUS GeForce GTX 970 Turbo
Base Clock: 1088 MHz
Boost Clock: 1228 MHz
Memory Speed: 7010 MHz
MSRP: $350

The ASUS Turbo GTX 970’s stark white enclosure and minimal red highlights will look fantastic in just about any rig. This GPU comes configured with a dual-intake blower, which, according to ASUS, results in a 10% better cooling and more silent running when squared off next to a standard GTX 970.

In addition to the rocket-quick hardware, you’ll also get a one-year premium license to ASUS’s GPU Tweak (which ASUS claims can be used to easily overclock your card to bold new heights) as well as XSplit Gamecaster, which enables you to stream games without any fuss.

ASUS GeForce GTX 970 STRIX
Base Clock: 1114 MHz
Boost Clock: 1253 MHz
Memory Speed: 7010 MHz
MSRP: $340
Reviews:
[H]ard|OCP, Guru3D, Hexus, TweakTown, eTeknix, Bit-Tech, Vortez, Hardware Canucks, TechnologyX, OCaholic, ThePCEnthusiast, TechGage

Wait a second, is that a GTX 980 under the STRIX DirectCU II cooler? Nope—it’s an ASUS GTX 970, and it uses nearly identical fans, pipes, and heatsinks compared to its bigger brother. It’s a pretty slick value at $340, and it comes with some darn fine overclocks as well.

ASUS GeForce GTX 970 DCMOC-4GD5
Base Clock: 1088 MHz
Boost Clock: 1228 MHz
Memory Speed: 7010 MHz
MSRP: $359

Not everyone wants a mammoth PC cemented next to their desk, ready to destroy their shins at a moment’s notice. This is particularly true if office space is at a premium, or if you’re into modding with smaller form-factor cases. That’s where a low-profile card such as ASUS’s GTX 970 DCMOC is a lifesaver. At roughly 7” long, 5” high, and 1½” thick, it should fit into just about any system, even one based off Mini-ITX and MicroATX.

But don’t make the assumption that just because the 970 DCMOC is tiny that it’s less powerful. Far from it! With a 1088 MHz base and a 1228 MHz boost, you’re getting very similar speeds compared to a typical-sized version. ASUS even claims that the GPU’s premium power alloys results in 15% faster performance compared to a reference 970, and that it’ll last you two-and-a-half times longer. Additionally, ASUS claims that the dual-slot DirectCU Mini cooler keeps the card 20% cooler (compared to a reference).

Aside from all the benefits above, you’ll also have access to one DisplayPort, one HDMI, one DVI-I, and one DVI-D port, and it only needs a single 8-pin power connector.

MSI GeForce GTX 970 4GD5T OC
Base Clock: 1102 MHz
Boost Clock: 1241 MHz
Memory Speed: 7010 MHz
MSRP: $340
Reviews: Geeks3D

The 4GD5T is constructed from MSI’s Military Class 4 parts, which are based off the MIL-STD-810G standard—a benchmark used by the U.S. armed forces to ensure a particular piece of equipment is tested using real-world environmental stresses. You can also fire up MSI’s Live Update software to automatically download and apply GPU BIOS files and drivers. If you’d like to squeeze a little more juice out of the core and boost clocks, the 4GD5T’s gargantuan heat sink and fans should help offset the additional heat created from overclocking.

MSI GeForce GTX 970 Gaming 100ME
Base Clock: 1114 MHz (Gaming Mode)
Boost Clock: 1253 MHz (Gaming Mode)
Memory Speed: 7010 MHz
MSRP: $350

MSI’s GTX 970 Gaming 100ME wears the same Twin Frozr V cooler as the GTX 980 Gaming 4G. You can nudge the card’s clocks up by using OC Mode (1140 MHz base and 1279 MHz boost), or enjoy no-noise sessions in Silent Mode where you don’t need to stress the engine (1051 MHz base and 1178 MHz boost). MSI also has the GTX 970 Gaming 4G LE and the GTX 970 Gaming 4G—they’re well worth a look, and they both also utilize the Twin Frozr V tech.

MSI GeForce GTX 970 4GD5 OC
Base Clock: 1076 MHz
Boost Clock: 1216 MHz
Memory Speed: 7010 MHz
MSRP: $330

The MSI GTX 970 4GD5 OC’s cooler is the mirror image of MSI’s GTX 980 4GD5 OCV1. The card’s dual-slot setup should work well in most mid- to full-sized systems.

Gigabyte GeForce GTX 970 GV-N970IXOC
Base Clock: 1076 MHz
Boost Clock: 1203 MHz
Memory Speed: 7010 MHz
MSRP: $340

While the reference GTX 970 doesn’t hog up a bunch of space inside your PC, Gigabyte managed to shrink it down even further. The GV-N970IXOC is perfect for a Mini-ITX or MicroATX setup, especially in rigs built for home theaters or custom modded cases.

But even though it’s tiny, that doesn’t mean this GPU isn’t fast—its 1076 MHz core clock and 1203 MHz boost clock are nothing to shake a stick at, especially compared to the reference card’s 1051 MHz core clock and 1178 MHz boost clock. Plus, the GV-N970IXOC only requires a 400 Watt PSU with a single 8-pin connector.

There’s also Gigabyte’s similar N970IX, which clocks in at 1051 MHz on the base, and 1178 MHz on the boost.

Gigabyte GeForce GTX 970 GV-N970F3OC
Base Clock: 1114 MHz
Boost Clock: 1253 MHz
Memory Speed: 7010 MHz
MSRP: $350

Yearning for all of the supreme cooling that comes with a Gigabyte GV-N980WF3, but in 970 form instead of a 980? Not a problem, because the GTX 970 GV-N970WF3OC is just that. Be sure to give a hard look at Gigabyte’s similarly built GV-N970WF3-4GD and GV-N970G1 Gaming 970’s too.

Zotac GeForce GTX 970 AMP! Extreme Core
Base Clock: 1228 MHz
Boost Clock: 1380 MHz
Memory Speed: 7200 MHz
MSRP: $375
Reviews: Vortez, TechPowerUp

Zotac's ExoArmor tech incorporates gunmetal into the GTX 970 AMP! Extreme Core's fabrication, and which the manufacturer claims results in less vibration, turbulence, and better cooling. On top of that, the AMP! Extreme Core ships with some seriously high clock settings right from the factory floor, giving gamers a nice boost without needing to do any extra tinkering.

Zotac's FireStorm utility comes with the GPU as well, and it offers some in-depth performance monitoring along with the ability to create custom overclocking profiles.

ZOTAC GeForce GTX 970 AMP! Omega Core Edition
Base Clock: 1152 MHz
Boost Clock: 1304 MHz
Memory Speed: 7010 MHz
MSRP: $395
Reviews: Technology X

This dual-slot GTX 970 uses Zotac’s IceStorm cooler which is constructed of solid aluminum, reinforced by a full-length GPU backplate. According to Technology X’s review, this particular GTX 970 is notably friendly to extra overclocking. “The overclocking process is quite easy,” they said. “Using Zotac’s Firestorm we slowly increased the core clock rate by 10 MHz. Once we have a stable core clock rate, we adjusted the memory clock rate the same way, until the card runs stable without seeing artifacts and crashing. In our time tweaking, we were able to get fairly solid results, with a boost clock increase from the stock 1304 MHz to 1370 MHz, and a memory clock increase from 7010 MHz to 7320 MHz.” Zotac also has the GTX 970 ZT-90105-10P which is designed off a more standard blower unit, if that’s more to your liking.

ZOTAC GeForce GTX 970 AMP! Omega Edition
Base Clock: 1102 MHz
Boost Clock: 1241 MHz
Memory Speed: 7046 MHz
MSRP: $380
Reviews: Computer Shopper, Tech Spot

Zotac’s GTX 970 AMP! Omega Edition uses a very similar 3-slot cooler as their GTX 980 AMP! Omega Edition. This version needs two 8-pin power connectors (compared to the reference card’s two 6-pins), but the extra power just means more cooling, which opens the window for even more glorious overclocking. If, however, you’re in the market for a 2-slot cooler instead of a 3-slot, try Zotac’s standard GTX 970.

PNY GeForce GTX 970
Base Clock: 1050 MHz
Boost Clock: 1178 MHz
Memory Speed: 7010 MHz
MSRP: $330
Reviews: Real Hardware Reviews

If you want a straightforward and affordable GTX 970 with an elegant and attractive cooling system, give PNY's GTX 970 a good look. Its core clock and boost clock are identical to the reference GTX 970, and similarly, it only needs two 6-pin connectors from a 500 Watt PSU to get it fired up. Those are some very reasonable power requirements for an already fast GPU.

Just like the GTX 980 OC Pro shown earlier in this article, you can get a lifetime warranty if you're okay with filling out a quick form on PNY's homepage. And that's nothing to scoff at—a full warranty such as this provides a tremendous amount of reassurance should something go awry.

Inno3D GeForce GTX 970 HerculeZ X2
Base Clock: 1088 MHz
Boost Clock: 1228 MHz
Memory Speed: 7010 MHz
MSRP: N/A (EU import only)
Reviews: Hardware Boom

Upgrading a PC can sometimes be evolutionary rather than revolutionary—buy a part here, wait a little while to save up some bucks, then buy another component later. For example, you might want to install a liquid cooling loop now, but you haven’t quite gathered all the materials. With Inno3D’s HerculeZ X2 (available only in Europe), it’s a cakewalk to remove their custom fan and heat sink combo should you want to throw on a water-block down the line. Just unscrew the six hex bolts with the included tool and you’re in business.

Of course, the card runs just fine with the fans and heat sink intact. The HerculeZ X2 comes with an honorable overclock of 1088 MHz on the core and 122 MHz on the boost, but you can likely push it a little further with some fine-tuning.

If you need a much smaller GTX 970—one that’ll fit into a MicroATX or Mini-ITX environment—have a look at Inno3D’s GTX 970 HerculeZ X1 instead.

Inno3D GeForce GTX 970 iChill Black
Base Clock: 1228 MHz
Boost Clock: 1329 MHz
Memory Speed: 7200 MHz
MSRP: N/A (EU import only)

The Europe-only GTX 970 iChill Black has the same closed loop all-in-one liquid cooler as Inno3D’s 980 Ti iChill Black and 980 iChill Black. If you’re looking for one speedy 970, this GPU’s 1329 MHz boost clock and 1228 MHz base clock (and the 7200 MHZ memory) should meet your needs well.

Inno3D GeForce GTX 970 Ultra HerculeZ X4
Base Clock: 1178 MHz
Boost Clock: 1329 MHz
Memory Speed: 7200 MHz
MSRP: N/A (EU import only)
Reviews: PC Gameware

Inno3D’s GTX 970 Ultra HerculeZ X4 has a cooler that you might recognize from their GTX 980 Ti/GTX 980 line up. It’s available only in Europe, and comes with high overclocks across the board. There are a few other Inno3D GTX 970 choices as well, most of which have minor modifications to the cooling hardware and/or tweaked clock speeds. These include the AirBoss X4 DHS, AirBoss X4 4GB, and AirBoss X3.

GALAX/KFA2 GeForce GTX 970 HOF
Base Clock: 1228 MHz
Boost Clock: 1380 MHz
Memory Speed: 7010 MHz
MSRP: $430
Reviews: Overclocker

Got your mind set on a disconcertingly powerful GTX 970? The GALAX GTX 970 HOF is just the card for you. In fact, it’s basically unrecognizable compared to a typical 970. This GPU has a totally redesigned PCB with extra width, and a built-in MOSFET heat sink. GALAX even went all-out by constructing a specialized PCB backplane made from anodized aluminum. They also stuck in some aerospace-grade power inductors for good measure.

You’ll definitely need two 8-pin power connectors to keep the GALAX GTX 970 HOF happy, but that’s not too astonishing, especially considering the HOF’s clock speeds. Plus, with the embedded voltage tool (created by some intrepid enthusiasts), pushing the HOF’s overclocks even higher should be a cinch. If you’re in Europe, you can still order a GTX 970 HOF, albeit only through KFA2.

GALAX/KFA2 GeForce GTX 970 Exoc Black Edition
Base Clock: 1164 MHz
Boost Clock: 1317 MHz
Memory Speed: 7010 MHz
MSRP: $350
Reviews: Guru3D, Bit-tech

This dual-slot, one 6-pin power/one 8-pin power card is covered in menacing metal and a pair of sizable black fans. Looking down into the GPU, you’ll see a host of aluminum heat pipes connected to the heat sink, and on the back, there’s an anodized aluminum backplate. The card looks darn impressive inside a PC, and it’s plenty fast as well.

As Guru3D puts it in their review: “GALAX has a very competitive product in their hands with the EXOC Black Edition. It is among the fastest 970 models you can find on the market and performs as such... The product comes with all the features you'd want, from connectivity for your monitor to the performance cooler to a nice factory overclock and aesthetics.”

There’s also the GALAX GTX 970 Exoc, which comes with a white backplate and slightly different clock speeds (1126 MHz base and 1266 MHz boost). KFA2 also has the Exoc and Exoc Black Edition, though only in Europe.

GALAX/KFA2 GeForce GTX 970 OC
Base Clock: 1126 MHz
Boost Clock: 1266 MHz
Memory Speed: 7010 MHz
MSRP: $410

GALAX’s GTX 970 OC is specifically constructed for ITX chassis. It’s wonderfully compact (just seven inches long and a little over four inches high), but it’s got all the GTX 970 power and efficiency you’ve come to know and love. Beneath the two-fan aluminum cooler are three copper heat-pipes and quad mixed-gauge heat pipes, which GALAX claims lowers the overall temperatures and lessens noise compared to a reference GTX 970. You can get the same card from KFA2 (but only in Europe).

Gainward GeForce GTX 970 Phantom
Base Clock: 1152 MHz
Boost Clock: 1304 MHz
Memory Speed: 7012 MHz
MSRP: N/A (EU import only)
Reviews: Geeks3D, Fudzilla

Gainward’s two-and-a-half slot GTX 970 Phantom has the same unique cooler as their 980 Phantom, complete with quick-removal fans for easy cleaning. This GPU is only available in Europe.

Gainward GeForce GTX 970
Base Clock: 1051 MHz
Boost Clock: 1178 MHz
Memory Speed: 7012 MHz
MSRP: N/A (EU import only)

Covered in an identical blower-style cooler compared to Gainward’s GTX 980, this Europe-only GPU offers great value. This version of the GTX 970 comes out of the anti-static sleeve with the same speeds as a reference card, but you should be able to overlock it a bit with some careful testing.

Palit GeForce GTX 970 Jetstream
Base Clock: 1152 MHz
Boost Clock: 1304 MHz
Memory Speed: 7010 MHz
MSRP: N/A (EU import only)
Reviews: Guru 3D, Tech Power Up, Hexus, Tech-Critter, Kit Guru

Palit’s GTX 970 Jetstream (available only in Europe) uses the same cooler as the GTX 980 Ti and GTX 980 Jetstreams, although this one is lavished in gold coloring instead of red or silver. It’s also very affordable, and offers some splendid overclocks. If you’re more partial to a blower-style card cooler though, Palit’s GTX 970 should be right up your alley.

Conclusion

Add an Aftermarket Cooler to Your Reference Card

As awesome as all of these custom cards are, you shouldn't feel left out if you picked up a reference GTX 980 Ti, 980, or 970 at launch. In fact, if you'd like to aim for some higher overclocks, you should consider buying a third-party cooler. Arctic is a fantastic place to start; you can pick from different cooling capacities, cooler types, and how many total fans you'd like to add. Arctic even offers all-in-one liquid cooling loops much like the one found on EVGA's Hybrid cards (which can be bought separately for reference cards). And while adding an aftermarket cooler takes some time and patience, you usually won't need any ultra-fancy tools or a degree from MIT to get them installed. If you've got a micro screwdriver set and some thermal paste, you're probably ready to go.

For non-enclosed GPU water blocks, take a stroll over to Performance PCs—they've got a vast selection to choose from. (If you've never worked with water cooling, it's less scary than you might imagine. Our Cross Desk series in GeForce Garage covers many of the details.) A full-sized liquid cooling loop that's connected to your GPU is the best way to achieve massive overclocks. Still, it's important to note that you probably won't be able to push a reference card—even with liquid cooling—to the heights of custom cards such as Zotac's GTX 980 Ti AMP! Extreme. But you can definitely come close!


Love Your Life by Owning a Custom or Reference GTX 980 Ti/980/970

The beauty of the GeForce GTX 970, 980 and 980 Ti—aside from their great out-of-the-box speeds, cushy power requirements, and reliability—is just how much a manufacturer can customize them. Any of the sixteen cards listed in this feature would make a worthy companion to your motherboard. But again, when you're trying to pick just one, focus on a few key needs to hone the choices. If you're still at an impasse, check out the forums on such sites as Maximum PC, PC Part Picker, Reddit - graphicscard, and Tom’s Hardware (to name a few).

No matter which GPU you choose—or which third-party cooling route you take—you can expect some blistering fast gaming, even at high resolutions such as 2560x1440, or more. Also, setting up SLI is easier than ever, so going with a multi-GPU system is a fine choice, giving you the performance for 4K gaming with every setting maxed.

And don’t forget, with a GeForce graphics card, you’ll unlock amazing GameWorks effects such as HairWorks, HBAO+, Percentage-Closer Soft Shadows (PCSS), TXAA, Dynamic Super Resolution, and many more.

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