GeForce GTX 980 Ti Revisited: How does it fare in opposition to the GTX 1070 and RTX 2060?

Today we're visiting an old friend, the GeForce GTX 980 Ti, with a 36-game benchmark for 1080p and 1440p resolutions. We are particularly interested in seeing how it behaves against more modern GPUs like the GTX 1070 and the GeForce RTX 2060. In a way, you could call this GTX 980 Ti vs. GTX 1070 vs. Denote RTX 2060 test.

About a year ago, we tested the RTX 2060 for the first time. We missed the official launch because Nvidia "lost" our sample in the mail, but that meant we didn't have to speed up our tests and ended up having the pig and a massive 36-game test.

Looking back at this data, we found that the RTX 2060 clearly outperformed the GTX 1070 Ti, 13% faster than the Vanille GTX 1070. We didn't have any older GPUs like the GTX 980 Ti at that time, so that was missing Maxwell based flagship in this role. It will be interesting to see if these margins have changed, and at the same time to see how much faster the RTX 2060 is compared to the GTX 980 Ti.

The GTX 980 Ti was released in mid-2015 for $ 650 and the RTX 2060 in early 2019 for $ 350. This makes the modern Turing GPU three and a half years new and almost 50% cheaper. The 980 Ti was a beast of a GPU, it shared the same 601 mm2 chip with the Titan X and although not all SM units were activated, it still packed impressive 2816 CUDA cores, 6 GB GDDR5 memory on a 384 bit wide memory bus and enjoyed a memory bandwidth of 336.5 GB / s.

The GTX 1070 came a year later, and although it only packaged 1920 CUDA cores – 32% less than the 980 Ti – thanks to a clock rate increase of ~ 60%, the performance was very similar and this was largely thanks to Nvidia transition from 28 -nm process from TSMC to the latest 16 nm production at that time.

The jump to the 12nm process with the RTX 2060 was less extreme, but here we have a completely new architecture. Remarkably, the RTX 2060 chip is 42% larger than the GTX 1070, and although the number of cores has only increased by a little more than 10%, the cores are much wider and support technologies such as real-time ray tracing.

Despite the massive increase in chip size, Nvidia sold the RTX 2060 for a little less than the Pascal-based GTX 1070. In a way, since the newer GPU had more features, it was only slightly faster. Turing is the more modern architecture with better support for DX12 and Vulkan. So it will be interesting to see whether and where this scope has grown – in other words, which games Turing prefer today.

Our test setup consists of the MSI GTX 980 Ti Gaming (the names of the graphics cards were a bit simpler at the time), which was compared with the MSI RTX 2060 Gaming Z and the GTX 1070 Gaming X. The GPU test bench is powered by the Intel Core i9-9900K, to which 5 GHz is overclocked with 16 GB DDR4-3400 memory. Instead of having 36 individual charts as usual, we'll look at a dozen of the more interesting games and then jump into the performance breakdown charts. For the discussion, we focus on the 1440p results …

Benchmarks

Doom Eternal is an interesting game at first because it makes extensive use of asynchronous computing. This is a technology that neither the Maxwell nor the Pascal architecture could use at the hardware level.

At 1440p, the main advantage of the GTX 1070 over the 980 Ti is the 8 GB VRAM buffer, which and what is probably better driver optimization. The end result means the 980 Ti was almost 20% slower. However, it is the RTX 2060 and the more modern architecture that really stands out in this title and reaches almost 100 fps on average. This means the 980 Ti was 31% slower.

It's also worth noting that the 2060 does even better with 1080p, since the 980 Ti is also limited to a 6 GB memory buffer. While it was 18% faster at 1440p than the GTX 1070, it is a whopping 36% faster at 1080p because the memory limitations are less of a concern at this lower resolution.

If we switch to Resident Evil 3, we find a situation where the GTX 1070 is no faster than the GTX 980 Ti. If anything, it's a little slower. This was also the case with Resident Evil 2 – both games use the same engine and look very similar.

With an average of 68 fps at 1440p, the 980 Ti performs very well in this title. The RTX 2060 was faster, but this time only by 13%. This is progress, but not a ton of it.

In Rainbow Six Siege we see significant progress for the Turing-based GPU. Here the RTX 2060 was a whopping 35% faster than the GTX 980 Ti and almost 40% faster than the GTX 1070.

Rainbow Six Siege is a compute-intensive title, and previously this meant that AMD's 5th generation GCN products ran across all Nvidia Pascal GPUs like the GTX 1070. The improved Turing cores, however, have resolved this weakness, and now it's Nvidia who also has an advantage in this title compared to Radeon Navi GPUs.

The leap forward shown here is incredible, although the GTX 980 Ti still delivers impressive performance with an average of 79 fps at 1440p.

The 980 Ti also performs very well in Call of Duty: Modern Warfare and spits out over 60 fps at all times during our test, which corresponds to an average of 81 fps. It was also only 7% slower than the GTX 1070, although it lagged the much newer RTX 2060 by 24%.

The RTX 2060 also scores well at 1440p in this title, and a performance increase of 23% compared to the GTX 1070 is certainly no reason to sneeze.

This game also supports ray tracing and is therefore strongly optimized for Turing. We have seen that Pascal GPUs like the GTX 1060 do quite poorly compared to the competition, in this case the RX 580. Although we are sure that Turing improvements will help here, we would bet that driver optimization also plays a role .

The GTX 980 Ti did well in F1 2019 with the new DX12 mode, here it was only 11% slower than the GTX 1070, but more importantly, it could offer smooth playable performance at 1440p with an average of 76 fps. The RTX 2060 was 32% faster and 18% faster than the GTX 1070, which is a reasonable performance boost in this latest F1 title.

Fortnite now also supports DX12 and with this API we see comparable performance between the GTX 980 Ti and the GTX 1070 at 1440p using the preset maximum quality. Both work perfectly for competitive quality settings.

The RTX 2060 offers a 23% increase in performance and may not be the kind of gain you would expect in this title.

Another popular Battle Royale game in which the GTX 1070 and 980 Ti are evenly matched. Both GPUs reach a little over 70 fps on average. The RTX 2060 was about 20% faster at 1440p, which represents a strong performance advantage and certainly not a bad performance increase from generation to generation.

Shadow of the Tomb Raider remains a visually stunning game, even if it's been 18 months since it was released. As you can see, even at 1440p, it's demanding. Here the 980 Ti did not achieve an average of 60 fps, just like the GTX 1070, which both rendered slightly more than 50 fps. This made the RTX 2060's 23% boost clear.

World War Z is another title in which the GTX 1070 and 980 Ti are very evenly matched, and it is another title in which both push slightly past 60 fps at 1440p while using the maximum game quality. The RTX 2060 was 18% faster, which means a reasonable performance increase, but it has to be said that the 980 Ti hardly looks out of date.

The results of the Gears 5 are interesting. With 1080p, the GTX 1070 is significantly faster than the 980 Ti and offers a performance increase of 12%. At 1440p, however, the results come together, and here the 1070 is only 6% faster, which borders on a difference between the types of errors. The RTX 2060 is only 13% faster than the GTX 1070, although we see a similar distance between the two in the resolutions tested.

Ghost Recon Breakpoint was recently updated to support Vulkan. This has led to large increases in performance for modern GeForce GPUs – increases of up to 20%.

It seems clear that Nvidia didn't optimize for the 980 Ti and Maxwell, since the GTX 1070 was a whopping 18% faster at 1440p. A result similar to another new title, Doom Eternal.

Finally, we have World of Tanks and, as is so often the case with older titles, we see very little performance differences between the three GPUs, especially at 1440p. We are talking about a margin of 10% or less between the slowest and the fastest GPU. This is due to better driver optimization for older GPUs and the inability to use modern features that are supported by newer GPUs.

The GTX 980 Ti still appears to be behaving fairly well for the most part, though there are some titles like Ghost Recon Breakpoint that seem to lack proper driver optimization and therefore players need to reduce graphics settings to get smooth performance at 1440p . Since we've only looked at a dozen of the games tested, let's see how these GPUs are compared across all 36 games.

Breakdown of benefits

At 1080p, the GTX 980 Ti was 5% slower on average than the GTX 1070. The only outlier here was The Division 2, where the 980 Ti was 26% slower for some reason.

If you remove this result, the average changes by a single percent, making the 980 Ti ~ 4% slower. For the most part, you hardly see a difference between these two GPUs. A margin of 5% or less was achieved in 21 of the 36 games tested, which we normally consider to be a draw.

Switching to 1440p reduces the margin to 4%, and removing The Division 2 doesn't change that average. 22 of the 36 games showed a difference of 5% or less, which confirms that these GPUs match very evenly.

Compared to the RTX 2060, the GTX 980 Ti with 1080p was on average 20% slower. Division 2 along with Doom Eternal are weak titles for the Maxwell part.

The old GTX 980 Ti follows the RTX 2060 with 1440p with a similar lead. It was 19% slower on average for this match. It is certainly the case with the more demanding, newer or more technically advanced games in which the RTX 2060 differs from the GTX 980 Ti.

For titles like World of Tanks, War Thunder, For Honor and Resident Evil 3, the edges are much smaller. While they are pretty remarkable in titles like Doom Eternal, The Division 2, Control, DiRT Rally 2.0, Strange Brigade, Rainbow Six Siege, Red Dead Redemption 2, Assassins Creed Odyssey, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare and so on, few others, you understand.

What we have learned

While the GTX 980 Ti is slowly showing its age, the once powerful flagship GPU still has some problems, which is great to see. We have to admit that the original intent of this benchmark session was to examine how well the 980 Ti held up against the newer GTX 1070 in 2020. We were often more interested in the fight between the GTX 1070 and the RTX 2060.

But we will stop ourselves from jumping straight there and talking a little more about the 980 Ti compared to the GTX 1070. When we compared these two against each other in a large selection of games, the 980 Ti was actually 1% faster or basically identical, and that's still mostly true today. Games that favored the 1070 include The Division 2, Ghost Recon Breakpoint, and Doom Eternal.

None of these titles have been tested before and in our opinion the 980 Ti should probably not be that much slower. We therefore suspect that this is due to the fact that Nvidia has not optimized for older hardware.

The GTX 980 Ti is now 5 years old and we are pretty confident that Nvidia will give up all optimizations around the 6 year mark. This can be seen in Kepler-based GPUs. We suspect we're at a point where the GeForce 900 series is dropping in newer titles. If you are shopping second hand, remember that.

Let's now switch to RTX 2060 …

When we released it, we found that it was ~ 13% faster than the GTX 1070. In today's test, the RTX 2060 was 20% faster on average. So which games are responsible for overall performance improvement?

The biggest contributor is Control, a newer title that wasn't part of the previous test. Control is also a title sponsored by Nvidia, and a lot of time has been invested to ensure that RTX series GPUs offer maximum performance. This mainly means that ray tracing does not lead to a complete slideshow.

Interestingly, Strange Brigade's performance has also been dramatically improved, and this title uses asynchronous calculations. Although this is not a popular title, it is often used for benchmarking. So I'm not surprised that Nvidia tried to optimize the performance for Turing-based GPUs here.

The RTX 2060 was also 39% faster in Rainbow Six Siege, but that doesn't differ much from the 33% gain it made on the older DX11 version. Nvidia has optimized Turing for Wolfenstein: The New Colossus, originally the 2060, was 20% faster, now 33% faster with updated drivers and several game patches. Red Dead Redemption 2 is another new game that massively prefers 2060.

Between new games that make better use of modern GPUs and Nvidia's focus on driver optimization for Turing, the RTX 2060 was able to further distance itself from the GTX 1070 and consequently the GTX 980 Ti. For those of you who are still rocking the GTX 980 Ti, we would say that it holds up well and you are likely to be reasonably happy with the experience, but we suspect that it is now falling off and should be seen by future generations to be surpassed around $ 200.

The GeForce GTX 1070 is still a solid buy, but as Nvidia focuses its attention on Turing and future generations that support ray tracing and DLSS, it will be interesting to see how Pascal ages over the next few years. No doubt we will have a lot more benchmark content in the future that will monitor the situation.

Purchasing links:
  • GeForce RTX 2080 Ti on Amazon
  • GeForce RTX 2080 Super on Amazon
  • GeForce RTX 2070 Super on Amazon
  • GeForce RTX 2060 Super on Amazon
  • GeForce RTX 2060 at Amazon
  • AMD Ryzen 9 3900X at Amazon
  • AMD Ryzen 5 3600 on Amazon

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