The Difference in the Different Versions of Same GPU

LackedMule1217

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I have been looking through the forum for questions similar to mine, but none of them provides the full answer that I want.

So my question begins with why are there different brands of the same GPU such as Zotac, Evga, Asus and Gigabyte? Do they contain the same hardware as the original reference cards? In other words, besides the changes in cooling and a difference in the outer case design, are there any changes in the hardware ("the brains" if you will) on the inside?

My second question is if the hardware of the different brands of the same GPU stays the same, then why do the base and boosts clock speeds vary? Is it because the different manufacturers boost the reference card speeds to meet their needs and call it their own?

My third question revolves around the power consumption of each of the different brands of the same GPU. For example, for a card such as the GTX 980 TI, the GeForce website (referring to the reference card) says that it consumes 250W with a recommended PSU of 600W (http://www.geforce.com/hardware/desktop-gpus/geforce-gtx-980-ti/specifications). However, if I go on the BestBuy website looking at the same card, but with the Zotac brand, it says that recommended PSU is only 400W - a really big difference (http://www.bestbuy.ca/en-CA/product/zotac-zotac-geforce-gtx-980-ti-6gb-gddr5-pci-e-video-card-zt-90501-10p/10381363.aspx?path=03a297766def9e360d0a6edac4d29dd7en02). How come?

Finally, I am planning to buy the GTX 980 Ti and I might invest in the HYBRID Water Cooler (All in One) for GTX 980 Ti in the future after I buy the air-cooled card (http://www.evga.com/Products/Product.aspx?pn=400-HY-0996-B1). In this case, which brand should I buy it from since the cooling won't be a concern because of the water cooling later on? Should I buy the reference card like (http://www.canadacomputers.com/product_info.php?cPath=43_1200_557_559&item_id=084807) or a super-clocked card like (http://www.canadacomputers.com/product_info.php?cPath=43_1200_557_559&item_id=084683)?

Thanks for your response.
 
Two types of cards are there: reference and non-reference.
Reference cards would be the ones that will be the exact same in design as the NVIDIA/AMD specification. Whatever NVIDIA say on their website, applies to the card. Non-reference cards would be the design of the manufacturer of the card. Some manufacturers put only their own coolers on an otherwise reference PCB, whereas others put in a whole new PCB. These cards are generally cherry picked, and so could also have a beefier cooler, etc., and will carry a price premium. Besides the GPU chip itself and memory, everything could be different on such a non-reference card.

Clock speeds can be varied(even by you), and increased/decreased from the reference value. This is known as over/underclocking. Cherry-picked cards can be overclocked higher, and almost always are(such as ASUS Matrix or MSI Lightning). This is why they're costly.

It cannot really be predicted how much power a given card will consume, except for reference cards, which can be expected to consume whatever NVIDIA/AMD say. There are too many factors. For a best bet, you could look at reviews of a given card. I recommend techPowerUp or Tom's for reviews. I personally use techPowerUp.

A 980Ti itself consumes 250W of power, so 400W would be too low, as it'll leave only 150W for the CPU, fans, watercooling pumps, hard drives, LEDs, etc etc. 600W is more appropriate. Manufacturers usually put higher-than-necessary power supply values, as they know people use cheap power supplies that don't deliver the wattage they promise.

Watercooling will result in a more effective cooler and lower temperatures, provided the ambient temperature is not too high. People also want to overclock their card to higher values after they get water cooling. It's up to you, if you want to overclock, go for a pricier SC card. If not, and you only want lower temperatures and low noise, go for a vanilla card.
Remember, though, if you purchase a non-reference card such as the MSI Lightning, the high-end air cooler will go to waste, unless, of course, you want to sell it.
 
They all use the same GPU chip but no chip is the same. There will be variation of quality. Typically the high end models is said to have the higher binned chips.
The difference between the brands is their gpu cooler and their aesthetics. Some model offer some features such as lighting, 3 fans, watercooled or a backplate. They should in theory consume the same amount of power if they are clocked at the same speed. Some brands offers a custom PCB and components which is said to be an improvement on the reference board whilst some just keep the reference design of the card and add a cooler on it.

The base clocks out of the box matters very little generally. There difference is negligible in real world situations such an increase in 25Mhz would probably not have any increase in fps performance. You would generally need a large overclock to make a difference between the cards.

A decent 550W psu will power most GTX 980Ti. An exception would probably be the Kingpin edition GTX 980Ti if it comes out since most 550W psu have two pcie plugs whilst the card would most likely need at least three.
With the GTX 980Ti you linked, the EVGA SC just means it is running a factory overclock out of the box. It still has the same cooler used and the same reference design PCB.
Watercooling is not necessary for the GTX 980Ti. A decent air cooler such as the Gigabyte Gaming G1 GTX 980Ti will be fine.
 
Two types of cards are there: reference and non-reference.
Reference cards would be the ones that will be the exact same in design as the NVIDIA/AMD specification. Whatever NVIDIA say on their website, applies to the card. Non-reference cards would be the design of the manufacturer of the card. Some manufacturers put only their own coolers on an otherwise reference PCB, whereas others put in a whole new PCB. These cards are generally cherry picked, and so could also have a beefier cooler, etc., and will carry a price premium. Besides the GPU chip itself and memory, everything could be different on such a non-reference card.

Clock speeds can be varied(even by you), and increased/decreased from the reference value. This is known as over/underclocking. Cherry-picked cards can be overclocked higher, and almost always are(such as ASUS Matrix or MSI Lightning). This is why they're costly.

It cannot really be predicted how much power a given card will consume, except for reference cards, which can be expected to consume whatever NVIDIA/AMD say. There are too many factors. For a best bet, you could look at reviews of a given card. I recommend techPowerUp or Tom's for reviews. I personally use techPowerUp.

A 980Ti itself consumes 250W of power, so 400W would be too low, as it'll leave only 150W for the CPU, fans, watercooling pumps, hard drives, LEDs, etc etc. 600W is more appropriate. Manufacturers usually put higher-than-necessary power supply values, as they know people use cheap power supplies that don't deliver the wattage they promise.

Watercooling will result in a more effective cooler and lower temperatures, provided the ambient temperature is not too high. People also want to overclock their card to higher values after they get water cooling. It's up to you, if you want to overclock, go for a pricier SC card. If not, and you only want lower temperatures and low noise, go for a vanilla card.
Remember, though, if you purchase a non-reference card such as the MSI Lightning, the high-end air cooler will go to waste, unless, of course, you want to sell it.
 

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