The launch of the GeForce GTX 980 is supposed to provide gamers with a high end graphics card but, looking past its obvious performance features, the underlying Maxwell architecture represents a significant shift in GPU engineering philosophies. By approaching GPU design in a way that mirrors NASA’s “faster, better, cheaper” approach from the mid-90’s, NVIDIA is looking to offer something unique, forward-thinking and highly efficient without offering up performance like a sacrificial lamb. Considering what was achieved with Kepler and its various iterations, what we’re seeing today is nothing more than the tip of the iceberg.
NVIDIA’s Maxwell architecture was actually heralded by a seemingly nondescript pipe-cleaning part, the GTX 750 Ti. Its GM107 core allowed for impressive performance per watt output and set the stage perfectly for today’s follow-on launch of the GTX 980 and GTX 970. Many of GM107’s design advances have been carried over en masse to the higher end GM204 core which powers these higher-end Maxwell parts.