Today we’re taking a look at the GTX 970, the second tier card in the 9 series. Created under the Maxwell architecture banner, the successor of the Kepler series. What does that mean? It means these cards were constructed with two goals in mind – providing superior performance, while consuming less power.
The original goal was to us a 20nm manufacturing process, but that proved too difficult at the time, they did however reach 28 nanometer. With such a small fabrication, the cards provide excellent performance while cutting down massively on power consumption, and heat. For instance, in the 7th series the GTX 780 Ti, was the king dingaling has a power consumption of 262 watts. The 970, which offers similar performance, does so while consuming only 164 watts.
The 970 has approximately 5.2 billion transistors hidden away somewhere in its 398mm die (the actual chip), sporting 1664 Cuda cores (shader cores vertex/pixel), 64 ROPs (raster operations pipeline or more commonly render output unit) and 4 GB of GDDR5 memory, (3.5GB actually, but pay no mind) connected through a 265-bit bus with a bandwidth of 224GB/s. The best of all though, a 10 watt power draw when idle. When the card isn’t in use, it will run extremely cool and quiet.
Some of the features Maxwell chips boast include:
Dynamic Super Resolution, which is rendering a scene natively at a much higher resolution that what is being displayed on screen. This technique provides an unmatched anti-aliasing solution (reduction of jaggies), though at a hefty cost as higher resolutions mean having to push more pixels.
Voxel Global Illumination, a new lighting technique that provides accurate light reflection and refraction in a scene. This is used to correctly render how light bounces around and looks real, real fancy.
Multi Frame Sampled Anti-Aliasing, new anti-aliasing, gives the performance of 4xaa at the cost of 2xaa. Many of the newer titles coming out in recent months allow Nvidia GPU owners to take advantage of this.
HDMI 2.0 and encoding updates, which allow 4k at 60 frames a second decoding or encoding. All in glorious too many colors.
Thermals and fan noise aren’t really something I’ll willing to spend time on, as noise is entirely subjective. Fan noise doesn’t really bother me. Besides, thats why Big Ben Frank invented headphones, and with a heap of fan noise you have an excuse to ignore your wife/husband.
Thermals are important, but with most modern cards there are utilities one can use to adjust fan speed profiles, making whichever card you choose to run loud and cool, or quiet and hot. One of the best utilities one can use is MSI Afterburner, which allows for fan profile manipulation, monitoring GPU usage, and even overclocking.
For this particular review I will also forgo the usual bench-marking, where frame rates are spit out. I will include benchmarks in the future in order to properly get a baseline. Know that these numbers vary wildly based upon which CPUs are paired with the video card. An i7 4770 can give a frame rate delta of greater than 30fps when compared with an i3, where some i5 processors give the same or better results on certain titles. (AMD chips might be worth mentioning someday, but today ain’t that day)
When paired with any modern flagship processor, the GTX 970 will be able to handle 1080p/60 frames a second, on almost title today. There are of course some titles out there that bring the numbers down, but those titles are few, and far between. The card is aging, and will one day be an outdated relic of yesteryear, but for now it remains an excellent bargain, and provides plenty of bang for your buck. A quick internet search yields many results, showing the card below 300.00$ new, and used for under 200.00$. I recommend it…though for just a little bit more money, you can get a GTX1060 with 6GB of sweet sweet delicious video ram. Ignore that awful nasty 3 GB version.