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A Review of the Nvidia Geforce GTX 970 4K GPU

by on October 9, 2015
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While we wouldn’t quite call it a graphics card that’s ready for 4K UHD gaming to any serious degree, the Nvidia GeForce GTX 970 is nonetheless a serious piece of high-end, high resolution gaming hardware that delivers superb results when used for Full HD games at very high frame rates and some very solid results for 1440p gaming at good (though not very high) frame rates.

Currently serving the stature of one of Nvidia’s mid-grade GPUs due to more recent and powerful 4K-oriented cards that have come out, the GTX 970 offers lots of value for a lot of different gaming needs while not costing an arm and a leg. However, gamers who might be serious about having their hands on a card that really delivers the maximum, which is to say 4K gaming at high frame rates, would do best to steer clear of the GTX 970 and go for something a bit more robust like AMD’s Radeon R9 Fury X or Nvidia’s GTX 980 Ti or Titan cards.

The Good

On the whole, the GTX 970 is an impressive card that still delivers some stunning specs and excellent gameplay under rigorous conditions, even though it’s certainly no longer in the very top tier of GPU competitors from both Nvidia and AMD. Furthermore, there are several great things to like about this card.

First of all, as far as Full HD gaming goes, the GTX 970 is great to the point of almost being a piece of overkill. You could indeed find excellent Full HD performance for a considerably lower price than that of the 970 but if you want completely problem-free Full HD graphics rendering at even top frame rates, then go for it, get your hands on the GTX 970.

On top of its Full HD gaming chops, the GTX 970 also does a fantastic job of managing 1440p UHD graphics. The more heavy-duty 4K oriented GPUs on the market, such as the Radeon Fury X, the GTX 980 Ti and even the Radeon R9 Nano deliver superior 1440p performance but the GTX 970 manages to pull off its own high level of gameplay at this resolution while also being a more economical card.

Furthermore, we also love the overall efficiency of the GTX 970. This is a card that manages to perform without overheating too much or making a whole ton of noise and its performance for heat, noise and power consumption generated is definitely inside a very good range, even if some minor flaws are going to manifest here and there. The air-cooled design of the card might not be as robust as the kinds of fluid cooling systems we’ve seen in some AMD cards, but Nvidia seems to make it work very well and there are also other designs by other brands, which sell the Nvidia GTX 970 with their own external design, that create even better cooling architecture for their versions of this card.

Finally, we need to say that on a price per performance basis, the GTX 970 delivers some truly fantastic value as a GPU for the Full HD/1440p gamer and its retail price is a definite winner for those of you who want plenty of extra kick for your PC without going completely into 4K-compatible territory. In essential terms, the GTX 970 lets you get some very high frame rates in Full HD and 1440p while costing a fairly budget price.


Check the Price of EVGA GeForce GTX 970 4GB SC GAMING ACX 2.0 on Amazon:

4.5 - 1,228 Reviews

The Bad

No GPU is perfect and while the GTX 970 delivers an excellent level of performance when not pushed to very high limits, there are a couple of things we don’t necessarily like here.

Most importantly of all, the GTX 970 simply isn’t a real 4K GPU. Now this wouldn’t be a defect of the card if it were strictly advertised as just a Full HD/1440p graphics card --since you can’t hold against something the absence of that which it never claimed to offer. However, we’ve noted that a lot of insinuation does indeed go into giving the GeForce 970 a reputation for 4K UHD-capable gaming –not just from Nvidia itself but also from a number of other manufacturer sources. Thus, because 4K is something the card has been suggested for, we’ll have to say that nope, 4K ultra HD graphics are definitely not something this GPU will deliver soundly to your PC. It can handle 3840 x 2160 pixel graphics but only with lower frame rates and weakness at anything but low detail settings.

Final Opinion

For Full HD and 1440p gaming, we absolutely recommend the Nvidia GeForce GTX 970 GPU. It delivers excellent overall value for its price to an overwhelming majority of gamers. Even those who have 4K UHD displays can benefit greatly from the 970 if they don’t mind doing their gaming at 1080p and 1440p resolutions, which in any case are barely distinguishable from 4K UHD on a typical 25 to 30 inch PC screen.

Key Specs

Stream Processors 2048
Memory bandwidth: 224 BG/sec
Texture Units: 2 x 172
ROPs: 64
Base Clock: 1050MHz
Boost Clock: 1178MHz
Memory Clock: 7.0 Gbps
Memory size: 4096MB GDDR5
Form Factor: single-slot
GPU: GM204
Architecture: Maxwell
Transistors: 5200 million
Manufacturing Process: 28nm
Power Supply: 500 watts

Highlights

The Nvidia GTX 970 offers the same GM204 core that was given to the slightly more powerful GTX 980 GPU but oddly, in this case, the weaker card comes with a couple of more impressive specs in the form of 20,048 stream processors and a base clock that sits at 1,126MHz, though there is a bit of confusion on this last specs since Nvidia’s own site specs for the GTX 970 list a base clock of 1,050.

Furthermore, The GTX 970’s Maxwell architecture is definitely worth mentioning as one of the card’s highlights. In addition to being a very powerful processing core, Maxwell is also highly efficient due to its internal architecture. Nvidia put a fair bit of effort into rebuilding the design of the new core from that of the previous Kepler architecture and as a result the organization of the Maxwell’s internal stream processors is smaller, more compact and more plentiful in terms of raw numbers. This in turn means that specific processing tasks get delegated and done more precisely while other parts of the card can rest a bit and run on less power. In other words, both power consumption overall and heat generation get decreased with the Maxwell architecture. While this technology is now becoming a bit dated in the competition between Nvidia and AMD for processor design, it still has plenty to offer for users of the GTX 970 and other Maxwell equipped GPUs.

There are also other useful features that the GTX 970 comes with thanks to its GM204 core. One of these includes what Nvidia calls Dynamic Super Resolution (DSR), which is designed to reduce jagging along the edge of pixels on the screen as a type of anti-aliasing. In basic terms, Nvidia’s DSR technology in the 970’s GM204 core sort of fools a graphics engine into thinking that the monitor you’re using is capable of displaying a higher resolution than it can actually manage. The GTX 970 then takes this high-resolution information and downsamples it to the native resolution of your actual monitor in real time. In effect, anti-aliasing is achieved and game visuals become much crisper. Obviously, this works principally in Full HD and 1440p monitors and with games that are capable of rendering at higher-than Full HD resolutions.

Finally we also like the fact that the GTX 970 card is compatible with the DirectX 12 graphics API, which is designed to offer gamers the benefit of a considerably reduced CPU overheating level via better resource control and a generally more efficient level of rendering in games.


Check the Price of EVGA GeForce GTX 970 4GB SC GAMING ACX 2.0 on Amazon:

4.5 - 1,228 Reviews

Performance Benchmarks

General performance during gameplay

As a general performer during gameplay at lower resolutions like Full HD and 1440p UHD, the Nvidia GTX 970 is a definite pro of a card. It’s now only relatively power efficient thanks to it’s Maxwell architecture and other specs, it also delivers some fantastic to very good frame rates at high detail settings without overheating or getting too heavy on the noise production. As we’ve already said above, if what you’re looking for is a GPU that can handle your Full HD gaming needs completely and also stray into higher resolution without reaching the whole 9 yards for full-blown high-detail, high frame rate 4K UHD gaming, the GTX 970 is a superb and relatively economical choice.

Now, in order to back up the above a little further, here are a few tested stats of the GTX 970’s performance with different games at Full HD 1080p and 1440p UHD resolutions: (All frame rates are averages for duration of game/resolution testing)

Metro Last Light at 2560 x 1440 pixels/high detail setting: 66.8 frames per second
Metro Last Light at 1920 x 1080 pixels/very high detail setting: 83.0 frames per second
Crysis 3 at 2560 x 1440 pixels/high detail setting: 57 frames per second
Crysis 3 at 1920 x 1080 pixels/high detail setting: 88.2 frames per second
Batman Arkham Origins at 2560 x 1440 pixels/very high detail: 90 frames per second
Batman Arkham Origins at 1920 x 1080 pixels/very high detail: 160 frames per second
Battlefield 4 at 2560 x 1440 pixels/ultra detail: 47 frames per second
Battlefield 4 at 1920 x 1080 pixels/ ultra detail: 72.4 frames per second

Power Consumption

Power consumption is a bit tricky to calculate for the Nvidia GeForce GTX 970 card since the idle and load power consumption figures for a GTX 970 reference model from Nvidia itself are a bit different than those that would be the case with 970 versions built by assorted third party licensed manufacturers, with each of these different models having their own added quirks for different power usage levels. However, in general, the GTX 970 seems to work rather poorly on idle power consumption while doing a good job of keeping power usage relatively low while running at full loads. The Maxwell architecture of the GTX 970 helps a lot in this regard though if strained to the max, it can start performing almost as if it were a Kepler processor core design.

Under idle conditions, the card generally seems to draw an average of about 74 watts of power. However, we’ve seen other reported test results in which much lower wattage of just 20 to 25 watts were measured.

Under load conditions, the power usage of the GTX 970 seems to range between 300 watts during intensive play under a more heavy duty game like Crysis 3 and about 284 watts under load power consumption testing with FurMark. On the other hand, we’ve also seen load tested results under Full HD gaming conditions in which the card only drew 180 watts.

Heat generation

As far as heat generation goes, the GTX 970 performs remarkably well under idle conditions, and all the more so when we consider that the card is running on an air-cooled temperature control system. Testing of the GTX 970 at idle processing requirements shows a wonderfully low operating temperature of just 29 degrees Celsius, in other words, just a little bit above room temperature. This compares wonderfully to the idle temperature settings of AMD’s comparable Radeon R9 290X, whose idle temp hits as high as 44 degrees. Then again, AMD is generally known for building GPUs that run hotter than comparable Nvidia models.

As for temperature under load conditions, the GTX 970 once again performs admirably and manages to stick to a running temperature of just 64 degrees Celsius while being used during play with even a high-intensity game like Crysis 3. Again, compared to the roughly equal R9 290X from AMD, this is great since the AMD card hits as high as 94 degrees.

Noise generation

In terms of noise generation, the GTX 970 is definitely on the noisy side unfortunately. Even under idle conditions, the card seems to be unable to go below 42 decibels of sound volume and this puts it well above the average as far as comparable AMD and even other Nvidia cards go. In fact, we’d say that idle noise in the 970 is something of an Achilles heel for the card. It is a loud little machine.

On the other hand, the GTX 970 performs an odd inverse of its idle noise generation habit when put to the test with load performance during intensive play of Crysis 3. Here, we get a volume that’s below that of many comparable cards at just 48 decibels. This isn’t a great noise level by itself but the fact that the card grows only 6 decibels louder between running idle and being tested to the max is interesting to say the least.

Gaming at 4k Resolution

To be brief here, the GTX 970 from Nvidia isn’t really a 4K UHD GPU if your definition of effective gaming in 4K involves frame rates that go above 40 fps. The GTX 970 can surprise at times by delivering as many as 45 to 48 frames per second for lighter 4K UHD-capable games like Metro: Last light under low to medium detail settings, or even hit 40 fps with the intensive Crysis 3 at a low detail level. However, on the whole, this GPU is definitely not a strong performer for 4K UHD gaming if that’s your main aim with a graphics card.

Instead, the GTX 970 should be thought of as a superb Full HD and 1440p card that can be used to foo around with 4K-capable games on a 4K UHD monitor in a pinch, as long as you don’t push the detail settings too far.

Price

One major factor in the Nvidia GeForce GTX 970’s favor is its relatively affordable price. This graphics card is currently retailing for $289.99 for the EVGA superclocked model sold on Amazon.com.

Check the Price of EVGA GeForce GTX 970 4GB SC GAMING ACX 2.0 on Amazon:

4.5 - 1,228 Reviews


Positives

• Excellent Full HD graphics card
• Very solid performer at 2560 x 1440 pixels and high fps
• Great temperature control
• Surprisingly quiet under load conditions
• Affordable pricing

Negatives

• Not a real 4K UHD GPU
• Noisy when idle
• Somewhat weak 4 GB GDDR5 memory

Editor Rating
 
Termperature
A-

 
Noise
A-

 
4k/HD Rendering
B

 
Power Consumption
B+

 
Pricing
A-

Total Score
B+

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Bottom Line
 

For gamers who want to enjoy Full HD gameplay and 1440p games at extremely high to high frame rates respectively, even with high detail settings, the Nvidia GeForce GTX 970 has our recommendation. On the other hand, if you want serious 4K gaming, go for something like the Nvidia GTX 980 Ti, the AMD R9 Radeon Fury X or one of Nvidia’s Titan cards.

Check the Price of EVGA GeForce GTX 970 4GB SC GAMING ACX 2.0 on Amazon:

4.5 - 1,228 Reviews

 
6 comments
 
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  • Vic
    November 17, 2015 at 2:59 pm

    Hello
    Will this GPU support two 2k monitors 2560 x 1440 pixels each with the 60Hz each ?
    Thanks
    Vic

    Reply

    • Stephen
      Stephen
      November 18, 2015 at 3:43 pm

      Hey there Vic,

      First of all, for that to happen, the connectivity has to be in place for joining two monitors to the Card. This would probably have to be done via HDMI 2.0 (if your monitors and the card have it) or via DP 1.2 (if either monitors or card have enough correct DP connectivity to be hooked all together).

      However, aside from that, the GTX 970 isn’t even capable of supporting 4K resolution on a single UHD monitor at a full 60Hz, so two monitors runnig at 1440p resolution each likely won’t get full 60Hz, particularly if you’re doing intensive gaming… Two of those monitors hooked together amount to more than 4K UHD resolution in fact.

      Reply

  • Vic
    November 19, 2015 at 10:09 am

    Hi Stephen!
    Thank You for reply
    I want to use the Palit GeForce GTX 970 JetStream (with 3mini Dp.1.2) and 2x Acer H257HU Monitors to work with 3Ds Max only but on 60Hz cause my eyes, and no any games ))) The seller in the computer store told me the opposite things—- that 2x 2k monitor is not like one 4k but still like one 2K Monitor for the card …what is was really wired to me… So You are pretty sure that with 2x 2K monitors the GTX 970 has even more pixel to operate as with one 4k and this GTX 970 card can not support it at 60 Hz? Witch GPU can support 2x 2k at 60hz for 3Ds Max ?
    Thanks a lot ! )))

    Reply

    • Stephen
      Stephen
      November 19, 2015 at 6:18 pm

      Hello Vic. If two 1440p (2K) monitors are running together to form a single expanded image then the total pixel count will definitely be more than 4K ultra HD and if the onscreen video or game scales up to match that then your GPU will have to handle the extra resolution of rendering smooth graphics over two different monitors, which will go beyond a total of 3840 x 2160 pixels (normal 4K), something which the 970 cannot do well alone. Working it in a crossfire configuration, yes it could possibly run dual 1440p monitors at higher frame rates and possibly even above 60Hz, but it would depend on how intensive the graphics that you’re going to render are.

      For a single 4K-capable GPU, I highly recommend the Nvidia GTX 980 Ti, the Nvidia Titan X or possibly the AMD R9 295×2. It’s actually a dual GPU configuration but it’s sold as a single combined unit.

      You can find reviews of these other GPU’s here: http://4k.com/gaming/

      Reply

  • Sam
    February 10, 2016 at 8:36 pm

    Hi, I’m just planning to buy three 2560×1440 monitors for video editing (Premiere Pro and After Effects) so I was wondering if GTX 970 is going to handle it. Also I have heard some people near me with the same gpu playing GTA V with 3 screens. Am I going to be able to do a little gaming with those 3?

    Thanks in advance 🙂

    Reply

  • Phillip
    February 24, 2017 at 10:38 am

    What about In SLI? Would the card run decent 4k?

    Reply

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