Cool, quiet, and deliciouslY quick, Gigabytếs overclocked GTX 970 nails it.

One of the new GeForce GTX 980 is a killer with a steep price. the I much cheaper GTX 970 looks one hell of a card. Unlike with the 980, the first iterations of which are mostly stock-clocked reíerence boards. there won t be any 970 reíerence boards. so our first taste comes courtesy of Gigabyte. And it’s really gone to town on the new 970 with the G1 Gaming, a íactory over-clocked card with custom cooling.

If you want to take it íurther than its íac-tory-overclocked settings, you can even get mighty đose to the períormance of a ref-erence-clocked GTX 980. And that means achieving superior gaming períormance to a GTX Titan Black. For not much more than C300. Yes, really. It’s great.

Inside the GTX 970 you ll find the same NVidia GM206 GPU that made the GTX 980 such an impressive graphics card, with just a few little nips and tucks to allovv the lower price point. The big change is on the traditional streaming microprocessor units íront. The SM count for the 970 is down from 16 to 13. That still gives you 1.666 CUDA cores for your money, but it’s a pretty severe slicing from the 2,068 cores in the GTX 980.

Hovvever, the GTX 970 still has the same 2MB of L2 cache, the same 66 ROPs, the same 256-bit memory bus, the same speed and algorithmic advances in the actual memory itselí, and crucially, the same 6GB trame buffer. It’s the common memory ca-pacity between the two latest Maxwell-pow-ered cards that allovvs them to be such key players at the highest resolutions.
Cool runnings
Right from the outset then, it’s clear that Gigabytes G1 Gaming GTX 970 is aiming squarely at the bigger 980 beast. The base clock is 128MHz higher than the Standard GTX 970, so this new card is running íaster than the GTX 980 out of the box in terms of pure clock GPU terms. But thats just the base clock. The G1 Gamings boost clock goes even íurther than the GTX 980’s, hitting 1,329MHz as a Standard turbo setting com-pared to the 1,216MHz of its bigger brother.

Thats thanks to Gigabytes powerful Windforce cooling array. The large triple-fan/triple-heatsink Setup means it’s a lon-ger card than the Standard GTX 980 design, despite having a shorter PCB, but also makes it a seriously effective cooling so-lution. With the tactory-overclocked GPU working its Silicon socks off, it was still only just about hitting a maximum temperature of 58 c. That s incredibly cool running for a proper high-end GPU, especially one that s capable of hitting 30fps at top 4K settings in Battleíield 4.

Even when we worked our own over-clocking magic on the G1 Gaming, it was still only very occasionally hitting a maximum 64 c. With the GM 204 running at an incred-ible 1.5GHz, that s a staggering technical achievement. In fact, it’s enough to have this G1 Gaming match a reíerence clocked and cooled GTX 980.

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Game on

lf that was the end of the story, you might still put your money on the reíerence GTX 980. Aíter all, its GPU Isn t being pushed as hard in order to achieve those speeds. But the VVindíorce cooling array really does make a tremendous difference; even operating at 1.5GHz, the G1 Gaming was running over 15 c cooler than the reíerence card.

Then there’s the price.The stock GTX 970, and this factory-overclocked version. But it’s still way cheaper than a basic GTX 980. As for AMD s Radeon R9 290X, ỉt’s in trouble. Even the overclocked Tri-X version from Sapphire can t cool to the same extent. or provide períormance to beat this cheaper card.

Even if AMD reacts by slashing prices, the Nvidia ecosystem arguably íeels a little more vibrant right now, with some íunky new technology (such as MFAA, VXGI, and DSR) making the Green Team seem more of a value proposition. In real terms, hovvever, it*s the additional straight-line gaming per-íormance that gives this new Gigabyte card theoverallvvin íorus.

Cheaper, íaster, better. Thats what new Computer chips used to be about. More recently the rate of development in PC graphics has seemed to slow. With these new GPUs, Nvidia has taken us back to the golden age of graphics.

OK, the GeForce GTX 980 and 970 aren’t massively íaster than everything we‘ve seen beíore. Indeed, thefact Nvidias rela-tivelyancientGKHOchip—incardssuchas the GeForce GTX 780 Ti and Titan Black— is still pretty competitive just goes to show what an avvesome bit of kit it really is.

But in the GTX 970, Nvidia has come up with something seriously special.

That NVidia has pulled this off despite being stuck at 28nm through no fault of its own just makes these new Maxvvell GPUs even more impressive. We can hardly imagine how insane Maxwell vvill be when it gets an inevitable shrink down to 20nm next year.

If there is a negative, its the pric-ing on the GTX 980 model. It’s simply too big a premium to justify and that’s a pity. As for AMD, it doesn’t look pretty. All Nvidias main rival can do is cut pricing to position its GPUs more competitively. And while that may be enough to deliver a great price-performance package—the Radeon R9 290 and 290X remain awesome GPUs—it will still leave AMD lagging on metrics like heat and overclockability. And it will also leave AMD selling big, expensive graphics chips for not a lot of money.

As far as we know, it won’t be until 2015 and AMD’s 20nm Pirate Islands chips that there’s even a chance it will have some-thing that can truly take on Nvidia s Max-well. Until then, it looks like times will be tough or AMD. -MPC.

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