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Gigabyte G1 Gaming GeForce GTX 970 Review

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Introduction

Nvidia has many things planned for their Game 24 event. Gaming is the most obvious, but they also have a planned Mod 24 event and they are releasing two new graphics cards; the GeForce GTX 970 and the GeForce GTX 980 based on Nvidia’s Maxwell architecture. It is the former that we will be looking at today.

On paper, the new GTX 970 is a bit different from the GTX 770 it replaces. The raster operations pipelines count has been increased from 32 to 64. The texture mapping units have been decreased from 128 to 104. The new card features 4Gb of GDDR5 VRAM on a 256 bit bus versus the 2Gb. The new CUDA core count is now 1664 versus 1536. Perhaps the biggest news is the reduction on power requirements. The new GTX 970 uses only about 65% of the power of it’s predecessor.

Gigabyte has been heavily promoting their G1 Gaming line. The G1 Gaming line has been limited to motherboards, but now, that has changed. They have decided to expand the line to graphics cards. Thus, Gigabyte G1 Gaming GeForce GTX 970 is born.

Let’s take a closer look on the next page.

A Closer Look

The Gigabyte Gigabyte G1 Gaming GeForce GTX 970 comes in a large matte black embossed box with Gigabyte’s eye logo featured predominately in the front. For the first time G1 Gaming is mentioned on the box.

On the back is some hgighlights of the new card’s features. The box is very colorful and easy to read.

Once inside the box, we are greeted with another box that feature the Gigabyte name embossed on the top.

As is normal, the cards itself is protected by an anti-static bag. The card is well cushioned by foam on all sides. Our card is a review sample and did not come with the accessories that the retail versions will come with.

The Graphics Card

The Gigabyte G1 Gaming GeForce GTX 970 features a 3 fan version of their Windforce cooler. The card is on the larger side. The plastic shroud has a nice faux brushed metal finish to it.

The card has a menacing look from every angle. Gigabyte recently switched from blue PCB’s on their graphics cards to black.

A brushed metal backplate finishes off the look. Here we see the G1 Gaming logo again.

The Windforce logo on the side of the card lights up blue.

Gigabyte has saw fit to include at least one of each of the most common monitor connections. With Gigabyte’s Flex Display design, there is plenty of options.

With a 145 watt TDP, the GeForce GTX 970 only needs power from two 6 pin connectors. Gigabyte G1 Gaming GeForce GTX 970 has went with a 6 pin and 8 pin design instead.

On to Testing.

System Configuration, Installation, and Performance Testing

Testing Setup

Testing Hardware

Gigabyte GA-Z97-SOC Force Motherboard

Intel Core i7 4790K Processor

Kingston HyperX Beast 16GB 2400MHz Memory

Crucial M550 256GB Solid State Drive

Custom Water Cooling

In Win GRone Case

XFX PRO850W XXX Edition 850w Silver Power Supply

Software

Microsoft Windows 7 Home 64-bit SP1

Geeks3D – Furmark

TechPowerUp – GPU-Z

CPUID – HWMonitor

Synthetic BenchMarks

Futuremark – 3DMark (DX11)

Maxon – Cinebench R15 (OpenGL)

Unigine – Heaven (DX11)

Game BenchMarks

Sega – Aliens versus Predator (DX9)

2K Games – Bioshock: Infinite (DX11)

Codemasters – Dirt 3(DX11)

Deep Silver – Metro: Last Light(DX11)

SQUARE ENIX, Eidos Interactive – Thief (DX11 and Mantle)

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SQUARE ENIX, Eidos Interactive – Tomb Raider(DX11)

Drivers

AMD Catalyst 14.4 WHQL (all except R9 285)

Radeon Catalyst 14.7 Beta (R9 285 only)

Nvidia GeForce 340.52 WHQL

Testing Environment

Performance testing consists two sets of tests, synthetic benchmarks and actual game benchmarks. Between the two synthetic benchmarks and five game benchmarks; we are able to test OpenGL, DirectX 9.0C, DirectX 11, and Mantle application programming interface (API) environments. Synthetic benchmarks are run at their default settings. For gaming benchmarks, a 1920×1080 resolution is used and at more demanding detail settings. This is the test where most higher price range cards will typically perform well.

Games are chosen using four criteria: 1) Each game must be a well known title. 2)Each game must have it’s own built-in benchmark. 3) Each game must be on a game engine that is different from the other games or utilize it’s game engine in a way that is unique from the other games used. 4) Each game must be free of continuous patch updates, to ensure a consistent environment for future graphics card testing.

Mechanical drives are eliminated in the test system, to alleviate any I/O-related bottlenecks. All testing was done with an Intel i1 4790K processor clocked at 4.7 GHz.

Microsoft Windows 7 Home 64-bit SP1 is chosen as the operating system, due to it being the most common operating system currently in use. Only the most current non-beta release drivers are used for testing, unless specifically stated otherwise.

The GTX 970 is new enough that GPU-Z may not able to read it correctly.

Synthetic testing is up first.

Synthetic Benchmark Results

3DMark – Firestrike

“The new 3DMark includes everything you need to benchmark your hardware. With three all new tests you can bench everything from smartphones and tablets, to notebooks and home PCs, to the latest high-end, multi-GPU gaming desktops. And it’s not just for Windows. With 3DMark you can compare your scores with Android and iOS devices too. It’s the most powerful and flexible 3DMark we’ve ever created.

Fire Strike is a showcase DirectX 11 benchmark designed for today’s high-performance gaming PCs. It is our most ambitious and technical benchmark ever, featuring real-time graphics rendered with detail and complexity far beyond what is found in other benchmarks and games today”

CINEBENCH R15

“CINEBENCH is a real-world cross platform test suite that evaluates your computer’s performance capabilities. CINEBENCH is based on MAXON’s award-winning animation software CINEMA 4D, which is used extensively by studios and production houses worldwide for 3D content creation. MAXON software has been used in blockbuster movies such as Iron Man 3, Oblivion, Life of Pi or Prometheus and many more.

CINEBENCH is the perfect tool to compare CPU and graphics performance across various systems and platforms (Windows and OS X). And best of all: It’s completely free.”

Heaven

“Heaven Benchmark immerses a user into a magical steampunk world of shiny brass, wood and gears. Nested on flying islands, a tiny village with its cozy, sun-heated cobblestone streets, an elaborately crafted dirigible above the expanse of fluffy clouds, and a majestic dragon on the central square gives a true sense of adventure. An interactive experience with fly-by and walk-through modes allows for exploring all corners of this world powered by the cutting-edge UNIGINE Engine that leverages the most advanced capabilities of graphics APIs and turns this benchmark into a visual masterpiece.”

Game Benchmark Results

Aliens versus Predator

“Bringing the legendary war between two of science-fiction’s most popular characters to FPS fans, AvP delivers three outstanding single player campaigns and provides untold hours of unique 3-way multiplayer gaming.

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Experience distinctly new and thrilling first person gameplay as you survive, hunt and prey in the deadly jungles and swamps surrounding the damned colony of Freya’s Prospect. “

Aliens versus Predator is the oldest game in our benchmark suite and the only only that uses DirectX 9.0C versus DirectX 11. Released in 2010, it was developed by Rebellion and published by Sega. It uses the Asura game engine and has the lowest recommended systems requirements in our game benchmark suite.

Bioshock: Infinite

“Indebted to the wrong people, with his life on the line, veteran of the U.S. Cavalry and now hired gun, Booker DeWitt has only one opportunity to wipe his slate clean. He must rescue Elizabeth, a mysterious girl imprisoned since childhood and locked up in the flying city of Columbia.”

Bioshock: Infinite, developed by Irrational Games and published by 2K Games, is the third iteration of the Bioshock franchise. It uses the extremely popular Unreal 3 game engine and is one of the best looking games of 2013.

Dirt 3

“Get ready for DiRT 3! Race through the snow, rain and dirt and experience dramatic night races with the most amount of rally content in the series yet.

Powered by Codemasters’ award-winning EGO Engine, DiRT 3 features Flashback to rewind time and genre-leading damage. DiRT 3 is the ultimate off-road race.”

Codemasters’ 2011 Dirt 3 is possibly the most popular rally racing game ever created. It uses the EGO 2.0 game engine, which is also used in Codemasters follow up to Dirt 3, Dirt: Showdown.

Game testing continued on next page.

Game Benchmark Results Continued

Metro: Last Light

“It Is the Year 2034. Beneath the ruins of post-apocalyptic Moscow, in the tunnels of the Metro, the remnants of mankind are besieged by deadly threats from outside – and within. Mutants stalk the catacombs beneath the desolate surface, and hunt a midst the poisoned skies above.”

Developed by 4A games and published by Deepsilver, Metro: Last Light uses the 4A game engine. At it’s highest settings, the 4A game engine is capable of bringing all but the most extreme gaming systems to their knees.

Thief

“Garrett, the Master Thief, steps out of the shadows into the City. In this treacherous place, where the Baron’s Watch spreads a rising tide of fear and oppression, his skills are the only things he can trust. Even the most cautious citizens and their best-guarded possessions are not safe from his reach.”

Thief was developed by Eidos-Montréal and published by SQUARE ENIX, Eidos Interactive. The newest game in our benchmark suite, Thief is also one of the most demanding and has the highest recommended system requirements. Those heavy requirements allow it to use the Unreal 3 game engine to great effect. It also features AMD’s Mantle API, as well as Microsoft’s common DirectX 11 API.

Tomb Raider

“Tomb Raider explores the intense and gritty origin story of Lara Croft and her ascent from a young woman to a hardened survivor. Armed only with raw instincts and the ability to push beyond the limits of human endurance, Lara must fight to unravel the dark history of a forgotten island to escape its relentless hold.”

Tomb Raider was developed by Crystal Dynamics and published by SQUARE ENIX, Eidos Interactive. It features a modified version of the Crystal game engine and was the first game to integrate AMD’s TressFX 2.0, which adds hair, fur and grass physics.

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Total Average FPS

All the averages from all the game benchmarks are added up a totaled. This allows for a complete look at the overall performance compared to each of the other graphics card.

Overclocking

I started overclocking the Gigabyte G1 Gaming GeForce GTX 970 using Gigabyte’s own OC Guru II utility. I adjusted the power target to 112%. The voltage was then increased with an offset of .138 volts I tweaked the core speed first and then moved onto the memory speed. At this point the card was running 1418Mhz on the core, 1569 MHz of boost, and 2009MHz (8036MHz) on the memory. This was an increase of 20% for the core, 18% for boost and 15% on the memory. On an average, we saw an increase of around 9% percent increase in frame rates in our suite of benchmarks.

Temperatures

The Gigabyte G1 Gaming GeForce GTX 970 OC run very cool. The large 3 fan design allows for a profile that is on the conservative side. I found no reason to adjust the fan profile further.

Noise

Noise is a very subjective thing. While measuring dB level of noise can tell you how loud something is, it does not tell you the quality of the noise. Human hearing is the most sensitive in the 4000Hz range. This is roughly the same pitch as a crying newborn baby or the old adage, nails on a chalkboard. The human brain is wired to react to this frequency range and when we are unable to stop the noise, we become agitated.

For this test, the best case scenario is absolute silence. For the worst case scenario, I use the most annoying sounding and loudest video card I have at my disposal, the Nvidia 7600GT. The Gigabyte G1 Gaming GeForce GTX 970 was extremely quiet, thanks to the 3 large fans on it’s Windforce cooler. I rarely ever noticed any fan noise while testing and then it was only when the side cover was off the test system.

The Conclusion and Final Thoughts are next.

Final Thoughts and Conclusion

The enthusiasts have been chopping on the bit since Nvidia released the Maxwell based GTX 750 and GTX 750ti some 6 months ago. I think the wait was worth it. The card is clearly faster then it’s predecessor. The addition of more memory is a great advantage for high resolution gaming. The reduced power consumption is perhaps the greatest advantage the GTX 970 has over the GTX 770. With such lower power consumption an ITX version of the GTX 970 could be a reality.

Gigabyte has done a fantastic job with their G1 Gaming version of Nvidia’s GeForce GTX 970. Their Windorce design is more then capable of keeping the card cool and doing it while being extremely quiet. The card also looks menacing and has the performance to back it up. The overclocking potential is quite good for a card that is already factory overclocked as well.

The Nvidia GeForce GTX 970 cards have a MSRP starting at $329. The Gigabyte G1 Gaming GeForce GTX 970 will cost $369. The extra $30 is worth it just for the looks alone. A bit of factory overclock, sweetens the pot even further. Thank you to Gigabyte for supplying the card in this review.

Likes

  • Excellent Price to Performance Ratio

  • Quiet Operation

  • Low TDP

Dislikes

  • Beta Drivers Need a Bit More Refinement

3 Comments

3 Comments

  1. RealNeil

    September 18, 2014 at 10:54 pm

    Stayed Awake just to read this.
    Nice card!

  2. RealNeil

    September 18, 2014 at 10:54 pm

    Stayed Awake just to read this.
    Nice card!

  3. Admin1

    September 18, 2014 at 10:54 pm

    Gigabyte GTX 970
    Great review Heath, thanks!

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