GTX 970 group test – what’s the performance difference between third-party cards? | PCGamesN

GTX 970 group test – what’s the performance difference between third-party cards?

GTX 970 best graphics card

NVIDIA’s GeForce GTX 970 isn’t the most powerful GPU in 2015, but it’s widely accepted as the best graphics card out there for hitting the price-performance sweet spot. It unlocks the door to smooth 60FPS gameplay in most current titles at 1080p, and that attractive bang:buck ratio has earned it tremendous popularity – according to Steam’s most recent hardware survey, it’s the most popular discrete GPU among the platform’s entire user base.

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However, the card’s popularity has created an unusual problem for anyone shopping for one – there are now dozens of variations from rival third-party manufacturers to choose from, and the price range for these variations of what is essentially the same card is quite broad – Overclockers UK stocks 29 different GTX 970s, for example, and there’s a £150/$230 difference between the cheapest and most expensive. It begs the question: if all these cards are based on the same reference design, what does the extra money really buy you? Is there a tangible performance gap between different models of GTX 970?

That’s what we’re here to find out. We’ve put three different GTX 970s through a series of gaming benchmarks, overclocked them to their ceiling, and measured their temps to establish the range of varying performance you can expect from different manufacturer’s take on the 970.

The cards in question are KFA2’s GeForce GTX 970 OC Silent Infin8 Black Edition (£289.99), Inno3D’s GeForce GTX 970 iChill Herculez X4 Air Boss Ultra (£289.99), and finally the OcUK GeForce GTX 970 NVIDIA 970 Cooler Edition (£299.99), which is fitted with NVIDIA’s own 970/980 cooler and is effectively the only reference card available for this model.

Here’s how the three cards break down in terms of specs, and how far we were able to overclock them. While all cards share the same base core clock value, each manufacturer overclocked their GPU’s boost clock value to differing extents, likewise memory clock speed.

KFA2 OC Silent Infin8 Black Edition:

– Core base/boost clock: 1178MHz/1329MHz
– Memory clock: 7010MHz
– Overclocked values: +15mV core voltage , +20% power limit, +125MHz core clock, +600MHzmemory clock, max load temp: 72 degrees celcius

Inno3D iChill Herculez X4 Air Boss Ultra:

– Core base/boost clock: 1178MHz/1305MHz
– Memory clock: 7200MHz
– Overclocked values: +15mV core voltage, +6% power limit, +225MHz core clock, +550MHz memory clock, max load temp: 75 degrees celcius

OcUK NVIDIA 970 Cooler Edition:

– Core base/boost clock: 1178MHz/1268MHz
– Memory clock: 7010MHz
– Overclocked values:+15mV core voltage, +6% power limit, +275MHz core clock, +600MHz memory clock, max load temp: 82 degrees

Our test machine for these benchmarks was an MSI Z710A Gaming M5 motherboard fitted with an Intel Core i7 6700K CPU and 16GB DDR4 RAM. All benchmarks were performed at 2560 x 1600 resolution at the highest graphical settings each game would allow, to put the load on the GPU as close to 100% as possible. We didn’t apply any custom anti-aliasing, downsampling or v-sync, though.

First we ran each card through all the benchmarks at their stock clock, memory, and voltage values, then found their max stable overclocked settings and benched them again.

In terms of overclocking (we use MSI Afterburner to change values, and a combination of Kombustor and Heaven 4.0 to stress-test) the OcUK NVIDIA 970 Cooler Edition allowed the highest core and memory boosts at +275MHz and +600MHz respectively, but as its default values were lower than the other two cards in the first place, this didn’t translate to higher performances than its rivals. Those spoils belong to the KFA2 OC Silent Infin8 Black Edition, as you can see in the benchmarks below.

Ashes of the Singularity DirectX 12 benchmark – “crazy” (highest) settings

(Average frames per second, higher is better)

Ashes of the Singularity preview

Stock:

KFA2 OC Silent Infin8 Black Edition: 19.6
Inno3D iChill Herculez X4 Air Boss Ultra: 17.9
OcUK NVIDIA 970 Cooler Edition: 17.8

Overclocked:

KFA2 OC Silent Infin8 Black Edition: 21.8
Inno3D iChill Herculez X4 Air Boss Ultra: 20.6
OcUK NVIDIA 970 Cooler Edition: 19.3

Heaven 4.0 DirectX11 benchmark – high settings, extreme tessellation

(Average frames per second, higher is better)

Heaven 4

Stock:
KFA2 OC Silent Infin8 Black Edition: 38.3 (min 18.3 max 98.8)
Inno3D iChill Herculez X4 Air Boss Ultra: 33.9 (min 16.3 max 87.3)
OcUK NVIDIA 970 Cooler Edition: 34.8 (min 26.3 max 88.2)

Overclocked:

KFA2 OC Silent Infin8 Black Edition: 43.9 (min 18.8 max 108.0)
Inno3D iChill Herculez X4 Air Boss Ultra: 40.4 (min 18.4 max 102.7)
OcUK NVIDIA 970 Cooler Edition: 41.9 (min 19.3 max 96.5)

Total War: Rome II: max settings

(Average frames per second, higher is better)

Total War: Rome II, resplendent in its Emperor Edition.

Stock:

KFA2 OC Silent Infin8 Black Edition: 37.0 (min 16.0 max 50.0)
Inno3D iChill Herculez X4 Air Boss Ultra: 32.7 (min 14 max 44)
OcUK NVIDIA 970 Cooler Edition: 32.5 (min 14 max 43)

Overclocked:

KFA2 OC Silent Infin8 Black Edition: 41.0 (min 17.0 max 53.0)
Inno3D iChill Herculez X4 Air Boss Ultra: 38.2 (min 17.0 max 55.0)
OcUK NVIDIA 970 Cooler Edition: 37.9 (min 17.0 max 51.0)

Tomb Raider – max settings

(Average frames per second, higher is better)

Tomb Raider Crystal Dynamics Square Enix

Stock:

KFA2 OC Silent Infin8 Black Edition: 56.0 (min 38.0 max 70.0)
Inno3D iChill Herculez X4 Air Boss Ultra: 48.8 (min 36.0 max 60.0)
OcUK NVIDIA 970 Cooler Edition: 47.6 (min 33.0 max 60.0)

Overclocked:

KFA2 OC Silent Infin8 Black Edition: 61.0 (min 42.6 max 76.0)
Inno3D iChill Herculez X4 Air Boss Ultra: 56.5 (min 40.0 max 72.0)
OcUK NVIDIA 970 Cooler Edition: 56.8 (min 40.0 max 74.0)

Middle Earth – Shadow of Mordor – max settings

(Average frames per second, higher is better)

Middle Earth Shadow of Mordor Ultra

Stock:

KFA2 OC Silent Infin8 Black Edition: 42.5 (min 32.9 max: 55.1)
Inno3D iChill Herculez X4 Air Boss Ultra: 39.7 (min 28.9 max 55.3)
OcUK NVIDIA 970 Cooler Edition: 39.6 (min 30.9 max 49.1)

Overclocked:

KFA2 OC Silent Infin8 Black Edition: 50.6 (min 37.9 max 93.9)
Inno3D iChill Herculez X4 Air Boss Ultra: 46.2 Min: 31.6 Max: 57.0
OcUK NVIDIA 970 Cooler Edition: 46.8 (min 22.9 max 99.8)

Verdict

Ladies and gentlemen, we have a clear winner – theKFA2 OC Silent Infin8 Black Edition outperformed its rivals in every single test, at both default and overclocked values. We’re not talking about fractions of a frame per second, either. It’s a little surprising to see a clear 3-4FPS margin between this and the other two cards, which performed at very similar levels consistently, and provides evidence that yes, it does matter which of the many, many variations of GTX 970s currently available you opt for.

However: the KFA2 OC Silent Infin8 Black Edition isn’t a perfect card. While its fans run impressively quiet, our sample emitted a considerable amount of coil whine despite the manufacturer’s guarantee against it, and that’s consistent with the experiences of other owners who’ve left user reviews. The guarantee means you can RMA your card if you have similar issues, so it’s not a deal breaker – just a small issue to be aware of. In truth, given the performances we extracted from it, we can live with a little noise.

Thanks to Overclockers UK, who provided review samples of the cards we used in this group test.

Which model of GTX 970 lives in your rig, and what are your experiences gaming and overclocking with it? Let us know in the comments below.