Nvidia GTX 970 Gaming Graphics Card Review and More

Nvidia GTX 970

How good is the Nvidia GTX 970 in 2018? When looking for a good gaming graphics card, it’s not wise to only look at the latest and most powerful options. Even if your budget allows it, you’re unlikely to need that power. Also, you probably won't reap the full benefits on your current rig. That’s why people tend to look for older iterations and mid-range gaming GPUs. In addition to the budget-friendly element, there’s also the fact that the older models have seen a lot more use, they’re tried and true, and you can see why they are still popular.

I’ve made that mistake in the past, getting a flashy new graphics card that boasts impressive improvements in every category, only to be disappointed along with thousands of other customers. A cheaper, older replacement ended up giving me a much better gaming experience. Does the Nvidia GTX 970 have the same problems?


Nvidia GTX 970 was launched as the little brother of the GTX 980. It uses the same Maxwell architecture featuring a GM204 graphics processor. Just like many of the older and newer GTX GPUs, it’s been a rather underrated component. But it’s still a viable option today.

Technical Specifications

The Nvidia GTX 970 has 1,664 stream processors and 4 GB of GDDR5 memory running at 7 GHz. It’s clocked to a base rate of 1,050 MHz which can increase a max boost speed of 228MHz, taking it to 1469MHz, while you can increase its memory clock by about 100 Mhz, to 1862Mhz, and have it remain stable, without artifacts.

The Maxwell architecture improves overall efficiency and power. The GTX 970 has its stream processors arranged into many smaller and more efficient blocks compared to older GPUs from this line. That allows for more precise delegation of tasks. Since not every section will be running on full capacity, the GPU uses less power and doesn’t heat up as much. It’s the same main GPU as the more powerful GTX 980. The difference is that there are fewer active stream processors, which is why it’s less powerful and cheaper.

With a throughput of 3.49 TFLOPS, it’s a pretty formidable mid-range gaming GPU, although there are other graphics cards with a better power throughput at the same price point or even lower.

When it comes to memory, the four gigabytes of memory and 224 GB/s bandwidth are pretty good, but it could be better. The main issue here is that 500 MB is partitioned into a dedicated low-power section which only handles less demanding tasks. That means you only get 3.5 GB for heavy gaming workloads. With 1.75 MB of cache and 56 ROPs, it does leave a bit to wish for.

Quality

Usability

Support

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How Nvidia GTX 970 Compares to Other Products

With so many GPUs on the market, it’s important to get an idea of how the Nvidia GTX 970 compares to similar GPUs. We’ve looked at a multitude of tests including various benchmarks such as Fire Strike and Unigine Heaven benchmarks, and different games such as Crysis 3, Fallout 4, and Battlefield 4. The games were run at resolutions ranging from 1,920 by 1080 to 4K where applicable. We’ve also gathered data from different tests to compare hardware factors such as power requirements and load temperatures. We also recommend testing your current graphics card to see how much these GPUs can improve your rig.


While very different in design, the AMD R9 290 and the Nvidia GTX 970 are very similar in performance. This AMD Radeon graphics card uses the same Hawaii GPU as its stronger big brother, the R9 290X. Just like the Nvidia GTX 970, it’s a somewhat slower and cheaper version of a high-end graphics card. The R9 290 only has 40 Compute Units (CUs)instead of the full 44 units the high-end GPU uses.

It still has more stream processors (2,560) than the Nvidia GPU. However, its core clock is slower at 947 MHz. When it comes to memory, it has 4 GB of GDDR5 memory, just like the Nvidia GTX 970. It only runs at 5 GHz rather than 7, and its 512-bit memory bus is twice as wide as Nvidia’s is, though.

Nvidia GTX 970 did perform better in most tests. The efficiency of the Maxwell structure showed. The difference in maximum power consumption was more than 100 Watt. It also runs cooler, peaking at 76 degrees, which was a whopping 18 degrees lower than the AMD graphics card.

Gaming

Now for the part that matters, gaming performance. Both games handle Batman: Arkham Origins well at both 1,920 by 1,080 and 2,560 by 1,440, although the Nvidia GTX 970 did outpace the AMD. The GTX was also able to grant a playable experience at 4K with a minimum Frames Per Second rate over 30, and the Radeon card wasn’t capable of this.

When testing Bioshock Infinite, the results were similar. The Nvidia GTX 970 outperformed the R9 290 with good frame rates at both resolutions. It was almost playable at 4K as well with the Nvidia, while the AMD was hopeless.

When testing more demanding games, the differences were smaller, and the R9 290 started threatening the Nvidia’s domination. The AMD had a better minimum frame rate for Battlefield 4 in 1080 resolution than the GTX 970. The Nvidia GTX 970, however, had better averages overall. In Crysis 3, they both saw a minimum FPS rate of 28 at 1080p. When upping the resolution, the GTX was only a single frame faster than the Radeon.

When testing with Metro: Last Light, both graphics cards displayed meager minimum frame rates in comparison. The game would stutter and lag a bit. But when looking at average frame rates, the Nvidia GTX 970 came out on top again, with a few frames ahead at both 1440p and 1080p.

Benchmarks

Much like the gaming performance results, the benchmarks returned slightly better results for the Nvidia card, although the gap was small. In every 3D Mark test, the Nvidia proved a few hundred points faster than the Radeon. However, the Radeon was one frame quicker in Unigine Heaven’s Extreme benchmark in both 1080p and 1440p.

Quality

Usability

Support

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As you may have guessed from the name, the Nvidia Geforce GTX 1070 is the updated successor of the Nvidia Geforce GTX 970. But How much better is this newer GPU?

The 1070 has abandoned the Maxwell architecture for the new Pascal architecture. It has the same circuitry as the flagship GTX 1080.

This new design brings a lot of efficiency and performance improvements. Thanks to the new manufacturing process they can bring it down to 16 nm rather than the 970’s 28 nm. The better use of space allows for more transistors without increasing the overall size. Each of these smaller transistors needs less electricity for operation so that the card can do more work with less power and space.

A closer look at the circuitry of the two GPUs reveals the big differences in build quality. Where the Nvidia GTX 970 has 5.2 billion transistors across the 398 square millimeters die, the GTX 1070 has a whopping 7.2 billion transistors crammed onto the 312 square millimeters die. As for the stream processors, the GTX 1070 uses 1,920 CUDA cores. Nvidia GTX 970 only has 1,664.

Despite all this extra stuff, the peak power requirement of the GTX 1070 is only five Watts higher than that of the Nvidia GTX 970, coming in at a modest 150W.

Gaming

It comes as no surprise that GTX 1070 outpaces the 970 by far when gaming. It runs The Witcher 3, World of Warcraft, and Battlefield 4 flawlessly at both resolutions, and it can handle pretty much any game you throw at it.

The 1070 is a very future-proof graphics card. In fact, many of the Pascal architecture’s signature features have seen little commercial use so far, and they keep gaining popularity. One example is what they call “pre-emption,” a function that lets the GPU select between different graphics and computing workloads.

The Simultaneous Multi-projection feature allows the graphics card to render a given scene in up to 16 perspectives, making it a great graphics card for virtual reality. Then there’s Lens Matched Shading, a better way of allocating resources by skipping the rendering of pixels you won’t see.

Benchmarks

Geforce GTX 1070 also has a higher core clock speed. With 1,506 MHz as its stock speed, it’s just short of 500 MHz faster than its predecessor which clocks in at 1,050 MHz. In the memory department, the 1070 has 8GB of GDDR5, which is twice as much as the Nvidia GTX 970. And it operates at 8 GHz instead of 7.

With that in mind, it comes as no surprise that the 1070 demolishes the 970 in benchmarks. Good examples are Sky Diver Factor and Fire Strike, where many graphics cards struggle to produce good results. Nvidia GTX 1070, however, handles them well.

Pricing

Excellent performance isn’t the only factor that determines what’s the best choice for your gaming GPU needs. The Nvidia GTX 970 costs about half as much as its successor, and it’s still able to handle most modern games.

Quality

Usability

Support

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The RX 480 is the first GPU to showcase AMD’s Polaris architecture. Being stronger than the R9 290, it can take on the Nvidia GTX 970. Breaking the convention, AMD chose to debut the Polaris design with a mid-range GPU. This fourth iteration of the popular Graphics Core Next system is quite impressive. The transition from a 28 nm manufacturing process to 14 nm, in particular, is a significant leap forward. It’s an even smaller process than the Pascal’s, and so it allows for even more transistors crammed into the same amount of space without overheating or excessive power requirements.

That being said, the RX 480 is a mid-range card, so the Nvidia GTX 970 is still a worthy opponent. The RX 480 has 2,304 stream processors arranged into 36 CUs; this enables a more granular delegation of workloads. The core has a stock speed of 1,120 MHz and a boost of 1,266 MHz. In other areas, the two cards have similar specs.

Gaming

Improved asynchronous computing is very helpful for better management of GPU and CPU workloads for games that implement DirectX 12. That is an advantage over the GTX 970.

The RX 480 did a better job with most of the games tested. It was the clear winner in the 1,440p resolution. It provided about ten more FPS for more massive games such as Fallout 4, Battlefield 1, and The Witcher 3. In games like CS: GO and Overwatch, they were very even. In Fortnite and PUBG, Nvidia GTX 970 came out on top with 5-10 FPS higher.

Benchmarks

The RX 480 does pretty well on benchmarks, considering that it’s a superseded mid-range card. With an average Bench of 63 percent for peak overclocked benchmarks, it’s still going pretty strong. Summing up the results of all the testing, the AMD RX 480 outperforms the Nvidia GTX 970 in general.

Pros and Cons

To summarize what we’ve learned about the Nvidia GTX 970, let’s round it up with a pros and cons list.

Pros

  • Great HD and 1440p gaming
  • Very efficient
  • Good price point

Cons

  • 4K gaming is not smooth

Quality

Usability

Support

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Comparison Table

Product

Image

Details

Rating

Price

  • GM204 graphics processor
  • 1,664 stream processors
  • 4 GB of GDDR5 memory running at 7 GHz

  • 40 Compute Units (CUs)
  • 4 GB of GDDR5 memory running on 5 GHz
  • 512-bit memory bus

  • 7.2 billion transistors
  • 1,920 CUDA cores
  • 8GB of GDDR5 running on 8 GHz

  • 2,304 stream processors arranged into 36 CUs
  • Stock speed of 1,120 MHz and a boost of 1,266 MHz

Nvidia-GTX-970-Gaming-Graphics-Card

Image © www.pcworld.com

Our Verdict

While it doesn’t look like much on paper, the Nvidia GTX 970 still does a good job at what it’s supposed to do. It did well in these tests, considering that it’s a mid-range graphics card from a few years ago. It can handle most modern games without any complaint, although you may not be able to use very high settings without a noticeable drop in frame rate.

The Nvidia GTX 970 outpaced the R9 920 by a fair amount in almost every test, and it can pull off some older titles in 4K. It got good test results in general and didn’t run hot or use a lot of power. The Nvidia GTX 970 is a quiet and consistent graphics card.

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