MSI GeForce GTX 970 GAMING 4 GB Twin Frozr V “Maxwell” Graphics Card Review

Posted Sep 19, 2014
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Introduction

Two years ago, NVIDIA announced Kepler, their latest architecture which made debut on the GeForce 600 series and that was a start of a new NVIDIA. An NVIDIA that focused on raw performance and fearsome dies which operated at such high temperatures, that there were memes around the web of Thermi (Fermi joke). NVIDIA sort of rectified the issues with original Fermi cards with the release of some good gaming and budget friendly cards such as the GeForce GTX 460 and the 500 series after it but those issues with Fermi thought NVIDIA a lesson which is the reason why Kepler was considered one of the most efficient graphics processing unit in 2012.

The initial Kepler was a gaming card while NVIDIA tamed their high performance GK110 unit for the HPC market. The pricing on the GeForce GTX 700 series is undoubtedly some of the highest we have seen from NVIDIA in a while with the $999 US GeForce GTX Titan, GTX Titan Black to the $2999 US GTX Titan Z but today, we are looking at a card which is not just priced great but absolutely great performance with a nice custom design.

NVIDIA has finally launched their true Maxwell graphics core with the debut of the latest GeForce GTX 980 and GeForce 970 graphics card. While the GM107 was a preview of what’s next to come, NVIDIA did showcase that they can stir up some really nice numbers with the existing 28nm process. It has been a half a year since we are waiting for the arrival of the actual cards and they wait is now finally over with the arrival of the second generation core based NVIDIA Maxwell GeForce 900 series.

The card we will be testing today is from manufacturer MSI who were nice enough to send one of their new GeForce GTX 970 Gaming graphics card which features the Twin Frozr V cooling. So let’s head on and look at what Maxwell has to offer.

NVIDIA Maxwell GM204 GPU Architecture

The GM204 is the heart of the next generation GeForce GTX 980 and GeForce GTX 970 graphics cards. The chip makes use of the second generation Maxwell core architecture that has faster per core performance than first generation Maxwell based chips (GM107) which were released with the GeForce GTX 750 and GeForce GTX 750 Ti graphics cards and has several new features which deliver better performance and great power efficiency making GeForce GTX 980 one of the most efficient flagship offering in history. NVIDIA has changed since their Kepler generation of cards. Before Kepler, NVIDIA was known to release cards which ran hot and consumed a ton of power and the failure rates of the previous generation cards were pretty high. Though, NVIDIA did manage to release some great cards over the period, the G80 based GeForce 8000 GTX and the price/performance king, GTX 460 are still considered one of the greatest NVIDIA cards that came to market.

Kepler changed certain things, NVIDIA moved away from their branding scheme where users were able to buy HPC chips rebranded for the GeForce audience. The first Kepler GPU, the GK104 was branded as the GeForce card and while it was fast, it wasn’t the fastest compared to another chip which NVIDIA had in their hands for over a year. I am talking about the GK110 which was geared towards the professional market such as the Tesla super computer. The GK110 did launch a year later but it since then, NVIDIA has configured their core lineup to span two generations, one with the gaming minded chip and the follow up would be the full fledged HPC chip. There’s a reason for NVIDIA to advertise the GeForce GTX Titan Z as a professional and gaming card even though it clearly has a GeForce name in its branding. The Titan Z makes use of two GK110 chips which are the compute crunching beasts compared to the GK104 which focused on gaming features by excluding all the non essential features such as compute. So while the GM104 based GTX 980 will obviously replace GK110 based GTX 780 Ti in branding, the real comparison in branding should be GM104 versus the GK104. Regardless of this, the GTX 980 is a superb card which beats GK110 on an existing process node.

NVIDIA Maxwell GM204This is all achieved with the 28nm process node so one can imagine the numbers we can expect when NVIDIA hops to an even lower process in the future. Alright, so the GM204 has two variants, the GM204-400 which is fused on the GeForce GTX 980 and the GM204-200 which is fused on the GeForce GTX 970. The fully enabled GM204 chip features 4 GPC (Graphics Processing Clusters) which feature four SMM blocks each. These blocks include four logic units each which consist of 32 cores so in total, a single SMM unit results in 128 Cores while the 16 blocks available on the GM204-400 chip equate to 2048 CUDA Cores. The GM204-200 has three less SMM units which result in a lower core count of 1664 thus making it around as fast as the GeForce GTX 780 while the GTX 980 will tackle the GeForce GTX 980 with a good 15-20% performance lead.

The most critical details of the chip are the transistor number and we all remember that the GK110 chip was a performance and computing beast at 7.08 Billion transistors while the GK104 included 3.54 Billion transistors. The GM204 includes 5.2 Billion transistors crammed inside a die that measures around 398 mm2 just 2 mm2 shy of 400mm2. The GK104 and GK110 measure at around 294 mm2 and 581 mm2 respectively. The die size has been increased a lot compared to GK104 and that’s the generational predecessor of the card. The GK110 will be replaced by GM200 but that is far from launch at the moment but NVIDIA has managed to include more on the 28nm process yet keeping the power consumption at just 165W on the GTX 980 and 148W for the GTX 970 which is simply mind boggling.

The GM204 GPU features 128 texture mapping units which was the standard amount featured on the GK104 but the raster operation units have been upped from 32 on GTX 680 and 48 on GTX 780 Ti to 64 on the GTX 980 graphics card. This is actually a larger update than GK110 but the GK110 does come with a very high TMU count of 240. NVIDIA compensates this by clocking the GM204 chip hence resulting in a higher per clock performance output when it comes to texture fill rate. Maxwell was also meant to improve the way GPU handles bandwidth and they are limiting the bandwidth dependancy of their cards by adding more cache of 2 MB which is 512 KB L2 more than GK110. The GK104 had just 256 KB of L2 cache so a major update there.

The theoretical compute of the chip in single precision would be rated around 4.6 TFLOPs which is really close to the GK110 which pumps out 5.1 TFLOps while the 1144 GT/s texture fill rate is a bit low but the pixel fillrate is considerably higher at 72.1 GP/s compared to 53.3 GP/s on GTX 780 Ti.

NVIDIA has some new software side enhancements through the hardware implemented in Maxwell which include Dynamic Super Resolution which is basically a second version of down sampling that functions to increase video quality at 1080P that matches 4K resolution.  There’s also Delta Color Compression which is similar to the color compression we saw on AMD’s Tonga but a more refined version which saves images in local memory to be used later on to increase memory efficiency. Then there’s Multi-Pixel Programming Sampling technology which improves randomization of each sample and reduces quantification artifacts for better geometry processing and anti aliasing filtering. An update on the display side is that GeForce GTX 980 adopts the HDMI 2.0 standard which goes in well with the new display standard of three Display Ports 1,2, 1 DVI, 1 HDMI outputs set by NVIDIA for their flagship offering.

NVIDIA GM204 Block Diagram:NVIDIA GM204 Block Diagram

NVIDIA GM204 SMM Unit Block Diagram:

The NVIDIA SMM or SM (Streaming Multiprocessor Maxwell) units are a update over the Kepler SMX. Each logic unit is split into four parts consisting of 32 cores, each of the SM unit houses 128 cores. The 128 core count is lower than the 192 Cores featured on the SMX unit on Kepler but do note that the Maxwell second generation cores are a good 40+ faster than Kepler cores. The new design also simplifies the architecture and the overall scheduling resulting in a considerable drop in power consumption and delays.

NVIDIA GM204 SMM Unit

NVIDIA Maxwell GM204 GPU Energy and Memory Bandwidth Efficiency

Probably one of the most major talks surrounding the Maxwell cards were their low memory bus compared to their GK110 based predecessors. The slide posted below clearly shows that due to a new and improved ram architecture, NVIDIA has enhanced the bandwidth efficiency where 7.0 Gbps DRAM can deliver an effective throughput of 9.3 Gbps in gaming. Hence even with lower bandwidth, the entire need of the available band width has gone considerably down which results in better performance throughput and utilization.NVIDIA Maxwell GM204 Memory Bandwidth Reduction

On the other hand, the performance numbers of Maxwell just keep on getting better and better with up to 3 times the energy efficiency of Kepler. Note that while people will think that NVIDIA should have compensated power for more performance, the actual fact is that the card performs good and the lower TDP results in higher stability and overclocking numbers from non-reference and custom variants. The Maxwell architecture will also scale down from Tegra chips all the way to the top end GM200 based HPC parts so energy efficiency does matter.NVIDIA Maxwell GM204 Power Efficiency

NVIDIA Maxwell Technology and Features

NVIDIA is not only introducing a new core architecture but along with it several new technologies. There are six key updates to Maxwell that enable new algorithms and superior image quality compared to previous released cards.

The NVIDIA Maxwell core architecture adds the new tiled resources and multi-projection technology for voxel grids (future VXGI) which enhances global illumination. The DirectX 11.2 API makes use of 3D Tiled Resources that allows hardware managed virtual memory for the graphics processing unit and has several Tier-2 features supported such as Shader LOD clamp and mapped status feedback, mini/max reduction filtering and reads from non-mapped title returns 0.NVIDIA Maxwell GM204 New Technology

Conservative Raster Technology:

First up, we have conservative raster technology which improves voxeliazation, improving the accuracy of voxel coverage calculation. A mapped path of pixels will be covered if they are already covered by a triangle which is the conservative raster enabler which notices both orange and purple colors and covers them conserving the time it requires for calculation. This enables new rendering algorithms and the result of this voxelization tech improves performance by three times with the new hardware enabled acceleration available on Maxwell.NVIDIA Maxwell Conservative Raster

MFAA or Multi-Framed Sampled Anti-Aliasing Algorithm:

NVIDIA has been ahead in the anti-aliasing game for some time releasing new algorithms each passing generation. Their recent updates include MLAA, FXAA, TXAA and now, NVIDIA introduces the latest MFAA (Multi-Framed Sample Anti-Aliasing) technology which is an ultra efficient anti aliasing software design that delivers 30% more performance and the same quality as 4xMSAA.NVIDIA Maxwell GeForce GTX 980 Performance

NVIDIA Dynamic Super Resolution – 4K Quality on a 1080P Display:

One of the new features Maxwell supports in DSR or Dynamic Super Resolution. You can call it a new version of down sampling which has become a trend in PC gaming. The technology is enabled on GeForce 900 series cards only and can be enabled through GeForce Experience (set to enabled by default). The main purpose of down sampling is to deliver higher resolution quality down scaled to a smaller resolution monitor. So regardless of your monitor size, it can display superior image quality than what it’s built to show as standard.NVIDIA Maxwell Dynamic Super Resolution DSR

NVIDIA Flex, Gameworks, FlameWorks, HairWorks, GodRays Technologies:

NVIDIA’s Flex is the latest unified GPU PhysX system which allows developers to use a combination of rigid body and fluid simulations. In past game development processes, it was hard to let the two simulations work aside each other due to their complex nature but NVIDIA’s Flex with the right tools would unify this process allowing the use of both rigid body and fluid simulations.

Next up is the new GI Works SDK which is the short term for Global Illumination Works which allows real-time global illumination in any scene required. Currently, developers use pre-backed global illumination effects in their scenes placing several light sources in a particular place which is a burden for developers and at the same time, it gives off a non-dynamic presentation. This is solved with the use of real-time global illumination which is more realistic and offers a more dynamic experience to gamers.

Last up is the Flame Works SDK which includes a film-quality volumetric effect solution to render flame and smoke. NVIDIA is adding these features along with various other effects in alot of upcoming titles such as Batman: Arkham Origins, Witcher 3: The Wild Hunt, Assassins Creed IV: Black Flag, Watch Dogs. Some of the new titles such as Project Cars and the multi-million dollar funded Star Citizen are also offering rich NVIDIA Turbulence and NVIDIA PhysX and PhysX Particles support plus HBAO+, TXAA, Cloth Simulation and many more to name.

NVIDIA also showcased several slides during the event at their conference at GDC 2014 which confirm that their next generation FleX Unified PhysX and Turbulence particle effects are officially headed for PC and would be inte grated in Unreal Engine 4 and CryEngine. The Turbulence particles will be added to Unreal Engine 3, 4 and Cry Engine via a patch while FleX would be headed to Unreal Engine 4. Only PC is the supported platform for these new features so titles developed exclusively for PC or multi-plat titles which are optimized for PC will adopt the new features.NVIDIA Maxwell GM204 GPU Features

NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980

The Flagship GeForce 900 Maxwell

The NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980 is the flagship GeForce 900 series offering and the fastest Maxwell card to launch in the market. From top to bottom, the GeForce GTX 980 is a well built card featuring better performance, low power consumption and several new gaming and architecture side enhancements. The NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980 include 2048 CUDA Cores, 128 TMUs, 64 ROPs. The core clock is maintained at 1126 MHz core and 1216 MHz boost while the memory is clocked in at 7 GHz effective clock which results in 224 GB/s bandwidth. The TDP of the card is set at 165W while the power is fed through dual 6-Pin power connectors.

The GeForce GTX 980 is making use of an update revision of the NVTTM cooler introduced on the GeForce GTX Titan Black with a all black naming logo etched on the shroud near the I/O plate and a all black heatsink which can be spotted from the mirror cut out in the center of the shroud. The card obviously makes of vapor chamber which is cooler off by a blower fan. We were unable to find the Dual Axial fan design which NVIDIA had patented back a few months and was rumored to be a part of the new graphics card series but I expect the card even as it is will do a great job cooling the card considering it can dissipate heat of up to 275W while GeForce GTX 980 will have a maximum thermal dissipation power of just under 170W. So that’s a ton of cooling being supplied to the core and we can expect massive overclocking headroom for a card which is already clocked past the 1216 MHz barrier.

Back to the cooler design, the NVTTM does include some minor changes along the display ports isolating it inside the shroud entirely. One of the changes I like the most is the addition of the backplate which is carried over from the GeForce GTX Titan Z. The card features two SLI Gold fingers which will allow 4-Way SLI Multi GPU functionality. The GeForce GTX 980 is fed power through dual 6-Pin connectors and while there is space for an 8-Pin connector, NVIDIA will just feature two 6-Pin as a reference design leaving its AIB partners to do the rest in the form of custom designs. Display outputs include DVI, HDMI and three display ports which is one reason for the unusually large size of the display connector. The bracket is also updated with a new layout since the cut outs for exhaust look similar to the ones featured on the GeForce GTX Titan Z.

The PCB has been modified to a more brute design, NVIDIA can be seen using eight Samsung K4G41325FC-HC28 128M x 32. A total of eight of these modules have been featured which equate to 4 GB GDDR5 VRAM across a 256-bit bus. The voltage controller has been moved below the power connectors and the power delivery includes 5 Phases compared to 6 on the GeForce GTX 780 Ti. At the same time, we can see a large array of VRMs aside the chokes which will deliver unprecedented amount of overclocking performance even on the reference designs. The NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980 will retail at $549 US while non-reference models will retail at around $599 US pricing.

NVIDIA GeForce GTX 970

The $329 US and Sub-150W Maxwell

The NVIDIA GeForce GTX 970 is the most surprising part in the Maxwell lineup coming in at a price of just $329 US. NVIDIA’s GeForce GX 970 features 13 SMM units placed in 4 GPC (Graphics Processing Clusters). Since each SMM unit has 128 CUDA cores, 32 in each logic unit (32 x 4), the total number of CUDA cores equates to 1664 on the die. From the first generation Maxwell core architecture, we learned that a Maxwell SMM (Streaming Multiprocessor Maxwell) unit has 128 cores compared to 192 on the current generation Kepler SMX units. The specifications equate to a total of 1664 CUDA Cores, 104 TMUs and 64 ROPs.

Along with that, we have a 4 GB GDDR5 memory running across a 256-Bit memory interface clocked at 1753 MHz (7.00 GHz Effective) which pumps out 224.4 GB/s bandwidth. The core clock is maintained at 1051 MHz and 1178 MHz boost clock something which I was expecting if the cards were to be able to take on the GK110 core based graphics cards. Lastly, we have the fill rate numbers which amount to 33.6 GPixels/s Pixel and 145.0 GTexels/s Texture fill rates. The GeForce GTX 970 will be available in both reference and non-reference variants at launch which will retail at a range of $329 to $349 US. Display ports on the reference models will stick with the DVI, HDMI and three display ports. The card uses HDMI 2.0 technology and will be powered by dual 6-Pin connectors. AIB partners may offer different display output configurations but the cards would be fully compatible with G-Sync monitors.

NVIDIA GeForce GTX 970 and GTX 980 Specifications:

GeForce GTX 570 GeForce GTX 580 GeForce GTX 670 GeForce GTX 680 GeForce GTX 770 GeForce GTX 780 GeForce GTX 780 Ti GeForce GTX 970 GeForce GTX 980
Codename GF110 GF110 GK104 GK104 GK104 GK110 GK110 GM204 GM204
Process 40nm 40nm 28nm 28nm 28nm 28nm 28nm 28nm 28nm
GPU Core Fermi Fermi Kepler Kepler Kepler Kepler Kepler Maxwell Maxwell
SM Units 15 x 32 16 x 32 7 x 192 8 x 192 8 x 192 12 x 192 15 x 192 13 x 128 16 x 128
CUDA Cores 480 512 1344 1536 1536 2304 2880 1664 2048
ROPS 40 48 32 32 32 48 48 64 64
TMUs 60 64 112 128 128 192 240 104 128
Core Clock 732 MHz 772 MHz 915 MHz 1006 MHz 1046 MHz 863 MHz 875 MHz 1051 MHz 1126 MHz
Boost Clock 1464 MHz 1544 MHz (Shader Clock) 980 MHz 1058 MHz 1085 MHz 900 MHz 928 MHz 1178 MHz 1216 MHz
Memory 1.2 GB GDDR5 1.5 GB GDDR5 2 GB GDDR5 2 GB GDDR5 2 GB GDDR5 3 GB GDDR5 3 GB GDDR5 4 GB GDDR5 4 GB GDDR5
Memory Bus 320-Bit 384-Bit 256-bit 256-bit 256-bit 384-Bit 384-Bit 256-bit 256-bit
Memory Clock 3.80 GB/s 4.0 GB/s 6.0 GHz 6.0 GHz 7.0 GHz 6.0 GHz 7.0 GHz 7.0 GHz 7.0 GHz
Memory Bandwidth 152.00 GB/s 192.4 GB/s 192.0 GB/s 192.0 GB/s 224.5 GB/s 288.6 GB/s 336.0 GB/s 224.5 GB/s 224.5 GB/s
Texture Fill Rate GT/s 43.92 49.41 102.5 128.8 134 166 210 145.0 TBC
TDP 219W 244W 170W 192W 220W 250W 250W 148W 165W
Power Connectors 6+6 Pin 8+6 Pin 6+6 Pin 6+6 Pin 8+6 Pin 8+6 Pin 8+6 Pin 6+6 Pin 6+6 Pin
DirectX 12 Support Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Launch December 7th 2010 November 09 2010 May 10th 2012 March 22nd 2012 May 30th 2013 May 23rd 2013 December 2013 18th September 2014 18th September 2014
Price $349 US $499 US $349 US $499 US $349 US $499 US $699 US $329 Reference
$329+ Custom
$549 Reference
$549+ Custom

 

MSI GeForce GTX 970 Gaming Twin Frozr V Graphics Card

The MSI GeForce GTX 970 Gaming is fused with the Maxwell GM204-200-A1 GPU and the latest iteration of MSI’s Twin Frozr cooling. The specifications of the card are straight forward which include 1664 CUDA Cores, 104 TMUs, 64 ROPs along with a 4 GB GDDR5 VRAM that runs across a 256-bit bus interface. The clocks of the GeForce GTX 980 Gaming are maintained at 1140 MHz core and 1279 MHz while the memory operates at 7.0 GHz effective clock speed pumping out 224.4 GB/s bandwidth.

MSI’s GeForce GTX 970 Gaming include four display connectors, two DVI-L, HDMI and a Display port while power is fed through an 8+6-Pin connectors and has a 148W TDP. The card measures 269x141x35mm and should fit inside standard ATX casings easily. On the other other, the GPU supports MSI’s Afterburner app, DirectX 12, OpenGL 4.4, NVIDIA SLI (3-Way), NVIDIA 3D VIsion, NVIDIA GPU Boost 2.0, HDMI 2.0, NVIDIA 4K GSYNC and the several new features the Maxwell introduces that are detailed above.

MSI Twin Frozr V Cooler

The MSI Twin Frozr cooler has come along way since its initial introduction in 2009 with the GeForce 200 series graphics cards. Since then, the cooler has evolved and we have seen four iterations of the design starting off the original Twin Frozr, Twin Frozr II, Twin Frozr III and the most recent Twin Frozr IV coolers. This year, MSI’s going to introduce the fifth iteration of the Twin Frozr family, known as the Twin Frozr V which will be adopted by next generation graphics cards from AMD and NVIDIA.MSI Twin Frozr V _1

Just like its predecessors, MSI’s Twin Frozr V will continue with the dual fan scheme adopting two 100mm PWM fans with propeller blade technology. The cooler shroud has been updated and looks a lot similar to the Tri-Frozr Lightning from MSI. The color scheme is hard to tell since this is just a prototype of the cooler. The past Twin Frozr coolers have featured Silver (Twin Frozr I), Silver / White (Twin Frozr II), Silver / Black (Twin Frozr III) while the current Twin Frozr IV variants include the Red / Black (Twin Frozr Gaming), Blue / Black (Twin Frozr Legacy), Yellow / Black (Twin Frozr Lightning) and Yellow / Black / Silver (Tri-Frozr Lightning).MSI Twin Frozr V _2

The Twin Frozr V cooler makes use of a dense aluminum fin array which is quite large and hints that this design would be incorporated on the high-end graphics cards. Six aluminum heatpipes run through the nickel plated copper base and into the aluminum fin array to dissipate heat from the nockel-plated copper core contact base. There are actually two sets of heatsink which are interconnected via the 2 x 8mm super heatpipes, the front section cools the GPU core and memory while the other section of the heatsink will offer cooling to the electrical components such as the VRMs, PLL, MOSFETs and other power circuitry. The whole assembly measures less than 2 slots saving up much space for easier Multi-GPU compatibility.MSI Twin Frozr V _14

With Twin Frozr IV, MSI introduced new technologies such as Torx Fan technology and Hybrid Frozr along with larger heat dissipation, etc. The Torx fan delivers 19% more airflow then propeller blade and has 75% more structural integrity and 5% lower noise compared to its predecessor. Then there’s Hybrid Frozr which allows independent fan control of both the 100mm fans and finally, we have Zero Frozr which stops spinning the card below 50C to reduce noise and adjust idle and load balance.

AMD and NVIDIA are already preparing their new graphics cards. Green team is busy with their highly efficient Maxwell GPU architecture will will launch as the GM204 sometime in 2H 2014 while AMD is working on their Volcanic Islands GCN 2.0 architecture which will include Tonga, Maui and Iceland GPUs. The high-end graphics cards from the companies would adopt the new cooling design to offer better thermal and customized PCB that offer more value and performance to users, enthusiasts and overclockers.

MSI Twin Frozr V Cooling Design:

MSI GeForce GTX 970 GAMING 4G – Unboxing

Note – We were specificially stated by MSI to not release pictures in our review since the card they gave us was an eary sample. It adopted the same cooling design and specifications but it was issued without logos from MSI and press material. You can see the pictures for yourself in the following gallery showcasing the condition of our sample.

The MSI GeForce GTX 970 GAMING 4G ships inside a large dragon-emblem box MSI is known for from the front. Technical details adorn the back of the box – which has logos for HDMI Support, PCI-E 3.0, and lastly the most notable change: DirectX 12.

Direct3D 12 is supposed to make your games faster under the DirectX 12 architecture. The Direct 3D 12 framework addresses this issue by unifying much of the pipeline state into immutable pipeline state objects (PSOs), which are finalized on creation.  This allows hardware and drivers to immediately convert the PSO into whatever hardware native instructions and state are required to execute GPU work.  Long story short, what this means is that less overhead means more computing process able to be utilized (minus human inefficiency of course).

MSI GeForce GTX 970 GAMING 4G – A Closer Look

The Graphics card from the top is covered with MSI’s Frozr technology – which has been upgraded to Twin Frozr V cooling. Now in terms of its actual design – nothing seems drastically different from the older Frozr design – it has the twin Torx fans, with the multi SuperSU pipe heat design dissipation that seems standard to MSI non-reference cards, plus or minus some layout choices around the actual metal spreaders.MSI GeForce GTX 970 Gaming 4 GB Cooler Assembly

The MSI GeForce GTX 970 features the two SLI gold finger connectors which allow multi-GPU functionality with upto four GTX 970 SLI cards. SLI allows for faster performance without spending more on dual GPU solutions such as the R9 295X2.MSI GeForce GTX 970 Gaming 4 GB Side 1


The GM204-200 SKU featured on the GeForce GTX 970 fuses 1664 CUDA Cores on the die along with 64 ROPs and 128 TMUs. Compared to the first generation Maxwell core architecture, the Maxwell SMM (Streaming Multiprocessor Maxwell) unit has 128 cores compared to 192 on the current generation Kepler SMX units. The PCB has been modified to a more brute design, with MSI adding a nice armor-like protection that is black encased on the top right. NVIDIA can be seen using eight Samsung K4G41325FC-HC28 128M x 32. A total of eight of these modules have been featured which equate to 4 GB GDDR5 VRAM across a 256-bit bus. The voltage controller has been moved below the power connectors and the power delivery includes 5 Phases compared to 6 on the GeForce GTX 780 Ti. At the same time, we can see a large array of VRMs aside the chokes which will deliver unprecedented amount of overclocking performance even on the reference designs.MSI GeForce GTX 970 Gaming 4 GB PCB

Along with that, there is a 4 GB GDDR5 memory running across a 256-Bit memory interface clocked at 1600 MHz, coming in below the 1753 MHz reference clocks. The core clock is maintained at 1145 MHz and 1190 MHz boost clock which is a nice little boost. Lastly, we have the fill rate numbers which amount to 33.6 GPixels/s Pixel and 145.0 GTexels/s Texture fill rates – that is a lot of pixel processing power.MSI GeForce GTX 970 Gaming 4 GB Display

TEST SETUP

Processor
  • Intel Core i7-5930K
Motherboard:
  • MSI X99S GAMING 9 AC w/ Core i7-5930K
Power Supply: Coolermaster 1000W Gold
Hard Disk: Crucial M550 SSD 1TB
Memory: G.SKILL RipJaws DDR4 16GB CL 15 (4X4 GB)
Case: NZXT Phantom 820
Video Cards:
  • MSI GeForce GTX 970 Gaming 4 GB
  • EVGA GTX 770 ACX
  • Galaxy GeForce GTX 770 HOF
  • ASUS GTX 680 DirectCU II
  • ASUS GTX 660 DirectCU II
  • ASUS GTX 580 DirectCU II
  • EVGA GTX 650 Ti Boost
  • EVGA GTX 650 Ti
  • MSI GTX 560 Ti HAWK
  • HIS Radeon R9 280 IceQ X²
  • HIS Radeon R9 280X IceQ X²
  • MSI HD 7970 Reference
  • HIS Radeon R9 270X IceQ X²
  • MSI HD 7870 GHz Edition
  • MSI HD 6970 Reference
  • HIS Radeon R7 260X IceQ X²
  • AMD Radeon R7 260X
  • MSI HD 7790 OC Edition
  • Powercolor HD 7770 GHz
Cooling Solutions: Cooler Master V8 GTX
OS: Windows 7 Ultimate 64-bit

Graphics Performance and Benchmarks

CRYSIS 3

PC gamers and Crysis franchise have a long running bond that cannot be broken apart. Crysis 3 is the last title of the franchise that for one last time puts in the Nano suit taking the role of Prophet. The game takes place in a post-apocalyptic New York that is now under the control of C.E.L.L utilizing the left over Ceph technology to take grab in their quest for global domination by means of debt enslavement. We set out to take apart the CEPH and C.E.L.L forces in one last finale.

Visually speaking, the game is by far the most graphically intensive title ever developed with hyper realistic effects, textures and an environment with a massive scale. So much is the power of the CryEngine 3 that the game can only be ran on DirectX 11 compatible cards with a feature list length that never ends. Crytek had already done it once with the original Crysis and they have done it again with Crysis 3. Let’s see if the 2013 lineup of GPUs from NVIDIA and AMD hold up in it.

crysis 3 1440

Tomb Raider

The Tomb Raider franchise was rebooted this year with the latest title in the long running franchise. The players start off their journey with a younger and under-trained version of Lara who goes off on her first survival action journey.

tomb raider 1440p

Sleeping Dogs

One of the new titles we included in our benchmarking list is Sleeping Dogs. The game gives us the role of Wei Shen, a Chinese-American undercover cop who has to infiltrate the Sun On Yee Triad organization. The game uses a powerful DX11 engine developed and tweaked by Square Enix that makes use of High-Resolution Textures.

Metro Last Light

Metro Last Light once again puts us in the foots of Artyom, a survivor of the nuclear holocaust that shattered Russia. Metro: Last Light is considered as the best looking game to be released to date making use of intensive DirectX11 Tessellation, High-Res Textures, Global illumination lightning and more.

Hitman Absolution

Hitman Absolution is the fifth entry to Agent 47’s Hitman franchise. Developed by IO Interactive and published by Square Enix, the game revolves around 47 once again, betrayed by his former handler Diana in order to protect Victoria, a teen girl. Mystery solves about the girl as the game progress.

The game makes use of a highly improved Glacier 2 engine making use of DirectX 11 effects, Tessellation, Global Illumination and Depth of Field. Hitman Absolution is also one of the most demanding and visually impressive titles to be released in 2012.

Far Cry 3

Developed by Ubisoft Montreal, Far Cry 3 is one of 2012’s hit titles which makes us take the role of Jason Brody, a tourist stranded on a tropical jungle along with his friends which is filled with pirates and a mad man known by the name of ‘Vaas’.

The game runs on Dunia Engine 2 and features DirectX 11 effects along with making use of Havok Physics effects. The game is one of the most graphically intensive titles released.

Bioshock: Infinite

Bioshock Infinite, the third title in the franchise developed by Irrational Games takes FPS and story telling to a whole new experience. The game puts us in the boots of Booker who in search of a girl named ‘Elizabeth’ ends up on Columbus,  a bustling metropolis of the early 20th century that floats in the sky. The game uses a modified Unreal Engine making use of DIrectX 11 effects.

Battlefield 3

Battlefield series is a name loyal to any PC gamer. Developed by DICE and published by EA, Battlefield 3 brings back the action, being one of the largest multiplayer launch titles of 2011. The game features both infantry and vehicular combat on some of the largest landscapes ever built in game with a total of 64 players pitted against each other.

Powering the game is DICE’s own Frostbite 2.0 engine. The successor to the original Frostbite engine that powered Battlefield: Bad Company 2. Battlefield 3 makes use of a highly detailed DirectX 11 engine, hardware accelerated tessellation and new lightning effects which deliver some of the most amazing visuals ever to be seen in a game.

Batman: Arkham City

The second title in the Batman: Arkham series has also been developed by Rocksteady Studios. Batman: Arkham City takes place in (isn’t it obvious by the name?) Arkham City which is infested with all the super-villains and their minions which Batman has previously met past his journey.

The game was released on PC in November 2011 and runs on the latest Unreal Engine 3 which features rich DirectX 11 detail, tessellation and PhysX support for NVIDIA cards.

FireStrike Performance

FireStrike is currently the most demanding game-like benchmark that is used to calculate a graphics score along with a physics score for a combined overall score. It is very trendy currently as the latest Futuremark offering and something I just had to do for this CPU. It was run with the default Performance benchmark run and not Extreme which is fairly taxing and not very optimized – it’s meant to make a PC chug unless it has 3-way SLI with overclocked memory core.

Temperature Test

I took the MSI GeForce GTX 970 GAMING 4G and compared thermals to my 780 – a perfect comparison. The above image shows the nice SuperSU Pipe Design in charge for keeping the GM204-200 chipset in the cool. Overall – there is next to very little difference when compared to the 780 at load and idle between the two cards –even though the newer Maxwell SMM Core based cards come in at 165 W. This could have something to do with the Frozr V design, or very well the fact that there is no DirectX 12 games pushing these cards heavily enough. The temperatures only differed between 2-3 degrees, favoring the MSI GeForce GTX 980 GAMING 4G.temp

Conclusion

With Maxwell, NVIDIA has entered a new era of GPUs. While Maxwell currently is built off a 28nm process node, it takes efficiency to such heights that I think there’s little reason to consider that 20nm will be much better than what Maxwell is at the moment. However, there’s no reason to believe that NVIDIA will not switch to a smaller node, given the opportunity, NVIDIA will take the node and might possibly launch new refreshed cards on the smaller process next year with even better specifications.

Coming to the GeForce GTX 970 4 GB Gaming from MSI. First thing’s first, the Twin Frozr V is a sexy cooler and there’s no doubt that it is one of the best available in the market. We managed just 58C temperatures on full load using furmark and it gets mind boggling when we started talking about the performance numbers. When compared to GK104 based GeForce GTX 770, the GM204 trumps it in every possible way and leaves the $299 US Radeon R9 280X back in the dust. While we have limited time for testing, I can say here that the GeForce GTX 970 at $349 US packs enough punch to be 15% faster than the Radeon R9 290 and more than equivalent to the GeForce GTX 780. We will soon be receiving a non-reference model of its big brother GeForce GTX 980 so keep a look out for that one over the next couple of days.

Finally, I will say that NVIDIA’s Maxwell based GeForce GTX 970 Gaming revolutionzes the GPU industry once again with its amazing architecture design, a ton of features, massive performance output, superb energy efficiency and a custom design which the masses would like to get a taste of. I can go on talking good things about the card but that’s the reality, Maxwell is here and its great.

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