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ASUS GTX 970 STRIX OC Review

SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
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Joined
Feb 26, 2007
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Conlcusion; ASUS Dials the GTX 970 to Eleven

Conlcusion; ASUS Dials the GTX 970 to Eleven


Before NVIDIA’s newest Maxwell-based graphics cards were launched, gamers despaired at GPU prices that seemed to be spiraling out of control. With the GTX 780 Ti sitting at $750 and the TITAN Black at $999, many thought that NVIDIA’s next generation’s relative costs would reach stratospheric heights. That certainly didn’t happen as NVIDIA has used the GTX 980 and GTX 970 to literally turn the high end GPU market upside down. After finally getting our hands on one, we can see why the community is excited about the GTX 970 in particular; this is one hell of a graphics card.

Due to the “virtual” non-reference nature of the GTX 970, determining its precise performance is a bit tough but in many ways this approach just adds to the fun factor. Every one of NVIDIA’s board partners have come out with their own designs, each of which boasts different capabilities and associated costs. While most have doggedly remained within $10 to $15 of NVIDIA’s ultra-aggressive $329 MSRP, there are some higher priced options with expanded feature sets and higher clock speeds that tend to command higher premiums. Those broadly differing aspects being present at launch is something of a rarity in today’s mostly reference-driven enthusiast segment and it has led to plenty of choices for prospective customers. NVIDIA has of course fostered this movement by ensuring their Maxwell cores could share a great many PCB-bound components with the outgoing Kepler architecture.

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While diversity is truly the star of the GTX 970 show there’s a whole lot more to like as well, starting with that $329 price. Whereas the GTX 980 targets the flagship role and demolishes the competition in a pure dollars per FPS battle, the GTX 970’s goals were arguably set even higher. It is meant to cut the heart out of AMD’s current lineup by providing a budget-friendly solution that can give the R9 290X a run for its money but at a cost that substantially undercuts the R9 290. Add to that the cut-down GM204 core also manages to consume significantly less power (to the tune of 100W) than an R9 290X. All in all, it feels like NVIDIA is now a whole two generations ahead of AMD given how their newest architecture is using a mid-range core design to achieve these results.

Moving on to ASUS’ GTX 970 STRIX OC, it simply takes the standard GTX 970 equation and dials things up a notch. The additional performance granted by its higher than reference clock speeds puts a fair amount of pressure upon the GTX 980 in some instances, though the higher priced card tends to drastically pull ahead in situations where its extra TMUs and CUDA cores can be called upon. Speaking of those texture units, we see the ASUS GTX 970’s performance take a nosedive in the high texture environments of Call of Duty: MW and Hitman Absolution since it can’t quite make up for its lower processor count as well as the GTX 980 can.

Even though the GTX 970 effectively replaces the GTX 770, the two cards aren’t even in the same league. If anything, the GTX 970 STRIX’s performance lands in the mid-way point between the GTX 780 and twice as expensive GTX 780 Ti. That’s a noteworthy achievement if there ever was one.

ASUS has some other features going for them here as well. The 0dB fan technology is a revelation for anyone who wants silence during light gaming, word processing or any number of other lower-load tasks since it completely turns off the graphics card’s fans until the core reaches about 64°C. Given the heatsink’ capacity, we never saw the fans engage unless more demanding games were loaded. It would be nice to actually control the temperature at which the fans turn on but that wasn’t meant to be within the latest version of GPU Tweak.

We could even see SFF builds using the GTX 970 STRIX OC (provided a case will accommodate its 11” form factor) since the GM204 core really doesn’t output all that much heat. That means the amount of hot air dumped back into the chassis’ confines is quite limited despite the DirectCU II’s axial-style heatsink design.

From a price / performance standpoint, completely ignoring these higher capability GTX 970 cards would be a serious error. For just $10 (or 3%) more than the GTX 970’s base price you get higher framerates, an awesome cooling solution and a boatload of upgraded components courtesy of ASUS’ Super Alloy Power PWM design. There’s really nothing to dislike here other than every other buyer knowing the exact same thing which makes finding one of these cards nigh-on impossible.

By itself the GTX 970 is a genre-changing product that caught AMD and a good number of enthusiasts flat footed due to it offering unheard-of performance for a relatively modest $329 price. However, when paired up with ASUS’ know-how you get what is arguably one of the best graphics cards currently available.

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