ASUS GTX 970 STRIX OC Review
The GTX 970 presents both a problem and an opportunity for NVIDIA and their board partners. On one hand its low price of just $329 relative to the performance it is supposed to attain has resulted in a popularly surge of extreme proportions. At face value that’s certainly a good thing but actually finding one of these cards in stock is a lesson in futility. Nonetheless, from all the reports we’ve seen, retailers expect regular shipments and with no AMD competitor on the horizon, that could allow NVIDIA to whittle some valuable market share away from their archrival.
If the GTX 980 showed us anything it is that NVIDIA's GM204 core is nearly impossible to compete with in a pure performance per watt battle. However, the GTX 970 finds itself in a hotly contested area, even with its price of $329. This means it needs to eke out a performance win over AMD's competitors before any cost cutting measures are implemented for the current Radeon lineup.
Now before we get any further in this review, it’s important to understand a bit more about the GTX 970 and its place within the wider graphics market. Since our sample was delayed by the lovely folks at Canada Customs this review will serve as our de-facto introduction to the slightly lower-end Maxwell core. However, most of the particulars were already covered in our GTX 980 launch day article so if you are looking for a more in-depth overview of the architecture and features that Maxwell brings to the table, head over there first.
The GTX 970 uses the same GM204 architecture as its bigger brother but has a trio of SMMs shaved off. As with every other architecture out there, this core design is one created through necessity since any dies that don’t pass muster for their inclusion into NVIDIA’s GTX 980 get rolled into the 970. The end result is a GPU with 1664 CUDA cores and 104 Texture Units. The GM204’s back-end structure of 64 ROPs and a 256-bit memory interface remains intact though.
NVIDIA’s target for this card should be evident from the getgo; it is meant to replace their GTX 770 (which has now been EOL’ed) while putting the screws to AMD’s R9 290 which still retails for around $350. Meanwhile, overclocked versions will reach higher levels in both performance and price points.
Another interesting aspect of the GTX 970’s launch is the lack of a reference design. While NVIDIA has given board design guidelines and minimum clock speeds that need to be adhered to, board partners have been given a free hand to launch their own versions. This has led to the vast majority of GTX 970 cards boasting high end cooling designs and enhanced frequencies. It also means that designating a “standard” GTX 970 is almost impossible.
This all brings us to ASUS’ GTX 970 STRIX OC, one of the most popular GTX 970’s around if forum chatter is any indication. With a Boost frequency of 1253MHz (though the memory remains at 7Gbps) it also happens to be one of the fastest examples on the market despite retailing for just $10 more than NVIDIA’s suggested base price.
With the GTX 970 being essentially sold out no matter where you look, this review may be a bit bittersweet right now but it won't remain that way. But what makes the ASUS STRIX OC unique and worthy of your attention? A whole lot it seems...
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