GTX 970 Roundup (EVGA, GALAX, Gigabyte)
NVIDIA’s GTX 970 has received quite a bit of face time lately and with good reason. When paired up with a good heatsink and some slightly higher clock speeds, it can give the GTX 980 a run for its money. Meanwhile, in SLI the inexpensive GTX 970 provides an amazing amount of performance relative to the setup’s cost of less than $700.
Part of the GTX 970’s allure is the wide variety of cards NVIDIA’s board partners have launched. Since this is a “virtual” design, they’ve been given a free hand to stretch the limits of board design provided minimum specifications are met. As a result we’ve seen everything from typical blower-style setups to some wild cooling setups and exceedingly high clock speeds. All of these are priced well under $400 which makes them extremely good values.
In order to get a better grip on how some of these board partner-specific versions line up against one another, we decided to get a few into the lab and test them for ourselves. The trio of cards in this roundup represents a relatively small sampling of what’s available today but they’re some of the most popular around. EVGA, GALAX (more on them later) and GIGBAYTE have all contributed but ASUS and PNY's GTX 970 will still be represented in the performance charts.
Before we get too deep into the specifications for each of these cards, let’s explain who GALAX is. Basically GALAX was created as an international amalgamation between the original Galaxy brand and their KFA2 offshoot. According to our conversation with their representatives, this will give global customers full access to both companies’ full product lineups whereas before certain designs were reserved for different regions. Supposedly this will improve their overall customer support and availability but there is one caveat: these cards will only be available through GALAX’s online storefront. That’s good news for pricing since they are effectively cutting out the distribution channel but it also raises questions about cross-border shipping costs.
Speaking of those shipping costs, they aren’t free and Canadian buyers will have to pay taxes at the border since GALAX won’t pre-clear you package. That means a shipping cost of about $20 alongside the usual taxes from your province and a $15-$25 brokerage handling charge for customs clearance. Needless to say, after all of this is taken into account, Canadian customers won’t be saving any money versus buying from a local etailer.
With that out of the way let’s start with the EVGA GTX 970 SC ACX 2.0 or the artist also known as Superclocked in EVGA’s lineup. Despite it not even being close to the highest clocked card in their GTX 970 stack (the SSC and FTW are even faster) the SC close to the top of the hill in this review, at least in terms of raw frequencies. It is however tied with the Gigabyte card for most expensive at $349. There have been some minor complaints about EVGA’s new ACX 2.0 heatsink design’s fan profiles (particularly when at idle) but a new BIOS was launched to take care of many of those concerns.
GALAX’s entry into this roundup is their GTX 970 EX OC which boasts clock speeds that lie somewhere between the ASUS DirectCU II OC and Gigabyte G1. Gaming and EVGA’s SC. Its price reflects these qualities as well but in terms of actual onscreen differentiation between these cards, there likely won’t be much considering they’re all rated to within about 100MHz of one another. However, we wouldn’t be surprised if GALAX’s unique design and the EX OC’s very aggressive $329 price point draw in buyers.
The $349 Gigabyte G1 Gaming is arguably one of the most talked-about GTX 970’s currently on the market. It is big, brash and comes in two versions: the “standard” WindForce 3X OC edition which is actually clocked substantially higher than NVIDIA’s reference specifications dictate and the G1 Gaming that costs a good $20 more. With that being said, it may be one of the more expensive GTX 970’s around, but this card also boasts some awesome clock speeds.
The specifications of EVGA, GALAX and Gigabyte may not allow you to see any onscreen framerate differences; their respective lengths are wildly varied. Gigabyte’s G.1 Gaming is an absolute behemoth at just over 11 ľ” long and it likely won’t fit into many smaller chases. Meanwhile, GALAX’s EX OC rings in at 10 Ľ” which broadens its compatibility and EVGA’s is by far the most compact of the bunch at just 9 ˝”.
While there are plenty of points of differentiation, some things are becoming pretty standard in the industry these days. It shouldn’t come as any surprise that every one of these cards has a 3 year warranty and strictly constrained memory overclocks. Availability is also a concern among every entry since production still hasn’t picked up to a point where it’s in line with actual demand. If that particular situation doesn’t improve by the Christmas rush, these board partners and NVIDIA will be leaving a lot of money on the table.
EVGA, GALAX and Gigabyte all have pretty compelling reasons as to why their particular card is the one to buy. Considering they’re priced within spitting distance of one another and overclocking typically varies from one sample to another, only overall performance stability, temperatures and acoustics will sway consumers one way or another.
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