MSI GeForce GTX 970 Gaming OC review

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Conclusion

Conclusion

So like in our reference review you can see already that, for the money, the GeForce GTX 970 kicks ass, it really is a fast card series that is being launched at a very competitive pricing level. MSI improved on Nvidia's design, the end result being the OC edition of their Gaming series. Overall the product is extremely quiet thanks to the new TwinFrozr V cooler, it comes factory overclocked at a boost frequency of 1279 MHz and that makes this product seriously fast. Overall, gaming at a monitor resolution up-to 2560x1440 will make total sense. MSI offers a product that has been further improved, has nice looks and a 6 and 8-pin power header on a 6 phase VRM design, it's all nice and good really. 

Maxwell GM 204 GPU experience overall

Both the GeForce GTX 970 and 980 leave a very solid impression. One offers good, the other exceptional performance within its range. It’s not heaps faster than the aforementioned 780 series though. So I do not expect Geforce 780 range product owners to upgrade anytime soon. However, if you are in say the GeForce GTX 680 range, then this might be a very nice time to jump on-board with a new card. It is interesting to see that 10 years ago performance per generation nearly doubled. With current release schedules we continuously see 20 to 30% performance increases across the board over the last-gen products. That is still respectable as you need to keep in mind that the GM204 is still on 28nm much like Kepler. Injecting more transistors onto a GPU creates yield issues, heat and high power consumption. The GK110 (GTX Titan / Black), whilst being a true beast of a GPU, is testimony to that. With that in mind Nvidia tried to create a product series that is affordable and plays the most high-end and latest games perfectly fine at an acceptable price level. When you look at it from that point of view the Maxwell release is a successful one. This is probably the maximum that Nvidia should and can do on 28nm in terms of improved performance and power consumption versus price.


 

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Thermals

The reference design of the GTX 970 and 980 are the very same cooling wise. The reference products are set at an offset threshold of 80 degrees C. Once the GPU gets warmer the card will clock down and lower its voltage. That wasn't good enough for MSI, and even with a lower heat wattage, they applied the new TwinFrozr V cooler. It's a good cooler; you can expect the temperature to hover at 65 to 70 Degrees C with hefty games. Remember, that is factory overclocked cooling performance for you. So MSI shaved off a good 15~20 Degrees C over reference. The cooler looks sturdy and bloke like as well, aesthetically it is a product that is easy on the eyes and will fit any dark and preferably red themed gaming PC quite well.

Cooling versus noise levels

With cooling we can’t complain, it is drop-dead silent. It is way more cooling compared to what this GPU really needs. Expect sound pressure values in the 39 to maybe 40 dBA range at max under load and warm circumstances. That's measured 75 CM away from the PC. At best you can slightly hear the card while using them heavily. For those that require sheer silence like yours truly, this is the way to go. And in IDLE or normal desktop PC usage, you will not be able to hear this card.

Performance

A nice advantage for the cards is that they now come standard with 4 GB of DDR5 graphics memory, this means gaming sweetness at even the highest resolutions. All games play perfectly at up-to WHQD at 2560x1440. The GeForce GTX 970 is a nice Full HD to WHQD card that certainly offers a nice chunk of performance in these resolutions. Overall you can play all the modern and latest games with nice AA levels and excellent image quality, the PC gaming way. So that's the 970, the GTX 980 I would recommend with Ultra HD, especially with MFAA (pending a driver release) you'll be able to play games quite well. The GeForce GTX 970 I'd call a very solid WQHD card, e.g. it is great for gaming up-to 2560x1440 and actually truly perfect for Full HD gaming.

Tweaking

Without extra voltage tweaking you can expect a 1350~1400 MHz range for the Turbo clock frequency. Depending on how much your board will take and allow, with voltage tweaking you’ll pass the 1400 MHz range. 1500 MHz is in sight but it might depend per production batch, but also variables like your PC stability, power supply and so on. We ended up at a stable 1502 MHz, which is very nice. But again, our overclock is not a guarantee for your results. The memory is clocked standard at 7.0 GHz, you'll fairly easily achieve 7.5 GHz  and we even reached a whopping 8.0 GHz stable. Overall you’ll see a nice gain in extra gaming performance. 

Pricing

Prices have been shifting all over the place up-to even 12 hours before the launch. The GeForce GTX 970 and 980 seem to be priced fairly overall, and the GTX 760 will see a price drop as well:

Effective for launch, the new lineup looks like this:

GTX 980: $549 / 452 EUR (ex VAT)
GTX 970: $329  / 270 EUR (ex VAT)
GTX 760: moves to $219

Please note, that this an MSRP, final E-tail and Retail prices at launch and after launch varies and can be lower, depending on the market conditions etc. There are no other changes to any other products. In addition, please note that the GTX 780 Ti, 780 and 770 have been discontinued with this launch.

Final Words

MSI offers a really nice factory overclocked product. The thermals are a little higher than some of the competition, but overall are perfectly fine. The product however is the most silent one we tested, and that is due to the new TwinFrozr V cooler. It is already tweaked, but it certainly is a grand overclocker as we pushed the sucker towards 1.5 GHz on the boost frequency. You guys will probably want to stick at say 1450 MHz for the long term, but man, the frequencies that this product can reach are just staggering.

The GeForce GTX 970 series is going to offer intensely good value at 329 USD (add a few tenners for the AIB cards). Board partners like MSI have advanced on the reference design and the end result is what you have been able to see today. The Gaming series OC card is customized, has extra power phases, offers a lovely cooler, and comes at higher default clocks. Next to all that the card still remains silent and at cool temperature levels. The product comes with all the features you'd want, from connectivity for your monitor to the performance cooler, from low noise levels to a nice factory overclock and the sheer aesthetics. Performance increases up-to say ~20% with the 980 compared to a Titan Black. But numbers will vary here and there due to the complexity of having less shaders, but more ROPs and higher clock frequencies and then a narrower memory bus again. A nice plus is the lower power consumption, though that alone would obviously not justify an upgrade from the 780 series, but is testimony to less heat and this results in better clock frequencies and higher overclocking results. We consider the GeForce GTX 970 and 980 to be a first run in the new high-end performance cards. It is very likely we’ll see a Ti or even Titan version somewhere down the road. The Maxwell architecture is very sound and proves it can deliver big-time whilst remaining in line power consumption, heat and noise wise and we can only imagine what it would have been like on 20nm.

Final words then, the MSI GeForce GTX 970 Gaming OC edition is a terrific choice, and choices you'll have a-plenty. Overall the 970 series doesn't have the extra bite that its big brother the 980 offers but, with a price difference of almost 200 bucks, value for money wise this card is the way to go. Whatever brand choice you get is your choice, however with MSI you get a quality product with overclocking software that runs straight out of the box. Be sure to pick up the latest iteration of MSI AfterBurner as the card is fully supported, and this was the software that drove our card towards the 1500 MHz marker. Overall this is looking good from all viewpoints, the 970 overall is a little beast for Full HD and WHQD gaming combined with the best image quality settings. This Gaming OC edition adds more performance, features and aesthetics to the reference products. The MSI GeForce GTX 970 Gaming OC edition graphics card comes recommended by Guru3D.com

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