When nVidia announced their 10th generation Maxwell architecture it was hotly anticipated and back in February we got to see the first GPUs based on it: the GM107 based 750 and 750 Ti. While those products offered much in terms of power efficiency, they were but a taste of what was to come. After months of waiting and delays, nVidia has finally released the first of its GTX 900 series based on the GM204 GPU core. – and today we have the pleasure of reviewing the ASUS Strix GTX 970 OC. We’ll start with an overview of the GPU and its cooler as well as the new features introduced with the 900 series and then it’s down to the nitty-gritty with some performance benchmarks and game tests.
ASUS STRIX GTX 970 OVERVIEW
This card like other DCU II cards, is factory overclocked. It’s base and boost clock speeds have both been increased to 1114MHz and 1253MHz respectively, for an increase of about 6.5 percent. Its memory clock also sees a slight boost of 7010MHz from the reference 7000MHz. What does this mean for gaming performance? Well, in a perfect world it would translate to 6.5 percent higher performance over reference, but since we do not have a reference GTX 970 on hand, it’s hard to say for sure. Nonetheless, we’ll find out what performance is like with these clocks soon enough in our gaming and benchmark tests.
The card comes standard with 4GB of dedicated GDDR5 video memory which is great since 4K gaming is becoming more and more mainstream with 4K (3840 x 2160) capable displays becoming cheaper and cheaper with each new version. So anyone looking to build a 4K gaming rig will not be disappointed with the vRAM options available with this card.
It also comes with full support of the yet to be released Direct X 12 API by Microsoft, which is said to offer reduced CPU overhead, full multi-core CPU support and lower-level “to the metal” APIs, which should allow developers to utilize more of a graphics cards power for increased performance and visuals. Direct X 12 is expected to be released sometime in Q4 2015.
FANS AND COOLING
Strix is the latest in ASUS’ non-reference graphics card line. It features the well-known DirectCU II heatsink design, which provides excellent heat-dissipation by putting flattened copper heatpipes in direct contact with the GPU core. Along with their all new “0dB” (zero decibel) fan technology to provide gamers with cooler and quieter graphics cards.
But what exactly is a “0dB” fan? – Well, to put it simply the fans on the cooler completely shut off during light operations like playing non-intensive games like League of Legends, or watching a movie, browsing the web, etc. The fans will then kick back on during more intensive gameplay or with overclocking. I actually found this to be one of the more interesting things about the Strix as it provides a no-compromise solution for serious gamers who also want a quiet machine.
We’ll be putting this cooler to the test later on. But for now lets take a look at the details of the design and build of the card.
DESIGN AND BUILD QUALITY
The card measures in at 11 inches compared to the 10.6 inches of the reference model, for most people this shouldn’t be an issue but you’ll definitely want to measure your cases before purchasing. The fan-shroud is quite beautifully designed and solidly built.- It is made entirely out of metal and definitely looks and feels premium. it’s a huge step up from the traditional plastic shrouds found on other DirectCU II cards, despite the sort of strange Owl-eyed fans.
The “Strix” logo on the front edge is a nice touch and can easily be seen through a windowed case while the GPU is installed. Although, it’s admittedly not as eye-catching as the LED visualizer found on the newer reference GeForce cards.
Speaking of nice touches – This card also comes with a backplate installed, which is a common trend as of late, one I’m personally quite pleased with. It features a nice brushed-aluminum finish and displays the ASUS and DirectCU II branding. It definitely adds to the overall aesthetic of the card while making it just that much more premium and solid feeling.
However, it lacks the custom removable “cut out” featured on the 980 reference design for allowing more airflow when multiple cards are in SLI. This is probably a non issue as the Strix features an open air cooler which is not effected by the same airflow constraints as the reference blower style coolers.
They’ve has also swapped out the reference dual 6-Pin PCI-E power connector for a single 8-pin connector to go along with their addition of an all-digital VRM with 6-phase power.
ASUS claims these changes will “minimize power noise by 30%” as well as “enhance power efficiency by 15%, widen voltage modulation tolerance” and “improve overall stability and longevity by 2.5 times over reference”
All of that should also translate into higher, more stable overclocks as well
Unfortunately not every change is for the better as around back we’ll find a much more common quartet of output options including a single HDMI (2.0), DisplayPort (1.2) and a pair of dual-link DVI-D and DVI-I connectors.
I would have much preferred to see the option of 3x DisplayPort instead of the DVI-D, as we’ve seen on the reference GTX 980 which allows for the connection of three nVidia G-Sync ready monitors in Surround as well as a fourth monitor for regular desktop use. But I suppose at this price point we can’t have everything.