EVGA GTX 970 SC ACX 4 GB Review 55

EVGA GTX 970 SC ACX 4 GB Review

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Value and Conclusion

  • The EVGA GTX 970 SC ACX will retail at $350, a $10 price increase over the NVIDIA reference-design MSRP.
  • Fantastic pricing
  • Faster than R9 290X
  • Low power consumption
  • Greatly improved efficiency
  • Large overclock out of the box
  • Good overclocking potential
  • HDMI 2.0
  • 4 GB VRAM
  • New software features (MFAA, DSR)
  • Noisy, compared to other GTX 970 cards
  • Higher power consumption than the GTX 980 reference design
  • Memory not overclocked
NVIDIA's new GeForce GTX 970 is an amazing card. It is fast, power-efficient and extremely affordable.
NVIDIA did not provide a GTX 970 reference board, so we did our best to simulate its performance properly for a baseline comparison. Averaged over all our tests, the reference board is 8% slower than the GTX 980 (at 1920x1080). This makes the card faster than the R9 290X and GTX Titan, but slightly slower than the GTX 780 Ti. EVGA's card comes overclocked out of the box for a 5% performance advantage, which helps it beat the R9 290X conclusively. I only wish EVGA had overclocked their memory for some extra performance since the headroom is certainly there. In my opinion, the GTX 970 is the right card for 1440p gaming. It is also a good investment if future-proofing 1080p or G-Sync gaming beyond 60 Hz is your intent.

Just like with the GTX 980, power consumption has massively improved, which gives NVIDIA the ability to unlock these performance levels without having to use bulky and expensive cooling solutions. However, our power consumption testing shows EVGA's card using more power than the faster GTX 980, which is a bit surprising. I have no definite answer as to why, but EVGA is using a different voltage regulation design and has made other changes to the board's design, and don't forget the factory overclock. The card is also boosting to frequencies beyond those of the GTX 980, which means its average voltages are also higher than the reference design.
EVGA's ACX cooler does a good job at keeping the card cool, but it does so while producing too much noise. We tested other custom design GTX 970 cards, and they are all significantly quieter than the EVGA GTX 970 SC ACX, some even running completely passively in idle. All EVGA retail GTX 970/980 cards will have no backplate, but EU customers can receive one via mail if they register their product, for a limited time. US customers will have to purchase the backplate from EVGA separately.
Overclocking our sample worked extremely well, reaching the highest clocks in our GTX 970 test group. Memory topped out at beyond 2 GHz, in part due to the card's well-overclocking Samsung chips. EVGA's heatsink does not cool the memory chips with the baseplate, but uses the fans' airflow instead, an approach that works quite well.

NVIDIA is also introducing several new software features with their latest generation of GPUs. The first is DSR (Dynamic Super Resolution), which is the equivalent to SuperSampling (running the game at a higher resolution), with a high-quality gaussian filter that improves the quality of the downscaled image sent to your monitor. This feature can be useful with older or less demanding titles as it squeezes some extra image quality out of the game, but the performance hit is just too big for some of the more recent AAA titles; remember, the game is actually running at 4K. The next innovation is MFAA, which is an evolution of NVIDIA's TXAA anti-aliasing algorithm that promises near 4x MSAA quality at only a 2xAA performance hit. Together with G-Sync, these show that NVIDIA not only delivers good hardware as its software department also has a better track-record in backing up its products with stable software, and useable new features. NVIDIA also says the GTX 980 and GTX 970 to be DirectX 12 cards even though the DirectX 12 specification hasn't been finalized yet. Time will have to show whether NVIDIA's support will cover all DirectX 12 features or only a subset.

The GTX 970's real kicker is definitely its pricing. Reference boards can be found at an incredible $329, with EVGA's overclocked GTX 970 SC ACX retailing at $339, a very reasonable price increase. This makes the card cheaper than AMD's R9 290X and R9 290, and both are slower, draw more power and producing more noise. Personally I would have expected the GTX 970 to retail for well above $400, matching the GTX 780's current pricing. But it looks as though NVIDIA is looking to torpedo AMD's whole product stack, and I say they did so successfully.
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