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ASUS Strix Edition GeForce GTX 970 Graphics Card Review

Date: September 24, 2014
Author(s): Rob Williams

With the help of Maxwell, NVIDIA has hit a definite home run with its GeForce GTX 900 GPUs. In our look at the GTX 980 last week, we were left thoroughly impressed, but little did we realize at the time, the GTX 970 – and ASUS’ Strix edition in particular – was about to impress us even more. Simply put, you need to check this card out.



Introduction

It’s not common for a GPU vendor to launch a brand-new series and it turn out to be underwhelming, but I think it’s even more uncommon when a new series manages to genuinely “wow” us. With its GTX 900 series, NVIDIA has successfully landed itself in the latter camp. Not only does Maxwell bring some great features, but the GTX 980 turned out to be an absolute powerhouse.

But what about the GTX 970? As much as I hate to admit it, this is a card I underestimated. When I took a look at the GTX 980 last week, time prevented me from being able to test out the GTX 970. Even after taking into account the GPU’s specs, I couldn’t truly appreciate what it offered until I got to testing. After a single 3DMark run, I found myself experiencing that “wow” feeling all over again.

So as to not spoil everything in the intro, let’s take a look at the card at hand, and then see how it compares to the big gun, the GeForce GTX 980.

ASUS GeForce GTX 970 Strix - Overview

The first GTX 970 to hit our lab is ASUS’ Strix, seen above. With its capability of being able to provide 0dB gaming, the series’ name is surely related to Strix owls, AKA: earless owls. 0dB gaming is impressive, but so is the factory overclock that ASUS says will boost performance by 7.6% over a reference model.

It might be a good idea to tackle that promise of 0dB right now, because after all, a promise like that for a card this powerful seems like a pipe dream. In actuality, though, the feature is very simple: The fans won’t turn on until a certain temperature threshold (65°C) is reached. For high-end games, it’s highly unlikely that you’ll ever see the fan sit idle, but for others – especially MOBAs and more casual games – the GPU will in many cases be competent enough to deliver consistently high framerates but remain cool enough to keep the fans stopped.

I’m sure it goes without saying, but for the best results with this feature, your chassis should have very efficient airflow. If you toss this card into a SFF chassis, for example, it’s highly unlikely that that card will ever stop its fans. In a mid- or full-tower, though, the opposite will be true. For those worried about stopped fans killing the card quicker – don’t fret. Like the past couple of GeForce generations, the GTX 900 series is designed to run at a constant 80°C, a point at which the fans on this card would be running.

Beyond that 0dB perk, ASUS once again delivers a robust power solution with Strix. For starters, what might stand out immediately to most people is the fact that the card draws its power from a single 8-pin PCIe connector. Those who appreciate keeping their installs clean will no doubt appreciate this feature, as it completely rids the second cable. Further, the card has a number of high-end components onboard, including Super Alloy MOSFETs, capacitors, and chokes, as well as ASUS’ much-touted DIGI+VRM power-handling chip. The components used might not matter to you, but the promise of great overclocks might.

On paper, the reference GTX 970 is quite attractive when compared to the 980 which costs $220 more – that’s an effective 66% price premium for 23% more cores and a 75MHz clock boost. Not to downplay the impressiveness that is the GTX 980, it’s hard to ignore the fact that two GTX 970s can be had for $660 SRP – that would then be a 20% price premium for a 63% gain in theoretical performance.

NVIDIA GeForce SeriesCoresCore MHzMemoryMem MHzMem BusTDP
GeForce GTX 980204811264096MB7000256-bit165W
GeForce GTX 970166410504096MB7000256-bit145W
GeForce GTX TITAN Black28808896144MB7000384-bit250W
GeForce GTX 780 Ti28808753072MB7000384-bit250W
GeForce GTX 78023048633072MB6008384-bit250W
GeForce GTX 770153610462048MB7010256-bit230W
GeForce GTX 76011529802048MB6008256-bit170W
GeForce GTX 750 Ti64010202048MB5400128-bit60W
GeForce GTX 75051210202048MB5000128-bit55W

The GTX 970’s reference clock is 1,050MHz, and because Maxwell proves to be so overclockable, ASUS saw it fit to boost its Strix edition to 1,253MHz. With boost, the card can peak at about 1,300MHz. The memory speed was left intact at 7GHz, which doesn’t matter a great deal – in testing, I have found boosts of 500MHz and more to make very little difference. In normal overclocking, it’s best to focus on the core clock, and then adjust the memory clock if you’re in the mood.

On the power front, the GTX 970 is spec’d at 145W. As we’ll see in the results on the pages ahead, ASUS’ variant matches or surpasses the 780 Ti – a card spec’d at 250W. I harped enough on the impressive power-efficiency of Maxwell in the launch article last week, so there’s no point in continuing to drum on about it here.

ASUS GeForce GTX 970 Strix - Profile View

A robust cooling solution would be expected given the promise of 0dB gaming, and that’s just what we’ve got. At the back of the card is a backplate for improved heat dissipation, and under the fans at the front is a large heatsink with two very thick pipes.

ASUS GeForce GTX 970 Strix - Backplate

You can get a better idea of the card’s design with the exploded view below:

ASUS GeForce GTX 970 Strix - Exploded View

ASUS has decided to go with a different video port configuration than NVIDIA’s reference (which is 3x DP, 1x HDMI, and 1x DVI), instead opting for a more typical arrangement: 2x DVI, 1x DP, and 1x HDMI.

With the card and its perks covered, let’s get a move on.

Test System & Methodology

At Techgage, we strive to make sure our results are as accurate as possible. Our testing is rigorous and time-consuming, but we feel the effort is worth it. In an attempt to leave no question unanswered, this page contains not only our test-bed specifications, but also a detailed look at how we conduct our testing.

Test Machine

The below table lists our testing machine’s hardware, which remains unchanged throughout all GPU testing, minus the GPU. Each card used for comparison is also listed here, along with the driver version used.

Graphics Card Test System
ProcessorsIntel Core i7-4960X – Six-Core @ 4.50GHz
MotherboardASUS P9X79-E WS
MemoryKingston HyperX Beast 32GB (4x8GB) – DDR3-2133 11-12-11
GraphicsAMD Radeon R9 280X 2GB – Catalyst 13.12
AMD Radeon R9 285 2GB (MSI Twin Frozr IV) – Catalyst 14.30
AMD Radeon R9 290X 4GB – Catalyst 13.12
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 770 2GB – GeForce 340.52
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 780 3GB – GeForce 331.93
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 780 Ti 3GB – GeForce 331.93
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 970 4GB (ASUS Strix) – GeForce 344.11
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980 4GB – GeForce 344.07
AudioOnboard
StorageKingston HyperX 240GB SSD
Power SupplyCooler Master Silent Pro Hybrid 1300W
ChassisCooler Master Storm Trooper Full-Tower
CoolingThermaltake WATER3.0 Extreme Liquid Cooler
DisplaysASUS PB278Q 27″ 2560×1440
Dell P2210H 22″ 1920×1080 x 3
Et ceteraWindows 7 Professional 64-bit

Notes About Our High-end System

The goal of our performance content is to show you as accurately as possible how one product compares to another – after all, you’re coming to us for advice, so we want to make sure we’re giving you the best possible information. Typically, one major step we take in ensuring that our performance results are accurate is to make sure that our test systems are void of all possible bottlenecks, so for that, high-end components must be used.

In the case of our graphics card test system, the processor chosen has six-cores and is overclocked far beyond reference clocks. Most games nowadays are not heavily CPU-bound, but by using such a chip, we feel that we completely rule it out as a potential bottleneck. The same can be said for the use of an SSD (as opposed to latency-ridden mechanical storage), and even our memory, which is clocked at the comfortable speed of DDR3-2133.

Why this matters to you: Our test PC is high-end, and it’s very likely that you’d encounter a bottleneck quicker than us. Our goals are to rid all possible bottlenecks, whereas yours is to build the PC you need. In our case, we need to go overboard to attain as accurate a representation of a graphic card’s performance as possible.

If your PC has at least a modern (~2-years-old) quad-core or better processor, and at least 8GB of fast memory (DDR3-1866+), that chances of you running into a bottleneck with today’s hottest game is admittedly low. If you’re using lower-end gear, you can absolutely expect that the rest of your system could be a bottleneck. It should be noted, though, that if you’re seeking out a lower-end graphics card, the importance of a bottleneck would of course be lessened.

Unfortunately, we’re not able to test a single card on multiple PC configurations; each single card we test takes at least 3 hours to test, with another 2 hours added on for each additional resolution, and at least another 1~2 hours for our Best Playable results (for up to 11 hours of mostly hands-on testing for a high-end model).

Please bear all of this in mind. If you’re unsure if your PC could prove to be a bottleneck, our comments section exists for such questions.

When preparing our test-beds for any type of performance testing, we follow these guidelines:

General Guidelines

To aid with the goal of keeping accurate and repeatable results, we alter certain services in Windows 7 from starting up at boot. This is due to the fact that these services have the tendency to start up in the background without notice, potentially causing inaccurate test results. For example, disabling “Windows Search” turns off the OS’ indexing which can at times utilize the hard drive and memory more than we’d like.

The services we disable are:

For further fine-tuning, we also use Windows’ “Classic” desktop theme, which gets rid of the transparency that can sometimes utilize a GPU in the background.

Vendor Favortism

Sometimes, either AMD or NVIDIA will work with a game studio to help their development process along. As history has proven, this often results in a game that is tuned better for one vendor over the other, although sometimes the tides can change over time, resulting in the competing vendor offering the better experience.

One of our goals is to provide as neutral a benchmarking suite as possible, so while it’s impossible to avoid games sponsored by either of these companies, we can at least make an effort to achieve a blended list. As it stands, our current game list and their partners are:

(AMD) – Battlefield 4
(AMD) – Crysis 3
(AMD) – Sleeping Dogs
(NVIDIA) – Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag
(NVIDIA) – Metro: Last Light
(NVIDIA) – Splinter Cell Blacklist
(Neutral) – GRID 2
(Neutral) – Total War: SHOGUN 2

With that, let’s move on to a quick look at the game settings we use in our testing:

Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag

Assassin's Creed IV Black Flag Benchmark Settings

Battlefield 4

Battlefield 4 Benchmark Settings

Note: The “High” preset is used for multi-monitor configurations.

Crysis 3

Crysis 3 Benchmark Settings

Crysis 3 Benchmark Settings

Note: The “Medium” preset is used for multi-monitor configurations.

GRID 2

GRID 2 Benchmark Settings

GRID 2 Benchmark Settings

GRID 2 Benchmark Settings

Metro Last Light

Metro Last Light Benchmark Settings

Sleeping Dogs

Sleeping Dogs Benchmark Settings

Sleeping Dogs Benchmark Settings

Splinter Cell Blacklist

Splinter Cell Blacklist Benchmark Settings

Splinter Cell Blacklist Benchmark Settings

Total War: SHOGUN 2

Total War SHOGUN 2 Benchmark Settings

Unigine Heaven

Unigine Heaven 4 Benchmark Settings

Game Tests: Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag, Battlefield 4

Given the sheer number of titles in the Assassin’s Creed series, it’s a little hard to believe that the first game came out a mere six years ago. You could definitely say that Ubisoft hit the ball out of the park with this one. To date, we’ve never considered an AC game for benchmarking, but given the number of graphical goodies featured in the PC version of Black Flag, that trend now ends.

Assassin's Creed IV Black Flag - 1920x1080

Manual Run-through: The saved game starts us not far from the beginning of the game under a small church which can be climbed to synchronize with the environment. To kick things off, I scale this church and rotate the camera around once, making sure to take in the beautiful landscape; then, I climb back down and run all the way to the water (the top of this small church and the water can be seen in the above screenshot).

Note: For some reason, Ubisoft decided to cap the framerate to 60 FPS in Black Flag even if Vsync is turned off. For most games, this would ruin the chance of it appearing in our benchmarking, but because the game is graphically intensive, I’ve chosen to stick with it, as at higher resolutions, reaching 60 FPS is a perk that will belong only to high-end graphics cards.

ASUS GeForce GTX 970 Strix - Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag (1920x1080)

ASUS GeForce GTX 970 Strix - Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag (2560x1440)

ASUS GeForce GTX 970 Strix - Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag (5760x1080)

The 1080p results prove that as long as you have a high-end graphics card, keeping well above 50 FPS minimum isn’t difficult in this title – even with maxed-out game settings (not including the special AA and AO modes). At 1440p, the added stress begins to separate the cards, but it’s not until 5760×1080 that the real challenge is seen. In that test, ASUS’ Strix GTX 970 passes the 780 Ti – an impressive result given that the cheapest 780 Ti I could find online was $110 more than the GTX 970 after mail-in rebate.

Battlefield 4

Thanks to the fact that DICE cares more about PC gaming than a lot of developers, the Battlefield series tends to give us titles that are well-worth benchmarking. Battlefield 3 offered incredible graphics and became a de facto benchmark immediately, so it’s no surprise, then, that BF4 follows right in its footsteps.

Battlefield 4 - 1920x1080

Manual Run-through: The Singapore level is the target here, with the saved game starting us on an airboat that must be driven to shore, where a massive battle is set to take place. I stop recording the framerate once the tank makes its way to the end of this small patch of beach; in all, the run takes about 3 minutes.

ASUS GeForce GTX 970 Strix - Battlefield 4 (1920x1080)

ASUS GeForce GTX 970 Strix - Battlefield 4 (2560x1440)

ASUS GeForce GTX 970 Strix - Battlefield 4 (5760x1080)

ASUS’ Strix continues to impress here, easily surpassing the 780 Ti at 1080p and 1440p, and inching ahead a wee bit on the minimum FPS front with our multi-monitor resolution.

Game Tests: Crysis 3, GRID 2

When the original Crysis dropped in late 2007, it took no time at all for pundits to coin the phrase, “Can it run Crysis?“, almost to the point of self-parody. At the time, the game couldn’t have its graphics detail maxed-out on even top-of-the-line PCs, and in reality, that’s a great thing. I’d imagine few are opposed to knowing that a game could actually look better down the road as our PCs grow into them. As the series continued, Crytek knew it had a legend to live up to, and fortunately, Crysis 3 (our review) lives up to the original’s legacy.

Crysis 3 - 1920x1080 Single Monitor

Manual Run-through: There’s no particular level in Crysis 3 that I could establish was “better” for benchmarking than another, but I settled on “Red Star Rising” based on the fact that I could perform a run-through with no chance of dying (a great thing in a challenging game like this one). The level starts us in a derelict building, where I traverse a broken pipe to make it over to one rooftop and then another. I eventually hit the ground after taking advantage of a zipline, and make my way down to a river, where I scurry past a number of enemies to the end spot beneath a building.

ASUS GeForce GTX 970 Strix - Crysis 3 (1920x1080)

ASUS GeForce GTX 970 Strix - Crysis 3 (2560x1440)

ASUS GeForce GTX 970 Strix - Crysis 3 (5760x1080)

While the Strix GTX 970 easily came ahead of the 780 Ti in Black Flag and Battlefield 4, it oddly falls behind in Crysis 3 at all three of our resolutions. This is something I can’t explain, but repeated benchmarking kept the GTX 970’s results the same.

GRID 2

For those who appreciate racing games that are neither too realistic nor too arcade-like, there’s GRID. In GRID 2 (review), the ultimate goal is to build a racing empire, starting from square one. Unlike most racing titles that have some sort of career, the goal here isn’t to earn cash, but fans. Whether you’re racing around Abu Dhabi’s Yas Marina or tearing through a gorgeous Cote d’Azur coastline, your goal is simple: To impress.

GRID 2 - 1920x1080 Single Monitor

Manual Run-through: The track chosen for my benchmarking is Miami (Ocean Drive). It’s a simple track overall, which is one of the reasons I chose it, and also the reason I choose to do just a single lap (I crash, often, and that affects both the results and my patience). Unlike most games in the suite which I test twice over (save for an oddity in the results), I race this one lap three times over.

ASUS GeForce GTX 970 Strix - GRID 2 (1920x1080)

ASUS GeForce GTX 970 Strix - GRID 2 (2560x1440)

ASUS GeForce GTX 970 Strix - GRID 2 (5760x1080)

No resolution here is a problem for ASUS’ Strix, with even the multi-monitor resolution settling in at about 56 FPS. Those running that resolution and wanting a pure 60 FPS will want to simply dumb down AO a bit or disable global illumination.

Game Tests: Metro Last Light, Sleeping Dogs

Crysis has become infamous for punishing even top-end systems, but let’s be fair: The Metro series matches, if not exceeds its requirement for graphical horsepower. That was proven by the fact that we used Metro 2033 in our testing for a staggering three years – only to be replaced by its sequel, Last Light. I’m not particularly a fan of this series, but I am in awe of its graphics even at modest settings.

Metro Last Light - 1920x1080 Single Monitor

Manual Run-through: Because this game is a real challenge to benchmark with for both the reasons of variability in the results and the raw challenge, I choose to use the built-in benchmark here but rely on Fraps to give me more accurate results.

Note: Metro Last Light‘s built-in benchmark is not representative of the entire game; some levels will punish a GPU much worse than this benchmark will (namely, “The Chase”, which has lots of smoke and explosions). What this means is that while these settings might suffice for much of the game, there might be instances where the performance degrades enough during a certain chapter or portion of a chapter to force a graphics setting tweak.

ASUS GeForce GTX 970 Strix - Metro Last Light (1920x1080)

ASUS GeForce GTX 970 Strix - Metro Last Light (2560x1440)

ASUS GeForce GTX 970 Strix - Metro Last Light (5760x1080)

The GTX 970 once again sits behind only the GTX 980, while the 290X and 780 Ti hold hands behind them.

Sleeping Dogs

Many have called Sleeping Dogs (our review) the “Asian Grand Theft Auto“, but the game does a lot of things differently that helps it stand out of the crowd. For example, in lieu of supplying the player with a gazillion guns, Sleeping Dogs focuses heavily on hand-to-hand combat. There are also many collectibles that can be found to help upgrade your character and unlock special fighting abilities – and if you happen to enjoy an Asian atmosphere, this game should fit the bill.

Sleeping Dogs - 1920x1080 Single Monitor

Manual Run-through: The run here takes place during the chapter “Amanda”, on a dark, dank night. The saved game begins us at the first apartment in the game (in North Point), though that’s not where I begin capturing the framerate. Instead, I first request our motorcycle from the garage. Once set, I begin recording the framerate and drive along a specific path all the way to Aberdeen, taking about two minutes.

ASUS GeForce GTX 970 Strix - Sleeping Dogs (1920x1080)

ASUS GeForce GTX 970 Strix - Sleeping Dogs (2560x1440)

ASUS GeForce GTX 970 Strix - Sleeping Dogs (5760x1080)

Yet again, 1080p and 1440p are no problem for the 970. The muti-monitor resolution pushes things a wee bit too far, but that’s something a drop of the anti-aliasing to “Normal” will fix in a flash.

Game Tests: Splinter Cell: Blacklist, Total War: SHOGUN 2

Tom Clancy is responsible for a countless number of video games, but his Splinter Cell series has become something special, with each game released having been considered “great” overall. The latest in the series, Blacklist, is no exception, and thankfully for us, its graphics are fantastic, and not to mention intensive. For those who love a stealth element in their games, this is one that shouldn’t be skipped.

RIP, Tom Clancy.

Splinter Cell Blacklist - 1920x1080 Single Monitor

Manual Run-through: From the start of the ‘Safehouse’ level in Benghazi, Libya, we progress through until we reach an apartment building that must be entered – this is where we end the FPS recording.

ASUS GeForce GTX 970 Strix - Splinter Cell: Blacklist (1920x1080)

ASUS GeForce GTX 970 Strix - Splinter Cell: Blacklist (2560x1440)

ASUS GeForce GTX 970 Strix - Splinter Cell: Blacklist (5760x1080)

The further we peer into these results, the clearer it becomes to me that we’re going to be due for another GPU suite overhaul soon. Most PC gamers out there run 1080p, but as we’ve seen up to this point, none of these cards struggle with 1440p, which has 77% more pixels. Clearly, we’d be seeing far greater deltas at 4K. I still believe the hype surrounding 4K is severely overblown, but it seems inevitable that I’ll be adding it to our suite at some point soon.

Total War: SHOGUN 2

Strategy games are well-known for pushing the limits of any system, and few others do this as well as Total War: SHOGUN 2. It fully supports DX11, has huge battlefields to oversee with hundreds or thousands of units, and a ton of graphics options to adjust. It’s quite simply a beast of a game.

Total War: SHOGUN 2 - 1920x1080 Single Monitor

Manual Run-through: SHOGUN 2 is one of the few games in our suite where the built-in benchmark is opted for. Strategy games in particular are very difficult to benchmark, so this is where I become thankful to have the option of using a built-in benchmark.

ASUS GeForce GTX 970 Strix - Total War: SHOGUN 2 (1920x1080)

ASUS GeForce GTX 970 Strix - Total War: SHOGUN 2 (2560x1440)

ASUS GeForce GTX 970 Strix - Total War: SHOGUN 2 (5760x1080)

As we saw with Crysis 3, the GTX 970 falls just behind the GTX 780 Ti in SHOGUN 2.

Best Playable: Single Display

For about as long as GPU-accelerated games have existed, an ideal performance target has been 60 frames-per-second. Owing thanks to this is the standard 60Hz monitor, which delivers its best result when the framerate matches its refresh rate. To make sure the monitor’s refresh rate and game’s framerate keep aligned, to avoid visible tearing, VSync should be enabled.

While I believe our Best Playable results will appeal to any gamer, they could especially prove useful to those intrigued by livingroom gaming or console replacements. The goal here is simple: With each game, the graphics settings are tweaked to deliver the best possible detail while keeping us as close to 60 FPS on average as possible.

Because our Metro Last Light and Total War: SHOGUN 2 tests are timedemos, and because this kind of testing is time-consuming, I am sticking to six out of the eight games I test with for inclusion here.

Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag
MinimumAverage
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 9805160
Graphics Settings
& Ingame Screenshot
Resolution: 2560×1440
Environment:Very HighShadow:Soft Shadow High
Texture:HighReflection:High
Anti-aliasing:FXAAGod Rays:High
Ambient Occlusion:HBAO+ HighVolumetric Fog:On
Motion BlurOn
Assassin's Creed IV Black Flag - Best Playable - NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 780 Ti5261
Graphics Settings
& Ingame Screenshot
Resolution: 2560×1440
Environment:Very HighShadow:Very High
Texture:HighReflection:High
Anti-aliasing:FXAAGod Rays:High
Ambient Occlusion:SSAOVolumetric Fog:On
Motion BlurOn
Assassin's Creed IV Black Flag - Best Playable - NVIDIA GeForce GTX 780 Ti
ASUS GeForce GTX 970 Strix5662
Graphics Settings
& Ingame Screenshot
Resolution: 2560×1440
Environment:Very HighShadow:Very High
Texture:HighReflection:High
Anti-aliasing:FXAAGod Rays:High
Ambient Occlusion:HBAO+ HighVolumetric Fog:On
Motion BlurOn
Assassin's Creed IV Black Flag - Best Playable - ASUS GeForce GTX 970 Strix

ASUS’ Strix came ahead of the 780 Ti in most of the game tests seen on the previous four pages, and the card kicks this page off with even more impressive performance. While the 780 Ti was best playable with the same settings used in our regular apples-to-apples benchmarking, I found that I was able to boost the ambient occlusion to HBAO+ High and not only peak at 62 FPS, but gain 4 FPS on the minimum as well.

Battlefield 4
MinimumAverage
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 9804763
Graphics Settings
& Ingame Screenshot
Resolution: 2560×1440
Texture Quality:UltraTexture Filtering:Ultra
Lighting:UltraEffects:Ultra
Post Processing:UltraMesh:Ultra
Terrain:UltraTerrain Decoration:Ultra
Anti-aliasing Deferred:4x MSAAAnti-aliasing Post:High
Ambient Occlusion:HBAO
Battlefield 4 - Best Playable - NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 780 Ti4362
Graphics Settings
& Ingame Screenshot
Resolution: 2560×1440
Texture Quality:UltraTexture Filtering:Ultra
Lighting:UltraEffects:Ultra
Post Processing:UltraMesh:Ultra
Terrain:UltraTerrain Decoration:Ultra
Anti-aliasing Deferred:2x MSAAAnti-aliasing Post:Medium
Ambient Occlusion:SSAO
Battlefield 4 - Best Playable - NVIDIA GeForce GTX 780 Ti
ASUS GeForce GTX 970 Strix4660
Graphics Settings
& Ingame Screenshot
Resolution: 2560×1440
Texture Quality:UltraTexture Filtering:Ultra
Lighting:UltraEffects:Ultra
Post Processing:UltraMesh:Ultra
Terrain:UltraTerrain Decoration:Ultra
Anti-aliasing Deferred:4x MSAAAnti-aliasing Post:Medium
Ambient Occlusion:SSAO
Battlefield 4 - Best Playable - ASUS GeForce GTX 970 Strix

To hit 60 FPS in Battlefield 4, decreasing the anti-aliasing to 2xMSAA with the 780 Ti was necessary. By contrast, the GTX 970 could stick with 4xMSAA. Unlike the GTX 980 though, the 970 had to drop from HBAO to SSAO – not exactly a hard pill to swallow.

Crysis 3
MinimumAverage
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 9804465
Graphics Settings
& Ingame Screenshot
Resolution: 2560×1440
Anti-aliasing:FXAATexture:Very High
Effects:HighObject:Very High
Particles:HighPost Processing:High
Shading:HighShadows:High
Water:HighAnisotropic Filtering:x16
Motion Blur:MediumLens Flares:Yes
Crysis 3 - Best Playable - NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 780 Ti4266
Graphics Settings
& Ingame Screenshot
Resolution: 2560×1440
Anti-aliasing:FXAATexture:High
Effects:HighObject:High
Particles:HighPost Processing:High
Shading:HighShadows:High
Water:HighAnisotropic Filtering:x16
Motion Blur:MediumLens Flares:Yes
Crysis 3 - Best Playable - NVIDIA GeForce GTX 780 Ti
ASUS GeForce GTX 970 Strix4461
Graphics Settings
& Ingame Screenshot
Resolution: 2560×1440
Anti-aliasing:FXAATexture:High
Effects:HighObject:High
Particles:HighPost Processing:High
Shading:HighShadows:High
Water:HighAnisotropic Filtering:x16
Motion Blur:MediumLens Flares:Yes
Crysis 3 - Best Playable - ASUS GeForce GTX 970 Strix

As we saw with our Crysis 3 results earlier, the GTX 970 in this particular game scores a bit lower than the 780 Ti. However, at 1440p, we’re still hitting 60 FPS with “High” detail. Not even the GTX 980 could boost many of the settings to Very High – this game might be a year-and-a-half old, but it’s still a graphical beast.

GRID 2
MinimumAverage
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 9806988
Graphics Settings
& Ingame Screenshot
Resolution: 2560×1440
Multisampling:4x MSAANight Lighting:High
Shadows:UltraAdvanced Fog:On
Particles:UltraCrowd:Ultra
Cloth:HighAmbient Occlusion:Ultra
Soft Ambient Occlusion:OnGround Cover:High
Vehicle Details:HighTrees:Ultra
Objects:UltraVehicle Reflections:Ultra
Water:HighPost Process:High
Skidmarks:OnAdvanced Lighting:On
Global Illumination:OnAnisotropic Filtering:Ultra
GRID 2 - Best Playable - NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 780 Ti7383
Graphics Settings
& Ingame Screenshot
Resolution: 2560×1440
Multisampling:4x MSAANight Lighting:High
Shadows:UltraAdvanced Fog:On
Particles:UltraCrowd:Ultra
Cloth:HighAmbient Occlusion:Ultra
Soft Ambient Occlusion:OnGround Cover:High
Vehicle Details:HighTrees:Ultra
Objects:UltraVehicle Reflections:Ultra
Water:HighPost Process:High
Skidmarks:OnAdvanced Lighting:On
Global Illumination:OnAnisotropic Filtering:Ultra
GRID 2 - Best Playable - NVIDIA GeForce GTX 780 Ti
ASUS GeForce GTX 970 Strix7886
Graphics Settings
& Ingame Screenshot
Resolution: 2560×1440
Multisampling:4x MSAANight Lighting:High
Shadows:UltraAdvanced Fog:On
Particles:UltraCrowd:Ultra
Cloth:HighAmbient Occlusion:Ultra
Soft Ambient Occlusion:OnGround Cover:High
Vehicle Details:HighTrees:Ultra
Objects:UltraVehicle Reflections:Ultra
Water:HighPost Process:High
Skidmarks:OnAdvanced Lighting:On
Global Illumination:OnAnisotropic Filtering:Ultra
GRID 2 - Best Playable - ASUS GeForce GTX 970 Strix

Perhaps not surprisingly, the ASUS Strix handles this game without issue at max detail at 1440p resolution.

Sleeping Dogs
MinimumAverage
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 9806578
Graphics Settings
& Ingame Screenshot
Resolution: 2560×1440
Anti-aliasing:HighHigh-res Textures:On
Shadow Resolution:HighShadow Filtering:High
Ambient Occlusion:HighMotion Blur:High
World Density:Extreme
Sleeping Dogs - Best Playable - NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 780 Ti5471
Graphics Settings
& Ingame Screenshot
Resolution: 2560×1440
Anti-aliasing:HighHigh-res Textures:On
Shadow Resolution:HighShadow Filtering:High
Ambient Occlusion:HighMotion Blur:High
World Density:Extreme
Sleeping Dogs - Best Playable - NVIDIA GeForce GTX 780 Ti
ASUS GeForce GTX 970 Strix5772
Graphics Settings
& Ingame Screenshot
Resolution: 2560×1440
Anti-aliasing:HighHigh-res Textures:On
Shadow Resolution:HighShadow Filtering:High
Ambient Occlusion:HighMotion Blur:High
World Density:Extreme
Sleeping Dogs - Best Playable - ASUS GeForce GTX 970 Strix

While the differences in AA modes in this particular title are difficult to see the difference between, it’s safe to stick to the High setting when using the GTX 970 – even the minimum is nearly 60 FPS.

Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell: Blacklist
MinimumAverage
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 9805060
Graphics Settings
& Ingame Screenshot
Resolution: 2560×1440
Texture Detail:UltraShadow:Ultra
Parallax:OnTessellation:On
Texture Filtering:16xAmbient Occlusion:Field AO & HBAO+
Anti-aliasing:TXAA 2x
Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell Blacklist - Best Playable - NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 780 Ti5871
Graphics Settings
& Ingame Screenshot
Resolution: 2560×1440
Texture Detail:UltraShadow:Ultra
Parallax:OnTessellation:On
Texture Filtering:16xAmbient Occlusion:Field AO & HBAO+
Anti-aliasing:FXAA
Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell Blacklist - Best Playable - NVIDIA GeForce GTX 780 Ti
ASUS GeForce GTX 970 Strix5968
Graphics Settings
& Ingame Screenshot
Resolution: 2560×1440
Texture Detail:UltraShadow:Ultra
Parallax:OnTessellation:On
Texture Filtering:16xAmbient Occlusion:Field AO & HBAO+
Anti-aliasing:FXAA
Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell Blacklist - Best Playable - ASUS GeForce GTX 970 Strix

Like the GTX 780 Ti, the GTX 970 handles the game just fine using the same settings as our apples-to-apples test. The only detail level that can go higher is AA, and any change there will cause the FPS to plummet.

Best Playable: Multi-Display

With the results seen on the previous page, we learned that all three of the cards included can handle today’s games at the resolution of 2560×1440 without much issue. In most cases, the detail levels in each game can be cranked right up, and I think it’s safe to say that you’ll probably get liveable framerates by doing that with any modern game (let’s ignore Crysis 3 at Very High detail for a moment).

As great a resolution as 1440p is, though, it’s only 3.68 megapixels. Contrast that to our multi-monitor resolution of 5760×1080, which is 6.22 megapixels. Clearly, that will require even more GPU horsepower to tear through, so let’s see how all of these cards fare.

Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag
MinimumAverage
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 9805260
Graphics Settings
& Ingame Screenshot
Resolution: 5760×1080
Environment:Very HighShadow:High
Texture:HighReflection:High
Anti-aliasing:FXAAGod Rays:Low
Ambient Occlusion:OffVolumetric Fog:On
Motion BlurOn
Assassin's Creed IV Black Flag - Best Playable Multi-Monitor - NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 780 Ti4859
Graphics Settings
& Ingame Screenshot
Resolution: 5760×1080
Environment:HighShadow:Normal
Texture:HighReflection:Normal
Anti-aliasing:FXAAGod Rays:Low
Ambient Occlusion:OffVolumetric Fog:On
Motion BlurOn
Assassin's Creed IV Black Flag - Best Playable Multi-Monitor - NVIDIA GeForce GTX 780 Ti
ASUS GeForce GTX 970 Strix5361
Graphics Settings
& Ingame Screenshot
Resolution: 5760×1080
Environment:HighShadow:Normal
Texture:HighReflection:Normal
Anti-aliasing:FXAAGod Rays:Low
Ambient Occlusion:OffVolumetric Fog:On
Motion BlurOn
Assassin's Creed IV Black Flag - Best Playable Multi-Monitor - ASUS GeForce GTX 970 Strix

Almost all of the settings here had to be dropped a bit to hit 60 FPS – the only notable setting not touched was AA. Still, as you can see from the screenshot, you’re not exactly killing the detail to get great framerates on the GTX 970.

Battlefield 4
MinimumAverage
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 9805163
Graphics Settings
& Ingame Screenshot
Resolution: 5760×1080
Texture Quality:HighTexture Filtering:High
Lighting:HighEffects:High
Post Processing:HighMesh:High
Terrain:HighTerrain Decoration:High
Anti-aliasing Deferred:OffAnti-aliasing Post:High
Ambient Occlusion:HBAO
Battlefield 4 - Best Playable Multi-Monitor - NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 780 Ti4355
Graphics Settings
& Ingame Screenshot
Resolution: 5760×1080
Texture Quality:HighTexture Filtering:High
Lighting:HighEffects:High
Post Processing:HighMesh:High
Terrain:HighTerrain Decoration:High
Anti-aliasing Deferred:OffAnti-aliasing Post:Medium
Ambient Occlusion:HBAO
Battlefield 4 - Best Playable Multi-Monitor - NVIDIA GeForce GTX 780 Ti
ASUS GeForce GTX 970 Strix4556
Graphics Settings
& Ingame Screenshot
Resolution: 5760×1080
Texture Quality:HighTexture Filtering:High
Lighting:HighEffects:High
Post Processing:HighMesh:High
Terrain:HighTerrain Decoration:High
Anti-aliasing Deferred:OffAnti-aliasing Post:High
Ambient Occlusion:HBAO
Battlefield 4 - Best Playable Multi-Monitor - ASUS GeForce GTX 970 Strix

All three cards are playable using the same settings, although I admit I sacrificed a 4 FPS in order to retain all of these settings. Those needing 60 FPS will be able to hit it by dropping HBAO to SSAO. Disabling AO entirely will allow you to increase some of the other details back up to Ultra.

Crysis 3
MinimumAverage
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 9804058
Graphics Settings
& Ingame Screenshot
Resolution: 5760×1080
Anti-aliasing:FXAATexture:Medium
Effects:MediumObject:Medium
Particles:MediumPost Processing:Medium
Shading:MediumShadows:Medium
Water:MediumAnisotropic Filtering:x16
Motion Blur:MediumLens Flares:Yes
Crysis 3 - Best Playable Multi-Monitor - NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 780 Ti4257
Graphics Settings
& Ingame Screenshot
Resolution: 5760×1080
Anti-aliasing:FXAATexture:Medium
Effects:MediumObject:Medium
Particles:MediumPost Processing:Medium
Shading:MediumShadows:Medium
Water:MediumAnisotropic Filtering:x16
Motion Blur:MediumLens Flares:Yes
Crysis 3 - Best Playable Multi-Monitor - NVIDIA GeForce GTX 780 Ti
ASUS GeForce GTX 970 Strix4557
Graphics Settings
& Ingame Screenshot
Resolution: 5760×1080
Anti-aliasing:DisabledTexture:Medium
Effects:MediumObject:Medium
Particles:LowPost Processing:Low
Shading:LowShadows:Medium
Water:MediumAnisotropic Filtering:x16
Motion Blur:MediumLens Flares:Yes
Crysis 3 - Best Playable Multi-Monitor - ASUS GeForce GTX 970 Strix

With both the standard Crysis 3 testing as well as the best playable 1440p result on the previous page, we saw that the GTX 780 Ti somehow made an exception to the rule and performed better than the GTX 970. That carried on straight through to our multi-monitor testing. While the 780 Ti here could retain medium detail levels all around, the 970 had to sacrifice some detail levels – especially shading and post-processing – to give us a great framerate.

GRID 2
MinimumAverage
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 9805561
Graphics Settings
& Ingame Screenshot
Resolution: 5760×1080
Multisampling:4x MSAANight Lighting:High
Shadows:UltraAdvanced Fog:On
Particles:UltraCrowd:Ultra
Cloth:HighAmbient Occlusion:Ultra
Soft Ambient Occlusion:OnGround Cover:High
Vehicle Details:HighTrees:Ultra
Objects:UltraVehicle Reflections:Ultra
Water:HighPost Process:High
Skidmarks:OnAdvanced Lighting:On
Global Illumination:OnAnisotropic Filtering:Ultra
GRID 2 - Best Playable Multi-Monitor - NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 780 Ti5763
Graphics Settings
& Ingame Screenshot
Resolution: 5760×1080
Multisampling:4x MSAANight Lighting:High
Shadows:UltraAdvanced Fog:On
Particles:UltraCrowd:Ultra
Cloth:HighAmbient Occlusion:High
Soft Ambient Occlusion:OnGround Cover:High
Vehicle Details:HighTrees:Ultra
Objects:UltraVehicle Reflections:Ultra
Water:HighPost Process:High
Skidmarks:OnAdvanced Lighting:On
Global Illumination:OffAnisotropic Filtering:Ultra
GRID 2 - Best Playable Multi-Monitor - NVIDIA GeForce GTX 780 Ti
ASUS GeForce GTX 970 Strix4758
Graphics Settings
& Ingame Screenshot
Resolution: 5760×1080
Multisampling:4x MSAANight Lighting:High
Shadows:UltraAdvanced Fog:On
Particles:UltraCrowd:Ultra
Cloth:HighAmbient Occlusion:High
Soft Ambient Occlusion:OnGround Cover:High
Vehicle Details:HighTrees:Ultra
Objects:UltraVehicle Reflections:Ultra
Water:HighPost Process:High
Skidmarks:OnAdvanced Lighting:On
Global Illumination:OnAnisotropic Filtering:Ultra
GRID 2 - Best Playable Multi-Monitor - ASUS GeForce GTX 970 Strix

Not much had to be changed here to attain 60 FPS (or at least seriously close) on the GTX 970 – the ambient occlusion just had to be dropped from Ultra to High. To surpass 60 FPS, I’d recommend disabling global illumination for a quick boost of at least 5 FPS.

Sleeping Dogs
MinimumAverage
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 9807085
Graphics Settings
& Ingame Screenshot
Resolution: 5760×1080
Anti-aliasing:NormalHigh-res Textures:On
Shadow Resolution:HighShadow Filtering:High
Ambient Occlusion:HighMotion Blur:High
World Density:Extreme
Sleeping Dogs - Best Playable Multi-Monitor - NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 780 Ti5178
Graphics Settings
& Ingame Screenshot
Resolution: 5760×1080
Anti-aliasing:NormalHigh-res Textures:On
Shadow Resolution:HighShadow Filtering:High
Ambient Occlusion:HighMotion Blur:High
World Density:Extreme
Sleeping Dogs - Best Playable Multi-Monitor - NVIDIA GeForce GTX 780 Ti
ASUS GeForce GTX 970 Strix6077
Graphics Settings
& Ingame Screenshot
Resolution: 5760×1080
Anti-aliasing:NormalHigh-res Textures:On
Shadow Resolution:HighShadow Filtering:High
Ambient Occlusion:HighMotion Blur:High
World Density:Extreme
Sleeping Dogs - Best Playable Multi-Monitor - ASUS GeForce GTX 970 Strix

With the High anti-aliasing setting, framerates were not ideal, but dropping it to Normal fixed everything – hitting 60 FPS on the minimum is just what I like to see.

Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell: Blacklist
MinimumAverage
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 9805672
Graphics Settings
& Ingame Screenshot
Resolution: 5760×1080
Texture Detail:UltraShadow:Ultra
Parallax:OnTessellation:On
Texture Filtering:16xAmbient Occlusion:Field AO
Anti-aliasing:FXAA
Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell Blacklist - Best Playable Multi-Monitor - NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 780 Ti5371
Graphics Settings
& Ingame Screenshot
Resolution: 5760×1080
Texture Detail:UltraShadow:Ultra
Parallax:OnTessellation:On
Texture Filtering:16xAmbient Occlusion:Field AO
Anti-aliasing:FXAA
Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell Blacklist - Best Playable Multi-Monitor - NVIDIA GeForce GTX 780 Ti
ASUS GeForce GTX 970 Strix5266
Graphics Settings
& Ingame Screenshot
Resolution: 5760×1080
Texture Detail:UltraShadow:Ultra
Parallax:OnTessellation:On
Texture Filtering:16xAmbient Occlusion:Field AO
Anti-aliasing:FXAA
Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell Blacklist - Best Playable Multi-Monitor - ASUS GeForce GTX 970 Strix

Like the other two cards, ASUS’ Strix had to see the AO dropped down to the standard Field AO setting to hit 60 FPS. As you might suspect, this is a difference that would require side-by-side screenshots to spot, so it’s a minor loss.

Synthetic Tests: Futuremark 3DMark, 3DMark 11, Unigine Heaven 4.0

We don’t make it a point to seek out automated gaming benchmarks, but we do like to get a couple in that anyone reading this can run themselves. Of these, Futuremark’s name leads the pack, as its benchmarks have become synonymous with the activity. Plus, it does help that the company’s benchmarks stress PCs to their limit – and beyond.

3DMark

While Futuremark’s latest GPU test suite is 3DMark, I’m also including results from 3DMark 11 as it’s still a common choice among benchmarkers.

ASUS GeForce GTX 970 Strix - Futuremark 3DMark

ASUS GeForce GTX 970 Strix - Futuremark 3DMark 11 - Performance

ASUS GeForce GTX 970 Strix - Futuremark 3DMark 11 - Extreme

3DMark 11 can’t seem to decide exactly where the GTX 970 ranks in comparison to the GTX 780 Ti, but in 3DMark (2013), the ASUS’ Strix ekes ahead of both the 780 Ti and R9 290X.

Unigine Heaven 4.0

Unigine might not have as established a name as Futuremark, but its products are nothing short of “awesome”. The company’s main focus is its game engine, but a by-product of that is its benchmarks, which are used to both give benchmarkers another great tool to take advantage of, and also to show-off what its engine is capable of. It’s a win-win all-around.

Unigine Heaven 4.0

The biggest reason that the company’s “Heaven” benchmark is so relied-upon by benchmarkers is that both AMD and NVIDIA promote it for its heavy use of tessellation. Like 3DMark, the benchmark here is overkill by design, so results are not going to directly correlate with real gameplay. Rather, they showcase which card models can better handle both DX11 and its GPU-bogging features.

ASUS GeForce GTX 970 Strix - Unigine Heaven 4.0 (1920x1080)

Heaven becomes yet another test where the 780 Ti is mysteriously able to leap past the GTX 970. Overall though, ASUS’ Strix has definitely been the dominant card.

Power & Temperatures, Final Thoughts

To test graphics cards for both their power consumption and temperature at load, we utilize a couple of different tools. On the hardware side, we use a trusty Kill-a-Watt power monitor which our GPU test machine plugs into directly. For software, we use Futuremark’s 3DMark to stress-test the card, and AIDA64 to monitor and record the temperatures.

To test, the general area around the chassis is checked with a temperature gun, with the average temperature recorded. Once that’s established, the PC is turned on and left to site idle for ten minutes. At this point, we open AIDA64 along with 3DMark. We then kick-off a full suite run, and pay attention to the Kill-a-Watt when the test reaches its most intensive interval (GT 1) to get the load wattage.

ASUS GeForce GTX 970 Strix - Temperatures

ASUS GeForce GTX 970 Strix - Power Consumption

Similar to what we saw with the GTX 980 last week, ASUS’ Strix GTX 970 idles a bit higher than some of the other cards, but it shines at load – the card is much faster than the R9 285, yet it runs cooler. Not only that, but it draws less power, too. Not everyone cares about power consumption, but I have a hard time not being blown-away by the fact that this card wipes the floor with most of this line-up, but proves the most power-efficient.

Final Thoughts

ASUS’ motto is ‘In Search of Incredible’, and after having taken a look at the company’s Strix GTX 970, I’m thinking its follow-up should be ‘We’ve Found It’. Last week, I was left very impressed with the GTX 980, but I was totally oblivious of just how impressive the GTX 970 would prove to be. I can safely say that I am even more impressed with the GTX 970 than the 980, because the value is through the roof.

On paper, the GTX 970 reference is impressive in itself, but ASUS has taken it, given it a sweet speed boost, a very effective cooler, and the awesome feature of requiring just a single 8-pin PCIe power connector. I am having a hard time finding a single fault with this card.

ASUS GeForce GTX 970 Strix Edition - Box

As we saw throughout the game tests, ASUS’ Strix GTX 970 outpaces the GTX 780 Ti more often than not. A month ago, that card retailed for a cool $600. If you look hard enough, it can now be had for as low as $450 – but that’s after a mail-in rebate. So, what we have with that proposition is a card that adds a couple of 100s: +100W to the load, and +$100 to the price.

It goes without saying that the GTX 980 is powerful. After all, it’s the most powerful single-GPU solution now on the market. But with the sheer amount of performance the $329 SRP GTX 970 packs, I can’t help but think about what the card could do in SLI. That solution would cost $660, or $680 with ASUS’ Strix, and deliver far more performance than a single GTX 980, and cost a mere 20% more.

If I keep talking, I’m bound to repeat myself. By now, you surely know whether or not this card is for you. Given the power that both the GTX 980 and 970 deliver, I’m quite looking forward to seeing what NVIDIA’s mid-range lineup is going to be capable of.

Pros

Cons

ASUS GeForce GTX 970 Strix - Techgage Editor's Choice
ASUS GeForce GTX 970 Strix

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