GeForce GTX 970 SLI review - Multi-GPU Mode Explained
Multi-GPU Mode Explained
Both Nvidia's SLI and AMD's Crossfire allow you to combine/add a second, third or sometimes even a fourth similar generation graphics card (or add in more GPUs) to the one you already have in your PC. This way you effectively try to double, triple or even quadruple your raw rendering gaming performance (in theory). The reality is this though, the more GPUs that are present, the worse the scaling becomes and the more driver issues you will run into. Honestly, two GPUs in most scenarios is ideal in terms of multi-GPU gaming, always remember that.
You could for example place two or more AMD graphics cards into a Crossfire compatible motherboard, or two or more Nvidia GeForce graphics cards in SLI mode on a compatible motherboard. In today's article we'll use a 2 way SLI GeForce GTX 970 graphics card configuration.
- A Crossfire compatible motherboard is pretty much ANY motherboard with multiple PCIe x16 slots that is not an nForce motherboard.
- An SLI certified motherboard is an nForce motherboard with more than two PCIe x16 slots or a certified P55, P67, Z68, X58, Z77, Z87, X79, Z97 and X99 motherboard. Please check with the motherboard manufacturer whether or not it is SLI compatible. Keep that in mind, but most of the latest generations AMD and Intel based motherboards are compatible. A small note, if you are on an AMD processor then on AMD's side the 900 series chipset supports SLI as well.
Once we seat the similar graphics cards on the carefully selected motherboard, we just bridge them together with a supplied Crossfire connector or, in Nvidia's case, an SLI connector. Then install/update the drivers, after which most games can take advantage of the extra horsepower we just added into the system.
Screenshot of two cards with SLI enabled on the NVIDIA control panel.
Once you have your hardware setup it's time to install the latest drivers. In the Nvidia control panel, make sure that Maximize 3D Performance is activated. For SLI + Multi monitor setup you need to click 'Span Displays with Surround'.
Multi GPU rendering -- the idea is not new at all. There are multiple ways to manage two cards rendering one frame; think of Super Tiling, it's a popular form of rendering. Alternate Frame Rendering, each card will render a frame (even/uneven) or Split Frame Rendering, simply one GPU renders the upper or the lower part of the frame. So you see, there are many methods where two or more GPUs can be utilized to bring you a substantial gain in performance.
The Computer Components Used
To be able to understand what we are doing today, we need to briefly take you through some of the key components used for our PC. Today we have a home built DIY (Do It Yourself) X79 based Core i7 system that consists out of the following gear:
- Core i7 3960X with all cores clocked at @ 4.6GHz
- Motherboard -- MSI X79 Big Bang XPower II
- Memory -- 8GB (4 x 2048 MB)
- 128 GB SSD for storage
- 1500 Watt Power Supply
- Two GeForce GTX 970 graphics cards (reference clock frequencies)
These are some pretty nifty parts and bear in mind, when you opt for multi-GPU gaming, always have your gear right. You'll need that quality power supply, you'll need that proper SLI supporting motherboard, a processor and then you'll need a chassis with some very decent airflow to keep the graphics cards nicely chilled down. The tests have been performed on a X79 / Core i7 3960X processor (six-cores active and all overclocked to 4.6 GHz). There's no downclocking on long duration CPU load.
If you decide to go for high-end Multi-GPU gaming, our recommendation currently is an Core i7 processor based on a Z87/Z97/X79/X99 motherboard as it has plenty of PCIe gen 2.0 and 3.0 lanes and thus cross-link bandwidth really is optimal.
For installation, make sure you do not forget to use a proper SLI bridge -- your motherboard should come with them by default. If not, there is a wide variety available. As you can see with two dual slot cards, space is an increasing issue for airflow. Make sure you end up with a well ventilated PC chassis. Luckily the 970 graphics cards have an intake located at the rear of the card. You'll need a total of four PCIe PEG power connectors (6-pin) headed from your power supply. This can differ per brand though. Purchase a good quality PSU preferably with high efficiency to save on power consumption. And with so much power under the hood, don't mess around with the Molex to PCIe 6/8-pin power converter cables okay? We'll show you a thing about power consumption on the next pages.
GTX 970 & GTX 980 Ti Specs
|GTX 980 Ti Hybrid||GTX 970 SSC|
|Texture Filter Rate (Bilinear)||176GT/s||109GT/s|
|Base Clock (GPU)||1140MHz||1140MHz|
|Boost Clock (GPU)||1228MHz||1342MHz|
|GDDR5 Memory / |
|6GB / 384-bit||4GB / 256-bit|
|Memory Bandwidth (GPU)||336.5GB/s||224GB/s|
1x HDMI 2.0
1x HDMI 2.0
|Price as of Post||$730.00||$330.00|
Our test looks at these cards specifically:
The “Hybrid” cards drive price up a little higher than the average for a 970 SLI or 980 Ti single card setup. For this test, we're assuming a baseline price of $650 - $660 for a single 980 Ti (MSRP is $650, which is where most non-liquid cards fall). We're also assuming a joint price of ~$660 - $700 for two GTX 970s (non-liquid), which puts them effectively at a head-to-head price bracket. That makes the value comparison clean and easy, no waffling between price.
Considerations of SLI
There are two primary scenarios where SLI or CrossFire are used: A later upgrade when half the configuration is already owned and a day-one, brand new build. In the event of the first scenario – where the user already owns one GTX 970 and is considering a second – the value considerations are different and will be discussed only in the conclusion. Also in that scenario, we'd always recommend buying that second card (if truly desired) before it exits production. Almost every time a card exits official production, prices spike on retailers and second-hand markets. It's almost always better to buy a newer, single card once that happens, as the spiked prices are hardly sane or good value.
SLI and CrossFire are also historically prone to micro-stuttering as a result of their dual-processing technique (normally AFR, or alternate frame rendering). GPUs render alternating frames when using the AFR technique; more explicitly, GPU A will render all odd frames (1, 3, 5, 7) while GPU B renders all even frames (0, 2, 4, 6). Micro-stutter can be so extreme in some games and driver sets that SLI becomes undesirable, even if average FPS is improved over single-card configurations. In these situations, disabling one of the two GPUs (but leaving the GPU physically installed) will reduce or eliminate micro-stutter, but then you're only getting half the investment outputting – certainly an unwanted situation.
Micro-sutter is observable as a result of disparate frame-time gaps, where the time between frame renders is inconsistent enough that the user can perceive a jarring difference – e.g. jumping from a 16ms render to a 30ms or 40ms render time (or worse). Adaptive synchronization technologies have helped to mitigate this phenomenon. Monitors supporting G-Sync and FreeSync are of particular importance for consideration when running SLI or CrossFire. The GPU connected to the display manages the sync technology. NVidia SLI setups fully support G-Sync. AMD CrossFire setups, as of driver version 15.7 from July 2015, also fully support FreeSync.
Another performance consideration for multi-GPU cards – in a similar vein to micro-stutter – 1% and 0.1% low frame performance can sometimes be worse than single-card setups. This is another point that could potentially favor a single, higher-end GPU, but recent optimizations made to drivers and games may reduce the impact to manageable territory – we'll look at that below.
No overclocking was applied during these tests, which does mean that the slower of the two cards (the 970 Hybrid, at 1140MHz) will marginally impact the overall performance. SLI overclocking is being done in one of our next tests and has been reserved for that content. We've already tested this 1140MHz vs. 1190MHz differential over here, if you're curious about what kind of delta that produces. We mostly saw differences centered around the 1.87% to 2.5% area.
We tested using our 2015 multi-GPU test bench. Our thanks to supporting hardware vendors for supplying some of the test components.
The latest AMD drivers (15.12) were used for testing. NVidia's 361.43 drivers were used for testing the latest games. Game settings were manually controlled for the DUT. All games were run at presets defined in their respective charts. We disable brand-supported technologies in games, like The Witcher 3's HairWorks and HBAO. All other game settings are defined in respective game benchmarks, which we publish separately from GPU reviews. Our test courses, in the event manual testing is executed, are also uploaded within that content. This allows others to replicate our results by studying our bench courses.
Each game was tested for 30 seconds in an identical scenario, then repeated three times for parity. The results in the tables are averages of these three runs.
Average FPS, 1% low, and 0.1% low times are measured. We do not measure maximum or minimum FPS results as we consider these numbers to be pure outliers. Instead, we take an average of the lowest 1% of results (1% low) to show real-world, noticeable dips; we then take an average of the lowest 0.1% of results for severe spikes.
Fallout 4 Benchmark – 970 SLI vs. 980 Ti, 970, 980, & 390X
Fallout 4 produced some of the most disappointing performance results of the year when initially tested. Support for the game and optimizations have been made in some small capacity, but it's still easily one of the most confusingly demanding titles on the current market.
At 1080p, the 980 Ti pushes 86.3 FPS against the SLI 970 configuration's 81.7FPS, granting the single 980 Ti card a 5.48% lead. 1% and 0.1% lows are disproportionately worse to the single 980 Ti setup, but not to the level that would make SLI 'unplayable' or force the disabling of SLI. Both configurations are well within playable territory, especially considering Fallout 4's physics-FPS binding that demands a 60FPS lock.
Scaling for the dual-card setup produces a 31.12% performance gain over one GTX 970. In this instance, a single GTX 980 Ti ($600) is the 'winner' in direct head-to-head.
The 390X, for reference, now performs slightly better than the GTX 970 single card, whereas initial launch had the GTX 970 ahead of the R9 390X.
Assassin's Creed Syndicate Benchmark – 970 SLI vs. 980 Ti, 970, 980, 390X
AC Syndicate once showed effectively zero SLI scaling in our tests, but has improved dramatically since original testing. In today's test, we see the 980 Ti favored by a somewhat large 17.23% over the SLI GTX 970s. That's 71.7 AVG FPS vs. 66 AVG FPS, but there's more to the story than just averages: The SLI GTX 970 setup suffered from massive reductions in 1% and 0.1% lows; worse even than the single GTX 970. We saw severe micro-stutter in Assassin's Creed Syndicate that showed a halving of the average framerate at its worst times. This coupled with the 17.23% lead makes the GTX 980 Ti a clear and definitive winner. Even the GTX 980, which outputs about 10FPS (15.16%) slower gameplay has significantly more fluid performance than the dual 970 setup, and would be a worthy consideration.
Looking only at scaling, the GTX 970 dual-card group produces a 33.63% performance gain over a single GTX 970. Considering day-one performance for SLI was nearly identical to running just one card of the config, that's not a bad driver improvement.
In this one, our AMD anchor 390X performs marginally worse than the GTX 970 in ACS at 1440p.
Metro: Last Light Benchmark – 970 SLI vs. 980 Ti, 970, 980, 390X
Metro: Last Light shows a 4.78% performance lead for the GTX 980 Ti at 1080p, now marking three points in favor of the 980 Ti. Interestingly, a resolution jump to 1440p produces effectively identical performance (AVG FPS) between the two setups, with the 980 Ti leading by way of 1% and 0.1% lows (but only by a few points, to the degree that an end user wouldn't be able to differentiate performance). At 4K, the 980 Ti retains a 1.76% lead and outputs observably identical lows to the 970s in SLI.
This is our first scaling measurement with all three major resolutions covered. There's a clear progression from 1080p to 4K in performance gains, resultant of additional pixel processing power generated from running two GPUs. At 1080p, 2x 970s scale 26.26% over a single 970 (sub-optimal, for sure); that scaling changes to 38.93% at 1440p and 43.20% at 4K.
Shadow of Mordor Benchmark – 970 SLI vs. 980 Ti, 970, 980, 390X
Shadow of Mordor finally shows a performance lead for the two GTX 970s, which run a marginal 1.87% better than the single GTX 980 Ti – not necessarily “worth it” considering the previous wins for the single card, but this may be a turning point for the dual-card setup. We'll re-evaluate once all results are in. At 1440p, a 6.14% lead emerges for the 2x 970s, though the 980 Ti retains better 0.1% lows (outside of observable impact to the end-user, granted). 4K shows a 9.88% lead – more linear scaling for the dual processors. Two GTX 970s are the objective winner here, though the margin is small enough that value remains suspect until further testing – below – is evaluated.
As for SLI scaling versus a single card, it looks something like this: 46.14% gain at 1080p; 50.69% gain at 1440p; 55.04% gain at 4K.
The 390X outperforms the single GTX 970 and GTX 980 (marginally) at 1080p in Mordor and maintains its distance at 1440 and 4K.
COD: Black Ops III Benchmark – 970 SLI vs. 980 Ti, 970, 980, 390X
Call of Duty: Black Ops III has remained one of the best-performing titles relative to its 'looks' that we've worked with this year. See our graphics optimization guide for the game over here. This is the title that most closely puts us in operable range for 144Hz displays.
At 1440p, there's a definitive lead for the dual GTX 970s – that marks two points for SLI, three points for single-card – at 17.23% > 980 Ti. Raw numbers at this resolution are 138.7FPS AVG vs. 116.7FPS AVG, with lows scaling fairly well but 0.1% lows favoring the 980 Ti (nominally). 4K shows a 10.14% lead, so performance heads south, unlike our previous scalability results.
As for a single card versus two cards, the dual-card setup presents a massive 56% average FPS gain at 1440 and 57.89% gain at 4K. 1% and 0.1% lows aren't very good for the SLI setup when looked at relative to the 980 Ti (AVG vs. low gap is larger), but still well within the playable range. 0.1% lows on 4K are dismal and render the game unplayable at a competitive level.
The Witcher 3 Benchmark – 970 SLI vs. 980 Ti, 970, 980, 390X
Note: There was an averaging error (spreadsheet formula pointed at the wrong cell for one of our lineups) in the 4K Witcher 3 test when the video was rendered. That error has been resolved in the above chart. The original chart showed 23FPS for the GTX 980 (AVG) and 24FPS for the GTX 970 (AVG), but the correct numbers are 25FPS (980) and 24FPS (970). Thanks to the viewer who spotted this!
The Witcher 3 produces the biggest advantage for SLI, with the 2x 970s running 30.07% faster than the GTX 980 Ti at 1440p. That and the general low FPS improvement over the 980 Ti makes The Witcher 3 significantly more playable on the 2x 970s at this resolution. 4K is pretty rough across the board, but the dual cards do retain a technical lead (19.7%), despite neither configuration being what we'd consider 'playable' at Ultra.
The Witcher 3 also produces solid scaling numbers for SLI. There's a 50% performance gain over a single card at 1440p, or 47.62% at 4K.
GTA V Benchmark – 970 SLI vs. 980 Ti, 970, 980, 390X
We're now at four points for SLI GTX 970s and three points for a single GTX 980 Ti, looking firmly at the head-to-head in average FPS metrics. There's obviously a lot more in the details, all written in the above test notes.
GTA V shows a slight lead for the 970s in SLI at 11.53% over the GTX 980 Ti (1080p), 18.51% at 1440p, and 18.06% at 4K. 4K 1% and 0.1% low performance is awful for the SLI configuration, rendering it effectively unplayable even with its 50.7 AVG FPS.
Scaling puts SLI at 38.4% > single 970 at 1080p, 51.66% at 1440p, and 60% at 4K.
Just Cause 3 Benchmark – SLI 970 vs. 980 Ti, 980, 970, 390X
Just Cause 3 is another test title where we saw effectively no SLI scaling at launch, and that hasn't changed much. The 980 Ti is the winner by a staggering 26.89% at 1080p and 38.69% at 1440p. SLI is terrible value for Just Cause 3. Scaling from a single card stands at just 10.82% at 1080p. In fact, it's so bad that you'd be better off buying a single GTX 980 non-Ti than SLI 970s (or 390X, even).
SLI 970 Scaling vs. Single GTX 970
This was already discussed in all the above sections, but here's a table strictly showing SLI performance scaling from one card to two:
|GTX 970 SLI Scaling vs. Single Card|
Conclusion: Is SLI Worth it for the GTX 970?
The value of SLI depends on the situation. Assuming a completely new system build, the only time SLI 970s holds a considerable lead over the single 980 Ti is in The Witcher 3 and Black Ops 3 (at 1440). For every other title, either the 980 Ti leads (MLL, FO4, ACS, JC3) or the 2x970 lead is so small that it isn't worth the issues with other current and future releases. Micro-stutter remains a concern in some games, but isn't nearly as bad as it has been in the past. For these reasons, we'd generally feel most comfortable recommending a single GTX 980 Ti over the dual-GTX 970 setup (AMD also has offerings, of course, but we're keeping this content strictly focused on the original question; we also don't have the Fury X).
If already in possession of one GTX 970, an upgrade isn't nearly as bad of a value – that's a ~$330 spend to scale performance upwards of 60% in some games, or an average of 30.54% across 1080p tests (five titles). SLI scaling as a whole has improved tremendously over the years, and much more reliably becomes a viable solution as a game's optimization matures. That doesn't necessarily make it a better option than a single card for a new build, but does mean SLI is a less headache-inducing upgrade pathway than it once was. Still not perfectly reliable – ACS was useless with SLI at launch, Just Cause 3 still is – but better.
- Steve “Lelldorianx” Burke.
Scalable Link Interface or SLI is the brand name for Nvidia’s multi-GPU technology established for linking up two or more graphics cards into a single output using a parallel processing algorithm.
It sounds like a mouthful, but it’s a really cool piece of technology that has also been used by their competitors, AMD, with their CrossFire brand, and it’s worth talking about.
Related:CrossFire vs SLI – Are They Worth It?
Let’s see how all of this works!
Fun fact: Nvidia cannot claim credit for this technology as they acquired it from 3dfx Interactive, who introduced it in 1998. At that point, it was a little ahead of its time, but in 2004, when SLI made its reappearance, the market for top-performing gaming equipment was ripe.
What Is Needed To Run SLI?
A friend of mine actually fried his motherboard thinking that just because he had enough slots, he could insert graphics cards and just boot up the computer. Okay, that was me. But still, there are a few more requirements than just a couple of open PCI-Express x16 slots.
First, you must check if the motherboard is SLI compatible. This is a really vital step, so be careful, especially because some motherboards support SLI, others CrossFire, or both, or neither. Of course, if you’re only going for a two-card setup, then cards can be configured to work in SLI mode.
Secondly, you need identical graphics cards. Hooking up a GTX 1080 and GTX 1070 won’t work, despite their similarities. They need to be the same model and series, although it’s possible to get them from a different manufacturer.
For example, if one is made by MSI and the other by Asus, and the third one by Gigabyte, you’ll still be able to configure them together on the same machine. However, on rare occasions, it’s possible to run “mixed SLI” configurations on some cards that only have a matching core codename, like G70, G73, G80, and so on.
Graphics cards are set up in a master-slave configuration, which means that one card will play the role of the “master” even though the workload is distributed equally to all cards. In a two-card setup, the master will work on the upper part of the screen, while the slave will manage the bottom part. When the slave finishes rendering, it sends it to the master, which then combines the two renders and output to the monitor.
In those rare cases where the cards are mismatched, the slower or lesser card will become dominant, with the better one adjusting by either running at the same speed as the other card or disabling its extra memory.
SLI Bridge connects the graphics cards. It’s also known as the SLI Connector as its purpose is to establish a direct connection between the cards. It’s worth noting that it’s possible to run two low-end or mid-range cards without the bridge by using the chipset on the motherboard.
This is also possible for high-end cards, although not recommended, as the results will be very poor considering how the chipset just doesn’t have enough memory. This is where SLI Bridge comes in because it reduces the bandwidth constraints and can send data directly between the cards.
There are three types of SLI Bridges:
- Standard Bridge (400 Mhz Pixel Clock, 1GB/s bandwidth) – This is a traditional bridge included with motherboards that support SLI up to 1920×1080 and 2560×[email protected] Hz.
- LED Bridge (540 MHz Pixel Clock) – Recommended for monitors up to 2560×[email protected] Hz+ and 4K. Sold by Nvidia, EVGA, MSI, Asus, among others. It can only operate on an increased Pixel Clock if the GPU supports that clock.
- High-Bandwidth Bridge or SLI HB Bridge (650 MHz Pixel Clock and 2GB/s Bandwidth) – This is the fastest bridge and is sold exclusively by Nvidia. It’s recommended for monitors up to 5K and surround. SLI HB Bridges are only available in 2-way configurations.
While the two-GPU setup might be the most popular one, SLI can also be configured in a three or four GPU dynamic by either a single bridge that connects every card or by combining two two-way bridges. Combining three or four dual cards set up with a 2-way bridge is impossible as the technology for hexa- or octa SLI configuration doesn’t exist.
The future is uncertain for these layouts as Nvidia is phasing out the support for more than two-card combinations due to high driver complexity. As a matter of fact, cards like GTX 1070, GTX 1080 and higher only support the two-way SLI.
SLI is supported by all Windows versions following Windows Vista, both 32-bit and 64-bit. It can be configured to work on Linux, but as there aren’t many high-end graphics video games made for that platform, it seems useless to even try.
SLI requires at least 2 GB of RAM for a 32-bit system and 4 GB for 64-bit. Back in 2003, Nvidia released NVIDIA ForceWare Unified Driver Architecture (UDA), which has built-in support for SLI technology. As such, there’s no need for additional SLI-specific drivers, but you still need them for each graphics card.
A very powerful and reliable Power Supply Unitis necessary as the GPUs are big power consumers and you’ll be running two or even more at the same time. High-end graphics cards can use up to 200-350 watts of power so beware of this as well.
Important: not all games and applications support SLI. For those that do, Nvidia includes SLI profiles in their driver package so you don’t have to set anything up manually to get a far greater gaming experience.
Related:Best Games With SLI Support
Split Frame Rendering
SFR analyzes the rendered image to divide the load between the GPUs. To achieve this, the frame is split on a horizontal line, depending on geometry. For example, if the upper part of the screen is rendering the sky, then this line will be lower in order to balance out the geometry workload on the GPUs.
Alternate Frame Rendering
AFR means that each frame is rendered by a different GPU. In practice, this is most commonly executed with one card working on odd frames, and the other on even frames.
Although AFR might have a better frame rate than SFR, it may cause microstuttering, which changes the way frame rate is perceived. While the frequency at which frames arrive may be doubled, the production time of the frames is not, so this cannot lower the input lag.
This is a separate rendering mode that can double the antialiasing performance by splitting the workload between the GPUs. One card will perform an antialiasing pattern that is offset to the regular pattern, for example, a little to the right and down, while the other one will do the same thing with an equal offset in the opposite direction (left and up in this case).
SLI Antialiasing has some advanced options like SLI 8X, SLI 16X, and SLI 32X, although the last one is only for Quad SLI systems.
This is a generic name for two technologies, GeForce Boostand HybridPower. GeForce Boost used integrated graphics and a discrete GPU combination to increase performance.
In turn, HybridPower is not a performance-enhancing mode. It also uses IGP and a GPU on an MXM module, which is used to easily integrate the GPU on laptops. As it’s a big power consumer, the MXM module will shut down when the laptop is unplugged from the power supply. This isn’t exclusive to laptops as it can also be found in desktop computers.
It’s crucial to note that a high-end SLI setup will require a powerful CPU to prevent bottlenecking.
NVLink – Is This The Death Of SLI?
It would be more accurate to say that the future of multi-GPU setups is in question as the gaming industry still hasn’t fully embraced its advantages. While AMD’s CrossFire appears to be at the brink of extinction, Nvidia still has a few tricks up its sleeve.
This is where NVLink, a wire-based communications protocol serial multi-lane near-range communication link, enters. And you thought SLI’s definition was a mouthful. Much like SLI, NVLink is a way to connect multiple graphics cards for a single purpose, but a little more spiced up.
So far, it only works in a two-card setup, but that should be enough given its use of NVLink Bridge. Like the SLI Bridges, it connects two cards, but it can provide 10 to 12 times better link speed.
The extra speed is additionally accentuated by the fact that NVLink uses mesh networking to communicate instead of a central hub. This suggests that there is no master-slave dynamic, and each card can work to its full capacity all the time.
Related:What Is NVLink And How Does It Differ From SLI?
Following the release of Nvidia’s Ampere and RTX 3000 series cards, it’s safe to say that SLI is officially over. Only the enthusiast-level RTX 3090 has an NVLink interface, while others will support SLI only explicitly, meaning it’ll be handled outside APIs like Vulkan, DirectX 12, or Open CL.
If you’re thinking about using multiple GPUs in the SLI setup, here’s the list of all NVIDIA desktop GPUs that support SLI.
|GeForce RTX 2080 Ti|
|GeForce RTX 2080 SUPER|
|GeForce RTX 2080|
|GeForce RTX 2070 SUPER|
|Nvidia Titan Xp|
|GeForce GTX 1080 Ti|
|Nvidia Titan X|
|GeForce GTX 1080|
|GeForce GTX 1070|
|GeForce GTX TITAN X|
|GeForce GTX 980 Ti|
|GeForce GTX 980|
|GeForce GTX 970|
|GeForce GTX 960|
|GeForce GTX 950|
|GeForce GTX TITAN|
|GeForce GTX 780 Ti|
|GeForce GTX 780|
|GeForce GTX 770|
|GeForce GTX 760 Ti|
|GeForce GTX 760|
|GeForce GTX 690|
|GeForce GTX 680|
|GeForce GTX 670|
|GeForce GTX 660 Ti|
|GeForce GTX 660|
|GeForce GTX 650 Ti BOOST|
|GeForce GTX 480|
|GeForce GTX 470|
|GeForce GTX 465|
|GeForce GTX 460|
|GeForce GTX 460 SE|
|GeForce GTS 450|
|GeForce GTX 555 (OEM)|
|GeForce GTX 560 Ti (OEM)|
|GeForce GTX 560|
|GeForce GTX 550 Ti|
|GeForce GTX 590|
|GeForce GTX 660|
|GeForce GTX 560 Ti|
|GeForce GTX 545 GDDR5|
|GeForce GTX DDR3|
|GeForce GTX 570|
|GeForce 9800 GT|
|GeForce GTX 580|
|GeForce 9600 GT|
|GeForce 8500 GT|
|GeForce 8600 GTS|
|GeForce 8600 GT|
|GeForce 8400 GS|
|GeForce GTX 275X|
|GeForce GTS 150|
|GeForce GT 130|
|GeForce GT 120|
|GeForce GTS 250|
|GeForce GTX 285|
|GeForce GTX 295|
|GeForce GTX 295|
|GeForce 8800 ULTRA|
|GeForce GTX 280|
|GeForce 8800 GTX|
|GeForce 9800 GX2|
|GeForce GTX 260|
|GeForce 9400 GT|
|GeForce 9500 GT|
|GeForce 9800 GTX|
|GeForce 9800 GTX+|
CrossFire vs SLI – Are They Worth It?
Alex is a Computer Science student and a former game designer. That has enabled him to develop skills in critical thinking and fair analysis. As a CS student, Aleksandar has very in-depth technical knowledge about computers, and he also likes to stay current with new technologies.
Micro-Star International Co., Ltd or MSI is a Taiwanese multinational information technology corporation founded in 1986, headquartered in New Taipei City, Taiwan. It designs, develops and provides computer hardware, related products and services, including laptops, motherboards, graphics cards, All-in-One PCs, servers, industrial computers, PC peripherals, car infotainment products, and so on.
Official product link:
Packaging and accessories
The MSI GTX 970 Gaming 4 GB model is packaged in a box with a black background and red & silver accents.
On the front side of the box is printed the MSI Dragon, the symbol of the Gaming line, here we also find the manufacturer’s name and the name of the product and some features of the graphics card. In the lower left corner there is printed the cooling system “Twin Frozr V”.
The back of the box presents in detail the product and enumerates the specifications & features of the motherboard.
On the sides of the box we find printed the model of the graphics card and the name & logo of the manufacturer.
MSI 2-Way SLI Bridge
The SLI Bridge comes packaged in a black box with silver and red accents.
The front side of the box presents the product using an overview image of it, on this side we also find printed both the name & logo of the manufacturer and the name of the product.
The backside of the packaging presents the two variants of the product and its features.
The product comes with the following accessories:
– 1x Manual
– 1x Driver CD
– 1x PCIe 6-Pin to 8-Pin power cable
– 1x DVI to VGA adapter
Name: MSI GeForce GTX 970 Gaming 4GB
Model: GTX 970
Graphics Processor: GM204
Shader Units: 1664
Interface: PCI Express x16 3.0
Boost / Base Core Clock:
– 1279 MHz / 1140 MHz (OC Mode)
– 1253 MHz / 1114 MHz (Gaming Mode)
– 1178 MHz / 1051 MHz (Silent Mode)
Memory Size (MB): 4096
Memory Type: GDDR5
Memory Interface: 256 bits
Memory Clock Speed (MHz): 7010
DVI Connectors: 2 (Dual-link DVI-I, Dual-link DVI-D), Max Resolution: 2560 x 1600 @60 Hz.
HDMI Connectors: 1 (version 1.4a/2.0), Max Resolution: 4096×2160 @24 Hz (1.4a), 3840×2160 @60 Hz (2.0)
Display Port: 1 (version 1.2), Max Resolution: 4096×2160 @60 Hz
Maximum Displays: 4
HDCP Support: Y
RAMDAC speed (MHz): 400
DirectX Version Support: 12
OpenGL Version Support: 4.4
Multi-GPU Technology: SLI, 3-way
Card Dimension (mm): 269 x 141 x 35
Card Weight (g): 814
Power consumption (W): 145
Recommended PSU (W): 500
Power Connectors: 1x 8-pin, 1x 6-pin
– Twin Frozr V – Cooler, Quieter, Better GAMING: The new Twin Frozr V is smaller, features stronger fans, generates less noise, keeps your graphics card and its components cooler and matches perfectly with your MSI GAMING motherboard including some funky LED lighting.
– TORX Fan Technology: Traditionanl Fan Blade Maximizes downwards airflow and air dispersion to the massive heat sink below them. The Dispersion Fan Blade intakes more airflow to maximize air dissipation to heat-sink.
– SuperSU PIPE – Enhanced dissipation efficiency: The GPU is cooled by a massive nickel-plated copper base plate connected to Super Pipes (8mm heat pipes) on the MSI GAMING series graphics card. Additionally, the new heat pipe layout increases efficiency by reducing the length of unused heat pipe and a special SU-form design.
– Zero Frozr – Smart cooling, stay quiet: ZeroFrozr technology eliminates fan noise in low-load situations by stopping the fans when they are not needed.
– Military Class components: MSI only uses MIL-STD-810G certified components for its Gaming cards because only these components have proven to be able to withstand the torturous circumstances of extreme gaming and overclocking.
The MSI GTX 970 Gaming 4 GB model maintains the black-red color scheme characteristic of the Gaming line of products. The Graphics Card measures 27cm in length and 14cm in height.
In addition, this model uses the new Twin Frozr V cooling system.
In the case of the GTX 970, the Twin Frozr V cooling system uses 4 heatpipes of different sizes: the main two heatpipes have a diameter of 8mm while the other two have a diameter of 6mm, also the heatpipes are made out of nickel-plated copper.
The two 100mm Torx fans ensure the airflow of the card, each fan using 14 blades with different shape and sizes.
On the side, we find both the manufacturer logo and the MSI Dragon, the symbol of the Gaming line.
On the backside, the PCB of the Graphics Card is exposed.
Power delivery on the MSI GTX 970 Gaming 4 GB model is done through two PCI-Express power connectors: one 8-pin and one 6-pin, they are positioned on the right corner of the graphics card.
The SLI connector (Three Way SLI) is positioned in the opposite side of the power connectors.
On the rear of the graphic card, we find the following ports:
– 2x DVI
– 1x HDMI
– 1x Display Port 1.2
MSI 2-Way SLI Bridge
The SLI Bridge has an attractive design, using the same color scheme as the Gaming line of products. The build quality is good, the material used being metal.
In the middle, we find the MSI Dragon.
The following system was used to test the graphics card:
– Processor: Intel i5 4690K @ 3.9 GHz
– Motherboard: MSI Z97 Gaming 9 ACK
– RAM: 8GB Crucial Ballistix Tactical
– SSD: Samsung 840 EVO 120GB
– HDD: Samsung SpinPoint F3 500GB
– PSU: Antec Edge 550W Gold + InWin GreenMe 700W Bronze
– Display: AOC i2769VM
– Case: Phanteks Enthoo Luxe White
– OS: Windows 7 64-bit Service Pack 1
To test the MSI GTX 970 Gaming 4 GB model, the GeForce 355.98 WHQL driver was used, being the latest Nvidia driver available at the time of writing the review.
All the games used to test the graphics cards are set to their highest quality settings with the resolution 1920 x 1080. Both the games and benchmarks used were run three times.
The software used to measure the temperature and frames per second (FPS) are the following:
– AIDA64 Extreme V5.30.3500
– MSI Afterburner 4.1.1
In the case of the MSI GTX 970 Gaming 4 GB model, it achieved a maximum overclock of 1319MHz Base Clock and 1893MHz Memory.
The overclocking has been done using the default fan settings.
Each graphic card overclocks differently, thus the results obtained in the review can differ.
The test results are as follows:
Unigine Valley Benchmark 1.0
Unigine Valley Benchmark 1.0 Score
Grand Theft Auto V
The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt
Tomb Raider 2013
The power consumption of the graphics cards is measured at the wall socket, the graphics card being powered by a separated Power Supply. The PSU in question consumes 10W.
The noise level was measured at three different distances from the fans (10cm, 20cm, 30cm.) the noise was measured with a margin of error of ± 5 db.
Accoustic Performance: idle
Sound Performance: full load
The MSI GTX 970 Gaming 4 GB model offers excellent performance both in single and SLI use. The Twin Frozr V cooling system maintains the temperature of the graphics card under control being quiet at the same time even when the graphics card is under intense use. In addition, the two 100mm Torx fans will turn off when the temperature of the graphics card is below 60°C.
The SLI performance is good in most of the games, the graphics cards being easy to configure and the power consumption of the graphics cards is more than acceptable.
In conclusion, the MSI GTX 970 Gaming 4 GB model is a good choice for anyone who is looking for a high performance & silent graphics card with overclocking potential.
The only inconvenient of this graphics card is the lack of a back-plate, a thing that would provide an advantage in terms of both functionality and aesthetics.
Compatibility sli gtx 970
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