Although there’s not a whole lot newin GPUs these days, GIGABYTE has gone and injected some excitement back into its graphics cards by launching the XTREME GAMING lineup. For now, just NVIDIA graphics cards are getting the treatment, and as we went to press there were two GTX 950s, two GTX 980 Tis, a GTX 980, and the focus of this article, a GTX 970. Before we sample GIGABYTE’s special sauce, let’s take a closer look at the GPU, the Maxwell GM 204. This same chip resides under the hood of the GTX 980, but the big difference between the two cards in terms of performance (aside from the less powerful card’s reliance on 4GB of GDDR5) is the disabling of a trio of SMMs, leaving the GTX 970 with thirteen SMMs and 1,664 CUDA cores. Th GPU also dedicates 104 texture units and 64 ROPs to graphics processing applications. There’s a 256-bit memory controller onboard, the same as in the GTX 980, and the 4GB of GDDR5 gets a clock boost from the reference design’s 1,750MHz to 1,775MHz. GIGABYTE’s Gauntlet Sorting Technology lets the company separate the highly overclockable GPUs from the less capable chips, and as such, this is one of the highest overclocks we’ve seen: The GTX 970 XTREME GAMING features base and boost clocks of 1,190MHz and 1,342MHz. The reference design calls for base and boost clocks of 1,051MHz and 1,178MHz. GIGABYTE straps its WINDFORCE 3X cooler with Triangle
Cool technology to the GPU; this is a cooler that has seen lots of use on other cards from GIGABYTE. The cooler dissipates up to 450-watts thanks to three 80mm fans, two 8mm heat pipes, and four 6mm heatpipes threaded through a large aluminum heatsink with a triangle-shaped block of aluminum at its core. An open black anodized brushed aluminum heat shroud surrounds the 0dB 3D-active fans that stop spinning under idle and light loads. Each fan also sports a 16.8 millioncolor RGB illuminated LED “Angel Eye,” which looks similar to the ring lighting on Thrmaltake’s Riing fans. Thre’s also an LED-backlit WINDFORCE emblem on the top edge of the card as well as an LED-lit Silent Stop indicator letting you know that the card is idle. Although GIGABYTE gives the PCB of the GTX 970 XTREME GAMING a coat of breathable aerospace-grade protective sealant, the card also has a brushed aluminum back plate for added rigidity and durability.
In addition to the custom cooler, GIGABYTE is also using a custom PCB populated with high-quality chokes and capacitors, and a 12-phase power design, which result in lower running temperatures and efficient and reliable power delivery under any conditions. Like all GTX 970s you’ll fid, the GTX 970 XTREME GAMING has a 145W TDP, but there are two 8-pin PCIe power connectors on the top edge of the card and GIGABYTE recommends using a 600-watt PSU. Th outputs on the back bracket include a dual-link DVI-I, three DP, and an HDMI port.
Although the 4GB frame buffr really keeps the GTX 970s from achieving better than 30fps reliably at 4K settings, the GTX 970 XTREME GAMING clearly excels at 1,440p and lower resolutions. If you’re in the market for a powerful graphics card with a sky-high factory overclock, this great-looking card is a cut above the rest.