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GTX 970 Comparison: STRIX vs MSI Gaming vs Gigabyte G1

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post #1 of 642 (permalink) Old 09-29-2014, 08:46 PM - Thread Starter
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GTX 970 Feature Showdown: ASUS STRIX vs MSI Gaming vs Gigabyte G1




Released on the 19th of September 2014, Nvidia's GTX 970 has been flying off the shelves for every board partner. The purpose of this thread is to take a look at a comparison between what seem to be the three most popular aftermarket choices of the GTX 970: The ASUS GTX 970 STRIX, MSI GTX 970 Gaming 4G, and Gigabyte GTX 970 Gaming G1. The comparison will take a look at each cards strengths and weaknesses (if the GTX 970 really has any to speak of tongue.gif), and attempt to show which card offers the best value, features, and performance without taking 3rd party modifications into account. As most of the professional reviews have covered general game performance, feature pictures, and temperatures I will not be going into depth on these subjects. Just a general comment before we continue, any sentence/word/phrase marked with an * will have a note/comment in the notes and comment section going into a bit more detail explaining why. First let's take a quick look at a summary of each cards features and pros/cons.


Features and Pros/Cons Comparison


MSI GTX 970 Gaming

- Base core clock of 1051mhz w/boost 1178mhz (silent mode) / 1114mhz w/boost 1253mhz (gaming mode) / 1140mhz w/boost 1279mhz (OC mode); these selections apply to MSI's gaming app, otherwise the default core clock is 1114mhz w/boost 1253mhz
- Memory clock of 1753mhz (7010mhz effective); Samsung IC's
- 6 Phase power delivery
- 2 x DVI port, 1 x HDMI 2.0, 1 x DP v1.2
- Dual fan HSF design featuring idle fan shutoff (when under 60c); the overall height of the cooling solution is slightly less than two slots to provide better cooling for sli configurations.
- *1 x 6pin ATX power connector and 1 x 8 pin ATX power connector; combined max rated draw of 300w (75w pcie, 75w 6pin, 150w 8pin).
- Overall length of ~27cm (269mm)

Pros:

- Improved power delivery
- Samsung memory IC's; factory clocked for 7ghz but will often overclock to 7800-8000mhz
- *High maximum rated power draw (for overclocking purposes)
- Quiet air cooling solution
- Smallest/thinnest card (of the three compared); better for small cases and will perform better in sli configurations temperature wise
- Features a metal plate/heatsink covering the memory IC's and some circuitry on the front side of the PCB; more effective cooling in comparison to the STRIX card

Cons:

- No backplate
- *4 memory IC's on the rear side of the PCB; could result in lower overclocks due to no airflow/heatsink contact, also loses potential for a full cover block to properly cool all the memory IC's
- *Poor vrm cooling solution; small secondary heatsink that receives little airflow due to the placement of the 2 fan HSF design

ASUS GTX 970 STRIX

- Base core clock 1114mhz w/boost 1253mhz
- Memory clock of 1753mhz (7010mhz effective); Samsung IC's
- 6 Phase power delivery
- 2 x DVI port, 1 x HDMI 2.0, 1 x DP v1.2
- Dual fan HSF design featuring idle fan shutoff (when under 60c)
- *1 x 8 pin ATX power connector; combined max rated draw of 225w (75w pcie and 150w 8pin).
- Overall length of 28cm
- GPU Backplate

Pros:

- Improved power delivery
- Samsung memory IC's; factory clocked for 7ghz but will often overclock to 7800-8000mhz
- Passive cooling during idle/non-3d load; offers quieter performance
- Quiet air cooling solution
- Backplate
- *All 8 memory IC's are located on the front side of the pcb; better airflow and cooling (although the stock heatsink does not make any contact with the IC's), best solution when considering water cooling for highest memory overclocks

Cons:

- *Lowest stock TDP/Power limit; only 1 x 8pin ATX power connection, note this is fine for general overclocking and stock use but do not expect possible benchmark record performance
- Least effective cooling solution of the three concerning core, memory, and vrm temperatures.
- *Poor vrm cooling solution; small secondary heatsink that receives little airflow due to the placement of the 2 fan HSF design


Gigabyte GTX 970 Gaming G1

- Base core clock 1178mhz w/boost 1329mhz
- Memory clock of 1750mhz (7000mhz effective); Samsung IC's
- 5 Phase power delivery
- 2 x DVI port, 1 x HDMI 2.0, 3 x DP v1.2
- Triple fan HSF solution
- 1 x 6pin ATX power connector and 1 x 8 pin ATX power connector; combined max rated draw of 300w (75w pcie, 75w 6pin, 150w 8pin).
- Overall length of ~31cm (312mm)
- GPU Backplate

Pros:

- Improved power delivery
- Highest factory core clock/boost
- Samsung memory IC's; factory clocked for 7ghz but will often overclock to 7800-8000mhz
- High maximum rated power draw (for overclocking purposes)
- Most effective cooling solution (especially when it comes to VRM section of the board)
- Best air cooled solution
- *Highest stock TDP/Power Limit (for overclocking purposes)
- Backplate
- Most display connectivity 3xDP 1xHDMI 2xDVI

Cons:

- Loudest cooling solution of the three cards
- Largest and tallest card; not ideal for small cases or Sli conifgurations
- *4 memory IC's on the rear side of the PCB; could result in lower overclocks due to no airflow/heatsink contact, also loses potential for a full cover block to properly cool all the memory IC's


Simple Bios Analysis and Synthetic GPU Testing for General Performance Comparison


First off we take a look at each cards bios power tables in KBT in order to see what default TDP/Power Limit the board partners have allowed for each card.




In the above picture the bios power tables shown from left to right are respectively ASUS, MSI, Gigabyte. The red box denotes the max allowable power draw/power limit on the stock bios (i.e. with the power limit slider set to its max in AB/PrecisionX/GPUtweak). The box just above the marked one is the max allowable power draw/power limit without modifying the power slider in any gpu tool programs (100%). The ASUS STRIX card allows for ~163w with the 100% power limit and ~196w with the power limit set to 120%. The MSI Gaming card allows for 200w with the 100% power limit and 220w with the power limit set to 110%. The Gigabyte G1 card allows for 250w with the 100% power limit and 280w with the power limit set to 112%. What can you draw from this? For both Kepler and Maxwell, the GPUs "Boost" feature will limit how high the core will clock itself for multiple reasons; one being the card exceeds it's power limit, two being the card exceeds it's temperature limit, and three being a voltage restriction. When only taking the power limit into consideration with these cards the first card to most likely downclock due to a power limit is the ASUS STRIX, followed by the MSI Gaming, and lastly the Gigabyte G1. Note that on the stock bios the Gigabyte G1 should experience no throttling due to the power limit. In conclusion the Gigabyte card theoretically will allow for the highest overclocks on the stock bios in regards to power limits strictly speaking; this does not include voltages or the fact that one chip may just be a better clocker than another. These power limits will help explain the following overclocked performance comparisons between these three cards.

Next up is a comparison of the three cards overclocked to hit a boost clock of 1501mhz and 1950mhz on the memory for all three cards. In order to isolate and best represent the performance of only the GPU's, only the GPU score for Firestrike and Firestrike Extreme will be reported. The following graphs show an average of a 5 batch run for each card at 1501/1950 for FS and FSE.




With all the cards at 1501/1950, they perform almost identically however, the MSI and ASUS cards do experience some throttling. In order to take a closer look at that, below is a zoomed in graph of the scores for FS and FSE with a further analysis following.

Zoomed in graph for throttling analysis! (Click to show)

When we analyze the results from the zoomed in graph in the above spoiler, it is clear they directly correlate to the allowable tdp/power limit set for each card. The Gigabyte G1 experiences zero throttling in both FS and FSE, only hitting a max power limit of 92%, well below even the default 100% limit, and the G1 card also scores the highest of the three as a result. Both the ASUS and MSI cards experience mild throttling and also exceed their default and max power limit settings. As a result both cards score less, however it is a very minor difference. Out of the three cards the ASUS card experiences the most throttling at these clock settings, which is understandable as the ASUS card also has the lowest max power limit of the three cards (~196w). As the MSI and ASUS cards approach clock speeds higher than 1501mhz, they will continue to throttle due to the power limit even if voltage and temperature requirements are still met safely. The Gigabyte card will however not experience the same issue due to having a much higher power limit available and as explained in the bios analysis.


Notes and Comments


1) In regards to the pro/con comments about memory IC placements. The Gigabyte and MSI cards have 4 IC's on the back and 4 on the front of the pcb, while the ASUS card has all 8 on the front side of the pcb. If, and I strongly say IF, temperatures are a limiting factor for the stability of the memory overclocks, for both water and air, the ASUS card should result in higher stable overclocks if you're both lucky and limited by temperatures.

2) In regards to the power connection configurations of the cards. The 225w (ASUS) and 300w (Gigabyte/MSI) rated power draws listed are based on specifications only, as far as I know it is possible to draw more than what is rated. The pci-e slow allows for 75w, the specifications list a 6pin ATX power connector at 75w and an 8pin ATX power connector at 150w.

3) In regards to pro/con comments about the TDP/power limit for each card. Most of this was explained in the bios and performance comparison section but just to re-iterate: ASUS - max 196w, MSI - max 220w, Gigabyte - max 280w

4) In regards to the pro/con comments about VRM cooling. Both the MSI and ASUS cards have a small secondary heatsink covering the VRM section for the card. Due to the fact both these cards also have a dual fan design there is little direct airflow in the area of the VRMS due to fan placement. In my opinion this is where Gigabyte scores a big win, they actually integrated their VRM cooling into the main HSF. This allows for much more surface area to distribute the heat from the VRMs to, and as this card is also a triple fan design there is also better airflow over the VRM section of the card due to fan placement. I personally do not know the rated specifications for the VRM designs of these cards so I cannot say what their optimal operating temperature is however, as temperatures increase efficiency goes down and this can affect stability. The end result being that on air, if VRM temps become a problem, the Gigabyte card will provide the best overclocking results once again! There is also no available software that reads VRM temperatures for the GTX 970 series as of yet, and there most likely will not be in the future. A temperature gun would be the only way to know for sure, or thermal readings provided in some of the professional reviews (which do show the Gigabyte card had a significantly cooler VRM section by ~20c). I'll add a picture below that illustrates and highlights the cooling for each cards VRM section.

VRM Cooling Photos (Click to show)
ASUS STRIX


Gigabyte G1


MSI Gaming
CREATOR: gd-jpeg v1.0 (using IJG JPEG v80), default quality

Conclusion



Overall the best card when it comes down to performance and overclocking is definitely Gigabyte GTX 970 Gaming G1. From its superior 280w max stock power limit, to it's cooling and display connectivity. The card is very well rounded in terms of both features and performance, and takes the lead in pros going for the card. This does not make the ASUS or MSI cards bad choices though! If you're looking for a cool and quiet card my recommendation would be the MSI GTX 970 Gaming G4, as it is on average cooler than the ASUS card, has a higher max power limit for the stock bios, and also has the better idle fan shut off feature*both thresholds are ~60c*. All in all each card has its caveats, whether it be silence, a nice backplate, or serious cooling, each card still performs exceptionally. May Maxwell be with you thumb.gif

________________________________________________________________________________

***I'd like to give a special thanks to @GoldenTiger, @Razzaa, and @doza for providing me with helpful information and benchmark results which help made this comparison possible.

***If you find any mistakes/improper information please feel free to pm corrections with proof so I can edit ASAP, the goal is to best help the community when deciding between these three cards.

*** To do list:
- edit graphs for consistency and better performance representation
- edit bios analysis/conclusion sections to more accurately state that all card perform the same when power/temp throttling is not an issue.
- add more cards to the roundup (first up would be the EVGA ACX based cards)

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post #2 of 642 (permalink) Old 09-29-2014, 09:34 PM
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Awesome review, very useful for people debating between these cards. Just a little observation, you mentioned the MSI GTX 970 being the smallest/thinnest, is that out of all GTX 970s or between these 3 cards?
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Quote:
Originally Posted by santanac View Post

Awesome review, very useful for people debating between these cards. Just a little observation, you mentioned the MSI GTX 970 being the smallest/thinnest, is that out of all GTX 970s or between these 3 cards?

Between these three, but it is possible it is thinner then some of the other cards (EVGA ACX X.0, Zotac etc...), thats actually something I haven't checked. I'll make sure to note that explicitly thank you.

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post #4 of 642 (permalink) Old 09-29-2014, 09:37 PM
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Originally Posted by santanac View Post

Awesome review, very useful for people debating between these cards. Just a little observation, you mentioned the MSI GTX 970 being the smallest/thinnest, is that out of all GTX 970s or between these 3 cards?

Out of those 3 cards only

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post #5 of 642 (permalink) Old 09-29-2014, 09:43 PM
 
 
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Nice work mate thumb.gif
I'm still waiting for ASUS their standard DirectCu series, hopefully it will be as good as the previous generations.

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post #6 of 642 (permalink) Old 09-29-2014, 10:02 PM
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Great post and thank you for taking the time to do this!! + rep
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post #7 of 642 (permalink) Old 09-29-2014, 10:47 PM
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Great post. Very helpful. The only negative I have is a very slight one. Those graphs are severely zoomed in on the ends of those bars. The difference between them is not nearly as large as it would appear there. 

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Great post. Very helpful. The only negative I have is a very slight one. Those graphs are severely zoomed in on the ends of those bars. The difference between them is not nearly as large as it would appear there. 

Noted. The purpose was to highlight the fact the ASUS an MSI card were throttling but I do see how this can be a poor representation for overall performance. I'll redo the graphs and attempt to come up with a better way to highlight the throttling issue.

** I will also be editing a few sections to better state that all the cards should perform exactly the same when power/temp throttling is not an issue.

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post #9 of 642 (permalink) Old 09-29-2014, 11:08 PM
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Great post. Very helpful. The only negative I have is a very slight one. Those graphs are severely zoomed in on the ends of those bars. The difference between them is not nearly as large as it would appear there. 

That's the downside to some bar graphs. They can look exaggerated. Just ignore the bars, look at the numbers.



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post #10 of 642 (permalink) Old 09-29-2014, 11:28 PM
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Need to dp this comparison with other brands too like zotac amp version, evga, galax etc
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