NVIDIA GeForce GTX 970 SLI 4K and NV Surround Review

We take 2-Way NVIDIA GeForce GTX 970 SLI for a spin and compare it to R9 290X CF, R9 290 CF, GTX 780 SLI at 4K resolution as well as NV Surround on a triple-display setup. If you want to see how all these video cards compare in these different display configurations we've got just the thing. Find out what $700 SLI gets you.

Introduction

The NVIDIA GeForce GTX 970 was announced alongside the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980 on September 18th, 2014. Based on NVIDIA's new Maxwell architecture, the GeForce GTX 970 has a compelling MSRP of $329.

A performance step down from the flagship GeForce GTX 980, the GeForce GTX 970 supports all the same features and actually performs competitively well at its price point. You will find performance of a single GeForce GTX 970 delivering a better gameplay experience than the GeForce GTX 780, AMD Radeon R9 290, and being very competitive with the AMD Radeon R9 290X. Prices on AMD Radeon R9 290X video cards has come down quite a lot, and the GeForce GTX 970 now shares the same price range as the AMD Radeon R9 290X at around $350. It is this reason we must include AMD Radeon R9 290X CrossFire in our evaluation today, the price is right, for this comparison.

You may also read our GeForce GTX 980 SLI evaluation for comparison.

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GeForce GTX 970 Briefly

The GeForce GTX 970 is comprised of 1664 CUDA Cores, versus 2048 on the GTX 980. It still retains the same 64 ROPs that the GTX 980 also has but it does have reduced texture units down to 104 versus 128 on the GTX 980. The base clock runs at 1050MHz with a boost clock of 1178MHz. Just like the GTX 980 the boost is actually much higher in-game. Memory is comprised of 4GB of GDDR5 on a 256-bit bus at 7GHz which matches the GTX 980. The surprising part is the low TDP, 145W for this video card.

Our Goals

We are going to evaluate NVIDIA GeForce GTX 970 SLI today. We have evaluated two GeForce GTX 970 video cards recently. You can read our MSI GeForce GTX 970 GAMING evaluation. You may also read our ASUS GeForce GTX 970 STRIX DirectCU II evaluation.

GeForce GTX 970 video cards are add-in-board manufactured products, not NVIDIA supplied reference cards. We are going to use these two video cards for SLI to represent off the shelf retail factory overclocked GTX 970 SLI video cards. We are running both cards at the clock speeds found on the ASUS GeForce GTX 970 STRIX video card. That means the boost clock is 1253MHz on both video cards versus a reference clock of 1178MHz. This is a relatively low factory overclock for GTX 970, but we are comparing to reference clocked video cards so it makes sense. In essence, the same performance of two ASUS GTX 970 STRIX DirectCU II video cards in SLI is being represented which is $350 a piece, or $700 total.

We also found that with SLI enabled the lowest clocked video card is used between both video cards as the common clock speed. SLI chooses the lowest clock speed if video cards have differing clock speeds in the system. SLI will force both video cards to run at the same clock speed to keep performance the same.

For comparison we are using two reference GeForce GTX 780 SLI video cards. We are also using two reference AMD Radeon R9 290 CrossFire video cards. We are also using two XFX Radeon R9 290X Double Dissipation CrossFire video cards so that the stock frequency of 1GHz will be maintained instead of clock throttling. In this way we are comparing GTX 970 SLI to GTX 780 SLI, R9 290 CrossFire and R9 290X CrossFire. We have to include R9 290X CrossFire because of the online price drops making the R9 290X such as the exact one we are using here in this review price competitive with GTX 970 now at $350.

On each highest-playable page we will first show highest-playable 4K gaming, then underneath we will show NV Surround Triple-Display gaming highest-playable. We will follow with separate apples-to-apples pages after the highest-playable pages.


Test Setup

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We are testing at 4K (3840x2160) and Triple-Display on 3x Dell 2408WFP displays at 5760x1200 NV Surround and AMD Eyefinity.

Drivers

For all NVIDIA GPU based video cards we are using GeForce 344.65 WHQL. The newer GeForce 344.75 driver that was just released contains update to new game releases not being used in our evaluation, so 344.65 is the latest driver for the games we are using.

For all AMD GPU based video cards we are using Catalyst 14.11.2 Beta.