The GTX 970 Gaming 4G is a great-value card, with strong performance and impressive power efficiency
GPU: Nvidia GeForce GTX 970, Memory: 4GB GDDR5, Graphics card length: 269mm
The MSI GTX 970 Gaming 4G is a slightly overclocked version of Nvidia’s reference GeForce GTX 970 design. To help with the overclock, the card has MSI’s Twin Frozr V fan setup to cool its GM204 graphics processor (GPU). The GM204 uses Nvidia’s 2nd-generation Maxwell architecture, which brings lower power requirements and better energy efficiency than last-generation Kepler-based graphics cards, such as the GeForce GTX 770, as well as more power. The GeForce GTX 770, for example, requires 230W of power from your power supply, while the GTX 970 requires just 145W. Not only is this good for your electricity bill, it also means you may not have to upgrade your PSU to fit a GTX 970.
As its name suggests, the Gaming 4G has a generous 4GB of GDDR5 memory, as is typical of GTX 970 cards. The memory runs at 1,753MHz, and the GTX 970’s GPU runs at a base clock speed of 1,140MHz and a boost clock speed of 1,279MHz. The GPU’s clock speeds are a healthy increase on the 1,050MHz and 1,178MHz of the GTX 970 reference design.
The GTX 970’s memory specs are the same as the GTX 770’s, but the GTX 970’s Maxwell GPU has more CUDA cores, with 1,664 compared to 1,536. The GTX 970 is also certified compatible with DirectX 12, so you’ll be able to take advantage of the latest features of games supporting Microsoft’s upcoming graphics API.
The GTX 970 Gaming 4G has four graphics outputs. There are DVI-I and DVI-D dual-link outputs, an HDMI output and a DisplayPort output. The card can output resolutions up to 4,096×2,160 at 60Hz through the DisplayPort output, and up to 4,096×2,160 at 24Hz or 3,840×2,160 at 60Hz through the HDMI port. Maximum resolution for the DVI ports is 2,048×1,536 at 60Hz. This means you won’t have any problems connecting the card to a 4K monitor for games or a 4K TV for films over the HDMI port.
At its stock speeds, the MSI GTX 970 Gaming 4G had no problem providing smooth frame rates in our Dirt Showdown and Crysis 3 benchmark tests. In Dirt Showdown at a resolution of 1,920×1,080 with 4x anti-aliasing and Ultra graphics quality, the card produced an average frame rate of 119fps, which is more than smooth enough for a fast, arcade-style racing game such as this. In our Crysis 3 benchmark, at a resolution of 1,920×1,080, with 4x anti-aliasing and High graphics quality, the card produced an average frame rate of 72.9fps, with a maximum frame rate of 88fps and a 48fps minimum, for smooth gameplay at all times. This isn’t a cheap card, but these are nevertheless great average frame rates for a graphics card at this price.
The GTX 970 Gaming 4G even performed well at Ultra HD resolutions. In Dirt Showdown at a resolution of 3,840×2,160 with 4x anti-aliasing and Ultra graphics quality, we saw an average frame rate of 50fps, and even the minimum frame rate was 37.2fps; well above the 30fps you need for smooth gameplay. The average frame rate dipped below 30fps in our Crysis 3 benchmark at 3,840×2,160, 4x anti-aliasing and High graphics quality, with a 22.5fps average, 18fps minimum and 26fps maximum. This is an impressive frame rate for a card at this price, but it isn’t high enough for comfortable play, so you’d need to reduce graphics quality to play games as demanding as this at such a sky-high resolution.
We also underclocked the MSI GTX 970 Gaming 4G to make it run at the same boost frequency and similar non-boost frequency as the reference design. The difference in average frame rates wasn’t huge, but the MSI card did have higher maximum and minimum frame rates in our benchmarks when running at its higher factory defaults. If you find a card based on the reference design for significantly less than MSI’s overclocked version, it may be worth a look; at the time of writing MSI’s card was around only £10 than versions running at the GTX 970 stock speeds, so we think it’s worth the extra cash.
The GTX 970 Gaming 4G even compares well to the much more expensive Nvidia GeForce GTX 980. In our Full HD Crysis 3 benchmark test, with High graphics quality and 4x anti-aliasing, the GTX 970 Gaming 4G produced an average frame rate of 72.7fps. In the same test, our reference GTX 980 card produced an average frame rate of 77.5fps. With all settings the same, but with the Crysis 3 benchmark running at 3,840×2,160, the GTX 970 achieved an average frame rate of 22.5fps, while we saw 25.5fps from the GTX 980.
The MSI GTX 970 Gaming 4G also beat the similarly priced AMD Radeon R9 290X in our Crysis 3 benchmark at 1,920×1,080 with 4x anti-aliasing and Very High graphics quality. The R9 270X produced an average frame rate of 32fps in this test, while the MSI GTX 970 Gaming 4G managed a 47fps average.
The MSI GTX 970 Gaming 4G isn’t cheap, but it’s still great value. It’s much faster than the GTX 770 while being much more power-efficient, and it’s powerful enough to be a much better buy than the GeForce GTX 980, which is around £70 more. Whether you want to play games at Full HD or Ultra HD resolutions, the MSI GTX 970 Gaming 4G is a great buy.
|Slots taken up||2|
|GPU||Nvidia GeForce GTX 970|
|GPU clock speed||1.14GHz|
|GPU clock boost speed||1.28GHz|
|Max memory bandwidth||224GB/s|
|Graphics card length||269mm|
|Mini HDMI outputs||0|
|Mini DisplayPort outputs||0|
|Power leads required||1x 6-pin and 1x 8-pin PCI Express|
|Accessories||DVI-to-VGA convertor, 1x 6-pin-to-8-pin PCI-Express cable|
|Price including VAT||£275|
|Part code||GTX 970 Gaming 4G|