Gigabyte G1 Gaming GeForce GTX 970 4GB Review (Page 3 of 13)

Page 3 - A Closer Look, Installation, Test System

The GV-N970G1 GAMING-4GD Gigabyte G1 Gaming GeForce GTX 970 4GB features the company's latest WindForce 3X cooler. As its name suggests, this graphics card has a large heatsink with three 80 mm PWM cooling fans; used to dissipate the heat away from the graphics processor core as well as its memory chips. This process is accelerated by four direct contact copper heatpipes leading away from the center block, in both directions, to a large array of fins forming two separate radiators on the left and right side. Of course, the radiator on the right is larger, in which you will several photos down. It can dissipate up to 600W of heat, which is very impressive, considering the G1 Gaming GeForce GTX 970 4GB is only a two slot card.

Meanwhile, Gigabyte's Triangle Cool technology features fins with a special shaped structure and optimized angles to reduce air turbulence noise (Such a phenomenon is usually caused by straight perpendicular fins), which is essential to designing a silent cooling solution in addition to using quiet fans. The fans itself aim into the radiator. As shown in our photo above, the cooler covers the entire length of the custom black printed circuit board measuring in at 31.2 cm (Around 12.3 inches). It is a pretty long card, but it should fit most modern cases. The black heatsink carries a glossy finish for its plastic cover with the company's logo on every fan. To accentuate its appearance, new to Gigabyte's cooler is the illuminated "WindForce" logo. If you have a case with a window, it looks pretty slick, as it glows a cool blue. You can configure the LED light in software via the NVIDIA GeForce Experience control panel. You cannot change the color, but you play around with its brightness, or make it do things like fade in and out.

Turning the graphics card around, Gigabyte's signature blue is now replaced with a very attractive looking black solder mask, with a custom metal back plate that covers pretty much the entire top of the PCB. From an aesthetics point of view, I think this design is perfect. Like pretty much all high performance video cards in the market today, the Gigabyte G1 Gaming GeForce GTX 970 4GB occupies two slots, and the rear connector panel takes advantage of this configuration. Three DisplayPort 1.2 and one HDMI 2.0 connector are found at the top, while one DVI-I and one DVI-D connector is located on the secondary slot. This means you can plug in a plethora of displays concurrently without purchasing any accessories separately. Actually, Gigabyte's Flex display technology allows you to connect up to four displays in different configurations for multi-monitor gaming. Personally, I am a big fan of DisplayPort, as I have two monitors daisy chained together, making only one connector necessary. Internally, its SLI bridge connectors are located on the left side of the outer edge. And finally, I do not think I need to mention this, but just in case, the connection interface is PCI Express 3.0.

Four spring loaded screws and two regular screws are located on top of the board to hold the heatsink to the card. Once every screw were removed, the heatsink came off with a little bit of force. With its quad heatpipe and triple fan configuration, Gigabyte promises its WindForce 3X design runs considerably cooler than non-WindForce models. We will post actual temperature results shortly. Our photo above should provide a little more insight into the hardware used on Gigabyte's G1 Gaming GeForce GTX 970 card. One 6-pin and one 8-pin PCI Express power connector are still located on the outer edge of the board facing towards the side of the chassis, with the clip facing up to allow easier connectors. For this non-reference design, Gigabyte has 100% Japanese brand solid state capacitors, ferrite core/metal choke, and lower RDS(on) MOFSET for improved reliability, lower power consumption, and lower heat output. Combined with its 2oz copper PCB, Gigabyte markets this as its Ultra Durable design. Every Gigabyte video card I have reviewed in the past has been used in production machines here at APH Networks, and their reliability has always been absolutely top notch.

The custom heatsink features direct heatpipe contact over the GPU core with thermal pads that go over the memory chips to provide additional cooling. The heatsink base has a fairly smooth finish with no excess thermal paste, so it makes pretty good contact with the GM204 chip during operation. With all these in mind, Gigabyte promises lower power switching loss, better overclocking capabilities, and lower temperatures just purely due to electronics. We will see how it works out in just a moment.

In the center of it all is NVIDIA's GeForce GTX 970 GM204 "Maxwell" graphics processor unit, which we have discussed in detail on the preceding page. One of the things special to the G1 Gaming series is the GPU Gauntlet, where the GPU and RAM are specifically cherry picked for better overclocking performance. This GPU is designed to run at a minimum of 1050MHz with 1178MHz boost as aforementioned, but Gigabyte gave it a slight bump in the factory firmware to run it at 1178MHz base and 1329MHz boost; a modest 12% overclock. Our card came with eight SK Hynix H5GQ4H24MFR memory ICs, with four on each side, for a total of 4GB GDDR5 graphics memory. That is 512MB per chip, running at 1753MHz (7010MHz effective), which is the same as NVIDIA's stock specifications. We will see how well it goes above that later on in our review in the overclocking section.

Our test configuration as follows:

CPU: Intel Core i7-3770K @ 4.6GHz
CPU Cooling: Noctua NH-U14S (2x Noctua NF-A15)
Motherboard: ASUS P8P67 WS Revolution
RAM: Kingston HyperX Savage HX324C11SRK2/16 2x8GB
Chassis: SilverStone Temjin TJ04-E (Noctua NF-S12A PWM, Noctua NF-P12 PWM)
Storage: OCZ Vertex 460 240GB
Power: PC Power & Cooling Silencer Mk III 1200W
Sound: Auzentech X-Fi Bravura
Optical Drive: LiteOn iHAS224-06 24X DVD Writer
Operating System: Microsoft Windows 8.1 Professional

Compared Hardware:
- Gigabyte G1 Gaming GeForce GTX 970 4GB (1178MHz core, 1329MHz boost, 7010MT/s memory)
- NVIDIA GeForce GTX 970 4GB (Stock configuration - 1050MHz core, 1178MHz boost, 7010MT/s memory)
- Gigabyte GeForce GTX 760 2GB (980MHz core, 1150MHz boost, 6008MT/s memory)

Page Index
1. Introduction, Packaging, Specifications
2. NVIDIA GeForce GTX 970 Architecture
3. A Closer Look, Installation, Test System
4. Benchmark: 3DMark
5. Benchmark: Battlefield 4
6. Benchmark: BioShock Infinite
7. Benchmark: Crysis 3
8. Benchmark: GRID 2
9. Benchmark: Metro: Last Light
10. Benchmark: Thief
11. Benchmark: Unigine: Heaven 4.0
12. Power Usage, Temperature, Noise
13. Overclocking and Conclusion