With the beastly GTX 980 out of reach for many, we had the opportunity to see how the GTX 970 and GTX 960 G1 Gaming series cards from Gigabyte stack up.
When creating the 900 series, NVIDIA didn’t just make their GPUs faster, they also added some new technology (that we’ll cover off in the Specification section), reduced the power requirements and dropped the thermal profile. Then just to make their new beasts more attractive, NVIDIA bundled in some games (currently Witcher 3) to sweeten the deal. Companies like Gigabyte who slapped aftermarket coolers on these GPUs and overclocked them to stretch that performance capacity out of the box. NVIDIA dropping the power and thermal profile of the GTX 900 GPUs also had a knock-on effect of making it easier for Gigabyte to make their WINFORCE 3X cooler even more quiet and in the case of the GTX 960 G1 Gaming, semi-passive.
4K gaming applies to a very small section of the gaming sector, it’s a beautiful resolution and needs a lot of power and video memory to do it justice. Even 2560×1440 is a tough gig for most graphics cards but it can provide a more immersive experience than the usual 1080p that many of us are rocking. When reviewing graphics cards we often focus on the high end capabilities but it’s also worth noting what people are really using at their desks by and large. According to the Steam Hardware Survey, as at April 2015 gamers were playing at the following resolutions
- 34.63% at 1920×1080
- 26.28% at 1366×768
- 7.42% at 1600×900
- 5.73% at 1280×1024
- 5.25% at 1440×900
- 5.05% at 1680×1050
- The remaining 15.64% was made up by all other resolutions.
What this tells us is that although the GTX 970 gives us some really good value at the top end, the GTX 960 might be a more relevant choice to the vast majority of gamers using 1920×1080 or below. This statistic also makes our 1080p benchmarks more relevant in this double review. In the lab, we game at both 2560×1440 on a BenQ XL2730Z 144Hz display as well as 1920×1080 on a 60Hz panel. Outside of the lab in our personal spaces it’s a different story with the resolutions ranging from 2560×1440 (IPS, 60Hz) through 1920×1080 (laptop and desktop) down to 1680×1050.
When we received the Gigabyte GTX 960 and 970 G1 Gaming series cards, we were really keen to see how they compared at 1080p for a start but also how the GTX 960 with 2GB of video memory and the weaker processor stood up at 1440p.
Gigabyte has a few editions of both GTX 960 and 970 GPUs available at different price points – they were kind enough to send us the premium G1 Gaming series with their WINDFORCE 3X coolers attached. For the most part, these cards have standard specifications except for the GPU clocks and dimensions. By sorting the GPU chips based on their capacity for extra performance headroom (Gigabyte Gauntlet approach) and attaching a beastly cooler, Gigabyte has been able to provide a guaranteed overclock for the consumer without the gamer having to worry about running the silicon lottery.