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MSI GeForce GTX 970 4GB Gaming Graphics Card Review

Manufacturer: MSI

Card Overview

It has been a couple of months since the release of the GeForce GTX 970 and the GM204 GPU that it is based on. After the initial wave of stock on day one, NVIDIA had admittedly struggled to keep these products available. Couple that with rampant concerns over coil whine from some non-reference designs, and you could see why we were a bit hesitant to focus and spend our time on retail GTX 970 reviews.

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These issues appear to be settled for the most part. Finding GeForce GTX 970 cards is no longer a problem and users with coil whine are getting RMA replacements from NVIDIA's partners. Because of that, we feel much more comfortable reporting our results with the various retail cards that we have in house, and you'll see quite a few reviews coming from PC Perspective in the coming weeks.

But let's start with the MSI GeForce GTX 970 4GB Gaming card. Based on user reviews, this is one of the most popular retail cards. MSI's Gaming series of cards combines a custom cooler that typically runs quieter and more efficient than reference design, and it comes with a price tag that is within arms reach of the lower cost options as well.

The MSI GeForce GTX 970 4GB Gaming

MSI continues with its Dragon Army branding, and its associated black/red color scheme, which I think is appealing to a wide range of users. I'm sure NVIDIA would like to see a green or neutral color scheme, but hey, there are only so many colors to go around.

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Continue reading our review of the MSI GeForce GTX 970 Gaming graphics card!!

The GTX 970 Gaming features a pair of large, wide blade fans that can keep the GM204 GPU cool and the noise produced low. The card is taller than a typical PCI Express card, so you will want to keep that mind if you are building in a Mini-ITX case where space is at a premium.

As you would expect, the MSI GTX 970 Gaming comes slightly overclocked out of the box. MSI has set the base clock at 1114 MHz, the Boost clock at 1253 MHz, and the memory at 7.0 GHz.

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The back side of the card is open as MSI chose to not include a back cover, which is disappointing.

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Cooling is handled by a multiple heat pipe design that is more than capable of keeping GPU temperatures low. The heat pipes themselves can get pretty hot to the touch, so be careful if you are swapping the card in or out of your system.

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MSI's Gaming card does support 2-Way and 3-Way SLI but, if you want to go the route of triple cards, then you aren't going to be able use any fixed PCB SLI bridge (such as NVIDIA's own that they are selling on their website). The fan shroud blocks one of the SLI connectors.

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For display connectivity, you'll find a pair of DVI connections, a full-size HDMI, and a full-size DisplayPort connection. Anyone looking for multiple DisplayPort outputs (such as for more than one G-Sync monitor) are going to be let down.


December 1, 2014 | 11:43 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

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December 1, 2014 | 11:59 AM - Posted by GingerBart (not verified)

So this is probably a dumb question, but why is all the testing at 1440p? At this level of GPU, do they not show a lot of difference at 1080p? If so, does this mean that if you are gaming at 1080p still that you can't go wrong with any of these cards?

December 1, 2014 | 12:41 PM - Posted by John H (not verified)

My opinion - yes - a single 970 or 980 pretty much conquers everything (with a fast enough CPU) at 1080p. The only exception being the Oculus rift DK2 (1920x1080) and the 75 FPS *minimum* you want to maintain. Even there, it'll do it for 98% of 3D games, but a few like Elite Dangerous will require low settings to perform consistently.

On the flip side, 4K gaming is a weird spot for these cards as some games are already running into VRAM issues @ 4K with 4 GB cards. Star Citizen will even use 3.5 GB at 2560x1600 (my Radeon 7970 3 GB fell flat on it's face due to VRAM usage at x1600). SC is CryEngine based..

December 1, 2014 | 01:05 PM - Posted by midgetsawtemp (not verified)

My msi 970 doesn't conquer anything to say this is absolutely not true can you honestly say no matter what game or bench you throw at a 970 with whatever settings its going to be a solid 60fps well believe me its not... how about euro truck sim 2 @ 80p dropping to 40fps although this is an actually driver problem dont get carried away saying it will destoy anything at 80p it wont..

December 1, 2014 | 01:40 PM - Posted by aparsh335i (not verified)

Euro Truck Sim 2?!@? Cmon man...

December 1, 2014 | 04:54 PM - Posted by midgetsawtemp (not verified)

yeah its called a driver problem, and i have just been playing planet side 2 with the exact same overclock as what ryan achieved and its not on max settings because it will drop below 60fps don't try and pretend 80p is delt with..

December 1, 2014 | 02:50 PM - Posted by Ryan Shrout

Yeah, sorry, I should have spelled that out more. At 1080p, this card is MORE than powerful enough for just about any scenario and could even be considered overkill for many users. We tested 2560x1440 (and sometimes at 4K) for hardware that really needs that kind of resolution to show differences.

December 1, 2014 | 06:19 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Even Ubisoft crap ports ?

December 19, 2014 | 11:19 AM - Posted by Lernmaterial Sachkundeprüfung §34a (not verified)

I hope you must have realized that how much money you can save by subscribing to any such website.
They will be having their wedding and of course
they will have a sweet honeymoon where Edward will say,
"Last night was the best night of life. I also like the scene where Cheryl confesses to Gracie that she was attacked, which prompts Gracie to teach Cheryl self-defense.

February 13, 2015 | 11:56 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Hey Ryan. Big fan here!

Wasn't the whole "$400+ GPU is too much for 1080p" put to bed with the introduction of high refresh monitors?

I don't think any GPU is overkill at any resolution if your intention is too keep the GPU(s) for a while. I'd rather have 100fps, than just enough.

December 1, 2014 | 04:17 PM - Posted by Edmond (not verified)

Because 1080p is not an issue anymore... its done, conquered for all future releases too. Midrange cards are fully capable to rape todays games on 1080p. Entry level cards even push solid 60 for all new games on med/high.
1080p is now, what 720p was to you before you read this.

If you think its not conquered, just because some idiot turned up 32xAA in crysis3, or enabled all the broken sun ray effects in stalker clear sky - then screw that guy, he clearly is an imbecile.

December 2, 2014 | 05:31 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Rape? Seriously?

December 5, 2014 | 03:03 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Seriously? Seriously?

December 1, 2014 | 01:39 PM - Posted by aparsh335i (not verified)

Ryan, I have a request: A full review dedicated to comparing overclocked flagship cards. GTX 970 vs GTX 980 vs R9 290x vs R9 290. OC them all as high as possible and then go through all the same testing. Realistically I'd prefer to see this all done with results of both single card and SLI/CF so we can see temps on the top card. Realistically i'd like to see these results with both 2560x1440 & 4k. I realize that with both single and CF that would be a lot of data...but yes a lot of data would be great to see!

I think you also used to do a bang/buck type comparison on your reviews. Basically how much do you get for what you paid for. A review like what i'm requesting seems to be a great place to have bang/buck comparisons.

Thanks.

December 1, 2014 | 01:46 PM - Posted by Ophelos

The biggest problem with showing temps is that everyone house is different, an people live in different places, different PC setups, etc. So the only way Ryan can show off true temps of card if he was using a temp controlled room an that cost alot of money.

For me, i just skip all the BS about card temps for this very reason.

December 1, 2014 | 03:52 PM - Posted by arbiter

Well could get away with just a small caption says "Using open air test bench and ambient air temp of xx degree's". that would pretty much eliminate that problem.

December 1, 2014 | 05:02 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Are my eyes playing tricks on me? Or are you slipping with no anti-AMD drivel?

December 1, 2014 | 07:29 PM - Posted by Ryan Shrout

All temp readings needs to have that kind disclaimer on them.

The reason we haven't included temps (which I probably still should) is because temps are regulated by the cooler to not go over a set level. For example, even when overclocked, the GTX 970 Gaming tested here runs at 80C. To compensate, the fan just spins as fast as necessary to keep it cool.

December 1, 2014 | 11:55 PM - Posted by Ryan Shrout

All temp readings needs to have that kind disclaimer on them.

The reason we haven't included temps (which I probably still should) is because temps are regulated by the cooler to not go over a set level. For example, even when overclocked, the GTX 970 Gaming tested here runs at 80C. To compensate, the fan just spins as fast as necessary to keep it cool.

December 1, 2014 | 11:08 PM - Posted by nova-goa (not verified)

i still think a 1080P comparison should be done anyways. not everyone out there doesn't have 1140p screens. i know it takes more time but for us the consumer would like to know what the majority of people are using for gaming and thats 1080P really.

December 2, 2014 | 03:31 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

I'm confused by the sound levels of the MSI GeForce GTX 970 4GB Gaming. You say it is 30.9 dbA at idle, but it is supposed to be semi passive cooling as long as the card is below 60c and the fans don't run. How are you recording 30.9 dbA if the card is idling? Is your case or room especially warm?

I'd like to know because I want to buy this card for a HTPC and have it silent when not gaming and only using XBMC.

December 18, 2014 | 04:16 PM - Posted by Obie327 (not verified)

Thanks for writing up this review :) I really think 1080p results should be included for us mainstream gamer/users. EVGA is kinda pricey and the cooler is just ok if you ask me. I got the MSI gtx 970 gamer oc version and love it! I'll have to say the GTX 970 is nice now when it comes to maximum details/performance for 1080p.

January 18, 2015 | 04:01 PM - Posted by BadCuccaracha (not verified)

Hi, I've just installed a msi gtx970 to replace my gtx670sli. here are the benchmark comparatives made in 3dmark. Interesting to see on many points actually.

but there's a mystery that remains to be solved. If you take a look to the cloud gate test result for the gtx970, you'll notice a massive drop in the physics score which is not consistent with all the other results - by so far its clear there is something going on there.

http://www.3dmark.com/3dm/5572125

I've tried so far:
uninstalling then cleaning with clean sweep and reinstalling graphic drivers
reinstalling 3dmark
playing with NVidia 3dsettings in config panel

on 3dmark FAQ:
seems that 'cloud gate' is testing directx10 functions -through directx11

on the web: I cant find anybody who reported this so far...

January 18, 2015 | 04:03 PM - Posted by BadCuccaracha (not verified)

here are the two pages for comparatives:

gtx970: http://www.3dmark.com/3dm/5572125

gtx 670sli: http://www.3dmark.com/3dm/2635825

January 19, 2015 | 02:25 PM - Posted by BadCuccaracha (not verified)

I have switched RAM for TridentX ddr3-2400 16gig and it didn't change a thing. Same results.

February 2, 2015 | 01:31 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

nice thread

http://cricketworldcup2015australia.com/

February 17, 2015 | 06:03 PM - Posted by 25 (not verified)

Ryan, I have a request: A full review dedicated to comparing overclocked flagship cards. GTX 970 vs GTX 980 vs R9 290x vs R9 290. OC them all as high as possible and then go through all the same testing. Realistically I'd prefer to see this all done with results of both single card and SLI/CF so we can see temps on the top Play GTA Vice City Online

March 21, 2016 | 09:44 PM - Posted by Dennis Gore (not verified)

I am trying to find out how much power i am pulling with 2 gtx 970 at a 5760x1080 trying to keep a min of 75 fps and are they able to do it

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