PCB Design and Features
The new GeForce GTX 970 Gaming differs considerably in its design from MSI’s previous products such as the MSI GeForce GTX 780 Ti Gaming. It looks lighter because MSI’s most advanced cooler, Twin Frozr V, has a plastic rather than metallic casing. We guess the new card is even more stylish than its predecessors, though.
The dual-fan cooler covers the entire face side of the PCB. The fans have peculiar impellers we’ll discuss in the Cooling System section of our review. The cooler’s heat pipes can be seen sticking out at the top edge of the card. The reverse side of the PCB is exposed. The dimensions of the MSI GeForce GTX 970 Gaming are 269x130x37 millimeters.
The graphics card has dual-link DVI-I and DVI-D outputs, one HDMI 1.4a/2.0 connector, and a DisplayPort 1.2. There’s a vent grid in the mounting bracket to exhaust the hot air from the cooler.
Most of the hot air will stay inside the computer case, but that’s not a serious downside for this particular graphics card as we will see shortly.
The GeForce GTX 970 Gaming has two connectors for building SLI configurations with up to four graphics cards. One of its two power connectors is of the 8-pin variety.
The card is specified to have a peak power draw of 148 watts, which is a mere 3 watts more than specified for the reference GeForce GTX 970. A 500-watt or better PSU is recommended for a computer with one such device inside.
The massive cooler is secured on the PCB with only four screws around the GPU, so we could remove it quite easily. Underneath, we saw a heatsink on power components and a heat-spreading plate on memory chips and other power components.
After we took those cooling elements off as well, we could see that the GeForce GTX 970 Gaming uses an original PCB. There are memory chips on both sides of the PCB with empty spaces for even more memory. We have no doubt we will see 8GB versions of the card in the near future.
All of the card's components comply with the American Military Class IV standard. The power system uses aluminum-core solid-state capacitors with ultra-low resistance and 10-year service life, economical (93% efficient) Hi-c capacitors and Super Ferrite Chokes with 20% higher energy efficiency and 30% higher current capacity compared to ordinary chokes.
The power system consists of six phases for the GPU and two more (to the right of the GPU) for the graphics memory and PLL.
There are additional solid-state capacitors on the reverse side of the PCB opposite the GPU.
The MSI GeForce GTX 970 Gaming carries a revision A1 Maxwell-based GM204 processor. Judging by its marking, the 398 sq.mm die was manufactured in Taiwan on the 30th week of the current year (i.e. in mid-July).
The GPU incorporates 1664 unified shader processors, 104 texture-mapping units, and 64 raster operators. The reference GeForce GTX 970 is clocked at 1050 MHz in 3D mode (boostable to 1178 MHz at high loads) but the MSI version is pre-overclocked by 8.6%: 1140/1279 MHz. The factory overclocking is quite substantial. We can even hope that the card has good frequency potential since most manufacturers don’t usually take any risks when overclocking their products and thus don’t reach the limit.
The GPU frequency is dropped to 100 MHz in 2D mode (compare this to the GeForce GTX 780’s 324 MHz) whereas the ASIC quality of our sample of the GPU is 62.3%.
The graphics card carries four gigabytes of GDDR5 memory in eight chips located on both sides of the PCB. They are manufactured by Samsung Semiconductor and marked as K4G41325FC-HC28.
With an access time of 0.28 nanoseconds, such chips are rated for a clock rate of 7000 MHz. MSI didn’t overclock them, so the memory frequency of 7012 MHz, just like Nvidia’s reference sample. With a 256-bit bus, this ensures a rather high bandwidth of 224.4 GB/s. The memory clock rate is dropped to 648 MHz in 2D mode.
The latest version of the GPU-Z utility available at the time of our writing this is already quite familiar with the GeForce GTX 970.
It couldn’t read the card’s BIOS, though. That’s why we don’t publish it here.