EVGA GeForce GTX 970 SSC ACX 2.0+ 4GB Review

Manufacturer: EVGA
UK price (as reviewed):
£289.16 (inc VAT)
US price (as reviewed): $349.99 (ex VAT)

EVGA was featured in our initial roundup of GTX 970 cards when Nvidia's card first launched. Its GTX 970 SC ACX2 was a decent card, but the company is back now with a redesigned selection of GTX 970s, one of which is the GTX 970 SSC ACX 2.0+, which comes with a bigger overclock and a rethought cooling solution. The GTX 970 remains a very popular choice among enthusiasts, so let's see how the new model stacks up, and whether the changes implemented have been for the best.

*EVGA GeForce GTX 970 SSC ACX 2.0+ Review EVGA GeForce GTX 970 SSC ACX 2.0+ Review
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At 257mm long, the dual-slot card is relatively compact and should fit into the vast majority of modern cases. Naturally, it has two SLI fingers and support for up to three-way SLI. The video outputs have been upgraded to the modern Nvidia set, including a trio of DisplayPorts, a single HDMI 2.0 connection and a dual-link DVI-I output. It's a healthy selection, and still leaves a fair bit of space used for ventilation in the rear I/O panel.

*EVGA GeForce GTX 970 SSC ACX 2.0+ Review EVGA GeForce GTX 970 SSC ACX 2.0+ Review
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Supplied with the card is a dual 6-pin to 8-pin PCI-E power adaptor and a dual Molex to 6-pin PCI-E power adaptor. These are common accessories, but the ones here have individually braided black cables, which is a really nice touch. You also get the classic DVI to VGA adaptor for old school monitor users. It's also worth pointing out that the card currently qualifies for two free games – Witcher 3: The Wild Hunt and Batman: Arkham Knight.

*EVGA GeForce GTX 970 SSC ACX 2.0+ Review EVGA GeForce GTX 970 SSC ACX 2.0+ Review
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The GTX 970 SSC ACX 2.0+ uses a plastic cooler shroud, but the build quality is still very good – it doesn't feel loose or flimsy anywhere. Our sample shipped to us without a backplate, but the card is currently being sold with a limited edition backplate, albeit a separate one that users must install themselves. We're not sure why it wasn't just included and installed in the first place, but it's a neat addition that will boost rigidity, cooling potential and also the card's aesthetics.

In terms of clock speeds, EVGA isn't pulling any punches; this card comes with a base clock of 1,190MHz and a rated boost clock of 1,342MHz. This is a hefty 13 percent over Nvidia's reference speed and makes this GTX 970 one of the fastest on the market, although the memory has been left at 7GHz. Helping to fuel these faster clock speeds is the 8-pin/6-pin PCI-E power connector combination (the GTX 970 SC ACX2 stuck to dual 6-pin), which grants the card a higher power target.

*EVGA GeForce GTX 970 SSC ACX 2.0+ Review EVGA GeForce GTX 970 SSC ACX 2.0+ Review
Click to enlarge - The card has an 8-pin/6-pin PCI-E power combination and a dual BIOS switch

EVGA has also introduced a feature it calls dBi – dB inverter, which is easily explained as semi-passive cooling. As has been repeatedly demonstrated, the GTX 970 is a very efficient card, and at launch a number of partners introduced cards where the fans wouldn't spin at all until a certain temperature was reached. EVGA was not originally one such partner, but it's now joining the fray – the dual 85mm fans will stay off until it reaches about 60°C. The card also features a dual BIOS switch, allowing users to switch between the dBi BIOS (semi-passive) and the secondary BIOS, which has an alternative, more aggressive fan curve that's always on.

The ACX 2.0+ cooling solution retains the improvements made to the fans in the GTX 970 SC ACX2, including increased blade count, redesigned and extremely low power motors that incorporate improved magnets, double ball bearings and optimised fan blades. The outcome, according to EVGA, is more airflow with less power consumption. In fact, the company calls it the world's most efficient air cooler. The reason fan power consumption is considered important is that Nvidia cards have a power ceiling that fans eat into – by reducing the power they consume, you leave more for the card, potentially increasing the overclocking potential.

*EVGA GeForce GTX 970 SSC ACX 2.0+ Review EVGA GeForce GTX 970 SSC ACX 2.0+ Review
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*EVGA GeForce GTX 970 SSC ACX 2.0+ Review EVGA GeForce GTX 970 SSC ACX 2.0+ Review
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While the fans are unchanged, the rest of the cooling solution has been rethought. There's now a full cover cooling plate which, via thermal pads, draws heat away from the four front-mounted memory chips and all of the MOSFETs, with EVGA claiming that it reduces their temperatures by 14 and 47 percent respectively. Whatever the real figure, it's always preferable to see cards taking care of these critical components. As for the GPU, it's still cooled by three heat pipes, but they've been reshaped and are entirely straight, which is said to improve performance by 6 percent. The heat pipes now also draw heat away via a copper baseplate, rather than making direct contact with the GPU as before.

*EVGA GeForce GTX 970 SSC ACX 2.0+ Review EVGA GeForce GTX 970 SSC ACX 2.0+ Review
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Prying the cooling plate off reveals a fairly standard PCB, including a single 4-pin header that controls both fans together.

*EVGA GeForce GTX 970 SSC ACX 2.0+ Review EVGA GeForce GTX 970 SSC ACX 2.0+ Review *EVGA GeForce GTX 970 SSC ACX 2.0+ Review EVGA GeForce GTX 970 SSC ACX 2.0+ Review
Click to enlarge - The power phases for the GPU (left) and memory (right)

Compared to the GTX 970 SC ACX2, the new card has upgraded power circuitry, moving from 4+2 power phases to 6+2.

Specifications

  • Graphics processor Nvidia GeForce GTX 970, 1,190MHz (boost 1,342MHz)
  • Pipeline 1,664 stream processors, 104 texture units, 64 ROPs
  • Memory 4GB GDDR5, 7GHz effective
  • Bandwidth 224GB/sec, 256-bit interface
  • Compatibility DirectX 12, OpenGL 4.5
  • Outputs/Inputs 3 x DisplayPort 1.2, Dual Link DVI-I, HDMI 2.0,
  • Power connections 1 x 6-pin PCI-E, 1 x 8-pin PCI-E, top-mounted
  • Size 257mm long, dual-slot
  • Warranty Three years (five years if registered with EVGA before 30 June 2015)

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