Monday, October 20, 2014

GTX 970 cards with blower style coolers - no good?


I am just about to dump my hard earned money into a new graphics card so naturally I want to get the most out of it. Performance-per-dollar and performance-per-wattage wise there is no better card currently available than the GTX 970 which is substantially faster than the GTX 670 that I currently own. So, I am quite fixed on the GTX 970, but there is a complication.

Since I have a small case with a positive air pressure design philosophy, I have to get a card that exhausts the hot air out of the case, instead of one that dumps hot air straight back in to the case. That means, I need to get a card that comes equipped with a blower style cooler. It might not be that critical for a single GPU configuration, because these cards do not put out a lot of heat, however SLI is a bit of a problem. Even though there is no chance of SLI at the moment, I want to keep that option available.

Not only that, with my motherboard, there is no free slots between them if I install two cards, therefore the top card will run extremely hot as it suffocates for fresh air. This would not be an issue with cards with blower style coolers as the cool air is sucked in from the front of the card, not top of the card (or the bottom when installed in the case), and there is an intake fan that directly feeds cool air from that direction.

OK, so a card or two with a blower style cooler it is.

Unfortunately, it is not quite that simple either.  As of this moment, there are no GTX 970s available with a reference cooler design. NVidia and AMD usually use blower style coolers as reference, but for the 970, NVidia has let Add-In-Board (AIB) Partners come up with their own solution. There were images of a GTX 970 carrying the same cooler as the reference GTX 980, the NVTTM cooler, but that was never released to the public. But they might come out in the future.

So, the GTX 970 is no go?

Not necessarily. Having no reference design does not mean that there aren't any GTX 970 cards with blower style coolers. Palit, PNY, Gainward, Galaxy, MSI and EVGA have released such cards. However, people who have analysed the cooler design claim that most of these coolers are identical to what the reference GTX 670 which was utter crap. For the noise figures of the PNY design, refer to this review. The PNY, Palit and Gainward seem to have the same design. Some say that the cooler on the EVGA card is much worse, but again, we do not have any solid figures. There is no information available on the MSI's cooler design as the cards aren't available in countries that really matter.

Bottom line?

I will have to reassess the chances of me going with SLI. If SLI is in the horizon, I'll settle for the Palit; else will get either the Galaxy EXOC or MSI Gaming 4G.

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