NVIDIA GTX 970 vs GTX 1080

As mentioned in the Overclocking the Core i5 post a while back, my graphics card was limiting higher performance outputs, especially since it had to render games in 2560×1440. I hinted at an additional post dedicated to overclocking the GPU and this is it in some ways. I did overclock the GPU, but shortly after I also replaced it with a Gigabyte G1 Gaming GTX 1080. Nevertheless, for comparison, I will include the overclocked results based on the custom graphics settings from the last post and also compare it to the 1080 using default game presets. This way you can easily compare with your own rig. I had hoped I could also include Ryzen tests, but unfortunately Corsair’s AM4 mounting kit for the watercooler is still travelling around the world. So, there’ll be another performance related article (hopefully) soon. That one will compare the overclocked i5 with the GTX 1080 to a Ryzen 1700X with the 1080. Not only in games, but also in encoding.

Overclocking 970

This section uses the custom graphics settings I utilized in the overclocking the i5 post to show what can be gained from overclocking the GPU and memory of the GTX 970. I found the maximum stable setting of the GPU to be just one step below what the ASUS tool allowed. I didn’t max out the memory because I was too dependent on a stable GPU for recording purposes that I didn’t find the time to investigate that as well. And at some point, I bought a faster card 😉 I’m sorry that I can’t provide the exact numbers. I totally forgot to write them down before swapping the graphics card. A rough number are +100 MHz for the GPU (probably more) and roughly +40 MHz for the memory.

Tested resolution is the native 2560×1440 that I also use for gaming, in parentheses you’ll find the minimum frames per second number.

Standard
Overclocked
RotTR: Mountain Peak
65.9 (38.4)
71.6 (43.6)
RotTR: Syria
51.2 (39.3)
53.4 (36.9)
RotTR: Geothermal Valley
51.3 (36.1)
52.5 (34.6)
Dragon Age: Inquisition
37.4 (34.8)
46.8 (37.5)
Witcher 3
47.8 (42.0)
51.2 (45.0)

As can be seen, overclocking the GPU did result in higher average fps, sometimes more, sometimes less. I can’t explain the lower min fps though. But, to be realistic, it wasn’t so much that it would make one’s jaw drop. If you are tight on money then this can postpone an investment for some time, but nothing more. Unlike CPU overclocking that lets old Core i5/7 of the 2000 family still be a viable gaming processor.

970 vs 1080

Now to the most interesting part. How much faster is the GTX 1080, a chip that has been on the market for a year now, compared to the two-year-old GTX 970 that has only half the memory, less execution units and less MHz. As a short reminder, the GTX 970 was an upgrade to an AMD Radeon HD 7870 and provided roughly twice the performance of the AMD card in 1080p. Can the GTX 1080 repeat the same thing in today’s more modern 1440p?

In this section, I’ll use default graphics settings so you can repeat the tests yourself. I also devised custom tests for Rise of the Tomb Raider an Dragon Age: Inquisition which I timed using Fraps (just like I had already done for the Witcher). It also contains the scene from Witcher 3 and one for Skyrim. The latter I threw in as a test for the Ryzen CPU. Skyrim doesn’t tax the GPU as much and I wanted to see how the new AMD processor fares against a highly clocked Intel one. Actually, I am sure of the outcome as many reviews have already shown. But this is about GPUs so let’s stop the CPU talk. Numbers follow.

Settings:

  • Rise of the Tomb Raider: Ultra
  • Dragon Age: Ultra (2x MSAA)
  • Witcher 3: Ultra (Hairworks low)
970
1080
RotTR: Mountain Peak
63.7 (37.8)
118.2 (74.5)
+85%
RotTR: Syria
50.3 (30.8)
91.9 (55.5)
+82%
RotTR: Geothermal Valley
47.6 (34.7)
88.0 (34.9)
+84%
RotTR: Custom Scene
39.2 (31.0)
76.2 (60.0)
+94%
Dragon Age: Inquisition
34.6 (29.2)
68.3 (60.0)
+97%
Dragon Age: Custom
36.7 (31.0)
65.9 (54.3)
+79%
Witcher 3
43.5 (38.0)
79.7 (66.0)
+83%

Almost twice as fast! Depending on the game it’s like +85% to +95%, roughly +90% on average. If you factor in that all games are now playable at a better visual quality then I’d say the investment was well worth it. But, also more expensive than the GTX 970 two years ago.

The good thing about the Gigabyte card is that it fits into my small Corsair Carbide Air 240. The ASUS card was so wide that I couldn’t close the case. Second, using the „quiet“ cooling profile the card really is quiet. On standard, it gets pretty loud though.

Next on the list: a comparison with Ryzen. I assume the i5 to probably be better on average fps, but overall, and especially in the future, the Ryzen will be the better choice. Stay tuned.

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