EVGA GTX 970 Hybrid Review & Benchmark

By Published December 15, 2015 at 5:00 pm

Additional Info

  • Component: Video Card
  • Awards: Quality Build
  • Original MSRP: 400
  • Manufacturer: EVGA

 

EVGA GTX 970 Hybrid Thermals

The equilibrium temperatures are shown below. These metrics represent GPU diode temperature as measured using GPU-Z and AIDA64 (parity checked against one another). Ambient is kept constant. The temperature shown in these charts is a Delta T over Ambient value (Celsius).

We run 3DMark FireStrike Extreme (Graphics test 2) on loop for these tests. The test is completely automated and uses an in-house script for self-execution. Once equilibrium is reached, we create the below averaged numbers for each device. This represents about the temperature (dT) of each video card when placed under the duress of a real gaming scenario, which we assume often exceeds 20 minutes (about the time required to achieve equilibrium).

970-hybrid-thermals

The GTX 970 Hybrid is now the coolest device on our bench, edging-out the 980 Ti Hybrid by about 2.37C. The 980 Ti runs a larger, hotter chip and each device is cooled effectively identically, so this 'victory' isn't all that surprising. It's not until we get into overclocking – in more detail further up – that the 970 Hybrid passes the 980 Ti Hybrid (stock) thermals, landing at 23.72. Still remarkably low and nothing to worry about, even with the high OCs we achieved.

The next CLC-enabled device on our bench is the MSI Sea Hawk 980 Ti, operating at ~40C dT. The Fury X, a completely different architecture and design (including liquid-cooled VRM/VRAM modules, something the EVGA cards don't do), lands at ~41C.

Looking more comparatively against the same architecture, That's 20.53C vs. 54.15C. Even as we look to the overclocked temperatures of the 970 Hybrid (1320MHz base, 1546MHz boost), the gap remains high vs. stock, and that's with a higher clockrate than the 970 SSC.

It's absolutely clear that the 970 Hybrid is thermally superior to its air-cooled counterparts. We can expect that the 970 would run cooler than the 980 Ti, a bigger and warmer GPU, and than the Fury X (which is completely different altogether).

You're certainly paying for that gain, at a minimum of +$50 over the SSC's cost, and whether there's ROI on that expenditure will largely depend on use cases. For most users, the 970 SSC's ~54C (add-in ambient and you're in the mid-70s) is completely acceptable. Anyone in a particularly warm environment or using a hotter case, like an N450 or SFF option, may want to consider liquid here. Competing vendors' cards, though not present, will more or less perform around the same region as the SSC for air-cooled 970s (see: MSI GTX 970 Gaming).

EVGA GTX 970 Hybrid Power Draw

970-hybrid-power-draw

Power above is measured as total system power consumption under a GPU-intensive load. This does not heavily load the CPU; to see power draw under 100% system load, see our “How Many Watts Do You Need?” article.

The GTX 970 Hybrid at 1140MHz (stock) configuration draws 263.53W, 5.86% less than the 1190MHz 970 SSC card. Even as we look to overclocked setups, which lands the Hybrid at 1320MHz base / 1546MHz max, the liquid-cooled card (279.43W) is more power efficient than the 1519MHz SSC (299.49W). In talking to EVGA, this is a result primarily of the SSC's “beefier” power management setup, but we think it can also be attributed to power efficiency gains from liquid (reduction of leakage, for one).

The similarly priced MSI R9 390X Gaming ($420), at 416.3W, draws about 44.94% more power than the 970 Hybrid. Thermals of this particular 390X are approximately 81.38% higher than the Hybrid.

Regardless, nothing particularly surprising here.

EVGA GTX 970 Hybrid Overclocking Results

For overclocking, we configure the power percent target to its maximum value before adjusting voltage to its new levels (see table for those). We avoid maxing-out voltage where possible, as it eats into total TDP available to the card's clocks. We then slowly increment clockrate, observing for visual artifacting or catastrophic failures throughout the process. Each increment is left only for a few minutes before moving to the next step. We're eventually confronted with a driver failure, at which point the clockrate is backed-down, then endurance tested for 25 minutes using 3DMark Firestrike Ultra (4K) on loop.

The GTX 970 Hybrid allows a power offset of +10%, as does the SSC card. We overclocked and tested both, each with independent tables below. Here's the Hybrid's:

EVGA GTX 970 Hybrid Overclock Stepping - GamersNexus.net
CLK Offset Max CLK Mem Offset Mem CLK PWR Offset VDDC Initial Test Endurance?
1366 3505 1.212 Y -
100 1466 3505 10 1.212 Y -
150 1516 3505 10 1.212 Y -
165 1531 3505 10 1.212 Y -
175 1541 3505 10 1.212 Y -
175 1541 400 3903 10 1.212 Y Y
175 1541 500 4001 10 1.212 Y -
185 1551 500 4001 10 1.212 Y -
195 1561 500 4001 10 1.212 Y -
210 1576 500 4001 10 1.212 F -
190 1556 500 4001 10 1.212 Y F
180 1546 500 4001 10 1.212 Y Y

The final, resting clockrate was 1546MHz, all totaled. This is the boosted rate when under gaming workloads. The clockrate as suggested through basic math – 180MHz + 1140MHz – was 1320MHz. We left the memory clock at +500MHz, which is where we stop on most cards. Voltage remained 1.212v throughout the process, regardless of whether we input a +0mV offset or more (increments of +6mV, up to +24, produced no change).

EVGA GTX 970 SSC Overclocking Results

The SSC has a higher stock clockrate at 1190MHz, so we can't realistically expect quite as much room for movement on this card. Even still, it's got a powerful cooler and tuned VRM for overclocking. We normally develop a hypothesis of which card will perform best before going into OC analysis, basing this on specs, but we really weren't sure with these two.

EVGA GTX 970 SSC Overclock Stepping - GamersNexus.net
CLK Offset Max CLK Mem Offset Mem CLK PWR Offset VDDC Initial Test Endurance?
1429 3505 1.193 Y -
100 1527 3505 10 1.193 F - Flicker -
100 1527 3505 10 1.218 F - Flicker -
90 1519 3505 10 1.218 Y -
90 1519 400 3905 10 1.218 F - Flicker -
90 1519 200 3702 10 1.218 Y -
90 1519 300 3801 10 1.218 Y Y
100 1530 300 3801 10 1.218 F - Flicker -
90 1519 300 3801 10 1.218 Y Y

The SSC landed at 1519MHz, a fair bit lower than the 1546MHz of the Hybrid. This produces a swing that shifts the Hybrid into territory of a higher clockrate, which should also shift the Hybrid's FPS throughput ahead of the SSC. We were unable to clock the SSC's memory very high; it seemed to get stuck around 300MHz, beyond which point the drivers would fail. The Hybrid is, of our two cards, clearly the superior overclocker. This is likely partly attributable to advantaged thermal management, but can also boil-down to binning or silicon lottery.

OC Disclaimer

Mimicking our results may not work for you. Overclocking is largely dependent on platform, “silicon lottery” (luck), experience, and other system components. Our objective in reviews is to determine which card is an objectively superior overclocker but, without a larger test quantity, there is always going to be variance introduced by silicon quality. We also run high overclocks that would not necessarily be advisable in a real user environment; high-heat, high-stress clock operation will burn-out a GPU over time. That's fine for testing, where our cards only see use for (maximally) a few hours before being replaced with the next card, but inadvisable for long-term use over a few years.

EVGA GTX 970 Hybrid Overclocking Benchmarks vs. SSC

970-hybrid-bench-OC-mll 970-hybrid-bench-OC-mordor 970-hybrid-bench-OC-witcher

The results are similar to the above, just with the Hybrid taking a slight lead over the SSC.

Conclusion

970-hybrid-1

EVGA's GTX 970 Hybrid ($400) finds itself in an odd position within the market. We'll start with the high points and dig through the price battle thereafter.

There's no doubt that the GTX 970 Hybrid is objectively superior in cooling efficiency and design, as the 980 Ti Hybrid was before it. This is entirely thanks to reliance upon liquid cooling, specifically a cooler that is meant for GPU thermal management; the Asetek CLC makes design choices to match GPU die size better than the average CPU cooler would, including a large, copper extrusion in the coldplate. This extrusion is largely responsible for the superior thermals to some other CLC-enabled GPUs, like the Sea Hawk.

Because the 970 runs cooler than the 980 Ti GPU, it's no surprise that the GTX 970 Hybrid is now the chart-topper on our bench, out-pacing even the 980 Ti Hybrid's ~22C dT.

Looking to overclocking, our 970 Hybrid somewhat handily defeated EVGA's own SSC model ($350), a powerful card in its own right. We were able to push the 970 Hybrid to +500MHz memory clock, +180MHz core clock (1546MHz max clockrate), a reasonable increase over the SSC's +300MHz memory clock and +90MHz (1519MHz max clockrate). This swings the Hybrid marginally ahead of the SSC in benchmarks and, should you want to achieve SSC-level performance, OCing to 1190MHz (+50MHz offset) would be trivial and not threaten the GPU's lifespan on a large scale.

As for performance against non-970 cards, that's really more left to our independent game benchmarks. That's where you'll find in-depth discussion on cross-brand comparison and intra-brand, model vs. model benchmarks. The Hybrid falls about the same place as the other 970 cards in our bench do, though it is positioned well ahead of the 1050MHz reference 970 (only shown in three of the above tests). If looking at almost any pre-overclocked GTX 970 – which is most of them, from all brands – the Hybrid performs around where you'd expect. 2% shy of the SSC at stock, but easily OC'd if desirable.

And we're left with price. $400 – that's a lot to drop on a GTX 970, considering most can be had for $330 to $350, some at $380 (Gigabyte). We think it's worth the ~$30 to $40 price jump to move from a reference clock model (~$310, 1050MHz) to a pre-overclocked card (~$350, often 1140-1190MHz); that gap can produce as much as a 14% performance advantage for the pre-overclocked devices. With the Hybrid, you're moving down in stock clock (easily offset by OC) but halving the temperature, so it's really that liquid cooler that's eating the majority of the cost.

For most users, we'd recommend an air-cooled GTX 970 over the Hybrid. Price is better and performance of pre-overclocked cards will be similar (see: GTX 970 SSC, MSI GTX 970 Gaming, Gigabyte 970 G1). The impressive cooling of the Hybrid is certainly worth a look, but it may not be worthwhile for the “average” gamer. When we say “average gamer,” we're referring to the type of user who installs the card in a mid-tower and leaves it – no overclocking, no SFF build, no shoebox, no non-standard thermal challenges.

If overclocking is of interest, although we haven't tested the G1, it's clear that the Hybrid can easily handle the increased heat generation of a high clock-rate. It's also clear that the GTX 970 Hybrid would be ideal for a shoebox or SFF build, like those assembled for home-theater gaming, as it'll help pipe heat out of the case without the GPU contributing to rising case temps. In such an environment, the GPU will easily raise CPU, memory, chipset (this is a big one that is oft overlooked in SFF boxes), and overall case temperatures, something that should be strongly avoided if running hot, “gaming grade” components in a small box.

The faceplate really could use a major face-lift, but we avoid discussing aesthetics to any deep degree on this site. The pictures can tell that tale. Build quality is solid, assembly is trivial to service, overclocking is easy, cooling is superb, and performance is about average for the SKU. If you're within the small group of users who really needs to halve the thermals of an already-acceptable 970, this is worth a serious look.

- Steve “Lelldorianx” Burke.


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Last modified on June 09, 2020 at 5:00 pm
Steve Burke

Steve started GamersNexus back when it was just a cool name, and now it's grown into an expansive website with an overwhelming amount of features. He recalls his first difficult decision with GN's direction: "I didn't know whether or not I wanted 'Gamers' to have a possessive apostrophe -- I mean, grammatically it should, but I didn't like it in the name. It was ugly. I also had people who were typing apostrophes into the address bar - sigh. It made sense to just leave it as 'Gamers.'"

First world problems, Steve. First world problems.

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