Table of Contents
Ladies and gentlemen, today I get to present to you an offering from the Galax camp! We all read the GTX 980 SOC reviewed I published a couple weeks ago and know it was a beast. We also mentioned on the front page the release of Galax’s famed Hall of Fame (HOF) version of the GTX 970 and GTX 980. Now, we have the Galax GTX 970 HOF in our hands for review. If it is anything like their 780Ti HOF I reviewed a while back, you all are in for a treat as Galax really does a number on improving NVIDIA’s reference design both on the PCB, and on the cooling. Let’s check it out, shall we?
Specifications and Features
Below is a list of specifications from the Galax website for the card. As most know, the GTX 970 comes with 1664 CUDA cores, 4GB of 256bit GDDR5, base clocks of 1051 MHz on the core and 1750 MHz on the memory, typically a 150W TDP. However the Galax card comes in with a base core clock of 1228 MHz and a boost rating of 1380MHz. That is 175MHz+ over stock without the actual boost (which I saw 1430MHz throughout my testing with no throttling). That clockspeed happens to be the same as the GTX 980. Memory capacity and speed remain the same.
The HOF is made for overclocking so Galax put some features on the card to assist with this endeavor. They souped up the power delivery area to an 8+2 (core/memory) configuration on a 10 layer PCB, high quality International Rectifier power bits, and a dual BIOS in case you get saucy and want to safely get around NVIDIA’s oppressive power limits that are forced on these vendors.
When you do that, or just overclock, you want something that will help keep things cool. Galax uses a newly redesigned “Triple Force” cooler that features two 80mm fans and a 90mm in the middle which forces air through their seven heatpipe heatsink to help whisk the heat away.
The card will drive 4 monitors by its lonesome and has a DL DVI output, HDMI, and x3 Displayport 1.2.
For further details, please check it out below in the Specifications table!
|Galax GTX 970 HOF Specifications|
|GPU Engine Specs:|
|Base Clock (MHz)||1228|
|Boost Clock (MHz)||1380 (1430 MHz actual)|
|Memory Speed||3505 (7010) MHz|
|Standard Memory Config||4096MB|
|Memory Interface Width||256-bit GDDR5|
|Memory Bandwidth (GB/sec)||224|
|Bus Support||PCI-E 3.0|
|Certified for Windows 8||Yes|
|Supported Technologies||GPU Boost 2.0, 3D Vision, CUDA, DirectX 12, PhysX, TXAA, Adaptive VSync, FXAA, 3D Vision Surround, SLI-ready|
|Multi Monitor||4 displays|
|Maximum Digital Resolution||4096×2160|
|Maximum VGA Resolution||2048×1536|
|Standard Display Connectors||Dual Link DVI x1, HDMI x1, DisplayPort 1.2 x3|
|Audio Input for HDMI||Internal|
|Standard Graphics Card Dimensions:|
|Length||12.1 Inches (308mm)|
|Height||5.1 Inches (129.1mm)|
|Width||1.9 Inches (49mm)|
|Maximum Graphics Card Power (W)||165W|
|Minimum System Power Requirement (W)||500W|
|Supplementary Power Connectors||Two 8-pin|
Of course their are some specific details that every company wants to get out that makes their card better than the competition. I have listed Galax’s key features below. While everything on here makes the card better than reference (and plenty of other non reference models) some of things that stuck out to me were the highest factory overclock of a GTX 970, the ‘redesigned from the ground up for GM204’ extended PCB with its robust IR power delivery area, the neat heatsink cover with the HOF LED (adjustable b frequency and intensity), Hyper Boost technology (a button on the I/O area) that increases fan speeds and essentially throws out NVIDIA’s power limits so you can push your overclock to the real limit. And last, what good is not having a power limit on a card if you can only add a pittance (+37mv in this case in XT+ and MSI AB) of voltage? Enthusiasts developed a voltage application that allows you to push past that limit to really unlock a card’s true potential.
Read on below for more key features…
- 1380 MHz factory overclock – the fastest of any GTX 970 currently sold
- Completely redesigned PCB layout from the ground up, optimized for GM204
- 10 layer manufacturing process in HOF signature pure white color
- Extended PCB width for optimized layout and cleaner signal
- New completely redesigned “Triple Force” cooler with 2x 80mm fan + 1x 90mm fan
- 4x 8mm heat pipes + 3x 6mm heat pipes (total 7 nickel-plated heat pipes) on a Copper base
- Integrated MOSFET heatsink
- Customizable top HOF LED (control blanking frequency, brightness with GFE)
- Heat resistant polycarbonate cover with premium die-cast aluminum accents
- Anodized Aluminum Backplate protects components and reinforces PCB
- Pure Digital PWM for precision control with superior accuracy
- Next generation IR3595 Digital PWM controller provides 2X switching frequency vs. previous generation
- IR3555 with next gen DrMOS and 60A output
- 8 phase GPU + 2 phase memory power
- Aerospace-grade GALAX Extreme Power Inductors provide ultra long life, long endurance and low noise vs. normal power inductors
- Hyper Boost technology acts like a hardware turbocharger, increasing fan speed and maximum power delivered to the GPU with the push of a button
- Voltage tool (developed by enthusiasts) allows voltage beyond stock limits
- Hardware dual BIOS simplifies the tweaking process by enabling risk-free firmware updates and customization
Listed below are some items from Galax’s reviewers packet. It goes over the cards DNA being born for overclocking with its better than reference grade parts used, the sweet white 10 layer PCB used, the high quality IR parts driving the power bits, the Hyperboost technology essentially raising fan speeds and bypassing some limits/protections which can help you get the most from this card, and last its “triple force” cooling solution, helping to keep things quiet and cool.
Below is our gratuitous shot of GPUz confirming exactly what the Galax GTX970 HOF was setup to be! 4GB of GDDR5 running at 1753 MHz (7012 effective), the core’s base clock at 1228 Mhz with a minimum boost of 1380 MHz ending up at an actual 1430 MHz!
Photo Op – Meet the GALAX GTX 980 SOC
Below is your first look at the retail packaging. Like the 980 SOC I reviewed a few weeks ago, it’s a mostly white box/backround with your Assasin’s Creed looking hoodie wearing guy with no face gracing the front along with the new Galax name, as well as the model information. Flipping the box around to the back shows some high level features as well as what is included in the box. Next is the bottom which goes over system requirements and last is the side which shows the model and their cool HOF crown.
Below is a list and picture of the included accessories.
- Quick Installation Guide
- User Manual
- 2x 8-pin PCI power converter
- 1 x DVI to VGA
And there she is folks, the Galax GTX 980 HOF in all its black and especially white glory! Galax has come a long way from its past heatsink shroud looks consisting of very acute sharp edges shaping the whole thing. While this isn’t exactly lozenge smooth, it certainly doesn’t need to be. We can see a three fan configuration with two white 80mm fans on the edges with a single black 90mm fan in the middle. Through these fans we can see several heatpipes of varying sizes snaking through the heatsink fin array to help get the heat the GPU produces away from the Silicon.
Flipping the unit over we see a neat brushed aluminum backplate for protection and structural integrity. There are vents cut out in strategic places, behind the GPU and VRM area, as well as some holes punched towards the back of the card spelling out H.O.F. As far as the bottom, there isn’t too much to see there, but flipping it over to the top reveals the wording “Hall of Fame” that glows when powered on with a nice white LED. The light is controllable via software too!
A Closer Look
Zooming in a bit on the card, we will start with the outputs. As you can see we have the Hyperboost button up top and on the left. To the right of it is the DL-DVI port (2560×1600 max res). And on the bottom row there is a total of x3 DisplayPorts and one HDMI port all supporting full 4K resolutions at 60Hz. Spinning the card around we can now see the two 8 pin PCIe power plugs required to power this high end GTX 970.
Taking the Triple Force Cooler off the PCB exposes the seven total heat pipes. Four of the nickel plated heat pipes are 8mm while three are 6mm and they snake through the base through the fin array allowing the heat to move away from the core. The two 80mm fans and one 90mm fan on the other side blow down through the heatsink onto the memory and vrm cooling. Through normal use (meaning leaving the fan on auto) this solution is very quiet. Pressing Hyperboost and cranking the fan brings them up to a low roar. Not quiet, but you would likely only use that option when benchmarking anyway and at that point, who cares about noise in the first place. Overall this cooler does a great job as you will see later in the review.
Here is a shot of the pretty hot looking white PCB. The first shot still has the memory heatsink attached, while the second has it removed and the core cleaned up a bit. Towards the top and middle of the card you can see your first glimpse of the voltage read points and the Samsung based memory IC’s.
Below are some closer pictures of the robust 8+2 phase power delivery and its upgraded parts featuring some International Rectifier goodies among the other higher quality than reference parts Galax has wisely strapped on this beast.
Monitoring/Overclocking Software – Xtreme Tuner Plus
Below is Galax’s tool for monitoring and overclocking their GPUs Xtreme Tuner Plus (XT+ moving forward). Their latest version, 220.127.116.11 supporting the 900 series of cards is shown below. Like most of these little applications, XT+ allows one to monitor clocks, fan speeds, voltage, and more. You can control the fan speeds, clocks, and voltage as well as save those changes to profiles. The program works as it should so no complaints there. My only, and ongoing issue is the amount of real estate it takes up on screen (its big!).
Performance and Benchmarks
- Intel i7 4770K @ 4 GHz, 1.1 V
- ASRock Z97 OC Formula
- Kingston Hyper X Predator 2 x 4 GB 2666 MHz CL11 @ 1866 MHz 9-9-9-24
- 240 GB OCZ Vertex 3 SSD
- Seasonic 1000 W PSU
- Galax GTX 970 HOF @ 1228 MHz core (1430 MHz actual boost) / 1753 MHz Memory, and Overclocked @ 1350 MHz (1553 MHz actual boost) / 1905 MHz memory
- Windows 7 64 bit Operating System
- NVIDIA 344.65 WHQL
Other cards used for comparison are as follows (links are to the OCF reviews).
- GALAX GTX 980 SOC
- MSI R9 290x Lightning
- EVGA GTX 970 FTW
- Galaxy GTX 780 Ti HOF
- HIS R9 290 IPower IceQ X2 OC
Note all testing below uses 1920×1080 screen resolution (settings also carry over to Surround/Eyefinity testing if applicable).
- All Synthetic benchmarks were at their default settings
- Unigine Heaven (HWbot) – Extreme setting
- Crysis 3 – Very High settings with 8xMSAA/16xAF (2nd level when you procure and use the Crossbow to get across the level and kill the Helicopter)
- Metro:LL – DX11, Very High, 16xAF, Motion Blur – Normal, SSAA Enabled, DX11 Tessellation – Very High, Advanced PhysX – Disabled, Scene D6
- Battlefield 4 – Default Ultra setting (Tashgar level – ‘on rails’ car scene)
- Bioshock: Infinite – Ultra DX11, DDOF (through Steam – option # 2, then option #1 assuming your are at 1080p)
- Batman: Arkham Origin – 8xMSAA, Geometry Details/Dynamic Shadows/DOF/Ambient Occlusion: DX11 Advanced, Hardware PhysX: OFF, the rest On or High
- Grid 2 – 8xMSAA, Ultra defaults + Soft Ambient Occlusion: ON
- Final Fantasy XIV:ARR – Default Maximum setting
- More detail is in our article: Overclockers.com GPU Testing Procedures
On to the benchmarks! Starting off with the oldest in our suite, 3DMark Vantage. Here we see the 970 HOF score 42,161 out of the box beating the EVGA model as it should considering its higher clocked, but losing to the 780ti, matching a 290x Lightning, and a bit less than 5% behind the Galax 980 SOC.
Moving on to 3DMark 11, the 970 HOF pulled 15,068 and beat everything in the lineup except the 980 SOC which it fell around 7% behind as we would expect.
Getting into something a bit more modern with the latest 3DMark from Futuremark, Fire Strike, the 970 HOF scored 10,397 at stock speeds, barely losing to the 780Ti HOF and of course the 980.
Moving on to Unigine Heaven (Hwbot version) Extreme, the Galax 970 HOF scores 2990.25 and surprisngly falls behind every card in this benchmark. A curious result, likely driver related as I didn’t see any throttling throughout testing. That 780ti HOF is a trooper across the synthetics, isn’t it?!
Moving on to games we start with “can it play Crysis 3“? And yes, it can. Coming in at 36.1 FPS average out of the box. This beats the EVGA 970, but then takes a back seat to the rest of the cards in the lineup by a few FPS (which really matter when FPS are in the 30 range).
Moving on to Metro: Last Light, the 970 managed a very playable 50.3 FPS essentially matching the EVGA 970, 5 PFS behind the 780Ti HOF, beating the 290x Lightning, and falls behind the 980 by 6 FPS.
Last but not least in this graph is still my favorite, Battlefield 4. Here the 970 HOF pounds through the Ultra settings averaging over 81 FPS, barely beating the EVGA 970, again losing to the 780Ti, beating the 290x Lightning, and falling behind the 980 SOC.
Continuing on to some of our less stressful but just as important games, we start with Bioshick: Infinite. Here the Galax 970 HOF manages to pull over 110 FPS again quicker than the EVGA 970, losing to the 780Ti, beating the 290x Lightning, and of course slower than its bigger brother the 980 SOC. Do you see a theme here?
Moving on to Batman: Arkham Origins, we are again eclipsing the 100 FPS mark with the Galax 970 averaging 104 FPS… can you guess the rest of the results?!
Last up on this graph is Grid 2. Here we are hitting 129 FPS. Outside of the 780Ti matching it this time, the rest remains the same.
In the Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn, we see similar results as above with the Galax 970 HOF scoring 15,588 in this test. The rest falls right in line with previous results.
NVIDIA Surround Testing
I got to hook this up to my 3 monitor station running at 5760X1080 and below you can see the results. The GPU killer games, Crysis 3 and Metro: LL, the FPS are not really playable at these settings hitting almost 15 FPS and a bit over 20 FPS respectively. In the other titles tested, Bioshoick, BF4, and Batman: AO, you can run this card alone with some high settings and get more than adequete FPS. There is a lot of power in this card.
Pushing the Limits
So the big question here at Overclockers.com is where did I end up with this sample when I added voltage and pushed things? The Galax 970 HOF has the Hyperboost button that kicks the fans to 100% and disables some internal protections to allow one to get the most of the card. but to be honest, not much more than my 24/7 clocks. I wouldn’t call that a bad thing though. I ended up hitting 1585 MHz actual boost on the core and 1955 MHz on the ram. I could go higher on the ram but it would then tend to lower the core ceiling just a bit so I settled here. Below is a shot of Unigine Heaven Extreme using those clocks and MSI Afterburner to show the actual boost clocks were stable.
Galax and I both believe this card will really shine under water or LN2. For the LN2 side of things, I am keeping an eye out for a modded bios as the core clocks really didn’t scale much at all with voltage. I have a feeling that NVIDIA is getting in the way pushing much past the 1.21v we can get out of the card. If I can get my grubby little fingers on a proper bios for it, I plan on putting this thing on cold and seeing what she can do!! I also have a voltage tool I can share with any who grab this card to help really push things. Just message me!
So why am I not too disappointed in the lack of voltage scaling? Because I understand that I am a tenth of a 1% that cares about that stuff and I pushed pretty darn hard. Also, the 970’s reference clockspeed is 1051 MHz (boost clocks will vary), and this thing boosted over 500 MHz more with overclocking! Nearly a 33% clock increase over the base factory clockspeed.
Cooling and Power Consumption
As we learned throughout the review, Galax has their Triple Force cooler on the 970 HOF with its multiple heatpipes meandering through the fin array which is tasked with cooling the GPU and the VRM area. As was mentioned above, even when overclocking, the cooler is pretty quiet even when overclocked with the large 80mm(2) and 90mm(1) fan doing the work. With our testing I only managed to get the HOF up to 66C with the fan left at auto. Even at 66C it was barely audible on the open test bench. The fan didn’t ramp up too much in testing so there is a lot of cooling headroom left.
As far as power consumption goes we see the highest I hit was 320W at the wall. Adding voltage and more clocks to this that value would surely go up, but at the 24/7 overclock this is where I topped out. I’m still amazed at the difference in power consumption on NVIDIA’s new cards for the amount of performance they are churning out!
Well, now its time to wrap things up here and put a stamp on the card, right? Overall Galax has done another tremendous job on their HOF line of cards (have to assume the 980 HOF is just as much of a beast right?). I have to admit, the look of the white PCB Galax uses has really grown on me and they have moved away from their earlier designs on the heatsink shroud that seemed to be a love or hate type of relationship and are continuously making it look better. The 970 HOF is no exception here. Smoother lines, the white and smoke colored fans, the pulsing LED “Hall of Fame” on the cooler, and the brushed backplate round out the package and really appeal to me.
The 970 HOF we have in hand overclocked to the moon hitting 1585 Mhz core on stock voltage! The ‘daily driving’ clocks settled at 1553 MHz. Quite an increase over reference and even over its high starting clockspeed of 1228 MHz (without boost). Performance wise, you currently have the highest factory overclocked GTX 970 sitting right here.
The Triple Force cooler used does a great job at keeping things cool as well as quiet for normal or overclocked operations. If you are into benchmarking or pushing cards to the limit, using the Hyperboost button instantly puts the fans up to 100% and skirts around some power limits to help reach the highest clocks possible.
Like most things in life, not everything is perfect. There is occasional coil whine on this sample (easily drowned out by most anything really) but that seems to be an issue with a lot of 970’s, reference or not. I also would have liked to have seen the card respond better to additional voltage when overclocking. Frankly it didn’t at all. And for a card of this caliber, I would have liked to have seen something on that front that isn’t neutered by NVIDIA’s limits. I have to imagine there will be a modified BIOS out that will let this thing show off soon enough though.
One thing we haven’t talked about is price. I always leave that for last anyway, right? Galax is selling this card on their website Galaxstore.net for $479.99. I took a trip over to Newegg to see what the rest of the cards looked like and found prices ranging from $329.99 to $399.99. That puts this card a full $80 above the most expensive GTX 970 (sold by Newegg) out there. Ouch! Keep in mind you are getting the highest factory clocked 970 for this price, robust internals, something specially made for extreme overclocking and its performance creeps right up there to a 980 which is priced quite a bit higher. I still would like to see this card much closer to $400 though.
Overall, Galax put out a monster GTX 970 in their HOF version. It cools well while being quiet and having plenty of headroom. Custom made 10 layer white PCB with higher quality parts all around, and this sample overclocked pretty darn well. The price leaves something to be desired, but the card itself is really a gem in the GTX 970 landscape. This product is Overclockers.com approved!
– Joe Shields (Earthdog)