Nvidia is either one day or a few days away from launching their next big lineup of GPUs. They’re putting Big Maxwell out on to the stage and they figure that it’s such a massive jump in power and performance that it warrants skipping the 8-series lineup entirely, moving to the Geforce GT and GTX 900-series. If it’s anything like the incredible change between the Geforce 200 and Geforce 400 families, this one’s going to be just as big and important. Hit the jump to see what we know so far.
I’m not fond of using VideoCardz as a source for any GPU leaks because in the past they’ve been guilty of leaking information out of spite, but since these are only cooler design leaks I can let this one through. You know, there’s no reason to fake a GPU cooler design because there’s nothing to gain from it anyway. Most people are concerned about performance and price, looks usually come in third or fourth place in terms of priority.
MSI’s Geforce GTX970 is using a new TwinFrozr design with two 92mm fans, four heatpipes that are chromed and a massive heatsink that covers the entire card. The Board is powered by a 8-pin and 6-pin power connector, putting the maximum power draw for the card around 225W. Given Maxwell’s efficiency as previously seen in the Geforce GTX750 Ti, which can easily match the stock performance of a GTX660 once overclocked while still under a 75W TDP, the GTX970 is probably going to perform close to the level of the GTX780 while consuming just over 150W of power, which is going to be no mean feat.
It looks like the card also has an optional plate designed for extra stability when using LN2 pots. The metal brace bolts on top of the PCB and stabilises the power delivery area so that your card doesn’t bend when using a heavy pot.
MSI’s board shot is also the fun part because there’s a shit-ton of wild guessing out on the internet as to whether Nvidia has moved to use VRAM stacking this early on in the game. They originally promised to stack memory chips with the Pascal family in 2016 and the actual tech is called High Bandwidth Memory (HBM). Hynix is currencly making chips suited for HBM applications and it’s also an official JEDEC specification. AMD also collaborated to make HBM possible with Hynix, so it’s possible that the tech is ready, but AMD wants to make their feature sets available across all of their product lines first before moving to a new generation.
Still, I can only see two memory chips where there would logically be memory chips. If it is HBM, AMD is in for a world of hurt in the next two weeks. I’m not going to be stupid and assume that it’s HBM because absolutely no-one, not even AMD, has spent much time talking about the technology as well as how they’re going to use it and what needs to be changed to accommodate it. It’s coming in 2016, not in two week’s time.
Although Maxwell is a new architecture, it is pin-compatible with Kepler so that board partners can continue to use existing designs and get their products to market quickly. That’s probably why there’s still only one Displayport connector on this card, as recent rumors (which I’ll report on later) have said that Nvidia may be standardising on having at least two, possibly even three Displayport 1.2 connectors.
Gainward also had their designs released early and it definitely looks like most board partners will be re-using existing designs and old coolers. Nvidia’s gorgeous stock cooler makes a return with the magnesium body on the GTX980, which will be the flagship card. There aren’t any naked board shots there but the Gainward Phantom is interesting – there you can see that there’s a piece of the board missing. It’s very likely that the reference design for the GTX970 is only a little longer than the PCI-Express slot its connected to, which already opens up options for ITX-sized variants of the card to be released and powered by a single 8-pin power connector.
Gainward also has their own stock cooler available and it’s a regular blower cooler with a plastic shroud and probably doesn’t have a full-sized PCB. The extra vents on the top of the card may introduce heat back into the chassis and trap it in the back of the case where the PCI slots are located, so you may want to open those extra slots if you’re putting this card in a SLI array. Speaking of SLI, MSI’s version of the card above has two SLI fingers, which means three and four-way GTX970 setups are possible.
ASUS also has a Strix version of the GTX970 on the way, shipping with the Strix cooler and 4GB of VRAM. The Strix cooler is unique in that the fans can spin down completely when the card’s temperatures drop below 60º Celsius, which qualifies for ASUS to market this as a “silent” cooler. In practice your fan speeds will be as low as other competing options, but at least idling on the desktop or in productivity applications that don’t need much 3D horsepower won’t have fan noise in the background.
You’ll notice that just like MSI, ASUS is using an existing board design with the old port layout for displays. I’m more and more expecting that while Maxwell is capable of launching in new board designs with HDMI 2.0 and Displayport 1.2a/1.3, it’ll be the same situation as AMD with the launch of the R-series, where some cards had the updated Eyefinity technology which allowed one card to run three monitors in a group without the use of Displayport, while many others didn’t because it was easy to change clock speeds, change the name in the BIOS, slap a new sticker on to the card and shove it into a new box.
Nvidia is hosting an event on 30 September to celebrate gaming and reveal their new hardware, so we don’t have long to wait for other board partners to step up to the plate.