Inno3D iChill Geforce GTX 970 Ultra Graphics Card Review
   
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Inno3D iChill Geforce GTX 970 Ultra Graphics Card Review

June 10th, 2015 James Leave a comment Go to comments

Overview

 

Nvidia’s new Geforce GTX 980 Ti may be upon us and AMD’s Radeon Fury XT may be just around the corner, but! The go to card for the mainstream Gamer is still the Nvidia Geforce GTX 970. And today ladies and gentlemen we have the 970 to conquer all 970’s, enter the Inno3D iChill Geforce GTX 970 Ultra. Not only does this GTX 970 sport impressive specifications (more on that in a minute), it also sports impressive physical dimensions, this is one big GTX 970! Measuring in at 300mm (L) x 115mm (H) x 58mm (D) you’re going to need plenty of room in your Gaming Rig to get this monster in. Especially as the card utilises a 3-slot design, this is due to Inno3D’s rather unique A.P.C.S. (Active power Cooling System) that sits on the top of the GPU and houses an additional 50mm fan cooling both the PCB and its associated components!

Spec wise the Inno3D iChill Geforce GTX 970 Ultra features a Core Clock of 1178MHz, a Boost Clock of 1329MHz and 4GB of GDDR5 memory running at 7200MHz! The card has support for Direct X12 and PCI Express 3.0, features x3 DisplayPorts x1 HDMI and x1 DVI port and connects by way of x2 6-pin power connectors.

 

Inno3D logo large ‘The GeForce® GTX™ 970 is a high-performance graphics card designed for serious gaming. Powered by new NVIDIA® Maxwell™ architecture, it features advanced technologies and class-leading graphics for incredible gaming experiences.’

 

Inno3D iChill Geforce GTX 970 Ultra - box front Inno3D iChill Geforce GTX 970 Ultra - box back

 

The Inno3D iChill Geforce GTX 970 Ultra arrived at pcG in a smart black box with iChill taking centre stage and the slogan ‘An Exclusive Design for Inno3D User’. In addition to this the front of the box indicates the Ultra moniker in the bottom left, while over on the upper right we find a sticker indicating that this version of the card comes bundled with 3DMark and a free iChill mouse mat.

The back of the box look rather busy, with the Nvidia name and associated Geforce GTX 970 blurb. In addition to this there’s additional (self promoting) Nvidia blurb in various languages…

 

Inno3D iChill Geforce GTX 970 Ultra - box open Inno3D iChill Geforce GTX 970 Ultra - inner box

 

On opening the outer box we find a further all black inner box, one one side we find the Inno3D logo while on the other there’s an iChill logo.

 

Inno3D iChill Geforce GTX 970 Ultra - inner box open (top) Inno3D iChill Geforce GTX 970 Ultra - inner box open (card)

 

Opening the inner box reveals the free iChill mouse mat (as you would expect it’s a little small!) nestling in the top of the box.

Removing the upper foam tray allows us to see the Inno3D iChill Geforce GTX 970 Ultra for the first time and also appreciate its soft foam packaging. In the box (other than the Graphics Card itself) we find the aforementioned mouse mat, an Installation Kit, Inno3D Power Supply Guideline, Molex-6-pin power adapter, DVI-D-Sub (analogue) adapter and an allen key!?

At the time of review the Inno3D iChill Geforce GTX 970 Ultra is retailing for approximately £320 at Overclockers UK and comes with a 3 year warranty.

 

Specifications/Features

courtesy of Inno3D

GPU Engine Specs:
  • CUDA Cores
  • 1664
  • Graphics Clock-Base Clock (MHz)
  • 1178
  • Boost Clock (MHz)
  • 1329
  • Texture Fill Rate (billion/sec)
  • 122.3

 

Memory Specs:
  • Memory Clock (MHz)
  • 7.2Gbps
  • Standard Memory Config (MB)
  • 4096
  • Memory Interface
  • GDDR5
  • Memory Interface Width
  • 256-bit
  • Memory Bandwidth (GB/sec)
  • 230.4

 

Feature Support:
  • Bus Support
  • PCI-E3.0 X16
  • Certified for Windows 8 and 7
  • Yes
  • NVIDIA SLI® Ready
  • Yes (2-way, must use soft SLI bridge)
  • NVIDIA G-Sync™-Ready
  • Yes
  • NVIDIA GameStream™-Ready
  • Yes
  • GeForce ShadowPlay™
  • Yes
  • NVIDIA GPU Boost™
  • Yes
  • Dynamic Super Resolution
  • Yes
  • MFAA
  • Yes
  • NVIDIA GameWorks™
  • Yes
  • Microsoft DirectX
  • 12 API
  • OpenGL
  • 4.4
  • CUDA
  • Yes

 

Display Support:
  • Multi Monitor
  • Yes, 3 active monitors in 3D mode + 1 montor in 2D mode 
  • Maximum Digital Resolution (per output)
  • 4096×2160
  • Maximum VGA Resolution (per output)
  • 2048×1536
  • HDCP
  • Yes
  • Standard Display Connectors
  • Dual Link DVI-I, HDMI 2.0, 3x DisplayPort 1.2
  • InternalAudio Input for HDMI
  • Internal

 

Standard Graphics Card Dimensions:
  • Length
  • 300mm
  • Height
  • 115mm
  • Width
  • 3-slot

 

Thermal and Power Specs:
  • Maximum GPU Temperature (in C with ambient temperature 55c) 
  • 98 C
  • Maximum Graphics Card Power (W)
  • 180W
  • Minimum System Power Requirement (W)
  • 500W
  • Supplementary Power Connectors
  • 2x 6-pin 

 

Accessories:
  • Driver CD Kit
  • Yes
  • DVI Dongle 
  • Yes
  • Mouse Pad
  • Yes
  • 6-pin PCI-E Power Cable
  • Yes

* Additional details available here

 

First Impressions

 

They say that first impressions are important; well if that’s right then the Inno3D iChill Geforce GTX 970 Ultra makes what has to be one of the most dramatic impressions that I’ve ever had when un-boxing a Graphics Card. I don’t think I need to explain why, as you can see this thing is a BEAST! But straight out of the box it’s aggressive design is going to divide opinion for sure, but honestly I rather like it, why? Because it looks like it means business… 😉

 

Inno3D iChill Geforce GTX 970 Ultra

Inno3D iChill Geforce GTX 970 Ultra - angled Inno3D iChill Geforce GTX 970 Ultra - A.P.C.S. (Active Power Cooling System) Inno3D iChill Geforce GTX 970 Ultra - 50mm fan

 

Looking at the top of the card we can see that it’s dominated by the gunmetal shroud with its aggressive (somewhat gothic looking) styling. At either end we also find three red transparent blades, these actually illuminate when the card is powered on! The front is then further dominated by the x3 85mm cooling fans (that are incidentally detachable, as is the shroud itself, that’s what that allen key is for!), meaning that this card will blow its hot air into the interior of your case and not out of your case. This means that you’ll want good airflow to ensure that the hot air gets out of the case. At the top of the card we can see the A.P.C.S. (Active Power Cooling System), but we will cover that in depth a little later in this section…

The back of the Inno3D iChill Geforce GTX 970 Ultra features a good looking (and most welcome) back-plate, although I did find some of the screws a little loose!? The back-plate’s there to give the card that extra bit of rigidity whilst also providing PCB shielding and protection, useful when the card weights in at a whopping 1330g!

Inno3D iChill Geforce GTX 970 Ultra - front Inno3D iChill Geforce GTX 970 Ultra - back

One of the real talking points about this and other Inno3D cards is the A.P.C.S. (Active Power Cooling System), this additional 50mm (with smart iChill logo) fan found atop the card is connected to a two way heatspreader and helps to lower the temperature of the PCB and its components by a further 15 degrees. Of course it also looks pretty darn cool (soz, no pun intended!); important as this is what most of us see when we look in through the side of our cases.

At the end of the card we also see the two main power sockets, both of these require 6-pin connections.

Looking at the other side of the card (the side that nobody sees!) there’s very little to talk about, other than the card’s somewhat industrial looking design and the large heatsink and heatpipe assembly.

 

Inno3D iChill Geforce GTX 970 Ultra - top Inno3D iChill Geforce GTX 970 Ultra - power sockets Inno3D iChill Geforce GTX 970 Ultra - bottom

 

Of course looking at the other ends of the card is somewhat less dramatic (thankfully!); at the output end we find that the Inno3D iChill Geforce GTX 970 Ultra features x3 DiplayPorts, x1 HDMI port and x1 DVI port. Nice to see plenty of DisplayPorts instead of HDMI ports too, as DisplayPort tends to play better when using Ultra High resolutions such as 4K. In the image above left we can also see that the design of the card means that it’s a 3-slot design, something I’m not really a fan of to be honest…

Looking at the far end of the card we can see the mammoth heatsink and its associated heatpipes living within the card, nice to see that HerculeZ logo embossed into the end of the heatsink too!

Inno3D iChill Geforce GTX 970 Ultra - outputs Inno3D iChill Geforce GTX 970 Ultra - end

 

So there you have it the Inno3D iChill Geforce GTX 970 Ultra is the most beastly Graphics Card that we have ever seen here at pcG, yes its styling is a little like Marmite, but I rather like it (and I hate Marmite!). If there was ever a card that looked like it would run cool then surely this is it, I guess we shall see…

 

Hardware Installation

 

Installing the Inno3D iChill Geforce GTX 970 Ultra into our Test Rig was a little more awkward than your normal Graphics Card due to its rather odd 3-slot design bracket, it just took a bit of fiddling to get the screws lined up through the bracket that’s all. But as I’ve already stated I’m not a fan of the 3-slot design as it often brings compatibility issues with it, especially should you opt for an SLI setup. The card was then simply hooked up via the x2 6-pin power connectors and connected to the monitor by way of one of the three DisplayPorts.

  • Test Rig Setup

  • Case Cooler Master HAF XB Power Supply Corsair Professional Series AX 760i
    Motherboard ASRock Fatal1ty Z97X Killer CPU Intel Core i5-4690K
    CPU Cooler Raijintek Themis RAM HyperX Savage 2400MHz 8GB Kit
    Graphics Card Inno3D iChill Geforce GTX 970 Ultra SSD HyperX FURY 120GB

     

    Inno3D iChill Geforce GTX 970 Ultra - horizontal Inno3D iChill Geforce GTX 970 Ultra - vertical Inno3D iChill Geforce GTX 970 Ultra - side

     

    As you can see from the images above the 300mm long Inno3D iChill Geforce GTX 970 Ultra fitted without issue into our HAF XB test case and looks good to boot, matching quite well with the existing red colour scheme of the ASRock Fatal1ty Z97X Killer motherboard. You can also now see the end blades illuminated now that the card has been powered up! 😉

     

    Testing Methodology/Setup

     

    Our Test Rig was treated to a fresh install of Windows 7 Professional N 64Bit (Service Pack 1) with all associated drivers also installed. The latest Nvidia Driver (352.86) was downloaded and installed and used throughout testing.

    For testing purposes we use MSI Afterburner (here), to help us with our testing and overclocking.

     

  • Overclocking the Inno3D iChill Geforce GTX 970 Ultra using MSI Afterburner (Version 4.1.0)
  •  

    Inno3D 970 OC settings Nvidia’s Boost clock (Nvidia Boost 2.0) is a bit of a difficult thing to explain, but the bottom line is that it runs at whatever the best speed it can while trying to remain within its TDP of 180W (READ: whilst staying cool!). With the card at stock this saw it Boosting up and beyond its Stock Boost Clock (1329MHz) to 1380MHz. But obviously we wanted more…

    Via MSI Afterburner I raised the Power Limit to 106% (the maximum supported, more on this later) overclocked the Core (Boost) Clock by a rather disappointing 150MHz and overclocked the Memory Clock by a further 350MHz. While also turning the fan speed to manual and setting it to 100%, in an attempt to keep the thermal throttling at bay.

    The end result is a card with a theoretical Core Boost Clock of 1479MHz and a Memory Clock of 7900MHz. Of course (due to Nvidia GPU Boost 2.0) what shows on screen at any time is anyone’s guess (I saw 1530MHz, which is impressive), as the card is constantly balancing within its TDP. BUT of course the final net result is that the card does run quicker, woohoo!

     

    Hardware Performance

     

  • Inno3D iChill Geforce GTX 970 Ultra – STOCK (Core: 1329MHz / Mem: 7200MHz)
  • Benchmark Ambient Temperature Max GPU Temp Delta Temp Result
    Batman Arkham Origins 22.00 52.00 30.00 200.00 FPS (average)
    Tomb Raider 22.00 51.00 29.00 97.3 FPS (average)
    Metro Last Light 22.00 55.00 33.00 80.67.00 (average)
    UNiGiNE Heaven 23.00 53.00 30.00 1443
    3DMark (Fire Strike) 23.00 49.00 26.00 9808

     

  • Inno3D iChill Geforce GTX 970 Ultra – OVERCLOCKED (Core: 1479MHz / Mem: 7900MHz)
  • Benchmark Ambient Temperature Max GPU Temp Delta Temp Result
    Batman Arkham Origins 23.00 47.00 24.00 219.00 FPS (average)
    Tomb Raider 23.00 46.00 23.00 107.5 FPS (average)
    Metro Last Light 23.00 49.00 26.00 87.67 (average)
    UNiGiNE Heaven 23.00 48.00 25.00 1610
    3DMark (Fire Strike) 23.00 45.00 22.00 10536

     

    Comparative Test Results (at stock):

    NOTE: Please note that all of these benchmarks are valid and correct at the time of review and we do not use historical data. Each benchmark is re-run every time (against our Test Cards) for each new GPU review using the latest Drivers at that time. Therefore the scores may fluctuate between reviews as Driver optimizations come into play…

     

  • BATMAN ARKHAM ORIGINS
  • TOMB RAIDER
  • METRO: LAST LIGHT
  • Metro: Last Light - Benchmark Settings
    Results measured in FPS (average)
    Zotac GTX 980 AMP!
    87.33
    Inno3D iChill 970 Ultra
    80.67
    XFX 290X Black OC Edition
    81.33
    Zotac GEFORCE GTX 970
    74.67
    XFX 280X Black OC Edition
    58.33
    Zotac GTX 960 AMP!
    55.33
    XFX 270X Black OC Ed
    43.33
    All Graphics Card Results 2015
  • UNIGINE HEAVEN 4.0
  • 3DMARK (Firestrike)
  •  

    So we expected great things from the Inno3D iChill Geforce GTX 970 Ultra and within reason it didn’t let us down, proving to be one of (if not) the fastest Nvidia GTX 970 based cards we have seen here at pcG. But to be honest I expected a little more from this beastly looking card especially as the thermals we nothing short of astonishing!

    While testing at stock the highest recorded temperature that we saw was a pathetic 65 degrees. While overclocked and with the fans at 100% this fell to 49 degrees, it’s mightily impressive stuff. 🙂 What was a little odd is that while overclocked (with the fans at 100%) the card produced a rather acrid smell, that was a little unpleasant, but we have come across this before and it tends to lessen over time…

    So if the card runs so cool why isn’t it the fastest GTX 970 we have seen ever!? It would appear that is comes down to the available power of the card, as in MSI Afterburner when we look at the Power Limit (%) for this card we see a maximum of 106% (the lowest figure we have seen for a 970, strange!) yet when we look at the Power Limit (%) for say the KFA2 970 OC Silent Infin8 Black Edition we see that Power Limit soar to 125%!? Meaning that the Galax card can effectively draw more power to produce more performance (as long as it stays within its TDP).. The Inno3D card seems to have been nerfed by this limitation. We know that it’s cool, yet it just isn’t allowed to draw any more power. What a shame!

    With the fans at 100% the card produces plenty of noise (as you would expect), but to be fair it’s not as loud as you might think producing an almost bearable (while playing with a headset) 54dBA of noise. In general use though, with the fans on auto, this figure falls to approximately 40dBA, which is more than acceptable in my book…

     

    Final Thoughts

     

    The Inno3D iChill Geforce GTX 970 Ultra is one of the fastest GTX 970 cards we have seen here at pcG, it’s also undeniably the coolest (temperature wise)! But I cant help but think I expected that little bit more…

    The Inno3D iChill Geforce GTX 970 Ultra came to pcG in smart black box with the contents well packaged, there’s not much in the box except for the card, Driver disc, Molex-6-pin power adapter and an allen key!? The latter is provided so you can remove the shroud and fans for cleaning!

    Once out of the box the beast is effectively unleashed and what a monster it is, the Inno3D iChill Geforce GTX 970 Ultra is the most aggressive, imposing looking Graphics Card that I have ever seen. It’s 300mm long and 115mm high and it utilises a 3-slot design (not good for SLI setups!) and it weighs in at a colossal 1330g! The looks are likely to divide opinion, but I rather like it, never has a Graphics card looked so purposeful.

    The big talking point really for this Inno3D card is its cooler and the top mounted A.P.C.S. (Active power Cooling System) that helps to keep the PCB and its components temperature’s down. It looks pretty cool at least (and it works!) and it’s nice to have something to look at through the side of your case, instead of the normal side of a GPU. It’s also nice to see a little bit of LED lighting on a Graphics Card, the red blades (x6) at the end’s of the card illuminate when the card is powered on, which I think is a nice touch and looks good too.

    So we have established that the Inno3D iChill GTX 970 Ultra is a beast in both looks and in dimensions, but does it perform as well as the looks suggest? To be fair the answer to that is yes, it’s basically as fast as any other GTX 970 that we have tested. But I thought it would be The fastest, by some margin and it is not, although you’re unlikely to find anything much faster!

    Let’s just for a moment talk a little about the thermals and performance as due to Nvidia’s GPU Boost 2.0 these are now inherently linked. The thermal performance of the Inno3D iChill GTX 970 Ultra is THE best we have ever seen, by some margin (around 25 degrees), yet this cool operating temperature doesn’t seem to enable the card to be the fastest 970, why not? Well this is because the card’s maximum Power Limit is significantly lower than say the power limit of the recently tested KFA2 card; 106% as opposed to 125% for the KFA2 card. It would appear that it is this that is holding the Inno3D card back, as the card’s just not permitted to pull any more power, which is obviously a shame…

    But really I feel I’m being a little unfair (perhaps!?); as the Inno3D iChill GTX 970 Ultra is one of the fastest GTX 970s we have tested and it’s undeniably the coolest! The current asking price of around £320 seem pretty fair too, and it comes with a free copy of Batman Arkham Night. If you can fit it in your case and you like the aggressive looks then I’m sure that thanks to its low operating temperature the card will deliver years of good Gaming performance…

     

    Verdict

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    Overclockers UK




    Inno3D GeForce GTX 970 iChill Herculez X4 Air Boss Ultra

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    Design/Quality pcGameware awards the Inno3D iChill Geforce GTX 970 Ultra a Gold
    Performance
    Value
    Overall

     

    Many thanks to Inno3D for providing this sample for review

     


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