Zotac GTX 970 AMP! Extreme Core Noise Review

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Zotac GTX 970 AMP! Extreme Core Noise Review

April 5, 2015 by Lawrence Lee

Product
Zotac GeForce GTX 970 AMP!
Extreme Core Ed. (ZT-90107-10P
)
Graphics Card
Manufacturer
Zotac
Street Price
~US$400

In our most recent of gaming build guide, I assembled a Quiet SLI Gaming PC with a pair GTX 970 graphics cards which proved to be extremely well cooled. Under normal gaming conditions, it managed to keep GPUs under 80°C with stock cooling while maintaining a noise level of just 23 [email protected] Achieving such a low noise level with a high-end configuration would have been unfathomable just a year ago, at least not without some serious aftermarket cooling. A few different elements played major roles in attaining this result: the impressive airflow provided by the SilverStone Fortress FT05 case, the superlative energy efficiency of Nvidia's Maxwell 2 architecture, and the heavy duty heatsink/fans of the two GTX 970s.


The Zotac GTX 970 AMP! Extreme Core Edition x 2.

The Zotac GTX 970 AMP! Extreme Core Edition I used has a few things going for it including a sizable heatsink/fan combination, high clock speeds, and better physical compatibility than most 970s. The PCB measures 26.6 x 10.6 cm with the heatsink/shroud expanding its footprint to 30.0 x 11.1 cm (11.8 x 4.4 inches), making it narrower than many competing models. The board extends just 1.0 cm past the corner of the I/O bracket with the board overhanging it by 0.5 cm and the illuminated name plate on the side jutting out by another 0.5 cm. Many variants of the R9 290/290X and GTX 970/980 have wider dimensions due to larger PCBs, heatsink covers, or heatpipes sticking out, all of which can make them incompatible with smaller enclosures.


Under the hood.

The stock cooler is formidable, featuring five copper heatpipes, a sizable portion of aluminum fins, three 92 mm fans, and a metal plate cooling all the memory chips, VRMs, and other necessary circuitry on the PCB. However, when I put together the SLI rig, the cooling solution proved to be a double-edged sword. Its minimum fan speed was a whopping 1450 RPM, so while I didn't have to speed up the fans to keep the cards adequately cool on load, the system produced the same level of noise regardless of what it was doing. This is a far cry from cards like the Asus Strix GTX 900 series which can shut its fans off completely. However, recently Zotac informed us of a BIOS update that addresses this issue, so I thought it was worth a second look.

The BIOS and update tool isn't available from Zotac's site but can be downloaded from the links below:


Updating the BIOS from the command prompt.

The BIOS update process is fairly straightforward. Before beginning they advise uninstalling previous loaded drivers and cleaning out any remnants using a third party tool (I prefer Display Driver Uninstaller). Then put the update tool and BIOS in the same folder and navigate to it using the Command Prompt (running with Administrator rights). A simple command and confirmation later, and the firmware updates in less than 30 seconds.


GPU Tweak: default fan curve.

GPU Tweak reveals the fan profile has been recalibrated with the minimum setting now at 30% (~1060 RPM) compared to the previous 60% level (1450 RPM).



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