A Summary Thus Far
The issues surrounding the GeForce GTX 970 Memory system and performance are complicated – but we attempt to run some tests and make some assertions.
UPDATE 2/2/15: We have another story up that compares the GTX 980 and GTX 970 in SLI as well.
It has certainly been an interesting week for NVIDIA. It started with the release of the new GeForce GTX 960, a $199 graphics card that brought the latest iteration of Maxwell's architecture to a lower price point, competing with the Radeon R9 280 and R9 285 products. But then the proverbial stuff hit the fan with a memory issue on the GeForce GTX 970, the best selling graphics card of the second half of 2014. NVIDIA responded to the online community on Saturday morning but that was quickly followed up with a more detailed expose on the GTX 970 memory hierarchy, which included a couple of important revisions to the specifications of the GTX 970 as well.
At the heart of all this technical debate is a performance question: does the GTX 970 suffer from lower performance because of of the 3.5GB/0.5GB memory partitioning configuration? Many forum members and PC enthusiasts have been debating this for weeks with many coming away with an emphatic yes.
The newly discovered memory system of the GeForce GTX 970
Yesterday I spent the majority of my day trying to figure out a way to validate or invalidate these types of performance claims. As it turns out, finding specific game scenarios that will consistently hit targeted memory usage levels isn't as easy as it might first sound and simple things like the order of start up can vary that as well (and settings change orders). Using Battlefield 4 and Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare though, I think I have presented a couple of examples that demonstrate the issue at hand.
Performance testing is a complicated story. Lots of users have attempted to measure performance on their own setup, looking for combinations of game settings that sit below the 3.5GB threshold and those that cross above it, into the slower 500MB portion. The issue for many of these tests is that they lack access to both a GTX 970 and a GTX 980 to really compare performance degradation between cards. That's the real comparison to make – the GTX 980 does not separate its 4GB into different memory pools. If it has performance drops in the same way as the GTX 970 then we can wager the memory architecture of the GTX 970 is not to blame. If the two cards perform differently enough, beyond the expected performance delta between two cards running at different clock speeds and with different CUDA core counts, then we have to question the decisions that NVIDIA made.
There has also been concern over the frame rate consistency of the GTX 970. Our readers are already aware of how deceptive an average frame rate alone can be, and why looking at frame times and frame time consistency is so much more important to guaranteeing a good user experience. Our Frame Rating method of GPU testing has been in place since early 2013 and it tests exactly that – looking for consistent frame times that result in a smooth animation and improved gaming experience.
Users at reddit.com have been doing a lot of subjective testing
We will be applying Frame Rating to our testing today of the GTX 970 and its memory issues – does the division of memory pools introduce additional stutter into game play? Let's take a look at a couple of examples.
I repeat again, videocard
I repeat again, videocard works like any other, but have 3.5 gb only available and last 0.5 gb is actually non local video memory (which is system ram) and there is no slow video memory like NVidia said. It’s lie and it can be easy prooved (i prooved by writing own tests). Just allocate blocks in vram and dump ram, search in dump the code of those “vram” blocks and you will see that last 0.5 gb is stored in ram. Is that so hard? I feel myself genious seeing noone notice obvious things.
Is this Boris, the one, the
Is this Boris, the one, the only?
Boris has been
Boris has been offering a different analysis:
Has anyone else seen this?
Holy crap, so the last 512MB
Holy crap, so the last 512MB isn’t being utilized at all? WTF NVIDIA????
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Update regarding “GTX 970 memory bug”. Wrote another test to check how that slow 0.5 gb memory works and again it’s the same thing which driver do for a long time, that memory is stored in RAM instead of VRAM, that’s why it slow. Basically, this is standart behavior for the most videocards on the market (vram is physical vram + a bit ram). What it means on practice compared to another videocards? GTX 970 have 3.5 Gb of VRAM. What i see in articles with explanation from NVidia is half-lie and of course casual people are incompenent and better to not listen to them. I don’t think it’s something horrible to loose 0.5 gb, but it’s bad that NVidia hide such information (my own videocard with 2 gb or vram have access to 2.5 gb and nobody annonced it as 2.0 fast and 0.5 slow).
Nice article. Thanks.
Nice article. Thanks.
While I do believe this
While I do believe this article stands true for single GPU scenarios, the question of how bad the 0.5GB memory pool will affect SLI performance still needs to be answered.
With the current crop of games, a single 970 pushing 3.5GB+ VRAM will most likely yield unplayable FPS anyway. However for SLI users 3.5GB+ could be a daily routine.
A comparison between 980 SLI and 970 SLI can easily help us to find out the impact of the 0.5GB memory pool. You can easily remove stutters caused by SLI glitches from the picture by looking at the 980 SLI results.
I have GTX 970 SLI…have had
I have GTX 970 SLI…have had zero probles.
I play on Asus ROG Swift GSync @ 2560×1440.
You want me to try to do some testing?
Same thing happens with the
Same thing happens with the GTX 660/Ti. VRAM usage will run up to 1536MB but either stutter and go over – after which it’s mostly fine, with a very slight framerate hit and possibly more stutters – OR it will just bounce back down to about 1530MB and stay there.
Seems like the exact same thing is happening with the GTX 970 – usage up to 3584MB and then a stutter – where it either goes over or stays right at the 3.5GB limit.
Since nVidia aint doing the
Since nVidia aint doing the right thing. AMD is offering a discount if you want to return your 970 for an AMD card:
More lies from nVidia, wonder
More lies from nVidia, wonder how PCper will defend them on this:
Update regarding “GTX 970 memory bug”. Wrote another test to check how that slow 0.5 gb memory works and again it’s the same thing which driver do for a long time, that memory is stored in RAM instead of VRAM, that’s why it slow. Basically, this is standart behavior for the most videocards on the market (vram is physical vram + a bit ram). What it means on practice compared to another videocards? GTX 970 have 3.5 Gb of VRAM. What i see in articles with explanation from NVidia is half-lie and of course casual people are incompenent and better to not listen to them. I don’t think it’s something horrible to loose 0.5 gb, but it’s bad that NVidia hide such information (my own videocard with 2 gb or vram have access to 2.5 gb and nobody annonced it as 2.0 fast and 0.5 slow). So sad that all my posts on the forums were trolled, fools are always the most active and agressive, hopefully it’s their own butthurt as they won’t listen to professionals.
You could also think about it
You could also think about it this way. For the 980, the vram is also taken up by things that do not need fast ram. Windows, drivers, etc.. If Nvidia’ new driver can use the 500mb for things that do not need fast vram,and use the 3.5gb for things that do, then the gap will narrow.
Windows OS is in charge of
Windows OS is in charge of that.
Nvidia would have to “hack” its own driver for each game to do that.
People who bought the 970 and don’t play commercially well known games are left out to dry because Nvidia would have to apply that driver hack or optimization to each game that’s ever released.
We aren’t dead yet which so software isn’t self aware.
It would be great if you
It would be great if you could compare frame times to a 290 and 290x.
Frametimes aren’t looking too
Frametimes aren’t looking too good there.
i’m pretty sure this isn’t
i’m pretty sure this isn’t about the last 0.5gb its more about the principle, it feels like Nvidia was just trying to keep it a secret. 99% sure their wouldn’t be a problem if the card had 3.5gb or they told us about the slower last 0.5gb and said its performance is decrase was negligible.
Bye bye magic driver
Bye bye magic driver 😛
They may still do that, but
They may still do that, but in silence. Peter from Nvidia clearly stated they are working on a fix, why would he lie? But then he could get some drops from management to dement it, because releasing this publicly they would confess their fault – and this could be problem for them. So now they may pretend everything is fine, no problems whatsoever, but in background they can optimize their drivers for 970… And once released, we will have no issues… A miracle 🙂 Maybe BS, but everything is possible 🙂
Playing Dying light last
Playing Dying light last night; I’ve found that it was a game that stopped at 3.5GB Vram and refused to use more. Outside of the CPU patch the dev’s are working on though; I didn’t have any hiccups using the GTX 970.
Geeks3d.com seem to have found an interesting point. OpenGL apps can use all 4GB of ram. They have DirectX vram test on their site and no matter what I tried I couldn’t get it use over 3.5GB.
Also interesting note; I opened up gpuz. Sitting at my desktop with dual 1080p screens I’m using on average 300MB of Vram, and with chrome open about 430MB.
It seems possibly UI elements are just sitting in this slower part? (huge speculation)
Win 7 x64 SP1, using lastest Nvidia driver. Wonder if Windows 8 can use all the memory?
Thanks for the continued
Thanks for the continued update on the 970 mem issue guys.. much appreciated.. this would surely help people get a fair picture and help in deciding on the purchase.. cheers
Try using Star Citizen for
Try using Star Citizen for the tests, it’s a super VRAM hog.
If you are updet with NVidia
If you are updet with NVidia for this.
Sign the petition and help people to get their money back:
I believe that people with
I believe that people with multi-monitor and 4k monitor set ups will run into these problems today. It will only get worse in the future. Sure the average gamer games at 1920×1200. Doesn’t mean that we aren’t upgrading to 4k or ultrawide.
What about row hammer?I
What about row hammer?I assume the 500 MB part is ddr3 variant?hopefully you guys will make an article about row hammer,so far may be only Intel fixed this (they re the one with a patent mentioning row hammer(2014)