I had previously only had experience with an older Zotac product before this. It was the GTX 580 AMP! which was just an overclocked, reference GTX 580 from NVIDIA. It had a somewhat fancy sticker on it and some decent clockspeeds. That same particular card also came in a much more expensive water cooling package using an Asetec unit. The air cooled version was not a very exciting part, but it did perform well and was reliable.
The backplate is a massive and solid affair. It does provide some extra cooling surface for the rear components and is well ventilated.
Happily since that time, Zotac has taken a much more aggressive approach to design and we have what we see today. The Zotac GTX 970 AMP! Extreme Core Edition is a fine card, as long as you have the space to write out that name. The cooling design with three fans is top notch. It is extremely quiet and runs very, very cool. It is overclocked to a great degree out of the box and offers performance that looks to approach the more expensive GTX 980 boards.
The top card is the MSI GTX 970. Very similar performance, but lower overclocking potential. The Zotac is one long card…
The build quality and design look excellent. I ran this board for quite some time, non-stop, and other than the black screen installation issue on Win 8.1, it was flawless. The 4GB of memory, though sometimes controversial, is more than enough to power the latest games at resolutions up to and beyond 2560×1600. For a while I used this card with the MSI GTX 970 in SLI on my main machine, but an upgrade to Windows 10 made that combination… problematic. I’m not entirely sure if it was an error in my installation or the NVIDIA is having issues with SLI/Surround in Windows 10, but the stuttering in certain games was simply too much. More testing is needed here, but that seems like a software/driver problem rather than this card in particular.
The price of this card is around $379, which is not exactly inexpensive as compared to other 970 cards. The MSI card I compared it to is around $339 when not on sale. Is that $40 difference enough to justify the extra cooling performance? Hard to say. The Zotac card sure does look a whole lot more attractive than the lightweight MSI 970 card, but the performance delta between the two is pretty small. Blame boost clocks on that one.
The LED lighting is another nice touch that brightens up any windowed case.
Overall I really liked the Zotac card and it is a great second impression for me considering I had only handled a sticker edition GTX 580 card from them in the past. Design, looks, and functionality are all very good here. The only real downsides are that the software utility is not very good and it is more expensive than reference or un-overclocked GTX 970s. The upside is of course really good out of the box performance, excellent cooling, and near silent operation even at load. I have no problem recommending this card to anyone in the market for one.