After numerous reports claiming that Nvidia GeForce GTX 970 graphics card cannot use more than 3.5GB of onboard memory, Nvidia Corp. updated the official specs of the graphics solution. Apparently, the difference between the GeForce GTX 970 and 980 is more significant than Nvidia originally said.
According to a report by PCPerspective, which cites Jonah Alben, senior vice president of GPU engineering at Nvidia, the GeForce GTX 970 features 56 raster operating pipelines (ROPs) and 1792KB L2 cache, not 64 ROPs and 2MB of cache, as previously reported. In a GeForce GTX 980, each block of L2/ROPs directly communicate through a 32-bit portion of the GM204 memory interface and then to a 512MB section of on-board memory. Since the model GTX 970 lacks part of L2 and ROPs, it cannot effectively use 512MB of 4096MB of onboard GDDR5 memory.
While the GeForce GTX 970 graphics cards do carry 4096MB of memory, it is divided into two pools: one pool is 3.5GB, whereas the second one is 0.5GB. The larger, primary pool is given priority and is then accessed in the expected pattern. Since the majority of games do not need more than 3.5GB of memory, no problems occur with the GTX 970. However, in cases when over 3.5GB of memory is required, things get much worse. The 0.5GB of memory in the second pool on the GTX 970 cards is slower than the 3.5GB of memory, but is faster than system memory accessed using the PCI Express bus. As a result, performance may degrade when the 0.5GB pool is used.
According to Nvidia, the rather tricky memory sub-system of the GeForce GTX 970 does not negatively affect performance of the board in the majority of cases. While there might be specific instances where performance drops are more severe because of this memory hierarchy design, in the vast majority of cases everything should be fine.
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KitGuru Says: It is completely unclear why Nvidia decided to advertise 64 ROPs and 4GB of memory for the GeForce GTX 970. The scandal with incorrect specifications clearly affects Nvidia’s reputation in a negative way.