Yesterday, we wrote about the limited numbers of GTX 1080 and 1070 cards currently on the market and noted that users should wait to buy these cards until prices come back down to sane levels. Meanwhile, Nvidia’s higher-end Maxwell hardware has seen some significant price cuts since Pascal debuted — so much so that it may be worth considering some of these cards, depending on the prices you find.
The GTX 970 has fallen to as low as $ 239 on NewEgg, down from a pre-Pascal price of ~$ 320. Zotac currently has the least expensive GTX 970 on the market, but there are cards from Asus at nearly the same price. While AMD’s RX 480 is coming to market in the near-term future, the GTX 970 is still a formidable card at that price point — particularly if you’re already a Team Green fan, and especially if you already own one GTX 970 and are curious about using SLI. Nvidia will presumably release a Pascal-based GTX 1060, but we don’t know anything about that card’s specifications or price yet.
If you do opt for a GTX 970, be aware that the card’s split memory pool of 3.5GB+512MB makes it a good fit for games at 1440p or below. While it’s comparatively rare for the memory pool to cause issues in shipping titles, there have been some documented cases of unusual behavior when running in SLI mode at high resolutions and detail levels.
Next up, there’s the GTX 980, which is currently priced as low as $ 379. This, to be perfectly blunt, isn’t a very good deal. Users who already own one GTX 980 and want to add a second for SLI may benefit from grabbing the second card, since two GTX 980’s should generally outperform one GTX 1070, but you may be better off grabbing a used card off Ebay and saving even more money. As always, be aware that multi-GPU support can vary from game to game, though Nvidia’s implementations are usually pretty solid.
Given that the GTX 1070 is supposed to be a $ 379 card, I strongly recommend waiting for that GPU’s price to come down instead of buying a GTX 980.
Finally, there’s the GTX 980 Ti. At just $ 429 (and $ 409 with mail-in rebate), it’s cheaper than any GTX 1070 you can actually buy today (assuming you can find one), and better positioned than the GTX 980 with its 6GB RAM buffer. Setting aside the SLI question (again, adding a second GTX 980 Ti to your existing system will certainly outperform a single GTX 1070), should gamers consider opting for Nvidia’s last-gen, penultimate Maxwell GPU?
Maaaaaaaaybe, but it’s a pretty thin argument. At $ 330, the GTX 980 Ti would be a compelling GPU, but the $ 429 price point is higher than the GTX 1070 should be once things settle down. The gap between the 1070 and the 980 Ti isn’t huge — roughly 10% across all games and resolutions, according to Ars Technica — but the GTX 1070 offers better support for features like asynchronous compute and stronger overall DX12 performance, along with an 8GB frame buffer instead of 6GB. An overclocked GTX 980 Ti might obviate the GTX 1070’s 10% advantage, but the 1070 family is expected to overclock fairly well.
As of today, I’d say the GTX 970 is the strongest overall deal, followed by the GTX 980 Ti and the GTX 980. If you absolutely need a high-end GPU today or have an SLI rig, all three are worth consideration. Gamers willing to buy Team Red or Green depending on which one has the best overall price/performance ratio may want to wait for the upcoming debut of the AMD RX 480 before deciding to pull the trigger on the GTX 970, but if you’re a Team Green aficionado, it’s the most compelling of the post-price-cut cards.