Some of you may have read my article on how I got a GTX 980 for $420. That is still a great deal, and even at prices where they are now, it continues to be a great deal! However, I just got another great deal on a GTX 970, and wanted to share how I got it...
Why Do You Need a GTX 970?
If I already have a GTX 980, why would I need a GTX 970? Well, the GTX 980 is my desktop baby. I do not plan on upgrading it anytime soon. And while I may be able to use a trick to get a GTX 970 and GTX 980 to work together in SLI, I could always use them together for DirectX 12 (DX12) games.
The problem with that is I am a Windows 7 user. I never upgraded to Windows 8 or Windows 8.1, and while Windows 10 seems pretty nice, I have found that certain programs that I use will only work up to Windows 7 or Windows 8.1. So, no, DX12 is not the reason I bought another graphics card.
The reason I did buy another graphics card is because I will soon be using it with my laptops. Laptops? Yes, laptops. There is a way to setup an external GPU, eGPU for short, but it is pointless if you can outperform it with your laptop. The eGPU setup can (and likely will) reduce the performance you would get if the graphics card was installed into a desktop, and for my laptops, it most definitely will.
I have one laptop with a GTX 680M, and another with a GT 650M. The GT 650M is nice, but it cannot handle games on ultra, or even high, settings. It can be overclocked, but it will still not catch up to my GTX 680M. The GTX 680M is claimed to be able to match the performance of a desktop GTX 660 Ti (if you are lucky enough to sustain an overclock that will do so), but it is more than likely capable of reaching the performance of a GTX 660 with some overclocking. My GTX680M is a special prototype, so it unfortunately cannot reach those levels of performance.
So, the question became, what graphics card would give me a substantial boost in performance over my GTX 680M. Getting a GTX 660 would be pointless for the little gains I would reap. Something like a GTX 680 or higher would be great, and probably cheap if I could find a good deal. But then there was something else I had yet to factor into this equation. The amount of power I needed. The eGPU setup can support enough power, but if I wanted to make it truly portable, I would need something that would stay below 220 watts (with 240 watts being my threshold). The reason as to why I will explain when I create my eGPU article...
Finding The One
Now, I had to consider not only a substantial performance boost over my GTX 680M, but also the amount of watts I would be able to push to the graphics card. There were opinions that a GTX 680 were possible, but there were other GPU's that would be better wattage-wise. Most of those--from older generations--would be much weaker than what my GTX 680M would do.
Fortunately, NVIDIA's Maxwell architecture is great on power efficiency, so I turned my attention to current GPU models. (AMD's Fiji architecture was never an option because even at similar levels of performance, their power efficiency is not even close to that of Maxwell's). I first toyed with the idea of a GTX 950, as it has a low price, does not require a lot of watts, and does okay in games. Would it be that much better than my GTX 680M though? The GTX 960 was a huge step up in terms of performance, a small yet sizeable increase in price, but still required low wattage. The GTX 970 and GTX 980 were (of course) much better performers, and still did not need a lot of power, but their prices were just too exorbitant for me.
I debated for a long time on what card to get, all the while repeatedly checking over prices and seeing what was the best deal. A great GTX 960 would be near over $200 and suit my needs, but I really wanted a GTX 970 or above. I checked several computer and tech forums, perusing through their classified sections. None of the prices were that good.
Unsure if I would find a deal, I started to weigh out getting a GTX 960 or a GTX 970. What would the pros and cons be? What was I gaining and what was I losing? My mind was not made up, but leaning towards a GTX 970, I decided to ponder my options.
If I could get a Mini ITX GTX 970, that would go great with an eGPU setup! Checking the prices, they were abnormally high, some being much higher than their "standard" counterparts. I wanted small, and small would be great, but if I did get a GTX 970, I might have to settle on something bigger than I had hoped for.
I then remembered that the "standard" ZOTAC GTX 970 was very small, not quite a Mini ITX small, but almost. It was also (arguably) a great card, and allowed for some special functions other vendors did not offer. So, I searched. But the prices all remained at $300, at best. Trying one more time to find a deal, I did one last search...
Most of my shopping for electronics is done through either Amazon or eBay, with the occasional purchase on NewEgg. Jet.com has been around a while, and although I have seen them pop up for items from time-to-time, I had never really considered them for anything since I had not used them.
When I did my final search for an inexpensive ZOTAC GTX 970, Jet.com appeared in the Google Shopping advertisements. It was (amazingly) priced at $280, at least $20 less than any other competitor I had seen! Yet, I was still unsure if I wanted to spend almost $300, which could be more after taxes and shipping, for a GTX 970. Wanting to check the total price, I clicked on the ad to find out more.
The first thing that I got was a prompt stating that I could save 15% on all items as a first time buyer, the only catch being you could only save up to $30. I figured why not see how low I could get the total price.
After signing up, I added the ZOTAC GTX 970 to my card and proceeded to checkout. I added the discount code, which thankfully added without issue. There was a small checkbox for free return shipping, which if unchecked would allow for more savings. It meant that if I did have to make a return (presumably because I did not want the product anymore) I would have to pay the return shipping. I decided that if I did want to get my money back, I would just sell it on eBay and see if I could make a bit more than I paid. I unchecked the box and proceeded to enter my credit card information. When I had finished the site stated that because I was using a Visa, I would get another small percentage knocked off my total price!
With all my savings, the total price ended up being just under $240! Of course I bought it immediately, and could not believe I had just picked up a GTX 970 for much less than $300. I spent more than I had initially aimed for, but got a card that could handle everything I would need it for (from a laptop).
I got the card within a few days and--without opening it--immediately registered it. If you buy a ZOTAC graphics card, and register it within 30 days of purchase, you will get a free year of warranty on top of the two years they already provide.
When the new generation of NVIDIA graphic cards come out, I am sure there will be some deep price slashes. But I am confident that I will still have made a good deal in comparison to these price cuts.
About 15 minutes after I had bought my ZOTAC GTX 970 from Jet.com, the price had jumped up to $310. A couple days later it went down to $300. A few days after that it was back to $280. At the moment, the price is back to $300...
On a different note, later I found an eBay auction for a used ZOTAC GTX 970. I watched it until the end, and the final price was still a good $15 more than what I paid! So, any assurance that I needed that I had got a great price was substantiated.
End of Transaction
This might be an opportune time to mention that I "bought" my GTX 980 used (with a transferable warranty), but the GTX 970 I bought was completely brand new!
I am always on the lookout for great deals, and this one was too good to pass up. If I am able to perform a hack to SLI my GTX 970 and GTX 980 together, I will probably not need another new graphics card for at least a couple of years. If not, I will likely sell off the GTX 970 after some time, replace it with my GTX 980 for the eGPU setup, and get something better for my desktop rig.