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I am about to buy a new gaming PC and, checking for specs, I initially I was going towards the GTX 970 when I learned of the 3.5 GB issue.

As far as I understand it, as long as my game does not use more than 3.5 GB, it will run smoothly but once that limit is passed, it will slow radically as it begins to use the slower 0.5GB chunk (the numbers I have seen suggest that it would go from extremely fluid play to unplayable almost instantaneously).

Most comments seems to agree that unless I play it at 4K or use mods to load high-res textures, usually I will have no issues with that.

Still, I am in doubt about upgrading towards a GTX 980; the price increase is considerable (~ 200€), the improved processing power would be welcomed but does not look like essential and, for the VRAM, the only difference is that those .5 GB are not slower.

So my question is: if I decide later to use lots of high-res textures/increase the resolution, how will the VRAM difference affect it?

  • Will performance degrade in a more progressive way (slowing progressively, or just losing details from the textures)?

  • Will the 980 behave just like the 970 (only that the 980 will have issues at 4GB instead of at 3.5GB)?

  • Will the game just crash if it tries to use more than 4GB of VRAM?

  • Other?

For me, 0.5 extra usable GB do not seem to be a lot for 200€(NVIDIA cards with 6GB are out of budget), but I may consider it if this means that the performance will degrade in a more progressive way when full.

I really do not have a favorite model for each GPU, but I have eyed this 970 (Gigabyte Gaming G1 Windforce OC) and this seems to be the equivalent 980.

Of course, if there is something wrong/not so good about those specific models I would be willing to change, I only chose the first one because it comes with the GTX 970 "preconfigured" PCs, and the second one because it was easier to compare differences with the first one.

  • Can you provide links to the models you're asking about? – Adam Oct 15 '15 at 23:07
  • @Adam done, though I really cannot tell the differences between those models and other with the same specs (only know that OC means overclocked). – SJuan76 Oct 15 '15 at 23:48
  • Have you considered the R9 390? It has greater performance than the GTX 970, and certainly no VRAM issues :P And you are correct, the 980 is not worth the money for an extra 0.5GB and a few CUDA cores. – Rubydesic Oct 17 '15 at 0:59
  • @RubyJunk Thanks for the tip... yes I thought about it, it is more or less the same price range than the 970 and obviously won't have VRAM issues. I'll check it again. – SJuan76 Oct 18 '15 at 0:31
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Yes, I agree that you should be in doubt about updating to a GTX 980. The card is not much different than the 970, and it is a lot more expensive.

GTX 970 vs. GTX 980:

Cores: 1664 vs. 2048
Base Clock: 1050Mhz vs. 1126Mhz
Texture Fill Rate: 109GT/s vs. 144GT/s
VRAM: 3.5GB vs. 4GB

EDIT:
And to answer your questions:

Q: Will the 980 behave just like the 970 (only that the 980 will have issues at 4GB instead of at 3.5GB)?

A: Yes. However, it does have a few more CUDA cores. This will result in a greater overall performance.


Q: Will the game just crash if it tries to use more than 4GB of VRAM?

A: I suppose so. Most games will try to regulate the amount of VRAM they use in accordance to how much you have. The reason the 3.5GB is an issue on the 970 is the fact that games think they can use all 4GB, and when they dip into that 'defective' 0.5GB, everything slows down.


Q: Will performance degrade in a more progressive way (slowing progressively, or just losing details from the textures)?

A: I don't really understand the question. If you play at 4k and use high res textures, the game will start lagging and your fps will go down, because they game does not have enough VRAM to hold all the information.

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  • 1
    This doesn't answer the question that was asked. – Mark Oct 17 '15 at 3:52
  • @Mark true. I wasn't sure where to put it. I will edit. – Rubydesic Oct 17 '15 at 19:24
  • 1
    Regardless of the downvotes, I believe this fully answers the questions. – Rubydesic Oct 23 '15 at 0:47
  • @Mark The issue is that my question was poorly worded; my actual question was a generic doubt (what happens when a game needs more memory than available VRAM -crash vs performance lost-) but I mixed it with thee 3.5 GB question. – SJuan76 Nov 4 '15 at 15:39

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