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Nvidia recently got a bit of a black eye over the VRAM issue with the GTX 970 graphics card. However some users have been reporting yet another problem on the GeForce forums. This appears to be a completely separate issue from the VRAM issue as there have been reports of the problem on the GTX 980 as well as the 970. The problem is low GPU usage, usually reported by users to be between 20-60%. This low GPU usage coincides with horrible framerate, sometimes dipping below 30 FPS, on games which should be running at 60+ FPS.

To make this problem even stranger, the issue is highly reported to occur while playing certain games, while in the majority of games the card perform exactly as it should. Low GPU usage from the 900 series has been reported on the GeForce forums from several users as far back as September, but the best source of information on this comes from a massive, 2000+ post thread started in October, which contains general discussion on the topic.

The issue is commonly reported to occur while playing games such as Ryse, Evil Within, Crysis 3, Shadow of Mordor, BattleField 4, and Skyrim, among others. However it seems nobody really has problems with all the games on the list. Many users only run into GPU problems with a couple games, while having no issues at all with the other games. And of course there are a large number of people with GTX 900 cards who have aren’t having this issue at all. There are even users with this problem posting that they have friends with identical rigs to their own, including the graphics card, who are not having the issue in any of the games.

A few posters have mentioned recently upgrading from older and less powerful cards such as the GTX 670. While the 970 greatly outperforms the 670 on most games, in a few specific games that are causing this issue, the 970 performs worse than the 670, they claim. This suggests something is seriously wrong with these cards. However it is very difficult to get to the bottom of what’s causing these issues when there are so many confounding variables to complicate matters.

Users have also suggested various solutions to solve the problem. One person upgraded from Windows 7 to 8, and says the issue is gone, while others still have the problem on Windows 8. Among the other solutions suggested, one person recommended uninstalling PhysX, which greatly improved framerate for some people. None of the solutions helped everyone. Given the huge variations in reports by users of the cards, this creates a suspicion that not everyone posting in the thread is dealing with the exact same problem, but several different problems which have similar effects.

Even months later, the thread discussing this continues to grow, and many users are still left with no working solution to their problem. Thus far Nvidia has not responded on this matter, but some people are hoping to force them to acknowledge the issue with a petition. The petition was started back in December, and just today passed the threshold of 500 supporters. While it is unfortunate for anyone to deal with these sorts of issues in a graphics card they payed hundreds of dollars for, the number of people reporting issues may simply be too small for Nvidia to care.

Do you think the graphics cards are to blame for these issues or is there some other explanation? How should Nvidia respond? Leave your comments below.

Max Michael

Senior Writer

I’m a technology reporter located near the Innovation District of Kitchener-Waterloo, Ontario.