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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.


    NVidia is going to lose a fundamental building block of consumer trust if they remain silent on this issue. Not a healthy long-term strategy.

  • Timothy Lastovica

    Way too many factors here for me. On the side note Max, you can add yet another issue to the list for Maxwell. Check out some of the early reports of the 980m <– (the laptop version) having the same memory issue as the GTX 970.

  • wcg

    As an AMD and Nvidia video card owner, the list of issues mentioned for the GTX 970 pale in comparison to many game performance issues with AMD cards. This is not an AMD issue in many cases but many new releases run poorly on AMD hardware due to specific optimizations deals with Nvidia. (I’m looking at you Dying Light…)

  • Guest

    I have a GTX 970 on the way from amazon. I was aware of the issue with the vram but it still seemed like an excellent price for the performance. Coming from an HD 6950 toxic I will probably see a performance increase even if playing a game that has issues with the card but I guess we’ll see…

  • Ben Kuyt

    You’re 100% right, it isn’t, especially when their competition seems to take jabs at them whenever they can while still trying to be as open and honest with customers as possible. I flip flop between Nvidia and AMD a lot, but man does AMD win when it comes to appreciating their customers. I think Nvidia has had it too good the last few years, they should stop harming their user base.

  • d0x360

    Yes they are. I have a 5ish year old gaming laptop. It served me well but due to the under powered consoles I’m looking to build a really nice rig with a budget around $3000. I was eying sli 980gtx’s or 990s if they are out in time. Now though… I’m seriously considering the new ati card that is expected to be unveiled soon. Its an absolute beast. I forget the name unfortunately or I’d link it but its supposed to offer mind blowing performance.

    After all these issues with this series from nvidia the chances of me buying one let alone 2 have gone from 100% to about 0%. I can live without GameWorks exclusive features just fine especially if it means I’ll get a card that works from a company that doesn’t ignore its user base.

    Yes nvidia usually holds the performance crown but AMD is a more consumer centric company who works their asses off to deliver a quality product. Nvidia has become complacent in that arena and it shows.

  • d0x360

    That’s due to nvidia GameWorks which is an anti competitive package of visual effects. Usually AMD has driver updates to fix the issues pretty quickly. Nvidia closes off all their advanced features meanwhile AMD shares them with everyone including nvidia. That’s a very pro consumer stance and I support that enough that I’m willing to deal with lower performance for a few weeks while waiting for driver updates.

    Nvidia has become a monster and only consumers can put an end to it.

  • Malcolm_Ecks

    To be fair to Nvidia, though they don’t deserve it at all, a bunch of the games listed here were pretty poorly optimized console ports. Even still, this is a problem that could harm future game releases as the ability for games to use 4 GB VRAM becomes more common.