The Nvidia GTX 970 is an outdated graphics card, but it still holds its value in low-budget to mid-range gaming builds. Even today, you can game at 1080′ 60fps settings on a GTX 970 if you pair it with a powerful CPU.
Good thing is, both the Intel and AMD CPUs are highly compatible with a GTX 970 graphics card. The GTX 970 comes with a lower VRAM, so you have to be careful in picking a CPU to avoid any bottlenecking and FPS loss in games.
Going with the high-end Intel and AMD processors would be overkill for an old GPU like GTX 970 and may result in a bottleneck. Therefore, it’s better to stick with processors that can match the pace of a GTX 970 GPU, hence maximizing productivity in games and other workloads.
So, in this guide, we will focus on the best CPUs for GTX 970 graphics cards. In the end, we’ll make our recommendation regarding the processor that can give you the best value for your money.
|CPU||Bottleneck Percentage with GTX 970 at 1080p Gaming|
|AMD Ryzen 5 2600||8%|
|Intel Core i5-9600KF||0.80%|
|Intel Core i7-4790K||1.38%|
|Ryzen 5 1400||0.19%|
List of the Best Processors for GTX 970
Here are the highly recommended CPUs to consider:
Ryzen 5 2600 – Overall Best CPU to Pair with Nvidia GTX 970
Base Clock Speed: 3.4 GHz | Boost Clock Speed: 3.9 GHz | Cores/Threads: 6/12 | Socket: AM4 | TDP: 65 Watts
Reasons to Consider:
- Great overclocking potential
- Affordable price
- Better thermals and low TDP
We take our start from the AMD Ryzen 5 2600 CPU. This is one of the most affordable CPUs to pair with GTX 900 Series graphics cards.
Right out of the box, you can overclock this CPU up to 3.9 GHz using AMD’s stock CPU cooler. We’ve found this CPU similar in performance to a Core i7 8700K but with a bit less headroom for overclocking.
The thermodynamics in AMD 5 2600 is excellent as compared to other CPUs in this lineup. Even if you push the CPU to its higher speed limits, you won’t see a drastic increase in the temperature.
When overclocked at 3.8 GHz, the temps on Ryzen 5 2600 wobble around 50 to 60 Degrees Celsius. No doubt, with the stock cooler included in the box, there isn’t any need to spend extra cash on getting one.
In terms of raw performance, the Ryzen 5 2600 doesn’t let you down. Whether it’s about gaming or any other general workload tasks, this CPU won’t let you down.
We’ve paired this processor with GTX 970 chip and played a few titles like Far Cry 5, WoW, GTA V, Fortnite, etc. With all settings pushed to high, we got over 60fps most of the time.
All in all, the Ryzen 5 2600 is a great deal for gamers or content creators who are low on budget and need a powerful CPU with decent overclocking potential.
In benchmark tests, there is less than an 8% bottleneck between Ryzen 5 2600 and GTX 970 graphics cards as reported by pc-builds.
So you can expect minimal FPS loss while playing AAA titles. However, the GTX 970 comes with a lower 4GB video memory, you can expect a bit of drop-down in some modern AAA and Esports games.
Intel Core i5-9600KF – Best Value Processor for GTX 970 GPU
Base Clock Speed: 3.7 GHz | Boost Clock Speed: 4.6 GHz | Cores/Threads: 6/6 | Socket: LGA 1151 | TDP: 95 Watts
Reasons to Consider:
- Excellent single-threaded performance
- More headroom for overclocking
- Price to performance ratio
Intel’s 9th generation CPUs have given a tough time to the high-end from AMD in gaming. And the Core i5-9600KF lies in the same line-up with unbeatable single-core performance so far.
This is one of those Core i5’s that leave behind the traditional base clock speed from Intel and take a start from 3.7 GHz. There’s enough room for you to overclock this processor up to 4.6 GHz using a good AIO CPU cooler.
Although, it comes with a little bit less base clock speed as compared to AMD Ryzen 5 2600 on our list, but gives you enough room to overclock. Also, as compared to a Ryzen 5 2600, the i5-9600KF only has six threads.
However, when it comes to playing games on this CPU, you can expect it to perform way better than Ryzen 5 2600.
No doubt, Intel CPUs are great at per-core performance, and Intel i5-9600KF makes the most use of it to deliver unbeatable gaming performance when paired with mid-range GPU like GTX 970 from Nvidia.
As compared to Ryzen 5 2600, the Intel i5-9600KF has a TDP of 95W. Also, there’s no stock cooler in the box as you find with most AMD CPUs. Therefore, you have to opt for a reliable CPU cooler if you plan to overclock this processor.
Setting up this processor with GTX 970 will surely give you enough boost in performance while gaming. However, if you heavily deal with threaded workloads like rendering or compressing, then it’s better to go with an AMD CPU.
The Core i5-9600F is limited on threads and this will increase the output time in applications that demand more threads from a CPU.
Finally, pairing a Core i5-9600KF with GTX 970 gives you a 0.8% bottleneck at 1080p resolution which is nothing as compared to the 8% we got with Ryzen 5 2600.
This means you can play most AAA games at 1080p 60fps settings even if your stream your gameplay on YouTube or Twitch.
Intel Core i7-4790K – Powerful CPU to Set Up with GTX 970
Base Clock Speed: 4.0 GHz | Boost Clock Speed: 4.4 GHz | Cores/Threads: 4/8 | Socket: LGA 1150 | TDP: 88 Watts
Reasons to Consider:
- All cores clocked at 4 GHz
- Intel Virtualization Technology
The Intel Core i7-4790K is an old beast CPU made for older architecture GPUs like the GTX 970. There was a time when this was the most favorite processor of overclockers.
No doubt, the i7-4790K can be overclocked to extreme speeds by adopting the right overclocking methods.
This was a high-end processor from Intel from that era when Quad-core CPUs were the most expensive things to get for a gaming PC.
Now we have more powerful CPUs than the Core i7-4790K, but those cannot be the right fit for a GTX 970 as this processor is.
Right out of the box, you get a CPU with 4 powerful cores clocked at 4.0 GHz. And to be honest, these are the specs that are still hard to find in modern-day chips from Intel.
Higher base clock speed makes the i7-4790K a great contender in gaming along with GTX 970. And if the GTX 970 was not lower at VRAM, then an i7-4790K and GTX 970 would have been a lethal combo in the PC gaming world.
This CPU is a decent upgrade if you are coming up from a processor like i5 4690K. With a decent CPU cooler like Noctua NH D15, you can expect the temps on this CPU to peak around 75 Degrees Celsius under heavy workloads.
It’s a good CPU for gaming and working with applications like Blender, PS, Da Vinci, etc. The only thing that might put you in worry is the support for an older Z97 chipset. Yes, the Z97 motherboards are old enough now and aren’t easy to be found on online stores.
Pairing Core i7-4790K with GTX 970 results in a 1.38% bottleneck at 1080p settings. But surprisingly, if you push the settings to 1440p, the bottleneck lowers down to 0.17%.
This means that the Core i7-4790K gives you more performance if you push the settings higher up to 1440p.
However, this is only the case with 3 to 4 years old games only. With modern games, it’s better to stick with 1080p gettings to avoid losing frame rates.
AMD Ryzen 5 1400 – Cheap Processor for Nvidia GTX 900 Graphics Cards
Base Clock Speed: 3.2 GHz | Boost Clock Speed: 3.4 GHz | Cores/Threads: 4/8 | Socket: AM4 | TDP: 65 Watts
Reasons to Consider:
- Affordable price tag
- Enough cores to take care of light gaming and workloads
- Right value for the money
The Ryzen 5 1400 is one of the best CPUs to get if you are coming from the FX-Series to Ryzen platform. This processor is a great upgrade over the FX-Series CPUs. It’s a low-budget CPU to pair with older GPUs like the GTX 970 and 980.
We played and streamed PUBG on Ryzen 5 1400 paired with GTX 970 at 1080p 30fps and got an average of 75 fps.
With a base clock speed of 3.2 GHz, there’s very little room for overclocking this processor. So for extreme end gamers, this is a no-go CPU. But for newbies, this might be the right CPU to build their first low-budget gaming PC.
Also, the price difference between this CPU and the ones in Ryzen 2000 Series is not that much. The Ryzen 5 1400 costs a bit less than $200, whereas the Ryzen 5 2600 comes a bit over the $200 price tag.
But spending a bit more cash gives you 2 extra cores and 12 threads. But even with 4 cores and 8 threads, the Ryzen 5 1400 gives you enough juice to handle modern games at 1080p settings.
If you are building a gaming PC for the first time, then Ryzen 5 1400 gives you the best value for your investment.
This CPU has a lower TDP of 65W, which means it will produce less heat under a heavy workload. Therefore, you can opt for a low-budget CPU cooler as well to cool down this CPU.
Finally, at 1080p settings, you can expect a 0.19% bottleneck when paired with a GTX 970 GPU. This shows that the Ryzen 5 1400 is the most compatible CPU to install with GTX 970 graphics card if you are tight on budget.
Also, if we compare these values with other CPUs on our list, then Ryzen 5 1400 shows a very little to no bottleneck with GTX 970.
Finally, these were the best CPUs for GTX 970 if you want minimum bottleneck and higher frame rates in AAA games. The Ryzen 5 1400 has shown the optimal results so far with GTX 970 with a 0.19 bottleneck at 1080p game settings.
Also, the Ryzen 5 1400 is more affordable in price as compared to all other processors on the list. But if you want to scale the resolution up to 1440p, then it’s better to go with a strong processor like Core i7-4790K that shows good results at higher resolutions with a GTX 900 Series GPUs.