Gigabyte gtx 960 4gb review: Gigabyte G1 Gaming GeForce GTX 960 4GB Review (Page 4 of 13)

Nvidia GeForce GTX 960 review

UPDATE 18/10/15 12:20pm: We’ve now had the opportunity to review both 2GB and 4GB versions of the GeForce GTX 960, where we compare them with AMD’s updated rival, the R9 390 — also available in 2GB/4GB SKUs. Check out this new review for a more recent take on Nvidia’s 1080p ‘sweet spot’ hardware.

Original story: Nvidia’s GeForce GTX 970 took no prisoners, reshaping the high-end desktop graphics market by outperforming both AMD’s R9 290 and its top-end 290X, brutally under-cutting both with an excellent price-point. Its only drawback? At around £250, the value on offer was — and is — tremendous, but that’s still a hefty outlay for a graphics card, its charms remaining out of reach for the majority of PC gamers. All eyes were on Nvidia to deliver the same kind of seismic shift to the GPU market at the £150-£180 sweet spot.

The bad news? GTX 960 doesn’t offer the same kind of mindboggling value as its pricier sibling. The good news? It’s keenly priced for its position in the marketplace, offering competitive — though not exactly spectacular — performance. Despite its lack of a killer edge, the GTX 960 shouldn’t be written off — it has charms of its own that AMD cannot offer, particularly in terms of power efficiency. With a 120W TDP and a relatively meagre power draw, this card runs cooler and quieter than its competition, draining far less juice from the mains. Even running in concert with an overclocked Core i7 CPU, total system power consumption is still under 200W — a remarkable achievement.

The arrival of the GTX 960 sees the debut of a new mid-range graphics core based on the Maxwell architecture, dubbed GM206, fabricated on the existing, mature 28nm process and featuring eight SMM CUDA core clusters for a total of 1024 processors. That’s up against 2048 cores in the top-end GTX 980, and 1664 found in the GTX 970. ROPs are pared back from 64 to 32, while the memory interface is compromised too — there’s a 128-bit interface here as opposed to the 256-bit version found in the higher-end cards.

Memory bandwidth is the key concern then, owing to the constricted interface. Nvidia’s solution? To begin with, it’s using top-end 7gbps GDDR5 modules — pretty much the fastest RAM the firm has access to. On top of that, the second-gen Maxwell memory compression interface is in full effect, with Nvidia offering a notional 9.3gbps throughput as data between GPU and RAM is compressed and decompressed on the fly.

The GTX 960’s clock-speeds are broadly comparable to its bigger brothers, with core clock running at 1126MHz, boosting up to 1178MHz if thermal headroom allows (and it almost certainly will). Nvidia reckons that the new card is a bit of an overclocking monster, and to that end, many of the 960s reaching the market are factory overclocked out of the box. Our review unit — an MSI GTX 960 Gaming 2G — actually has 100MHz of extra clock-speed added as standard, and there’s additional OC headroom on top of that, with Nvidia stating that 1450MHz is achievable with ease, with no fan speed or voltage increases required.



  • Order the GTX 960 2GB from Amazon with free shipping

Kicking off our performance testing, we turn to our ‘go to’ game for hardware stress-testing — Crytek’s Crysis 3, running on our new test system featuring a Core i4 4790K running at 4.6GHz, working in combination with 16GB of DDR3 RAM operating at 1600MHz. A fully updated Windows 8.1 is our base operating system, running from a 512GB Crucial MX100 SSD. Our aim with Crysis 3 is to play the game at as close to a locked 1080p60 as possible with v-sync engaged, matching the most popular gaming PC monitor resolution and refresh rate used by gamers today. In order to do this, we need to run Crysis 3 at the high quality settings, one notch down from the maxed out very high we used in our GTX 970 and GTX 980 testing, but otherwise identical.

Stacked up against Nvidia’s new card are its two AMD competitors in the same price segment — the recent Radeon R9 285, a 2GB card with a 256-bit memory bus based on the new Tonga architecture, and the older (but arguably more desirable) Radeon R9 280, effectively a rebadged Radeon HD 7950, a definite ‘oldie but goodie’ in GPU terms, based on the Tahiti design with its mammoth 384-bit memory interface and 3GB of onboard RAM. AMD’s newer card is faster in some benchmarks but not remarkably so, and in the age of PS4 and Xbox One’s unified RAM set-ups, the more GDDR5 memory you have the better, making the cheaper R9 280 our preferable buy out of the two AMD products tested here.

Despite its smaller memory bus and massively reduced power consumption, the GTX 960 is clearly competitive with its AMD rivals, but unlike the GTX 970, there is no conclusive ‘winner’ in our three-way face-off in terms of the overall quality of the gameplay experience. Looking at the metrics reveals that the 960 wins in terms of the fewest number of dropped frames overall, but the numbers between all three contenders are very close to the point where we suspect we’re well within the margin of error. We’ll need to go deeper to separate these offerings.

Crysis 3 running at 1080p on high settings with very high quality textures in concert with v-sync and SMAA T2X anti-aliasing. Here we’re attempting to run an extremely demanding game with resolution and refresh rate matched to the most popular monitors used for gaming today. None of our tested cards can claim outright victory here and the overall experience is much of a muchness.

Crysis 3 1080p60/V-Sync Gameplay GTX 960 R9 280 R9 285
Lowest Frame-Rate 40fps 40fps 38fps
Dropped Frames (from 18650 total) 689 (3.7%) 840 (4.5%) 724 (3.9%)

Buy the graphics cards tested on this page from Amazon with free shipping:

  • AMD Radeon R9 280 3GB
  • AMD Radeon R9 285 2GB
  • Nvidia GeForce GTX 760 2GB

This brings us quite nicely to our revised 2015 gaming benchmark suite — a new series of tests that retains a few old favourites, but concentrates mostly on modern titles that are built from the ground up with DirectX 11 in mind. We carry out all of our testing using Nvidia’s FCAT tool, individually marking every single frame displayed on-screen with a coloured border. We capture everything, using our own frame-rate analysis software to scan through the FCAT mark-up, giving definitive results. This allows us to present all of our benchmarking data to you via the videos below. Not only do you get metrics for every single frame captured, you get the context too — you see what’s being analysed.

Joining the three cards used for our Crysis testing, we also have another comparison point — Nvidia’s outgoing GTX 760, the card that is effectively replaced with by the GTX 960. This presents an intriguing series of data points: usually we are comparing multiple cards based on the same architecture. Here we’re seeing AMD’s GCN 1.0 in Tahiti take on GCN 1.2 in Tonga, while from Nvidia, the new Maxwell architecture challenges the firm’s outgoing Kepler technology.

We’re going to see some fascinating results here, as we kick off with 1080p testing at max settings (though we have disabled super-sampling where appropriate, favouring post-process anti-aliasing elsewhere — except in Battlefield 4). To add some further spice to the mix, we’ve also overclocked the GTX 960 and included our results. The MSI card already has a factory overclock, but we were still able to add 160MHz to the core, and a healthy 700MHz to the RAM. That still seems a little low compared to the claims made for the card’s overclockability, but it clearly makes a difference. It’s worth pointing out that the GTX 760 is a reference design, and not overclocked at all — this explains its lowly scores to a certain extent, though even if all of our tested cards were running at stock clocks, it would still be the weakest of the bunch.

1080p is the most popular gaming resolution — here we run a suite of demanding benchmarks at maximum settings to see what this graphics card is capable of. All benchmarks are produced using FCAT — you get the at-a-glance averages below, but the video shows you how each featured GPU performs on a frame-by-frame basis.

1920×1080 (1080p) GTX 960 GTX 960 (OC) GTX 760 R9 280 R9 285
Battlefield 4, Ultra, 4x MSAA 48. 6 54.6 44.0 41.0 45.2
Crysis 3, Very High, SMAA 47.0 50.9 44.1 46.0 49.7
Assassin’s Creed Unity, High, FXAA 43.0 47.7 32.3 41.7 32.9
Far Cry 4, Ultra, SMAA 50.8 56.5 41.8 56.3 53.9
COD Advanced Warfare, Max, SMAA 86.4 96.9 61.0 68.2 74.4
Ryse: Son of Rome, High, SMAA 42.2 47.0 33.4 42.4 46.8
Shadow of Mordor, Ultra, Medium Textures, no SSAA 53.2 59.1 49.8 49.6 62.2
Tomb Raider, Ultimate, FXAA 65.7 73.1 54.4 52.4 59.3
Metro Last Light Redux, Max, no SSAA 51.5 47.5 42.3 52. 3 52.7

Sledgehammer’s new Call of Duty engine produces very good results on Maxwell — moving performance a step beyond both of AMD’s cards and wiping out the old GTX 760. However, the new Lithtech engine in Shadow of Mordor shows a significant performance boost on the AMD cards, at the expense of both Maxwell and Kepler — a similar state of affairs seen in Far Cry 4. Meanwhile, our new star attraction — Assassin’s Creed Unity — produces the best results on the GTX 960, but the old R9 280 is very competitive, while the newer R9 285 suffers badly. What’s interesting to note is that in all cases, Maxwell is a clear winner over its predecessor. However, the same cannot be said for the R9 285 — its predecessor actually beats it in some tests and offers ballpark performance in others. Bearing in mind that the R9 285 has less RAM than its processor, and is around £30 cheaper, that’s definitely food for thought.

What’s clear though is that while the Kepler-powered GTX 760 is left in the dust, AMD’s offerings clearly are in the mix. Of the nine titles tested, there are wins for the GTX 960 in just four titles (ACU, COD, Tomb Raider, BF4), while the R9 285 wins four (Crysis 3, Metro Redux, Shadow of Mordor, Ryse) and the R9 280 emerges triumphant on Far Cry 4. However, there’s plenty of devil in the detail, and in our videos — showing the benching process in context — you can see that in several cases, different scenes favour different architectures. Most of the other results show much of a muchness between the three cards, with only minor differences evident that are unlikely to be noticeable during play. What is curious is the appearance of obtrusive stuttering on the R9 285 on Assassin’s Creed Unity — crippling performance in a way we don’t see on the R9 280. We’ve run this test several times over with identical results.

Moving on to 2560×1440 testing on the same settings, frame-rates drop significantly — as you would expect with a 77 per cent increase in pixel-count. In many cases, presets require lowering to get good, playable, consistent performance, but it’s interesting to note that that the distribution of ‘wins’ for each card varies in this second round of testing. The 384-bit memory bus of the R9 280 brute-forces its way to victory in Assassin’s Creed Unity (beating the GTX 960), also besting the R9 285 in Metro Redux and Ryse. To be honest, we’d recommend moving up to an R9 290 or GTX 970 for 2560×1440 gaming — but with appropriate settings tweaks, the cards tested here can still deliver playable, very attractive results.

At 2560×1440, the demands on the GPU increase significantly over 1080p. Significant adjustments downwards on the quality presets of several titles are required to get what we’d consider good, playable performance.

2560×1440 (1440p) GTX 960 GTX 960 (OC) GTX 760 R9 280 R9 285
Battlefield 4, Ultra, 4x MSAA 29.7 31.0 29.4 28.0 30.1
Crysis 3, Very High, SMAA 28.4 31.6 26.8 29.7 30.8
Assassin’s Creed Unity, High, FXAA 23. 8 26.3 21.1 28.2 22.6
Far Cry 4, Ultra, SMAA 35.0 39.1 29.2 40.7 48.8
COD Advanced Warfare, Max, SMAA 62.3 69.5 49.5 61.4 57.8
Ryse: Son of Rome, High, SMAA 29.9 33.3 24.0 36.7 32.8
Shadow of Mordor, Ultra, Medium Textures, no SSAA 37.0 41.4 35.0 43.9 45.2
Tomb Raider, Ultimate, FXAA 42.7 47.6 35.7 42.0 41.0
Metro Last Light Redux, Max, no SSAA 31.0 34.6 26.5 33.2 32.3

The story so far is pretty straightforward — while AMD and Nvidia have particular games that suit their particular hardware architectures resulting in benchmark ‘wins’, the GTX 960, R9 280 and R9 285 offer very similar capabilities overall. Crysis 3 is an interesting case in point — according to the raw benchmark runs, the Crytek game is ‘better’ on an R9 285, but going back to our original gameplay comparison, there’s very little difference between all three cards and we’d be happy to play the game on any of them.

What the GTX 960 requires is a differentiating factor or two, and thanks to the Maxwell architecture, it has at least one — power consumption. Looking at peak draw from the wall, the GTX 960 is competitive with the Radeon cards from a performance standpoint, but absolutely annihilates them in terms of efficiency. The more powerful GTX 970 manages to draw 100W less than its AMD competitors at peak load, and remarkably, the GTX 960 almost manages to achieve the same trick at the lower end of the GPU scale.

The implications here are obvious. The GTX 960 saves you money in the long term (admittedly this is probably not the number one consideration for a PC gaming enthusiast) but in the here and now you’re getting a cool, whisper-quiet, relatively potent GPU that’s equally at home in a small form-factor gaming PC with a low wattage power supply as it is in a standard desktop chassis. The GTX 960 is so power efficient that, even when overclocked, it’s still way ahead of the AMD cards in terms of power consumption, handily beating the GTX 760 in the process.

We use the demanding Metro Last Light Redux benchmarking sequence running on a loop to discern power consumption for our GPUs. CPU overclocking is turned off as clock-speed spikes can see huge increases in power draw.

GTX 960 GTX 960 (OC) GTX 760 R9 280 R9 285
Peak System Power Draw 178W 197W 234W 267W 255W

And efficiency isn’t just a matter of hardware, it’s about the software too — something that is all too readily overlooked. In producing this article, we’ve followed basic GPU benchmarking procedures used by virtually every hardware review publication. Put simply, you set up a powerful PC with the fastest processor available, eliminate the CPU as an overhead while at the same time ramping up the quality settings. What is left is GPU performance in its purest form, and from there a hierarchy of ‘which graphics card is better than the next’ is produced. This is all well and good, but the reality is that it also eliminates the GPU driver as an overhead — and as we’ll see, this appears to be a very important component for a certain level of gaming PC. We’d say that this kind of way of assessing graphics performance isn’t really a problem in scenarios where GPUs are likely to be paired with powerful quad-core Intel CPUs or better. However, in the entry-level and mainstream segments, that assumption cannot be made.

In our recent Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare PC performance testing, we noted that while the established GPU hierarchy was maintained with a Core i7 powering the show, R9 280 performance fell off a cliff when paired with a dual-core i3 — something that didn’t happen with Nvidia’s GTX 760. At the time, we put it down as a one-off and contacted both AMD and Sledgehammer Games with our findings in the hope that a solution would be forthcoming (right now, nothing has changed). However, we noted something very similar in our recent testing of The Crew. Pair a Core i5 quad-core CPU with an R9 270X or R9 280, and it’s possible to enjoy 1080p60 gameplay. However, in complex environments, the same GPUs produce big performance drops when paired with the Core i3. Once again, the GTX 760 emerges without a similar hit to performance, and it’s the same state of affairs with the GTX 960, as you’ll see below.

This topic still needs to be studied in depth, but the suggestion from these results is that — in some titles at least — GPU driver overhead is significantly higher on AMD cards, meaning that a more powerful CPU is required for the Radeons to maintain their competitiveness with the GeForce cards. This has fundamental implications for a certain section of the established graphics card hierarchy, where AMD typically dominates the value-orientated end of the market. There’s a sporting chance that these cards will not be paired with powerful CPUs, making the buying decision sway much more in favour of Nvidia — particularly with the GTX 960, where performance is so close to its rivals.



Overall, this is a topic that needs more exploration on a wider variety of CPUs. It’s not so easy to test because sequences need to be found that specifically target CPU load, and historically benchmarking runs concentrate very much on GPU performance. Our range of test processors is limited, but we have confirmed similar behaviour by lowering clocks and disabling two cores on an i7 on an entirely separate PC. In the here and now, we’d say that if you’re an i3 owner considering a graphics card upgrade, the established GPU hierarchy might not work for you in choosing the best possible product. To give some idea of the extent of the issue, this is the moment where a GTX 750 Ti outperforms a significantly more powerful R9 280 in Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare in gameplay conditions where 1080p60 at PS4 quality settings is the target.

While indications suggest that those with lower power CPUs may be better off with the Nvidia card even if the AMDs are notionally more powerful, a big disadvantage with the GTX 960 is its limited 2GB of GDDR5 memory (and remember the R9 280 is cheaper and has an extra gig of RAM). In the age of the new consoles with their vast pools of unified RAM, it’s essential that your PC GPU has as much video memory as possible. 2GB works fine on the majority of titles out there, but releases like Ryse: Son of Rome and Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare are already recommending that extra 1GB. Meanwhile, Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor’s high quality textures look considerably better than its medium equivalents, but you’ll need a 3GB GPU to use them without awful stutter creeping in to the gameplay experience. There’s even an optional texture pack that requires a mammoth 6GB of video RAM, though the advantages there are less apparent.

Right now, we’d say that a 2GB graphics card is fine for the majority of games. Even titles like Ryse and Call of Duty look virtually indistinguishable whether they’re running on a 2GB or 3GB card, despite the recommended specs. However, Shadow of Mordor shows us the future — and it’s looking somewhat blurry for GPUs with limited video RAM like the GTX 960, as you can see in the shots below. Assuming you have a decent CPU, AMD’s Radeon R9 280 looks like the most future-proof card out of the quartet of products tested for this feature.

PlayStation 4

Ultra Textures (6GB)

High Textures (3GB)

Medium Textures (2GB)Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor runs nicely on all of the GPUs tested in this piece. However, only the Radeon R9 280 has the 3GB of RAM necessary to equal texture quality found in the PS4 version of the game without incurring a crippling performance penalty. Ultra textures are limited to cards with 6GB of RAM, and to be honest, the increase in detail level isn’t that stunning at 1080p resolution.

Ultra Textures (6GB)

High Textures (3GB)

Medium Textures (2GB)Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor runs nicely on all of the GPUs tested in this piece. However, only the Radeon R9 280 has the 3GB of RAM necessary to equal texture quality found in the PS4 version of the game without incurring a crippling performance penalty. Ultra textures are limited to cards with 6GB of RAM, and to be honest, the increase in detail level isn’t that stunning at 1080p resolution.

Ultra Textures (6GB)

High Textures (3GB)

Medium Textures (2GB)Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor runs nicely on all of the GPUs tested in this piece. However, only the Radeon R9 280 has the 3GB of RAM necessary to equal texture quality found in the PS4 version of the game without incurring a crippling performance penalty. Ultra textures are limited to cards with 6GB of RAM, and to be honest, the increase in detail level isn’t that stunning at 1080p resolution.

Ultra Textures (6GB)

High Textures (3GB)

Medium Textures (2GB)Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor runs nicely on all of the GPUs tested in this piece. However, only the Radeon R9 280 has the 3GB of RAM necessary to equal texture quality found in the PS4 version of the game without incurring a crippling performance penalty. Ultra textures are limited to cards with 6GB of RAM, and to be honest, the increase in detail level isn’t that stunning at 1080p resolution.

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The GTX 960 is a solid, but not spectacular performer. Priced at £160/$199, it falls slap bang in the middle of AMD’s two offerings in the same price range. It runs some games better than its competitors, but falls short in others — sometimes significantly so in the case of Far Cry 4 and Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor. Generally speaking though, all three contenders do a similar job at similar price-points, assuming you’re running a PC with processing power equivalent to a quad-core Intel chip, or better.

However, while the GTX 960 fails to live up to the expectations generated by the sensational GTX 970, it has charms of its own. It’s more flexible than the AMD cards in the kind of systems it can be integrated with, and you don’t need to worry much (at all) about heat or noise. The AMD cards draw a lot more power, and you really need to choose a cooler design that’s quiet and efficient (for the record, the XFX R9 280 and the Gigabyte R9 285 we tested have really meaty cooling assemblies that do a fantastic job — and are quiet to boot). However, the £160/$199 market is enthusiast territory and while low power consumption is a nice thing to have, we’d venture to suggest that it’s not a primary reason behind a GPU purchase.

With that in mind, the GTX 960 is either a little under-powered or over-priced, depending on how you look at it — a surprising state of affairs as the GPU market still reverberates to the aftershock of the GTX 970 megaton Nvidia dropped at the end of last year. Given a 192-bit memory bus with 3GB of RAM, we can’t help but feel that Nvidia could have reshaped the so-called ‘sweet spot’ sector of the graphics market, but there’s a genuine sense that this card has been designed with financial considerations first and foremost in mind, rather than the needs of the gamer — the inclusion of just 2GB of RAM is the biggest misstep here in particular, just as it was for the Radeon R9 285.

The notion of a ‘sweet spot’ product offering lower quality textures than console versions of multi-platform titles just isn’t going to sit well with enthusiast gamers and while it’s not a huge problem now, we suspect it will be before the year is out as developers aim to extract more from the prodigious amounts of RAM offered by PS4 and Xbox One. In the meantime, the problem is compounded for Nvidia as AMD is offering a 3GB card that offers competitive performance with a £10-£20 saving. Overall, while there’s much to commend the GTX 960, there’s a feeling that there are just one or two compromises too many to make it a must-have product for the more budget-conscious PC gaming enthusiast. It’s a good effort capable of some sterling performance, but it could have been so much more.

Nvidia GeForce GTX 960: Maxwell In The Middle

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Filling the $200 Maxwell Gap

Once Nvidia introduced the GeForce GTX 970 for $330, it stuck the GeForce GTX 760 and 770 in no man’s land. The latter is far too expensive compared to this new card, while the former looks even worse up against the superior Radeon R9 285. Nvidia really needs some of that Maxwell magic between the $150 GeForce GTX 750 Ti and its $330 GeForce GTX 970. And that’s exactly what it’s doing today with the launch of GeForce GTX 960.

It feels like we’ve been waiting a long time for the GeForce GTX 760 replacement. Eleven months have passed since since Nvidia introduced its efficient Maxwell architecture alongside the mid-range GeForce GTX 750 series, and it replaced the high-end GeForce GTX 780 and 780 Ti with GeForce GTX 970 and 980 four months ago.

In the interim, GeForce GTX 760 struggled against the firepower of AMD’s Radeon R9 280 and 285. Can Nvidia’s value-conscious fans breathe easier with the arrival of an all-new GM206 GPU?

Rumors circulated that the GeForce GTX 960 would use a cut-down version of GM204, already familiar from the GeForce GTX 970 and 980. This isn’t the case, though. GM206 is a distinct piece of silicon, significantly smaller than GM204.

The GeForce GTX 960’s specifications add up to half of what a GeForce GTX 980 gives you: two Graphics Processing Clusters, eight Streaming Multiprocessors, 1024 CUDA cores, 256 load/store units, a 128-bit memory interface, 64 texture units, 32 ROPs, eight PolyMorph Engines, two render back-ends, two 64-bit memory controllers, and 1MB of L2 cache shared across the GPU.

Despite its smaller size, GM206 boasts the exact same improvements inherent to GM204. Each SMM has a 96KB chunk of shared address space for compute tasks, the L1/texture cache size is 24KB per two CUDA core processing blocks (48KB per SMM), and so on.

The GeForce GTX 960 runs at an 1126MHz base clock (similar to the GTX 980, by the way) with an 1178MHz-rated GPU Boost frequency (that’s 38MHz below the 980’s ceiling). It wields 2GB of GDDR5 memory set to 1750 MHz, yielding a 7GT/s data rate. But how does the GeForce GTX 960 compare to the GeForce GTX 760 it replaces and the Radeon R9 285 it’s poised to compete against?

Swipe to scroll horizontally

Header Cell — Column 0 GeForce GTX 760 GeForce GTX 960 Radeon R9 285
Shader Cores 1152 1024 1792
Texture Units 96 64 112
ROPs 32 32 32
Fabrication process 28nm 28nm 28nm
Core Clock 980/1033MHz 1126/1178MHz Up to 918MHz
Memory Clock 1502MHz GDDR5 1752MHz GDDR5 1375MHz GDDR5
Memory Bus 256-bit 128-bit 256-bit
Memory Bandwidth 192. 2GB/s 112.2GB/s 176GB/s
Idle/Max Thermal Design Power 170W 120W 190W
Power Connectors: 2 x 6-pin 1 x 6-pin 2 x 6-pin
Typical Price $220 to $275 (Newegg) $200(MSRP) $210 to $260(Newegg)

The elephant in the room is GeForce GTX 960’s 128-bit memory interface and 112.2GB/s of peak memory bandwidth. Both the GeForce GTX 760 getting replaced and Radeon R9 285 it’s destined to fight feature 256-bit memory interfaces enabling 192.2 and 176GB of theoretical bandwidth, respectively. Nvidia claims that the GeForce GTX 960’s third-generation color compression engine is efficient enough to make it competitive, despite less available bandwidth. And, based on what we’ve seen from the GeForce GTX 970 and 980, it probably is. There may be high-resolution settings where limited throughout could be a limiting factor though, and we’ll look for those in the benchmarks.

Something else to consider: the 960’s less complex memory interface might give Nvidia more flexibility to lower prices in the future. This probably has a lot to do with today’s estimated $200 price tag. For reference, the GeForce GTX 760 debuted at $250.

Now check out that TDP. Maxwell established itself as the most efficient desktop graphics architecture, and GeForce GTX 960 continues the trend. Its 120W ceiling is 50W lower than the GeForce GTX 760 it replaced and 70W below the Radeon R9 285. A single 6-pin PCIe power cable is all this card requires. Nvidia recommends a modest 450W power supply.

GeForce GTX 960 has fewer CUDA cores and texture units compared to the GeForce GTX 760, but that’s partially offset by a higher core clock rate. By now, we’re well aware that the Maxwell architecture does more with less, so we expect the GeForce GTX 960 to keep up with its predecessor and compete aggressively with the Radeon.

H.265 (HEVC) Video Decoding Engine

One advantage the GM206 GPU holds over GM204 is its new video engine. While the GeForce GTX 970 and 980 support H.265 (HEVC) video encoding, only the GeForce GTX 960 decodes this forward-looking format. The GeForce GTX 960 promises to be an excellent choice for home theater PCs with the ability to play back 4K video at low power, and natively supporting HDCP 2.2 content over HDMI 2.0. 

Otherwise, the GeForce GTX 960 ticks the same check-boxes as GeForce GTX 970 and 980, including DirectX 12 compatibility, VR Direct support, Voxel Global Illumination (VXGI), Multi-Frame Sampled Anti-Aliasing (MFAA) and Dynamic Super Resolution (DSR). For a refresher on those features, check out Nvidia GeForce GTX 970 And 980 Review: Maximum Maxwell.

Nvidia’s latest drivers add DSR support for not only Maxwell-based cards, but older Fermi and Kepler-based GeForce boards as well. While it isn’t especially useful in more demanding titles, DSR is an interesting option for folks who enjoy games with high frame rates. MOBAs like League of Legends and DOTA 2 fit this category, and DSR offers a way to increase graphical fidelity on a 1080p monitor.

We’re also keen to try out MFAA on the GeForce GTX 960. This feature wasn’t ready when the GeForce GTX 970 and 980 launched, but arrived last November in the 344.75 build. It’s just the kind of technology that might help compensate for low memory bandwidth, so it’s right up the GTX 960’s alley.

Nvidia didn’t supply reference cards to reviewers this time around, choosing to rely on board partners to provide hardware. We’ll look at the different flavors of GeForce GTX 960s being introduced at launch.

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Review and testing of the video card GIGABYTE GeForce GTX 960 WINDFORCE OC Page 1

::>Video cards


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It’s no surprise that GIGABYTE, one of NVIDIA’s largest partners, did not stand aside from the announcement of the new NVIDIA GeForce GTX 9 graphics card.60. She developed three of her own versions at once, which received modified cooling systems, factory overclocking, high-quality element base and a number of other very useful improvements. Recall that the key features of the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 960 model can be found in the Inno3D GeForce GTX 960 iChill Ultra review, as for the NVIDIA Maxwell microarchitecture and related technologies, a separate and very extensive material was devoted to them.

In the meantime, we will go directly to the review GIGABYTE GeForce GTX 960 WINDFORCE OC (GV-N960WF2OC-2GD) , traditionally starting it with a study of technical specifications.

GIGABYTE GeForce GTX 960 WINDFORCE OC Specification:




Graphics core

NVIDIA GM206 (Maxwell)

Number of universal shader processors (CUDA cores)


Supported APIs and Technologies

DirectX 12, OpenGL 4.4, NVIDIA GPU Boost 2.0, NVIDIA TXAA, NVIDIA FXAA, NVIDIA MFAA, NVIDIA Adaptive Vertical Sync, NVIDIA Surround, NVIDIA PhysX, NVIDIA 3D Vision, NVIDIA SLI, NVIDIA CUDA, NVIDIA GameWorks, NVIDIA GameStream

Base / dynamic frequency of the graphics core, MHz

1216 / 1279

Memory frequency (effective), MHz

1753 (7010)

Memory size, GB


Memory type


Memory bus width, bit


Memory bandwidth, GB/s

112. 2

Tire type

PCI Express 3.0 x16

Maximum resolution

Digital — up to 4096 x 2160

Analog — up to 2048 x 1536

Image output interfaces

1 x DVI-I

1 x DVI-D

1 x HDMI

3 x DisplayPort

Support for HDCP and HD video decoding


Minimum power supply unit, W


Additional PCIe power connectors

2 x 6-pin

Dimensions from the official website (according to measurements in our test laboratory), mm

257 x 114

(258 x 112)


Latest drivers can be downloaded from the GIGABYTE website or the GPU

manufacturer’s website

Manufacturer website


Tested modification of NVIDIA GeForce GTX 960 compares favorably not only with proprietary cooling system and modified set of video outputs, but also with factory overclocked graphics core from standard 1126 to 1216 MHz. Also, do not forget about the NVIDIA GPU Boost 2.0 technology, taking into account which the graphics core runs on average at a frequency of 1279MHz instead of the recommended 1178 MHz. But the video memory subsystem fully complies with the reference requirements: 2 GB GDDR5 with a 128-bit bus and an effective frequency of 7010 MHz.

Packaging and Contents

The GIGABYTE GV-N960WF2OC-2GD video accelerator comes in a compact and stylishly designed cardboard box. From the key information on the front side, we should highlight the support for the GIGABYTE WINDFORCE cooling system, as well as the fact that the new product belongs to the line of overclocked solutions at the factory (“OC Version”).

The back of the GIGABYTE GeForce GTX 960 WINDFORCE OC features the following key features:

  • Unique blade fan design — unique blade fan design reduces turbulence and allows airflow to more effectively dissipate heat from heatsinks ;
  • Direct Heat Pipe Touch – the WINDFORCE cooler compares favorably with the direct contact of the heat pipes with the graphics core through a small layer of thermal paste, which contributes to its more efficient cooling;
  • 0dB Semi-Passive Fan — thanks to this technology, the video card works absolutely silently at low loads, as the fans go into standby mode and the cooler operates in passive mode;
  • Flex Display — This technology allows you to automatically detect connected displays and easily organize the simultaneous operation of up to four panels.

The list of system requirements for the computer in which you plan to install the video card is also located on the back of the box. Based on the recommendations, the power supply in such a system should be at least 400 W and support two 6-pin PCIe power cables.

In addition to the Quick Start Guide, the GIGABYTE GV-N960WF2OC-2GD comes with two power adapters. In general, such a set can be safely described as sufficient, since it will help to correctly organize the power supply of the video card if the power supply does not have the necessary connectors.

To display an image on the tested novelty, a set of interfaces slightly different from the reference is provided:

  • 1 x DVI-I;
  • 1 x DVI-D;
  • 1 x HDMI;
  • 3 x DisplayPort.

The difference lies only in the presence of an additional DVI-D port, which will greatly simplify the connection of multiple monitors at the same time, since not all users will have multiple DisplayPort cables.

The following resolutions are supported:

  • digital — up to 4096 x 2160;
  • analog — up to 2048 x 1536.

Appearance and element base

For the production of GIGABYTE GeForce GTX 960 WINDFORCE OC, an original black printed circuit board with a standard on-board layout was used. The used element base corresponds to the concept of Ultra Durable VGA, that is, it is recruited exclusively from high-quality components: Japanese solid capacitors, ferrite core chokes and field-effect transistors with low open channel resistance (RDS (on)). Also note that the copper layers in the PCB are twice as thick, which reduces the overall electrical resistance and provides more efficient heat dissipation.

The novelty is powered by a reinforced eight-phase scheme (six phases for the GPU and two for the memory chips), while the reference version includes only five phases (four for the GPU and one for the video memory) .

The GPU power subsystem is implemented on the ON Semiconductor NCP81174 digital PWM controller manufactured by ON Semiconductor. According to the documentation, it is equipped with short circuit protection and is characterized by increased efficiency due to the support of the power saving function (PSI). At the same time, it supports a maximum of four power phases, which means that it could not do without doubling.

In addition to the PCI Express 3.0 x16 slot, the tested graphics adapter uses two 6-pin connectors to power the tested graphic adapter, although the reference version has only one. They are on the side of the board. Thanks to their good location, the cooler does not make it difficult to disconnect the PCIe cables.

The GIGABYTE GeForce GTX 960 WINDFORCE OC uses one connector to connect the corresponding bridge to provide NVIDIA SLI technology. It allows you to combine two video accelerators for joint calculation of graphic effects.

The reverse side of the novelty, in addition to the mounting screws of the cooling system, is notable for the PWM controller mentioned above, a number of electrical components and two of the four video memory chips.

The tested model is based on the NVIDIA GM206-300-A1 (Maxwell) graphics chip manufactured using the 28-nm process technology. It includes 1024 universal shader pipelines (CUDA cores in NVIDIA terminology), 32 rasterization units and 64 texture units. As we have already said, the video card is distinguished by factory overclocking of the graphics core, the operating frequencies of which were 1216 and 1279MHz for nominal and dynamic modes, respectively.

The memory of the tested video card, with a total volume of 2 GB, was collected using 4 Samsung K4G41325FC-HC28 chips with a capacity of 512 MB each. According to the documentation, their effective frequency is 7 GHz. The exchange of data between the GPU and memory is carried out through a 128-bit bus, which is capable of passing 112. 2 GB of information per second.

Cooling system

WINDFORCE 2X proprietary cooling system, in addition to a very discreet design, has quite reasonable dimensions that will allow you to easily install the new product in medium-sized cases. The video card with CO installed occupies two expansion slots and has a total length of 258mm (measured in our test lab).

The cooler itself consists of a heatsink assembled from 36 longitudinally arranged aluminum nickel-plated plates, as well as two fans with a blade diameter of 88 mm, mounted on a plastic casing, which covers the entire structure from above.

The turntables themselves use Power Logic PLA09215S12H propellers (12 V; 0.55 A; 6.6 W), which are built on a sliding bearing (Sleeve Bearing), which promises a low noise level during operation. Their traditional disadvantage is considered to be a shorter service life compared to other types of bearings. However, the inscription «Long life bearing» indicates that the manufacturer took this moment into account and took care of their longer period of operation.

Three 6 mm diameter copper heat pipes are used to improve heat transfer efficiency. Unfortunately, they are not covered with a layer of nickel, which prevents the oxidation of copper, which in the future may adversely affect the cooling efficiency. At the same time, the contact of heat pipes with a copper base and radiator fins is improved by solder.

This photo also clearly shows how the Direct Heat Pipe Touch technology works, according to which the heat pipes are in direct contact with the graphics core through a small layer of thermal paste.

A separate low-profile heatsink is responsible for cooling the FETs in the graphics core’s power subsystem.

With automatic fan speed control, in the maximum load mode, the graphics core heated up to 67 degrees, and the cooler, judging by the monitoring readings, worked at 34% of its maximum power. The noise level can be described as quiet.

In the maximum fan speed mode, the temperature of the GPU dropped to 49 degrees. The noise emitted at the same time exceeded the average level. It was not very comfortable for extended use.

When there is no load, the frequencies of the graphics core and memory are automatically reduced, which leads to lower power consumption and heat dissipation. The cooler in this mode, as mentioned above, operates absolutely silently, since the fans stop and the CO is switched to passive mode.

As you can see, the WINDFORCE 2X cooling system was able to cope with the cooling of the overclocked graphics core without any problems. In addition, it ensures low noise levels during everyday use.


MSI GTX 960 GAMING 4G video card review

GeForce GTX 960 series video cards are a very interesting option in the middle price category. Adapters of this class provide good gaming performance in modes up to Full HD inclusive. There are a lot of original models based on the GM206 chip. This is an excellent object for manufacturers to experiment with. Let’s see how MSI has improved its version by taking a closer look at the capabilities of the MSI GTX 960 GAMING 4G.


  • 1 Package Contents
  • 2 Design and Layout
  • 3 Operational
  • 4 Overclocking
  • 5 Performance

Package Contents

Video card comes in a bright colorful box. On the front panel there is a dragon profile — a large logo of the game series, the name of the graphic line and model.

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The adapter comes with a quick installation guide for the video card, a CD with drivers and software, a DVI to VGA (D-Sub) adapter, and a 6-pin to 8-pin adapter for connecting additional power.

Design and layout

GeForce GTX 960 is a mid-range graphics card that is very popular among users who are used to choosing the best solutions. Not surprisingly, only in the arsenal of MSI there are more than a dozen different modifications of this series. All of these are original versions, with the exception of one model with a reference design. The creative flight of the engineers of the Taiwanese manufacturer cannot be stopped, but it is very curious to look at the results of labor and evaluate their consumer qualities, nevertheless, the output products are extraordinary.

MSI GTX 960 GAMING 4G is a bright representative of the branded GeForce GTX 960 cohort. As you can see, the OS index is not explicitly indicated in the designation, which often implies factory overclocking. However, in itself, the belonging of the device to the GAMING series, as it were, obliges, therefore, it could not have done without regular tuning.

The base clock speed of the GPU is 1216 MHz with an average dynamic acceleration of 1279 MHz. The video card is equipped with 4 GB of GDDR5 memory running at the recommended 7012 MHz. The doubled amount of local RAM is reflected in the name of the model, so you can’t go wrong when choosing a specific adapter model.

The fifth generation of proprietary CO — Twin Frozr V is used to cool the video card. The development of this line of coolers already has a rich history.


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The cooler is based on a fairly massive radiator block, consisting of a set of aluminum plates. Three nickel-plated heat pipes are used to speed up heat transfer. Two of them have a diameter of 6 mm, one more — 8 mm.

A nickel-plated copper heat sink is used for even contact with the silicon die. The tubes are soldered to the plate to improve heat transfer. The radiator block is very massive. This is definitely an advantage of the video card, because even a potentially large dissipation area allows you to more effectively cope with heat dissipation.

An important element of the cooling system is a pair of 100 mm axial fans that blow through the radiator cassette. In addition to the increased dimensions, the fans are made using proprietary TORX technology.

Part of the blades has an original profile shape that allows you to increase the air flow and blowing area. How this will affect the effectiveness of CO, we will see during practical tests.

The cooling system is covered by a plastic composite casing with black and red elements.

MSI GTX 960 GAMING 4G has a long circuit board. At first glance, at least a third of the PCB area is not used very effectively — there are practically no elements on this part of the surface. But the apparent irrationality allows us to simplify the power wiring. In addition, the dimensions of the cooling system make it possible not to huddle on a small piece of textolite, because of this the video card will not become any more compact.

The GPU power stabilization subsystem includes 4 phases. An additional aluminum radiator is provided for power elements. The video card uses Samsung K4G41325FC-HC28 memory chips. According to the specification, they are declared to work at 7000 MHz. A total of 8 chips are involved, 4 on each side of the PCB. Additional cooling for microcircuits is not used in this case.

Provides one 8-pin connector on the top edge for additional power, instead of the 6-pin connector found on GeForce GTX 9 reference design adapters60. A connector with a large number of contacts allows you to increase the power transmitted from the PSU. In this case, taking into account the resources of the PCI Express slot, up to 225 W can be connected to the adapter, instead of 150 W, which would be available using a 6-pin connector. The system requirements recommended by manufacturers indicate that in order to assemble a system with the video card in question, a power supply unit with a power of 400 W or more is required, which is capable of providing a current of 42 A through the 12 V line).

Note that the power connector itself is rotated 180 degrees for easy connection of the power cable.

The total length of the graphics card is 270mm. For devices of the GeForce GTX 960 series, these are rather atypical dimensions; adapters of this line are often noticeably more compact. However, the dimensions of the device are not increased by chance, but with a very specific intent. In general, there should be no problems installing such an adapter in an average case, but if you are using the original case with a reduced chassis base length, it will not be out of place to make sure that there is enough space for installing the adapter.

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. It is not used to cool the elements, but it increases the strength of the structure, and also protects against possible mechanical damage. Well, what is there, adds attractiveness to the device. Especially considering the keeper of the gaming hearth displayed on the plate.

For additional rigidity of the adapter, a metal bracket is also used to connect the PCB and the interface panel.

For external decoration, the video card is equipped with a logo on the top edge of the cooler. The silhouette of the dragon is illuminated by a white LED.

In this case, several modes of operation of additional illumination are possible, which are configured in the proprietary MSI Gaming App.

The interface panel of the video card has five video outputs: DVI-I, three full-length Display Ports and one HDMI. If you suddenly need to connect a display device via an analog channel, you can use the DVI — VGA adapter that comes with the video card.



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All interface connectors are initially covered with red plastic caps to protect against dust. A practical trifle that complements the visual range.

Part of the interface panel is occupied by a grille for heated air outlet. In the case of axial fans, we can only talk about partial emission, but it’s definitely better than nothing.

In progress

MSI GTX 960 GAMING 4G supports Zero Frozr technology, which allows the cooling system to work in passive mode as long as the temperature of the GPU does not exceed 60 degrees. In idle mode, the CO fans stop, respectively, without making any noise.

In this case, the efficiency of a large radiator unit was enough to keep the GPU temperature within 38–42 degrees in an open bench (+24C). Actual values ​​will depend on environmental conditions, but the margin is all right here.

Initially, the manufacturer offers three operating modes of the video card, you can switch between them with one click in the MSI Gaming App. By default, the frequency formula corresponds to the Gaming Mode. In this case, the base frequency of the chip is 1216 MHz, and the average acceleration value is 1279 MHz.

Under load, the chip was boosted to 1291 MHz. This is not the most aggressive GPU Boost algorithm. Given the increased base value, one could count on higher frequencies.

As far as heat is concerned, the GPU temperature rose to 63 degrees. And this is at a fan speed of about 800 rpm. In this mode, it is quite difficult to hear the operation of the cooling system. In our case, the noise emitted by the video card was lost against the background of the low-speed fan of the processor cooler. That is, the video card at maximum load is very quiet. The fans stop when the temperature drops to 60 degrees. On the open stand, this could be observed even during the loading of the next game stage. Curiously, after the load, when the OS goes into passive mode, the GPU temperature continues to drop quite quickly. This is generally not typical for situations where there is not even the slightest additional airflow. Here, a large radiator does its job.

In OC Mode, the base clock speed of the GPU is increased to 1241 MHz, the auto overclocking average is increased to 1304 MHz. Memory chips also get a slight boost, their operating frequency rises to 7212 MHz.

The frequency increase is relatively small, therefore it does not actually affect the temperature regimes of the video card. That is, albeit small, but the increase in productivity goes virtually free. There is no reason not to use this particular mode as the main one. No need to deal with the intricacies of overclocking, just one click of the mouse.

In Silent Mode, the base clock frequency of the chip is reduced to 1126 MHz, and the average acceleration is reduced to 1190 MHz. The operating frequency of the memory does not change.

During the load phases, the actual GPU clock increased to 1202 MHz. The overall reduction in frequency actually did not affect either the temperature of the chip or the algorithm of the cooling system. We have the same 63 C and less than 800 rpm. The video card already works very quietly, so Silent Mode is simply not needed for the model in question.


During overclocking experiments, we increased the Power Limit parameter to 108%, increasing the graphics core voltage by 30 mV. After that, the base frequency of the GPU was increased to 1456 MHz.

Based on the recommended value for the reference GeForce GTX 960, the chip was accelerated by 29.3%. You can’t say bad for good. As tests showed, while GPU Boost was running, the core frequency was automatically increased up to 1543 MHz. Symbolic 1.5 GHz were easily overcome. As for memory chips, their operating frequency was increased to 7900 MHz (+12.7%). Also bread. The increase in memory bandwidth for the GTX 960 is shown anyway.

After overclocking, the load on the power subsystem increases, as does the GPU heating. However, in this case, the temperature of the graphics chip increased to only 65 degrees at its peak, while the fan speed did not exceed 900 rpm. The video card was still very quiet, so you can extract additional frames/c without any worries.


The capabilities of the GeForce GTX 960 as a whole are already well known to us and the balance of power in this price segment does not raise any particular questions. In the face-to-face confrontation with the Radeon R9 380, these are approximately equal rivals with a slight advantage of AMD’s solution. Therefore, considering the original model from MSI, we paid more attention to the readings of a particular device operating in various normal modes and after overclocking. Comparing peer-to-peer video cards, you often won’t see much difference in performance, so this time we decided to include the results of the GeForce GTX 750 Ti 2 GB. This is an entry-level gaming solution that will allow you to feel the difference in the capabilities of adapters of fundamentally different classes. The results are very revealing.

The GeForce GTX 960 allows you to boldly increase the quality of graphics in Full HD mode without fear of getting insufficient performance for a comfortable game. For the GTX 750 Ti, such settings are actually not available.

Average 20-30 fps is on the edge. With an adapter of this level, you will most likely have to focus only on medium quality settings. However, it must be said that the GeForce GTX 960 does not always cope with the most resource-intensive post-effects, but its margin of safety is much higher. Back to MSI GTX 960 GAMING 4G, we note that the video card can be used without any fear in OC Mode. The performance gain is not very big, but it is there and provides a couple of additional frames / s. If this does not seem enough, you can add another 10-15% by spending a little time on independent overclocking. Afterburner does not actually affect the temperature regime of the adapter, as well as the noise level.

Resolutions of 2560×1440/1600 often require even faster solutions, but it was also interesting to evaluate the situation in such modes for the video cards used. Without changing graphics settings even GTX 960 is already a little hard to cope with such modes, but there is much more room for maneuver here than in the case of the more affordable, but much slower GTX 750 Ti.

The extra memory at higher resolutions will be especially valuable. Recent games are more and more eager for this resource. So Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor on ultra settings ate all 4 GB without a twinge of conscience, Thief during the test scenario required more than 3 GB, Dying Light took 3.4 GB, the strategic Total War: Atilla bit off 2.8 GB and even Battlefield 4 in Ultra mode consumed almost 2.3 GB. This is to the question of whether it is worth looking towards video cards with 4 GB of memory on board.


ITC.UA score

Good performance; efficient cooling system; minimum noise level under load and passive cooling in idle mode; 4 GB memory; factory frequency tuning; good element base; protective metal plate; good potential for independent overclocking

Not the most aggressive auto-overclocking algorithm; price


MSI GTX 960 GAMING 4G is one of the best modifications in the line of GeForce GTX 960 video cards.