NVIDIA GeForce GTX 950 Video Card RoundupThe NVIDIA GeForce GTX 900 series is without a doubt the the best selling desktop graphics card right now and the introduction of the GeForce GTX 950 last month at the $149 price point will only help solidify the sales dominance of the series. NVIDIA's GM206 'Maxwell' GPU with 1024 CUDA cores enabled delivers the performance needed for 1080P gaming on the GeForce GTX 950. The GM206 also features all the NVIDIA bells and whistles, so you'll find support for NVIDIA GameWorks, NVIDIA G-Sync, NVIDIA Surround, NVIDIA SLI, NVIDIA GPU Boost 2.0 technology and of course DirectX 12 support (API Feature Level 12_1) for those wanting to run Windows 10. This is the most feature rich video card ever released at the $149 price point, so its no wonder that gamers around the world are looking at the card for their next gaming system update. When we released our NVIDIA GeForce GTX 950 launch article we only had the ASUS GeForce GTX 950 STRIX Gaming 2GB to look at, but since then we've gotten cards from both EVGA and Zotac. It's been over a year since we've done a video card roundup, so we figured we give it a shot and see what happens. All of the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 950 video cards on the market are custom designed by the add-in board partners as no one released a card based off the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 950. That means when you go online pick out a GTX 950 to purchase you'll quickly discover that they are all different with respect to the board design, GPU cooler and even the clock speeds. The three cards we are looking at today are great examples of this as no two cards have identical clock speeds, power phase designs or even card lengths. Ironically, all three of these cards are priced at$169.99 after current rebates and promotions. We made a quick table to show you some of the key differences between the cards.
|GeForce GTX 950||ASUS GTX 950 STRIX||EVGA GTX 950 FTW||ZOTAC GTX 950 AMP!|
|GPU boost clock||1355MHz||1405MHz||1405MHz|
|GPU base clock||1165MHz||1203MHz||1203MHz|
|Texture Fillrate||55.92 GTexel/s||57.74 GTexel/s||57.74 GTexel/s|
|Memory clock||1653MHz (6612MHz)||1653MHz (6612MHz)||1755MHz (7020MHz)|
|Memory Bandwidth||105.8 GB/s||105.8 GB/s||112.3 GB/s|
|0dB Fanless Idle||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Street Price||$169.99||$179.99 (+$10 Rebate)||$169.99|
Closer Look - ASUS GTX 950 STRIX 2GBThe ASUS STRIX GTX950 DirectCU II OC 2GB video card features the usual black design with red accents and measures in at 220 x 125 x 40 mm in dimension. This makes the STRIX-GTX950 just 8.7-inches in length, so you shouldn't have any issues fitting inside your PC case. The STRIX GTX 950 has a 5-phase (4+1) Super Alloy II Power design that should give you plenty of smooth power and minimal choke noise. Up top you'll also see the two 8mm heatpipes that help transfer the heat from the GPU to the cooling fin arrays. The two wing-blade fans on the STRIX GTX 950 are 0db models, so they'll only spin up when the card reaches a certain operating temperature. Along the top edge of the ASUS STRIX GTX 950 you'll find a single NVIDIA SLI multi-GPU interconnect for those that might want to combine two of these cards together for even greater performance. On the other end of the top edge of the PCB there is the rear-facing 6-pin PCIe power connector. ASUS recommends at least a 350W power supply for their NVIDIA GeForce GTX 950 video card and that the +12V rail has a current rating of 24 Amps or higher. The ASUS GTX 950 STRIX 2GB video card does not come with a black back plate and we noticed that there are locations for more memory to be added, so it is possible that 4GB versions could be made down the road if there is market demand for such a card. ASUS went with three DisplayPort 1.2 outputs as well as single HDMI 2.0 and Dual-Link DVI-I when it comes to video outputs. ASUS includes a DVI to VGA adapter in the accessory bundle, so the STRIX-GTX950-DC2OC-2GD5 should be able to connect to pretty much any monitor that you own or that is coming out in the years ahead. It is nice to see some many DisplayPort connections as that it what you need to run NVIDIA G-Sync monitors and you can easily run a set of them out of the box with this card. Here you can make out the two 8mm thick heat pipes that make up the DirectCU II GPU cooler. These heat pipes make direct contact with the GPU to ensure the best possible heat transfer. The ASUS GTX 950 STRIX 2GB video card has the ability to run at different clock speeds, but you'll need to install ASUS GPU Tweak II software to set the mode. If you don't install ASUS GPU Tweak II software and just run the cards with the lastest NVIDIA GeForce drivers it will default to OC Mode clock speeds.
- Gaming Mode: 1140 MHz Base / 1239 MHz Boost
- OC Mode: 1165 MHz Base / 1355 MHz Boost
Closer Look - EVGA GTX 950 FTW 2GBNext up we have the EVGA GeForce GTX 950 FTW 2GB video card, which just happens to be the flagship GTX 950 card for EVGA. This card has the most extreme factory overclock of four GTX 950 models offered by EVGA and it has a slew of features that you won't find on other cards like features the ACX 2.0 GPU cooler, dual BIOS chips, 8-pin PCIe power connector, a beefy 6+2 power phase design and a backplate. This card is what we'd actually call overbuilt, but since it costs the same as the other cards it will be seen to some as offering the most features for the best price. The EVGA GeForce GTX 950 FTW is the longest card in the roundup at 256.5mm in length, but EVGA needed that length to include the largest GPU cooler in the group as well as the 8-phase (6+2) power design that should give you more than enough power for gaming and overclocking. The GPU cooler uses three copper heatpipes that help transfer the heat from the GPU to the two cooling fin arrays. The two double ball bearing fans on the card have are 0db models, so they'll only spin up when the card reaches a certain operating temperature. Along the top edge of the EVGA GeForce GTX 950 FTW you'll find a single NVIDIA SLI multi-GPU interconnect, front-facing 8-pin PCIe power connector and the switch for the cards two BIOS chips. With the 8-pin power design it means that this card can get 225 Watts of power from the system even though it's only got a total power draw of 125 Watts. EVGA suggests just a minimum of a 350 Watt power supply for proper operation, so you can see how this power design is likely total overkill. The EVGA GeForce GTX 950 FTW comes with a full coverage black back plate that is closely seated to the back of the card and should not interfere with memory slots or any other components located directly behind the primary PCIe slot. EVGA went with three DisplayPort 1.2 outputs as well as single HDMI 2.0 and one Dual-Link DVI-D header when it comes to video outputs. The EVGA GeForce GTX 950 FTW video card isn't the smallest of the three cards, but it has the most robust design features of the three cards that we are looking at today.
Closer Look - Zotac GTX 950 AMP! 2GBThe last card in our 3-way GTX 950 roundup is the ZOTAC GeForce GTX 950 AMP! Edition 2GB model that is sold under part number ZT-90603-10M. This card comes clocked at 1203 MHz base with a 1405 MHz boost clock on the 768 CUDA cores and the 2GB of GDDR5 memory is clocked at 7020 MHz effectively. This is the fastest of the three GeForce GTX 950 video cards offered by Zotac, so we are comparing the flagship cards from ASUS, EVGA and Zotac. The AMP! Edition has a nice look look to it and features a dual 90mm IceStorm GPU cooler with dual copper heat pipes that don't make direct contact with the Maxwell GPU. This card also has what Zotac calls a Carbon ExoArmor system. This means that the back plate that comes on the card wraps around the top, which is a bit unusual and adds to the visual appeal. This card is the shortest in the roundup at just 208mm in length. Since it's so tiny Zotac didn't have much PCB real estate for a ton of features, so it has just a four phase power design (3+1). Along the top edge of the GTX 950 AMP! there is a single NVIDIA SLI multi-GPU interconnect and a front-facing 6-pin PCIe power connector. The ZOTAC GeForce GTX 950 AMP! comes with a full coverage black back plate, but it sticks out further than the one being used by EVGA and actually hit the memory slots on our test system motherboard causing it to not work in the primary PCIe Gen 3.0 x16 slot. We had to use the secondary PCIe Gen 3.0 x16 slot for testing, which isn't a big deal for us, but might be on some system builds out there. The back plate on the GeForce GTX 950 AMP! Edition card sticks out 4mm past the PCB while the EVGA back plate only extends 2.75mm past the PCB. That extra 1.25mm of thickness on the back of the card kept it from being able to seat on the ASUS P9X79 WS motherboard that we use on our test system, so just a heads up that the ZOTAC backplate sticks out father than others. ZOTAC placed one DisplayPort 1.2, one HDMI 2.0 and two Dual-Link DVI headers on the rear panel of the card when it comes to video outputs.
Test SystemBefore we look at the numbers, let's take a brief look at the test system that was used. All testing was done using a fresh install of Windows 10 Pro 64-bit and benchmarks were completed on the desktop with no other software programs running. There has been some concern of people testing a cold card versus a hot card, but we've always done out testing 'hot' since the site started back more than a decade ago. Video Cards & Drivers used for testing:
- AMD CATALYST 15.8
- NVIDIA GeForce 355.82
Intel X79/LGA2011 PlatformThe Intel X79 platform that we used to test the all of the video cards was running the ASUS P9X79-E WS motherboard with BIOS 1704 that came out on 05/08/2015. We went with the Intel Core i7-4960X Ivy Bridge-E processor to power this platform as it is PCIe 3.0 certified, so all graphics cards are tested with PCI Express Gen 3 enabled. The Kingston HyperX 10th Anniversary 16GB 2400MHz quad channel memory kit was set to XMP Profile #2. This profile defaults to 2133MHz with 1.65v and 11-13-13-30 2T memory timings. The OCZ Vertex 460 240GB SSD was run with latest firmware available. A Corsair AX860i digital power supply provides clean power to the system and is also silent as the fan hardly ever spins up. This is critical to our testing as it lowers the ambient noise level of the room and gives us more accurate sound measurements. Here are the exact hardware components that we are using on our test system:
|The Intel X79 Test Platform|
|Processor||Intel Core i7-4960X|
ASUS P9X79-E WS
16GB Kingston 2133MHz
|Solid-State Drive||OCZ Vertex 460 240GB|
|Cooling||Intel TS13X (Asetek)|
|Power Supply||Corsair AX860i|
|Operating System||Windows 10 64-bit|
|Monitor||Sharp PN-K321 32" 4K|
Stock GeForce GTX 950 Performance, Noise, Heat and PowerWe've explored the performance of the GeForce GTX 950 extensively in a number of benchmarks and even look at its memory bandwidth in our initial launch article, so we'll forgo that level of in-depth testing and just take a quick look at the relative performance of these cards to see if anything stands out. We'll be using 3DMark Fire Strike and Battlefield 4 for our tests.
|GPU base clock (MHz)||GPU boost clock (MHz)||Memory speed (MHz)||Idle GPU Voltage||Load GPU Voltage||Gaming GPU clock (MHz)|
|ASUS GeForce GTX 950 STRIX 2GB||1165||1355||6612||0.862||1.200||1417.5|
|EVGA GeForce GTX 950 FTW 2GB||1203||1405||6612||0.850||1.193||1455.5|
|Zotac GeForce GTX 950 AMP! 2GB||1203||1405||7020||0.843||1.200||1442.8|
Battlefield 4Benchmark Results: In Battlefield 4 with Ultra settings at Full HD 1080P resolutions we found that all three video cards were very close with the Zotac GeForce GTX 950 AMP! Edition video card performing the fastest on average by just one tenth of a FPS thanks to the higher memory clock speeds. The differences here are too small to actually tell a difference when gaming though, so performance is basically a wash.
Benchmark Results: The 3DMark Fire Strike benchmark had the EVGA GeForce GTX 950 FTW leading in the GPU test, but again the Zotac GeForce GTX 950 AMP! and ASUS GeForce GTX 950 STRIX weren't too far behind.
Temperature & Noise TestingSince gaming performance is basically a wash one of the most important things when picking out a GeForce GTX 950 will be the noise, temperature and power consumption numbers and the temperatures and noise levels on these cards does vary greatly. ASUS GeForce GTX 950 STRIX 2GB Idle and Load Temps: EVGA GeForce GTX 950 FTW 2GB Idle and Load Temps: Zotac GeForce GTX 950 AMP! Edition 2GB Idle and Load Temps: When it comes to temperatures the Zotac GeForce GTX 950 AMP! and ASUS GeForce GTX 950 STRIX both topped out at 68C, but the fans on the Zotac card were running at 2300 RPM and the ASUS card was at just 1300 RPM, so there was a huge noise difference between the two cards. The EVGA GeForce GTX 950 FTW had the highest temperature of 71C, but the fans were running at just over 800 RPM and was the quietest of the bunch. At idle the ASUS and EVGA GTX 950 cards were around 40C, but the Zotac GeForce GTX 950 AMP! was much hotter at idle and was at 49C
We test noise levels with an Extech sound level meter that has ±1.5dB accuracy that meets Type 2 standards. This meter ranges from 35dB to 90dB on the low measurement range, which is perfect for us as our test room usually averages around 36dB. We measure the sound level two inches above the corner of the motherboard with 'A' frequency weighting. The microphone wind cover is used to make sure no wind is blowing across the microphone, which would seriously throw off the data.All of the cards have no fans spinning at idle, so the idle noise is the same on all of the cards. The only reason the system is above ambient noise levels is due to CPU's water cooler fans and pump noise. All of the cards two fans run while gaming and the ASUS GeForce GTX 950 STRIX and EVGA GeForce GTX 950 FTW were basically identical in regards to noise levels. The Zotac GeForce GTX 950 AMP! Edition card on the other hand was much louder than the other two cards and came in at roughly 45 dB versus the ~39.5 dB seen on the ASUS and EVGA cards. We didn't notice any choke noise while gaming on any of the cards. The reason the Zotac GeForce GTX 950 AMP! Edition card has what we feel is a poorly programmed fan profile for this card. When you launch a game the fan goes from being off to basically 100% for a split second before settling down to where it is supposed to be. It should be noted that this initial 'fan burst' put the card at over 2200 RPM and the noise level was slightly over 50 dB. We ignored this number for our gaming noise chart, but it needs to be pointed out. You go from dead silence to the fans screaming at 2200 RPM for a couple seconds and then it settles down to around 1700 RPM or 45 dB while playing game titles for extended periods of time. GTX 950 Power Consumption When it comes to power consumption all the cards were within 3 Watts and idle and load, so there is no significant difference between any of them despite the different clock speeds, fans an so on. Let's take a look at what happens when we overclock the cards.
Overclocked GeForce GTX 950 Performance, Noise, Heat and PowerWhen it comes to overclocking performance we used EVGA Precision X 16 to overclock the three NVIDIA GeForce GTX 950 cards by ASUS, EVGA and Zotac. We did not increase the voltage on the cards and left that alone. We did increase the power target to 128% on each card and then overclocked the core and memory as far as we could on each model before becoming unstable when gaming.
|GPU base clock (MHz)||GPU boost clock (MHz)||Memory speed (MHz)||Gaming GPU clock (MHz)||GPU clock offset (MHz)||Memory clock offset (MHz)|
|ASUS GeForce GTX 950 STRIX 2GB||1285||1475||8112||1537.7||+120||+750|
|EVGA GeForce GTX 950 FTW 2GB||1293||1495||7812||1544.9||+90||+600|
|Zotac GeForce GTX 950 AMP! 2GB||1303||1505||8420||1542.5||+100||+700|
Battlefield 4When it comes to overclocking performance the performance gaps between the cards are wider than stock with the Zotac GeForce GTX 950 Amp! still in the lead, but the ASUS GeForce GTX 950 STRIX is less than 1 FPS behind and the EVGA GeForce GTX 950 FTW is just shy of 2 FPS behind. By overclocking each of the cards we were able to get about a 11-16% performance boost from the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 950 cards! On synthetic benchmarks like 3DMark Fire Strike the GPU test score showed some nice gains were to be had from overclocking. Even though we didn't increase the core voltage the GTX950 cards used about 10-19 Watts more power, so that overclock will increase the peak power consumption by 4 to 8 percent.
|Stock Gaming Temp (C)||OC Gaming Temp (C)||Stock Fan Noise (dB)||OC Fan Noise (dB)||Stock Fan Noise (RPM)||OC Fan Noise (RPM)|
|ASUS GeForce GTX 950 STRIX 2GB||68||71||39.5||40.0||1266||1288|
|EVGA GeForce GTX 950 FTW 2GB||71||73||39.1||39.3||833||902|
|Zotac GeForce GTX 950 AMP! 2GB||68||70||45.2||47.3||1692||1865|