NVIDIA GeForce GTX 950 Review: Affordable Maxwell For The Masses


For the purposes of this review, we got our hands on a pair of GeForce GTX 950 cards, the EVGA GeForce GTX 950 FTW and the ASUS STRIX GTX 950. As you’ll see, both of these puppies are custom and look nothing like the reference card pictured on the previous page, and both are factory overclocked as well.
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First up, we have the EVGA GeForce GTX 950 FTW. This card is outfitted with one of EVGA’s ACX 2.0 coolers, with durable double-ball bearing fans and an oversized, dense heatsink array, linked with a straight, copper heatpipe. The ACX 2.0 cooler is capable of keeping the GPU on the card roughly 20% cooler than reference designs and can also go silent, when the GPU is operating at under 60’C—during idle times or when the GPU isn’t under significant load, the fans in the cooler stop altogether.

Outputs on the EVGA GeForce GTX 950 FTW consist of a trio of DP 1.2 ports, a single HDMI port, and a DVI-I port. The card is a dual-slot design, and it features a rigid backplate, that not only adds strength to the card and helps dissipate additional heat, but also looks pretty darn good in our opinion.
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The EVGA GeForce GTX 950 FTW is packing 2GB of GDDR5 memory, clocked at an effective 6610MHz, and its GPU has a base clock of 1203MHz and boost clock of 1405MHz, increases of 17% and 18%, respectively, over NVIDIA’s reference specifications. The card requires a single 8-pin supplemental PCI Express power feed, and comes in at roughly 10.1” long. Another noteworthy feature is a dual BIOS switch. With the flip of a switch, the card can operate with its performance “FTW” BIOS or “dBi” BIOS that quiets the card down.
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EVGA packs a few goodies in with the GTX 950 FTW as well. Along with the card itself, you’ll find an EVGA poster, case badge, decals, a driver disk, and a couple of adapters in the box—a DVI to VGA adapter and a 6-pin to 8-pin power adapter.
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And here we have the ASUS STRIX GTX 950. Like EVGA’s offering, the ASUS STRIX GTX 950 is a custom card, packing a more capable cooler than NVIDIA’s reference design. The ASUS STRIX cooler is outfitted with a pair of “Wing-Blade” fans that can push more air at the edges than traditional fan designs, and a dense heatsink array linked by a pair of 8mm copper heatpipes that make direct contact with the GPU.
The ASUS STRIX cooler can also operate silently when the GPU is not under a significant load. When the GPU on the card is operating in the 61’C – 65’C range, the fans will completely spin down and not generate any noise.
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The GPU on the ASUS STRIX GTX 950 has a base clock of 1140MHz in gaming mode and 1165 in OC mode. And a boost clock of 1329 in gaming mode and 1355MHz in OC mode. The 2GB of memory on the card is clocked at an effective speed of 6610MHz. The mode of operation (gaming or OC) is selectable in the included GPU Tweak II utility that ASUS includes with the card.
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The ASUS STRIX GTX 950 is packing a pair of DVI outputs, an HDMI output, and a DP output. And the card is only 8.7” and requires a single 6-pin power feed.
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Included with the ASUS STRIX GTX 950 is a driver disk, some basic documentation, and a STRIX decal. ASUS also bundles a license for Xsplit Premium, but that’s going to lose a bit of luster when you read about some of the updates coming to NVIDIA’s GeForce Experience software.

New Features Coming With The GTX 950

NVIDIA is also introducing some new features with the GTX 950. As we mentioned in our intro, NVIDIA is targeting the GeForce GTX 950 at MOBA gamers. As such, NVIDIA has made some improvements that are designed to reduce latency in MOBAs, that can result is a significant reduction in response times

But the faster rendering provided by the GTX 950 isn’t the only responsiveness benefit compared to th versus older GPUs like that GTX 650, which the increased performance of the GTX 950 is also factored into the equation.

To explain the tweaks, we'll quote NVIDIA directly and offer up the short video above: "To improve performance, the entire graphics subsystem is pipelined. At the first stage of the pipeline, the game calculates the animation needed for the frame. From there the frame is passed through the DirectX pipeline, where multiple frames may be queued up before ultimately being rendered by the GPU...with the GTX 950 we no longer buffer multiple frames inside DirectX: instead of queuing two frames, we’ve reduced the number of prerendered frames to just one [with certain titles via GFE]. As a result of these changes, we’ve managed to reduce Dota 2 latency from 80 milliseconds in the GTX 650 down to 45 milliseconds with the GTX 950."

The video above shows how the reduced latency impacts responsiveness in-game. The feature NVIDIA references has been available in their driver for quite some time, and users can tweak the settings manually, but starting with the GTX 950, NVIDIA will be incorporating these tweaks into their GeForce Experience software, so users can benefit on a per-application basis, and alter the settings with a single click.

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