Our Summary and Conclusion
Performance Summary: The GeForce GTX 960’s performance was good overall, but it is not a class-leader versus competing offerings from AMD. The GeForce GTX 960’s closest competitor is the recently released Radeon HD 285. In many tests, the factory-overclocked EVGA and Asus GeForce GTX 960 cards we looked at, and Radeon HD 285, performed similarly. The Radeon HD 285 usually finished slightly ahead (3DMark and Heaven), though the GTX 960 did eek out a couple of victories (like Metro Last Light). In some cases where memory bandwidth was a larger factor, as is the case with Hitman, however, the Radeon HD 285 finished well out in front.
We tested with similar settings used for all of the cards, but NVIDIA is quick to point out that its new MFAA mode offers image quality similar to 4X MSAA, but with performance more in-line with 2X MSAA. NVIDIA likes MFAA so much, it’s enabling it by default in supporting titles through an addition to its GeForce Experience software. This is something to consider, because it would likely tip the performance scale more toward the GeForce GTX 960, without sacrificing much in terms of image quality.
Where the GeForce GTX 960 really shines though, is in terms of power consumption and noise. This is easily one of the most power efficient discrete desktop GPUs out there and both of the cards we tested were super quiet.
The Asus Strix GTX 960 DirectCU OC -- Find It And Other GTX 960s @ Amazon
The GeForce GTX 960 is an interesting proposition. Generally speaking, the card’s performance is very good. The GTX 960 would be great for gamers with a single 1080P display that want a cool and quiet graphics card and it would make for an excellent upgrade for gamers with GTX 660-class GPUs (or older). With that said, performance can sometimes be an issue due to the GPUs relatively narrow 128-bit memory interface. Despite the additional efficiencies afforded by NVIDIA's memory compression technology in Maxwell, and the card’s fast-GDDR5 memory, its effective memory bandwidth is significantly lower than cards like the GTX 760 or Radeon HD 285—and that can hinder performance with some workloads.
The GeForce GTX 960’s low-power characteristics, beefed up video engine, and overclocking headroom, in addition to support for technologies like NVIDIA’s Voxel Global Illumination (VXGI), Multi-Frame sampled AA (MFAA), Dynamic Super Resolution (DSR), and DX12, still make the card a compelling choice, however. Factor in pricing, which will range from about $199 for reference cards up to $209 for the Asus Strix GeForce GTX DirectCU II OC ($209 for EVGA’s offering as well) and the decision really boils down to what you’re looking for in a graphics card. At those prices, GeForce GTX 960 cards are affordable, but they won’t always be faster than similarly priced offerings from AMD. And for only a few more dollars, faster cards like the Radeon HD 280X are available. Cards like the 280X, however, consume much more power and are noticeably louder.
It would have been great had NVIDIA released a new mainstream GPU that was head and shoulders above competing offerings in its class in terms of price-vs-performance, that also happened to be as efficient, cool, and quiet as the new GeForce GTX 960. NVIDIA delivered on most of those fronts, but performance is nip-and-tuck in many scenarios. If framerates are your only concern, there are slightly more expensive cards that offer significantly more performance at the expense of power consumption and noise. However, if cool and quiet is what you’re after, the GeForce GTX 960 is a great choice.