The NVIDIA GTX 750Ti and the GTX 750 was our first introduction to the new Maxwell architecture, despite being a midrange offering. NVIDIA then introduced all of the top end Maxwell card and has now come full circle with the second generation Maxwell Midrange offering, the GTX 950 which slots in neatly between the GTX 750Ti and the GTX 960.
Specification of the Strix GTX 950 OC
The card has a ROP count of 32 and comes with 2GB of Samsung GDDR5 VRAM. Core clock is set to 1165MHz (~13.8% over stock clocks) with boost clock at 1355MHz. The VRAM is clocked at an effective 6612MHz.
The launch price for the Strix GTX 950 OC is ₹16,000 excluding taxes.
Build Quality and Packaging
Asus has packaged the Strix GTX 950 OC in a cardboard container with Strix branding inside a simple Black and Red box. The box lists all the features of the GPU as well as Asus’ own unique technologies such as the DirectCU II cooling design and Strix 0dB fan technology. The cardboard fits the card quite snugly and there is no Styrofoam used in the packaging. The GPU itself is inside a sealed anti-static bag. Accessories include a Setup Guide, Driver disc and a Strix sticker for the brag value.
The card has no lighting except for the helpful power connector indicator. It has a black PCB that’s barely smaller than the cooler. The heatsink design is based on Asus’ DirectCU II technology that is very efficient at passive heat dissipation. There are a couple of 0dB 70mm fans that use a patented wing-blade design and actuate once the temperature breaches 61°C.
The cooling vents at the back are cut in slits. The GDDR5 RAM uses Samsung Chips. The card has dimensions of 22cmx12.5cmx4cm, which can make for an easy fit in most cases, but may not be suited for an ITX PC.
We tested the GTX Strix GTX 950 OC not only for the average Frames per Second(FPS) but also for the 99th Percentile Frame time which tells us about the performance of the GPU within the second. Within the Second testing is useful to understand micro-stutter which can render a game unplayable despite FPS being high. Fraps 3.5.99 allowed us to calculate both.
Since the card is a Mid-Range GPU, we decided to use medium settings in our benchmark games and compare with other Mid-Range GPUs. We tried to disable CPU dependent settings or minimise their impact where possible. VSync and frame buffering were disabled for testing. All tests were run at 1920×1080 on a single monitor configuration.
CPU: Intel i7-4790k @4GHZ (4.4GHz Turbo)
Motherboard: Asus Maximus VII Hero
RAM: 2x8GB G.Skill TridentX 2666MHz 12-13-13-36
PSU: Corsair TX650 650W
SSD: Samsung 840 Evo 1TB (For OS and Benchmarks)
HDD: Seagate Barracuda 7200.12 1TB, Seagate Barracuda 2TB, 2xWesten Digital Red 3TB (Storage)
OS: Windows 8.1 x64
NVIDIA Driver: 355.65 Beta driver for GTX 950
AMD Driver: 15.20 custom Asus Beta driver
While this system may not look like a purpose built test rig, we decided to use a normal usage PC so as to better reflect real world scores of the card. The games were also tested with a few applications like Antivirus, Browser, VOIP tool and others running in the background to get a realistic usage scenario. All HDDs were thoroughly defragmented prior to usage and SSDs were optimised for maximum performance. Due to lack of equipment, we were unable to conduct acoustic and power testing. Since this is a new test rig, we are lacking a comparative benchmark database for it, as it will be built up as we get more cards for testing.
3Dmark is an artificial Benchmarking tool whose Firestrike Test is very thorough on DirectX 11cards powering High-end PCs. The full test run for Firestrike includes 2 GPU only tests, a CPU dependent Physics Test and a Combined Graphics and Physics Test. The Tool is also useful for stress testing a GPU when run on loop.
Given that we are looking for the Performance of the Card itself, one should look at the Graphics score and the FPS for Graphics tests 1 and 2. The Physics and Combined tests are CPU dependent, which is the limiting factor of our test rig. We noticed that 3DMark suffers from a bug with AMD GPUs such that it runs the test at a lower clock speed (925Mhz in this case) which leads to a lower than expected score.
Company of Heroes 2
Relic’s Company of Heroes 2 is a tough nut to crack for quite a few GPUs, though it’s dependent on CPUs to a great degree as well. We used Medium Settings with Physics turned off and Low AA for the short 45s benchmark run the game offers.
GRID Autosport is the next game in the GRID series from Codemasters that has specific effects reserved for Intel GPUs, which makes it great to judge the performance of NVIDIA and AMD cards as it provides an even playing field. We used the highest settings and used game’s benchmark in a 2 minute run.
Metro Last Light Redux
4A Games have really cranked up the eye candy in Metro Last Light, and the Redux version comes with even more improvements to visuals. The game looks beautiful in its cramped corridors as well as its open outdoor environments and cranking up the settings can easily bring a GPU to its knees in the menu screen itself. We used the High settings where available except for SSAA that was turned off. The game has no inbuilt benchmark, so we chose a particular area to conduct out tests run in for a time of 2 minutes.
Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor
Monolith have used some fancy effects to add some visual appeal to the dreary land of Mordor. Shadow of Mordor also uses PhysX for particle effects. The rain though doesn’t quite look natural and the game requires up to 6GB VRAM for using its Ultra HD textures. Curiously, it scales the game based on the screen’s natural resolution instead of offering resolution options. We used the very high settings for the inbuilt benchmark, which runs for less than the standard 2 minutes of our other benchmarks.
Ryse: Son of Rome
Ryse pushes the newest iteration of the CryEngine to its limits as claimed by Crytek on the PC. It doesn’t have a benchmark mode, so we ran a fixed scenario for 2 minutes. The settings were set to the normal with SSAA off. This game scales the game as per the resolution of the screen instead of offering resolution options.
Thief (2014) is a game that boasts support for AMD’s Mantle and its TrueAudio tech. It is a graphical showcase and has a built in benchmark, though the run time is less than our standard 2 minutes. We set all settings to High with AF set to 16x.
Tomb Raider (2013)
Tomb Raider (2013) introduced us to a new Lara with fabled TressFX hair that behaves a lot more realistically than the pre-rendered mop we were used to. However, the card does not seem to cope well with this technology and we had to drop it in our test run. We used Ultra settings with TressFX off. The Test run was shorter since the benchmark tool offered by the game runs for less than out 120s target time.
Total War: Rome II
Total War: Rome II is another CPU heavy game that offers significant visual goodness. It offers a benchmark tool that focuses more on GPU power though and that is what we used for our test run of 120s. We set the game to Ultra and Unit Size to Small so as to reduce the impact of the CPU. Unlimited Video Memory was off so the game could scale down visual settings if it reached a bottleneck.
Our acoustics testing consisted of trying to determine how noticeable the noise output from the card was, when kept in a case at 1m distance with the side panel closed, as it might be in a real world scenario. Noise is a very relative characteristic that depends not only on the person hearing, but also on the background noise of their surroundings. During the course of our testing, we found that the card barely went over 50% fan speed even at full load, which was silent to our ears. The fans are very silent and barely audible over the rest of the case’s fans even at 100%, which is quite a feat.
At idle the card hovered in the 41°-43°C range with an ambient temperature of 30°C, which is quite warm, though one must note that this is under passive cooling with the fans stopped. The card easily went to 73°C under load and was held there when the fans kicked in.
The card comes with a single 6pin power connector and is rated at 90W TDP. The card requires a good PSU for overclocking. From a power efficiency perspective, NVIDIA’s Maxwell design still remains unbeatable though the second generation does need a bit more power than just what is available from the PCIE slot.
Asus has overhauled its GPU Tweak utility and it now looks much sleeker and integrates X-split for streaming. It also comes with a 14 day premium trial of X-split. With NVIDIA’s GeForce Experience, the card can support features like Shadowplay and game streaming. NVIDIA has also purposed this application for keeping its drivers up to date and ships only the installer for it with the GPU, expecting the consumer to download the latest driver.
Our initial testing of the GTX 950 revealed that this card beats out all it’s direct AMD competition in the mid range segment and slots in neatly between the GTX 750 Ti ad GTX 960. Pricing wise the card is a little to close to the GTX 960 which does make for lower value. With this card NVIDIA seem to be throwing a lot of aggressive punches at AMD across market segments the latter has traditionally dominated. We will update this review as we complete our testing of this new GPU.